Bible Study

Did the Bible Always have Chapters & Verses?

by Steve Ray on August 23, 2019

IMG_8656No! The chapter and verse divisions in the Bible are relatively recent additions to the Bible. Originally it was written in Hebrew and Greek and there were NO chapter and verse divisions–in fact, most of the time there was not even spaces between the words!

Interestingly, in the book of Hebrews the writer is quoting the Old Testament and because it did not have chapters and verses and he was working out of a cumbersome rolled scroll, the writer said “Somewhere it says . . .”  (Heb 2:6, 4:4).

Here is a paragraph from my book St. John’s Gospel:

“The different divisions of the material within the NT books are not ancient. The chapter divisions are usually attributed to Cardinal Hugo de San Caro, who in A.D. 1248 used them in preparing a Bible index, but he may have borrowed them from the earlier [Catholic] archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton.

The modern verses derive from Robert Estienne (Stephanus), who, according to his son Henry, made the divisions while on a journey on horseback from Paris to Lyons. They were first published in Stephanus’ Greek Testament of 1551 and first appeared in an English translation of the NT in William Whittingham’s version of 1557. The first complete Bible in English with our verses was the Geneva Bible of 1560” (Achtemeier, Harper’s Bible Dictionary, 699).

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Bias in Bible Translations

by Steve Ray on August 22, 2019

Translating Holy Scripture is a necessary process by which the sacred text is provided in various languages, usually rendered from the original languages. Not all translations are created equal. Some result from one scholar’s work, others the work of a committee of scholars. Some are literal while others tend toward paraphrase.

Translation resembles a sliding scale with each translation placed somewhere between the two opposite ends. On one side of the scale are the literal translations, on the other the dynamic. The literal strives to achieve the exact rendering of the original language with minimal concern for readability or modern idioms. The dynamic end of the scale attempts to provide a readable and easily understood text even if it moves away from the literal rendering of the original language. It attempts to relay the meaning more than the literal terminology.

Theological bias becomes increasingly possible the further a translation moves toward the dynamic end of the scale. It is inevitable that some interpretation is involved in translation. Some translators, to accommodate their theological persuasion, may emphasize denominational and theological points of view. Martin Luther provided a well-known example when he added the word “alone” to the word “faith” in his German translation of Romans. An extreme example is the New World Translation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses which subverts the nature of Christ through translation. The RSV renders John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Teaching that Jesus Christ was a creature, and not the eternal Son of God, the Jehovah’s Witnesses translate the passage to conform to their heresy. Their New World Translation renders John 1:1 as, “In the beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god” although the article “a” is absent from the original Greek text.

Many Protestant translations display a considerable doctrinal persuasion, even a bias against Catholicism. Though nicely written and easily readable, the very popular New International Version is a good example. Though the NIV claims to be “international” and “trans-denominational”, in reality, the scholars were limited to five English speaking countries and the committee 1 was Protestant. The “denominations” excluded Catholic and Orthodox contributors though the Preface announces a desire to “avoid sectarian bias”. In contrast, the NAB included both Catholic and Protestant scholars.

What appears to be doctrinal bias is found in 2 Thessalonians 2:15. The word “traditions” is used to translate the word paradosis by all major English translations. However, the NIV reads, “So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter (italics mine).” Instead of using St. Paul’s choice of paradosis, the translators used the word “teaching” (Didache). This tends to obscure the Catholic implications of the text. (See also 2 Cor. 11:2; 2 Thes 3:6.)

In Acts 1:20, the word translated as “bishoprick” in the KJV and “office” by most other translations, is the Greek word episkope from which we get our English word “episcopal”. Peter declares that a man must succeed to the office vacated by Judas. Seemingly, to avoid the implications of apostolic succession, the NIV renders episkope as “place of leadership”. On the sliding scale of translations, this choice of words is really an Evangelical interpretation very close to the dynamic end of the scale, diminishing a foundational basis for the successive office of bishop.

