A Bible Without Numbers

Since I am curious about new versions of the Bible, I picked up a copy of The Books of the Bible, an edition without section headings or chapter and verse divisions. Simply the plain text, in the NIV translation, in a single column format. They changed the order in the Old Testament (or First Testament) to conform to the threefold division in the Hebrew Bible of Law, Prophets and Writings. They also changed the arrangement in the New Testament, beginning with Luke-Acts as one work in two volumes. I have long wanted an edition of the Bible uncluttered with chapter and verse numbers. It is a pleasure to read, and you realize how short a typical passage from the Bible is.

I read the Gospel of Luke first and reflected on the provocative life of Jesus. I noted his awareness of the realm of Spirit and his frequent admonition on the dangers of wealth. Then I read two of the wisdom books. Proverbs sums up our conduct in life in a few rules: work diligently, be generous, play fairly, keep your mouth shut, etc. Ecclesiastes offers a lot of wry and world-weary observations of life, with an emphasis on enjoying its simple pleasures. “Light is sweet, and it pleases the eyes to see the sun.” Now I am in Corinthians. Encountering the Bible in this way, I am reading more in one sitting. In a Bible without numbers, you naturally keep reading till the end of the book.

The Bible is a collection of voices, and listening to them regularly helps attune me to the Speaking Voice deep within.

The one corner-stone of belief upon which the Society of Friends is built is the conviction that God does indeed communicate with each one of the spirits He has made, in a direct and living inbreathing of some measure of the breath of His own life; that He never leaves Himself without a witness in the heart as well as in the surroundings of man; and that in order clearly to hear the Divine voice thus speaking to us we need to be still; to be alone with Him in the secret place of His presence; that all flesh should keep silence before Him. (Caroline Stephen)

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8 Responses to A Bible Without Numbers

  1. elmerewing says:

    Interesting and thought-provoking, Chris. You caused me to pull down my copy of The New English Bible (well, it was new in 1970). It has chapter and verses marked only in the margins, so the text is uncluttered. I tried reading a passage from it and can see what you mean. Also, when I am liturgist I always print out the passages without the numbers, feeling that I can grasp the message better that way. (Another reason for doing this is that I can use a very large font and wide spacing, permitting me to make more eye contact with the congregation while reading.) I suppose some people would prefer to have the reading made directly from the Holy Book, but every practice has its problems.

    By the way, I like your path through the woods. Looks like a great place for your morning walks.

  2. Chris says:

    Thanks, Elmer. I remember the NEB. Nice layout in it.

    When I read scripture in worship I often use the same practice you do, or in a pinch I’ll use at least a large print Bible.

    Chapter and verse numbers are useful for study, but not having them there is useful for plain reading.

  3. mike says:

    “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen. John21:25
    I’ve noticed somerhing interesting(to me) about hearing scripture read aloud..for instance,when the priest at the Orhtodox church reads scripture during Liturgy,it sounds very authoratative and resounding,it’s ‘impact’ is much more pronounced (for me) than when a preacher at a evangelical church reads a tex…I think the difference stems partially from the percieved esteem with which ‘The Word’ is held.The Orthodox priest reads from a Bible contained within a ornate gold encasing of some sort and is handled as if it were ‘Holy’,while the evangelical rendention is from a super Wide Screen display.I don’t mean to ridicule the use of a wide screen,but like i said.the impact or perception makes for an all together different if not richer experience for me…

  4. Chris says:

    I have thought about the visual aspect when watching the Gospel book come down the aisle in a procession at a Catholic church. There is something powerful in that. At many old Protestant churches, a large open Bible sits on the altar/communion table, which also has visual power. In synagogues and temples, there is great reverence paid to the Torah scroll. As the the actual reading of scripture, there is an art to it. It requires rehearsal and projection.

  5. mike says:

    In my opinion the church model is flawed, in that ,these emotionally powerful religious (exoteric) experiences ‘conditions’ people to think of God as being present and available to them exclusively on Sunday in “God’s house” where,subconsciously, it is infered that He Dwell/resides..this in turn gives an enormous and dangerous power to those in-charge and discourages the deeper personal esoteric experience of the Almighty..

  6. Chris says:

    Paul Tillich said, “It is the height of religion to recognize the vanity of religion.” It is best not to take the religious enterprise too seriously, and rather to see it all as ‘holy play’, which is a phrase from our service this morning. At their best, religious rituals are a well-worn path people can take in their journey to God, conditioning them to see God in all times and places. That religion is not always at its best, I know, but we keep trying. :-)

  7. mike says:

    .. great comment ,Chris

  8. Pingback: CONNECTIONS News – 01/20/2013 « CONNECTIONS

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