Should Your Kids Read the Bible the Way It Was Written?

Don’t panic! I’m not suggesting you teach your children Hebrew, Greek (and a little Aramaic) so that they can read it in the original languages. How the books of the Bible are presented to us has changed over the centuries. You probably realize that many of the books in the New Testament were originally letters to individuals or congregations. They would have been written as any other letter of the time – without chapters and verses marked in some way.

The earliest copies of the Bible found are written in a fluid manner, with occasional paragraph breaks – somewhat like any other book is formatted today. In the 900’s a group of well respected Jewish scholars went through the Old Testament books and put special punctuation marks at what they believed were the end of what we now call verses.

From 1207 to 1228, a Catholic bishop named Stephen Langton, took the markings from the earlier Jewish scholars and further divided the Bible into chapters. Verses were created in the New Testament even later in the 16th century by a French printer. There is nothing sacred or special about the chapter and verse markings. They were created to make it easier for everyone to find places in scripture (and evidently to make life easier for printers!).

Since they are merely markings for ease of reading, there is no reason to toss them on a scriptural basis, but is there an argument for using one of the new versions that are printed without any chapter or verse markings? I believe that you and your children can find some value from these versions – especially if your family is already reading scripture regularly.

Chapter and verse breaks can make the scriptures feel disjointed at times. Even though we know they weren’t original, a part of our brain may wonder why God placed a certain scripture in a different chapter or verse. Did that have meaning?

The other problem is that we can feel exhausted reading very little scripture. A chapter in a regular book is usually quite a few pages – often equivalent to an entire book in the Bible. Yet even short Bible books may be broken up into several chapters – making them feel longer than they actually are. Not to mention, it just feels more relaxing to read the Bible without all of the markings, making it easier to read like you might any other book – for long periods of time.

There are times when studying the Bible with chapter and verse markings is helpful. Often the Bibles without the markings are not an entire Bible, but one or more Bible books per binding. Try one and see what happens. You and your kids may find yourself reading more scripture and enjoying it more than you ever thought possible.

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Thereasa Winnett

Thereasa Winnett is the founder of Teach One Reach One and blogger at Parenting Like Hannah. She holds a BA in education from the College of William and Mary. She has served in all areas of ministry to children and teens for more than thirty years and regularly leads workshops for ministries and churches. She has conducted numerous workshops, including sessions at Points of Light’s National Conference on Volunteering and Service, the National Urban Ministry Conference, Pepperdine Bible Lectures, and Lipscomb’s Summer Celebration. Thereasa lives in Atlanta, GA with her husband Greg, where she enjoys reading, knitting, traveling and cooking.

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