A final example is James 2:24 where we read in almost every English translation, “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone (RSV).” The NIV renders this verse as “You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone (italics mine).” Although the Greek word is clearly “works” (ergon), the translators of the NIV replaced it with “what he does”, obscuring the implications that seem contradictory to the Protestant doctrine of justification by “faith alone”.

Even with these examples, it must be mentioned that the NIV translation also has its surprises. According to So Many Versions?, the text and note on Matthew 16:18, stating that “Peter means rock”, is “rather surprising for a conservative [Protestant] version. The traditional conservative position is that “Peter” means a “rolling stone”.

All translations contain some influence of theological persuasion. However, some are more blatant than others. Readers should be aware of the theological standpoint held by the translators. The Second Vatican Council proclaims “Since the Word of God should be accessible at all times, the Church by her authority and with maternal concern sees to it that suitable 2 and correct translations are made into different languages, especially from the original texts of the sacred books. And should the opportunity arise and the Church authorities approve, if these translations are produced in cooperation with the separated brethren as well, all Christians will be able to use them (Dei Verbum, 22).

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Referenced Works: So Many Translations?, Sakae Kubo and Walter F. Specht, Zondervan Publishing House, 1983. p. 247.

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Suggested Reading: Divino Afflante Spiritu (“Promotion of Biblical Studies”) by Pope Pius XII, St. Paul Books. Dei Verbum (“Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation”), Second Vatican Council. So Many Translations?, Sakae Kubo and Walter F. Specht, Zondervan Publishing House, 1983. p. 247. The Translation Debate, Eugene H. Glassman, InterVarsity Press, 1981. History of the English Bible, F. F. Bruce, Oxford University Press, 1978.

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The Cross & the Crucifix

(From a letter Steve wrote to a Evangelical Protestant who asked about the Catholic Crucifix)


Dear Evangelical Friend:

You display a bare cross in your home; we display the cross and the crucifix. What is the difference and why? The cross is an upright post with a crossbeam in the shape of a “T”. A crucifix is the same, but it has Christ’s body (corpus) attached to the cross.

As an Evangelical Protestant I rejected the crucifix, as you do—Christ was no longer on the cross; he had ascended into heaven. So why do I now tremble in love and awe at the site of a crucifix? Let’s examine the history and issues surrounding the two.

I will provide a brief overview of the Cross and the Crucifix, the origin, the history, and the differing perspectives of Catholic and Protestant. It will try to catch the historical flow and include the pertinent points. The outline is as follows:


1. The Three Main Protestant Objections to the Crucifix
2. Images and Gods in the Old Testament
3. Images and Images of Christ in the New Testament
4. The Cross in the First Centuries
5. The Crucifix Enters the Picture
6. The “Reformation” and Iconoclasm
7. Modern Anti-Catholics and the Crucifix
8. Ecumenical Considerations

To read the whole article, click here. To read Steve’s other articles, click here. For Steve’s talk “The Pain of the Crucifixion,“ click here.

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Reading the Bible

August 18, 2019

A Little Poem about Bible Context I supposed I knew my Bible, Reading piecemeal, hit or miss, Now a bit of John or Matthew, Now a snatch of Genesis, Certain chapters of Isaiah, Certain Psalms (the twenty-third), Twelfth of Romans, first of Proverbs — Yes, I thought I knew the Word! But I found that […]

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Sympathy for Cradle Catholics Who Can’t Explain or Defend the Faith

July 5, 2019

I thought of a helpful illustration to explain why “cradle Catholics” are often unable to explain and defend the Catholic faith. The example has its weaknesses, but it does help get the point across. As an American I asked myself this question: if some one trained to attack America intellectually approached me on the street […]

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Why Do I Love Logos (Verbum) So Much? Watch this…

