Friday, May 2, 2014

Chapter Divisions in the Bible

Quick--who developed the modern chapter divisions for the Bible?

If you said Stephen Langton, you're not alone, but you're apparently wrong.

The view that Langton invented the chapter divisions goes back a long way as it appears already in the early-14th-century work of Nicholas TrevetAnnales regum Angliae (p. 216).

Paul Saenger (curator at the Newberry Library; featured in a video here) has written on this a number of times recently, initially in an article in a hard-to-find (for me, anyway) collection of papers published in Salamanca (2008, front matter here). He also published a paper on this topic in the recent festschrift for Norman Golb (2012, available full-text here), and in a paper in a collection published by Brill (2013, here).

In that last and most recent article, Saenger argues that Langton's works demonstrate only sporadic use of the chapter divisions, while evidence confirms their use in some manuscripts prior to Langton. Saenger also shows that the chapter divisions were somewhat slow to catch on in thirteenth-century Paris.

Saenger says (p. 51) that he discovered in 2002 at Corpus Christi (Cambridge) some manuscripts dating to the late twelfth century (as early as 1180) containing the chapter divisions. These manuscripts originated in the royal abbey of Saint Albans, northwest of London. An image of the earliest of these mss appears on p. 53. Saenger makes a point of saying that the chapter numbers date from the same time as the inscribing of the text (p. 52, with confirmation from Christopher de Hamel at n. 80). The numbering is in the margin, in red ink, using Roman numerals. But the use of Arabic numerals soon followed (p. 60), especially in England (p. 63), though Roman numerals were still inserted to mark an older system of text division (p. 64).

The article is very detailed and helpful, with excellent documentation and images. Highly recommended.

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