Divisions and Organization of the Text

Contents: Introduction *Chapters and Verses *κεφαλαια,τιτλοι *The Divisions in Vaticanus *The Ammonian Sections and Eusebian Canon Tables *The Euthalian Apparatus *Andreas's Divisions *Stichoi and Stichometry *Table Summarizing the Various Divisions *Order and Arrangement of Books


Historically, the New Testament has been divided and organized in manyways. Some divisions, such as our modern chapters and verses, are merelycataloguing schemes, used to find passages quickly. Others, such as theEusebian apparatus, served scholarly purposes. This document will brieflyoutline some of the methods used over the centuries and preserved in themanuscripts. In addition, it will describe some of the more common marginaliafound in the manuscripts.

This is followed by a description of some of theorders in which books occur in the New Testament.

For information on the ways early manuscripts divided words and paragraphs,see the article on Word Divisions

Chapters and Verses

We may first dispose with the modern scheme of divisions.

The modern division of the Bible into chapters is believed to have beenthe work of Stephen Langton, the famous Archbishop of Canterbury (1207-1228)during the reign of the English King John. This system of chapters is foundin many Latin Bibles, but only a few of the most recent Greek manuscripts;it has no historical significance.

Our modern verses have even less importance; they were devised byRobert Estienne (Stephanus) for his edition of the TextusReceptus, and have survived in printed editions ever since. They donot, however, occur in the manuscripts.


Theκεφαλαια, or MajorHeadings, the ancient equivalent of our modern chapters, are the most widespreadform of organization in the ancient gospel manuscripts. Their exact date is not known;they have been ascribed to such worthies as Tatian. Their absence from theCodices Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, however, argues against such an early date.We first find them in the Codices Alexandrinus and Ephraemi of the fifth century(in the gospels; for the other books see the sections on the EuthalianApparatus and Andreas's Divisions). It will benoted that the κεφαλαια,constitute a series of numbers which restart with each book, but not withthe first word of the book. In Matthew, for instance, the first entry coicideswith 2:1; in Mark, the first notation occurs at 1:23; and similarly throughout.The locations of the κεφαλαια,are noted (with italic Arabic numerals) in the margins of the Nestle-Alandeditions, and so are readily accessible today.

Corresponding to the major κεφαλαιαare the τιτλοι or Titles.These are simply short summaries of the actions which happen in each section.Tables of τιτλοι are oftenfound at the beginnings of the gospels, and the headings themselves may appearat the heads of pages or the margins of manuscripts. The titles usuallytake the form "περι (something),"e.g. "About the Wedding at Cana."

The Divisions in Vaticanus

We noted above that Vaticanus does not use theκεφαλαια. Insteadit has its own system of chapter numeration -- in places two of them.The system in the gospels is rather less orderly than the κεφαλαια,as the sections vary greatly in length (some as short as a sentence, others manyparagraphs long). These numbers were written in red, though the chapter divisionsin the other part of the New Testament are in ordinay ink. The divisions in thegospels are also found in Ξbut not in any other Greek manuscript.

In the Acts, Vaticanus has two systems of division, of different ages andindependent of each other. The first-written of these was also available tothe scribes of Sinaiticus, as it also has some of these numbers (up to Acts 15:40,where the numbering in ℵ breaks off).

In Paul we also find two unique systems of numbering. The oldersystem has interesting trait thatthe entire corpus was numbered consecutively. This also reveals the interesting factthat, although Hebrews follows 2 Thessalonians in Vaticanus, the numbering is derivedfrom a manuscript in which Hebrews followed Galatians (this follows since Galatiansends with §58, while Hebrews starts with §59; Vaticanus breaks off inHebrews in the middle of §64, and we find §70 as the first entry inEphesians).

In the Catholic Epistles we yet again find two systems of numbers, with theinteresting feature that 2 Peter is not numbered. Presumably it was not regardedas canonical when the system was devised.

The Ammonian Sections and Eusebian Canon Tables

The sections described above were simply that: Sections. Ways offinding things. They had no other purpose, and little real value.

Not so the Eusebian apparatus, which was an early (and amazinglygood) cross-referencing scheme for the Gospels.

The system had its roots in the work of one Ammonius of Alexandria,who some time in the second century arranged a sort of partial gospelharmony, taking the text of Matthew as his base and paralleling itwith sections of the other gospels. Each section was numbered, andthe numbers are referred to as the Ammonian Sections. (Confusingly, theAmmonian Sections are sometimes referred to asκεφαλαια. Thisusage is to be avoided. Not only is it confusing, but the AmmonianSections average much shorter than theκεφαλαια --e.g. in Matthew there are 355 sections but only 68κεφαλαια.)