June 2, 2019

I use Verbum every day – on my iPhone, my laptop, my computer and on the web. After watching this short video demonstration you can visit the site to learn more at www.Verbum.com/SteveRay, Use Promo Code STEVERAY10 for a 10% discount. You will LOVE this program for computers, laptops, tablets, smart phones or even just on […]

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Great New Didache Bible from Ignatius Press

May 18, 2019

The Didache Bible Is Here, Article by Dr. Jeff Mirus [Steve’s Comment]: I posted this a while ago, but want to make sure new readers are aware of this excellent new Bible with the right footnotes, maps, etc. This is my choice. [Miras’ article]: This Bible uses the Second Edition of the Catholic Edition of […]

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7 Reasons to Study the Cultural Backgrounds of the Bible

May 17, 2019

7 Reasons to Study the Cultural Backgrounds of the Bible Posted by Cierra Klatt on 09/06/2017 in Olive Tree Blog 1. Understand the audience: Grasping the original audience’s perspective helps us understand the setting to which the inspired authors communicated their message. 2. Understand how the text communicates: A text is ideas linked by threads of writing. Each phrase and each […]

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How We REALLY Got the Bible – the Facts Simply Presented (print this out, hand it out)

May 16, 2019

This is just one page of Bob Sullivan’s excellent little tri-fold handout to explain how we got the Bible. It is from the Catholic and historical perspective without all the Protestant biases and twisting of history. I think you enjoy the whole thing which you can see here. You can print this out, fold it […]

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The Eucharist: the Flesh Profits Nothing

May 12, 2019

Since we are in Capernaum today, I decided to share a few words related to the site. I was recently asked a related questions questionic Answers Live. Capernaum is where Jesus said “Eat My Flesh; Drink My Blood.” I thought it would be appropriate to answer an e-mail I received a while ago from a man named […]

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What Translation of the Bible Should You Use?

May 10, 2019

No translation is perfect. Translating ancient and foreign languages into English is not as easy as it would seem. There are ambiguities and linguistic hurtles. Picture a sliding scale from left to right. Every translation fits somewhere along that scale. At one end of the scale literal  translations and on the other extreme are dynamic […]

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The Technology of Scripture Study: The Middle Ages (and a hilarious video at the end)

April 30, 2019

“I am an ecclesiastical historian by training and a Bible software guy by trade. Which, I think, puts me in the unique position to write about the history of the intersection of technology and Scripture study in a series of posts.” Written by my friend Andrew Jones PhD: “We might start with a description of […]

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Bible Study: Differences between Catholics and Protestants

April 23, 2019

Protestant “Bible Christians” (a misnomer, since Catholics are the real and original Bible Christians), based on their recently devised “Reformation” principle of sola Scriptura, study the Bible with the following premises: 1. There is no binding authority but the Bible alone; 2. There is no official binding interpretation or interpreter; each person ultimately is their […]

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How To Read & Interpret the Bible Figuratively: So Impressed with this Article I’m posting the whole thing

April 6, 2019

If you do not subscribe to The Catholic Thing, I suggest you do. Every day a short article about theology, the world, the family, politics, the Church. Such a wide swath of conservative, biblical and Catholic thought. It helps clear the head each day. Thanks to James Matthew Wilson for this delightful article “Go Figure!” […]

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Freedom for Catholics to Interpret the Bible

March 20, 2019

The Freedom of the Catholic Biblical Exegete / Interpreter DECEMBER 2, 2017 BY DAVE ARMSTRONG Bible Passages that the Church has Definitively Interpreted Contrary to the bogus claims of some anti-Catholic Protestant polemicists I have run across, Catholics are not at all obliged to read the New American Bible translation (nor the revised English Vulgate, such […]

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Bible Study: Playground or Minefield?

January 10, 2019

Imagine children running and tussling unsupervised in a playground. Now imagine the playground surrounded by deadly dangers: a sharp cliff dropping down a thousand feet to one side, a field of land mines, poisonous snakes in the sand, and a bog of quicksand on the other sides. With anguish you watch the children decimated as […]

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