Roughly a century later, Eusebius of Cæsarea (the famouschurch historian) hit on a scheme to dramaticallyimprove the Ammonian apparatus, by allowing any section of anygospel to serve as the basis point while still letting the readerlook up parallels. Starting from the Ammonian divisions (which hemay have modified somewhat), he created a set of lookup tables(to use a modern computer term) for finding cross-references.To each Ammonian number, he affixed a canon table number,showing the table in which the reader was to look for thecross-references. The contents of the tables were as follows:

The Eusebian system is not perfect; apart from occasionalimperfections in the parallels, it was much easier to lookup passages from Matthew than the other gospels (since thesections had to be listed in the order they occurred in onegospel, and Matthew was the chosen one). They were, however,compact (much more compact than our modern system of parallels),and they worked. They worked well enough that they werefound in most later gospel manuscripts, and are even found inthe modern Nestle-Aland margin (though with the section numberstranscribed into Arabic numerals and the canon numbers, perverselyI think, converted to Roman numerals in the modern style -- i.e.IV for IIII and IX for VIIII). An example of its use is shown below,based on the opening sections of Matthew.
Matt. 1:1
(through 1:16)
Item 1, found in Table III: Matthew #1 = Luke #14 (Luke 3:23f.) = John #1 (John 1:1f.)
Matt. 1:17β
Item 2, found in Table X: Table X means no parallels
Matt. 1:18γ
Item 3, found in Table V: Matthew #3 = Luke #2 (Luke 1:35f.)
Matt. 1:19δ
Item 4, found in Table X: Table X means no parallels

Most manuscripts with the canon numbers naturally also included the canontables, as well as Eusebius's Letter to Carpianus which explained the system,but this was by no means universal.

There are some variations in the canon system (in some cases, such as theending of Mark, caused by variations in the text); the Nestle-Aland apparatusshows the variations found in many earlier editions of the canon tables (thoughmanuscripts are not cited).

Finally, we should point out that the Eusebian apparatus did not alwayslist actual parallels as we would understand the term; some items were linkedonly by theme (as witness the first example above: The genealogy of Jesus in Matthewis quite properly linked with the genealogy in Luke -- but also to the hymn tothe incarnate Word in John).

There is one other interesting aspect the the Eusebian apparatus: It was oftenthe only instance of pictorial illumination in a manuscript. The Eusebian tableswere almost always enclosed in a series of arches, at once making them easy to noticeand easier to examine. Some of these arches were quite plain, but most were given atleast some ornamentation.

Historical Note: Some have suspected that the Ammonian Sections did not existprior to Eusebius's work. In support they urge the fact that the first manuscriptto contain either (Alexandrinus) has both. (The numbers are also found in Sinaiticus,but from a later hand. N Σ Φhave them from the first hand, but they were added later in Bezae).We should note, however, that a significant number ofmanuscripts exist with the sections but no canon numbers or tables. In some casesthis may mean that the manuscript was never truly finished (the canon numbers wereusually added after the manuscript was completed, as they were usually writtenin colour; Eusebius had preferred that they be written in red. Also, some manuscriptslisted the actual parallels at the bottom of the page, but this was easier doneafter the manuscript was finished). However, it seems more likely that thecanons and sections truly were separate entities.

The Euthalian Apparatus

The most important supplements to the Acts, Paul, and the Catholic Epistlesare associated with the name of Euthalius (or Evagrius). Who Euthalius waswe do not know, nor can we even fix his dates (suggestions range from thefourth to the seventh centuries, though the fourth century is the usuallyaccepted date, and he is sometimes described as Bishop of Sulci).Euthalius prepared an edition of the Acts and Epistles in sense-lines(this survives in manuscripts such asHp; see the sectionon Stichoi and Stichometry below).

In addition to his text, which occurs only in a few manuscripts,Euthalius compiled various helps for the reader; these are much morecommonly found. Working, seemingly, from an earlier edition (Millconjectured that it was that of Theodore of Mopsuestia, whose workwas officially unacceptable due to his alleged unorthodoxy), Euthaliusproduces a system of sections and titles for Paul(similar to the κεφαλαιαsystem in the gospels), and later extended it to the Acts and CatholicEpistles (these perhaps based on the work of Pamphilius).

Euthalius also organized the Old Testament quotation in the variousPauline Epistles, numbering and cataloguing them.

Finally, Euthalius is credited with the prologues and/or subscriptions to the various Epistlesfound in many manuscripts. This is, however, less certain -- and, as Scrivenerremarks, the prologues "do no credit to the care or skill of theirauthor," for they are patently inaccurate.

Andreas's Divisions

In the Apocalypse, the leading system of divisions is that of Andreas ofCæsarea, who lived in the sixth century and wrote the commentary thatis found in so many of the Apocalypse manuscripts. Andreas's divisions arehighly artificial (and not very well preserved, as the variations in theNestle margin will show). Andreas arbitrarily divided the book into24 sections (λογοι); thisseems to have been inspired by the 24 elders of Rev. 4:4. Each sectionwas subdivided into three κεφαλαια,(these inspired, apparently, by body, soul, and spirit). Thus there are72 divisions in all in the Apocalypse, which the Nestle text numberscontinuously though they are properly divided into groups of three.

Since these divisions were not invented until the sixth century, itwill be evident that none of our oldest manuscripts (P47,ℵ, A, C)contain them. Andreas summarized his sections, but since the number ofdivisions was arbitrarily set, it will be observed that these sectionsdo not really accord with the logic of the book's arrangement.

Stichoi and Stichometry

Greek στιχος means literally"line" (with many of the sameextensions the English word has, e.g. a rank of soldiers ora line of a poem). In literary circles, however, it hada more specific meaning: The standard Homeric line offifteen to sixteen syllables (about 35-50 letters). (Thisline is also sometimes called an επος,but this usage was in disuetitude by New Testament times.)This "standard line" came to have important implications.Seemingly by the fourth century B.C.E., the notion of stichometry,or measurement by lines, was in existence (although it is officiallycredited to Callimachus c. 260 B.C.E.). The earliest actual count ofστιχοι seems to be from an thirdcentury B.C.E. papyrus of Euripides.

Stichometry had several uses for scribes and their patrons. It wasthe ancient equivalent of a "word count," used to determinewhat a scribe should be paid for a particular work. It could also beused to determine if a manuscript had been copied fully and correctly.And it could even be used as an approximate way to find quotations ina text. Thus it became standard practice to determine the number ofstichoi in works that were regularly copied.

There is a complication which can occur here: Although stichoswas usually used technically of the Homeric line, it easily took on othermeanings. Since it meant any sort of line, it could be used as adescription of sense lines (cola) rather than Homeric lines. At leastone authority (Juannes Siculus) describes a comma as a sense lineof fewer than eight syllables; a line of eight to 17 sullables is a colon.Thus a line count might be (in effect) a syllable count or a thought count.Properly stichometry applies to the count of syllables and letters,while the count of sense lines is colometry. But this distinctionwas not rigidly kept.

Stichometry seems to have been applied to the New Testament fairly early;Eusebius quoted Origen as commenting on the stichometry of various books.By the fourth century, we find Euthalius/Evagrius preparing an editionof the Acts and Epistles based on stichographic principles (althoughsense, rather than syllable count, had some part in the Euthalian edition;not all the lines are exactly one Homeric stichos long. Thus thesebooks are properly arranged in cola et commata, rather thanstichometrically). A stichometricedition of the Gospels is also known, though its compiler is not.

Relatively few New Testament manuscripts were copied in cola;sense-lines wasted too much expensive writing material. Also, a stichosis a rather long line, and early manuscripts tended to use shorter lines.So stichoi count rarely corresponds to the actual number of linesin a manuscript. Among the relatively few manuscripts arranged in colaare Dea, Dp, Ea, andHp. In addition, Fp and Gp seem -- based on thesize and arrangement of letters -- to derive from an original instichoi, though the lineation has not been preserved directly;the same is true of Δ.A number of vulgate manuscripts, includling Amiatinus, are also arrangedin sense lines.

But the rarity of these manuscripts means that the stichometry of theNew Testament was not well-known; although manuscripts beginning withP46 include stichometric information (usually in colophons),the figures quoted often vary significantly. The most common stichometryof the Gospels, according to Kirsopp Lake (K. Lake, The Text of theNew Testament sixth edition revised by Silva New, p. 61), "gives2600 [lines] for Mt., 1600 for Mc., 2800 for Lc., and 2300 for Jo.;but these are probably corruptions of 2560, 1616, 2750, and 2024respectively, which are found in several MSS., and implythe presence of xvi.9-20 in Mark, and the omission of vii.53-viii.12in John" (Lake does not, however, offer an explanation for thissupposed "corruption." Also, Scrivener gives 2740 rather than 2750as the number of lines in Luke). The table at the end of this documentsummarizes various stichometries, including the "common"one, the partial one in P46, and the early but ratherdefective one found in Codex Claromontanus (Dp; note the absence offour of the Pauline Epistles, although the omission of Philippians and theThessalonian letters, at least, are likely accidental). In additionto the canonical works, the Claromontanus canon lists four extra-canonicalworks, Barnabas (850 lines), Hermas (4000 lines), Acts of Paul (3560 lines),and the Revelation of Peter (270 lines). The Revelation to John is listedamong these semi-canonical works, as is, amazingly, the Acts of the Apostles.

In the time of Diocletian (301 C.E.), that emperor issued an edict makingthe pay for copying 100 stichoi to be 25 or 20 denarii depending onwhether it was first-quality or second-quality copying. Even allowing for therapid inflation in this period of the Empire, I suspect this includes the costof the papyrus on which the passage was copied.

Table Summarizing the Various Divisions

The following table (adapted with some additions from Scrivener, A PlainIntroduction to the Criticism of the New Testament, fourth edition,p. 68) summarizes the number and extent of the various divisions of the New Testament.

(from f13)
1 Peter838236200
2 Peter--24154140
1 John1437274220
2 John1223020
3 John2--33220
1 Cor.1998701060
2 Cor.1159070 (=570?)
Philip.27208225 (222?)-
1 Th.27193-
2 Th.26106-
1 Ti.(lost)(lost)18230209(?)
2 Ti9192289(?)
Hebrews59-64 (69)5+22703700-

Order and Arrangement of Books

In discussing the order of New Testament books, we should keep severalpoints in mind. The first is that the books of the New Testament werecanonized over a period of time, and the second is that the vast majorityof surviving manuscripts contain only parts of the New Testament.

Taking the last point first, it's worth remembering that, until the eraof the minuscules, there is not one Bible which demonstrably contains exactlyand precisely our modern New Testament, even if one allows for damage to themanuscripts. Of the five major uncials(ℵ A B C Ψ), ℵ and Acontain all the books of the New Testament, but have extra books as well;Ψ omits the Apocalypse;B is defective for the latter part of Paul and may never have containedthe Apocalypse. C, based on the surviving leaves, contains only the bookswe now think of as the New Testament -- but this cannot be proved; too manyleaves are missing. We cannot be sure that it did not contain other books aswell. C probably contained our present New Testament, but we dare notbe dogmatic.

Most Biblical manuscripts consist of only a subset of the New Testament.Normally one finds the books grouped into subsets: Gospels, Acts and CatholicEpistles (these two are very rarely separated, though there are a fewexceptions), Paul, Apocalypse. This explains the common abbreviation"eapr" (or "eapcr") for the contents of the New Testament:e=gospels, a=Acts (plus Catholics), p=Paul, r=Apocalypse.

Almost every combination of these units is found. The majority of manuscriptsare Gospels alone -- there are thousands of such manuscripts. The most next commonis Acts (including Catholics) plus Paul; there are hundreds of books of this form.The Apocalypse very often stands alone (not infrequently with non-canonical works), though itmight be attached almost anywhere. But we also find the following (based on thedata in the first edition of the Kurzgefasste Liste; the list is neithercomplete nor guaranteed):

The order of these divisions is fairly standardized. The gospels are almost always thefirst thing in a codex (and at least some of the exceptions are the result of rebinding).Acts and Catholic Epistles generally precede Paul, though this is not universal. TheApocalypse is generally last.

For the order of books within the four sections, there is rather more variety.The most notable case of a "movable book" Hebrews, found at variousplaces within the Pauline corpus. Usually it follows either 2 Thessalonians orPhilemon, but it has occurred in many other places (as it followed Galatians inthe ancestor of Vaticanus). The order of some of the other shorter books alsovaries, e.g. Philippians may swap with Colossians. The first four books (Romans,1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians) almost always occur in that order. Othervariations might possibly be scribal -- e.g. a scribe finished Ephesians, quitfor the day, and accidentally copied Colossians next rather than Philippians, thenwent back and copied the other. There is no proof of this happening, but it ismuch more likely in Paul than any other section.

The Gospels almost always occur in the order Matthew-Mark-Luke-John. But thereare exceptions, and most of them are early. The most common variation on this orderis the so-called "Western" order, found in D, W, and probably P45:Matthew, John, Luke, Mark.

The Catholic Epistles probably show the most variation, especially in earlymanuscripts, since some of the books (James, 2 Peter, 2 John, 3 John, Jude) wereof questionable canonicity. The Peshitta, for instance, includes only James,1 Peter, and 1 John. It will be evident that the order of the books will be dependentupon which books are included.