Friday, March 20, 2009

Disappearing Verses in the New Testament

There is a curious case of verse number confusion in Acts 19:40 and 41. Some editions add the words 'When he had said this, he dismissed the assembly" to verse 40, others have these words as a separate verse 41. A quick check yields that NA27, Westcott-Hort, and the Vulgate (4th ed.) omit the verse while Souter, Tregelles, TR (as published by Trin.Bible.Soc.), and, for example, the NRSV include the verse number. Does anyone have a clue where and how this difference came into being?

I have the odd feeling that the shorter version is simply continuing an accidental omission of a verse number, but surely that can't be true, can it?


  1. There are many places where verse numbering differs within various editions and translations of the NT. Some of these do reflect numbers found in one edition that disappear in another, the text having been assimilated under a preceding verse number.

    Another case of a disappearing verse number occurs at 3Jn 14-15, where some editions (e.g., Souter, HF, RP) assimilate verse 15 as part of verse 14.

    A fairly complete listing of the various verse division differences can be found in Gregory's Prolegomena to Tischendorf, 140-182 or thereabouts.

  2. Looking at the NT edition published in Greece (a reprint -more or less- of the Antoniades text of 1904), I see that there we have v.41 also. A similar verse number variation happens at John 1.39, creating a variation in verse numbers through the end of the chapter. As an additional point, I seem to recall that among early scholars Elzevir's TR was favored on the continent while the Stephanus editions were favored in Britain. Perhaps this is the origin of the differing verse numbers.

  3. Steven Whatley said...


    This is an interesting observation you made. I took a look in an 1841 English Hexapla Parallel New Testament Facsimile Reproduction ( to see if there was anything interesting there. The work has the Greek text of Scholz, with a collation of Greisbach’s edition of MDCCCV. The six English translations that accompany it are the Wiclif-1380, Tyndale-1534, Cranmer-1539, Genevan-1557, Rheims-1582, and Authorised-1611. While the first three translations were made before 1550, someone at some time put versification in the texts (whether or not the Geneva or Rheims translations originally contained versification, I am not certain, but they both post-date 1550).
    What I found is that the Greek text of Scholz does not have verse number 41 while 5 of the six English translations do have verse 41. The one exception among the English translations is the Anglo-Rhemish version of 1582. According to the introduction to the Hexepla, “Historical Account of the English Versions of the Scriptures,” the Anglo-Rhemish “translators took for their basis the Vulgate Latin” (p. 143).
    Of course, the English texts were not made on the basis of the Scholz text, that is simply the one the editors of the Hexapla chose to use. However, it is interesting that the versification of is not consistent among the 7 printed texts in this volume.

    I think that two key points can be made from this text:

    (1) The difference in numbering is at least as early as 1841.
    (2) Concerning the Anglo-Rhemish translation, maybe someone can look into the different ‘versions’ of the Vulgate to see if they consistent or not with their versification.

    Study well,
    Steven Whatley


    P.S. Concerning a previous post I made in February to Dirk’s post about P123, please forgive my scribal error of arrogance. My comment “I would be good to confirm . . .” should have read “It would be good . . .” My apologies for that slip up.

  4. Here is another thought, maybe the change is not the omission, but the addition. Since some of the important Greek and Latin texts do not have verse 41, this seems to be another possibility.

  5. As far as the verse number 3 John 15 is concerned, it's definitely an addition. It's not in the 1611 KJV or the 1560 Geneva (the 1557 Geneva NT being the first English Bible to have Stephanus' versification). Interestingly, 2 John only has 12 verses in the 1560 Geneva, but not because v. 13 was assimilated to v. 12! Verse 12 is assimilated to v. 11. But again, these would be the original 'lumpings' with the 'splitters' taking precedence later on.

    I think W & H may have influenced Bible publishers to put a 15th verse tag on the end of 3 John. At least that's how it is in both columns of my Goodspeed NT. The RSV/NRSV, NASB, and the TEV are the only other English Bibles I could find that have a 15th verse tag. Interestingly, neither the ERV nor the ASB, forerunners of the RSV and NASB, have a 15th verse in my editions.

    Interestingly, in my diglot of the Luther German Bible, 2 John 3 has a 15th verse, but Acts 19 doesn't have a 41st verse. This seems to follow the versification of the Vulgate.

    The Vulgate was presumably versified when the RCC came out with the first official edition in 1590, or perhaps when it was redacted in 1592--in either case, after the Rheims NT had already been published. It looks like some, but not all editions of Rheims were conformed to the Vulgate usage.

    Acts 19:41 is missing from the following at :

    1744 French: Martin
    Hungarian: Karoli
    Dutch: Staten Vertaling
    Czech: BKR
    Indonesian: Terjemanhan Lama
    Polish: Gdanska
    1917 Swedish
    Finnish 1776-1938

    All of these also have 3 John 15. TEV is the only English NT I could find to have both. Inasmuch as many tribal translations were based on the TEV, I expected to find several to have both, and the first one I checked--the Rengma Naga of India--indeed did, along with the usual GN4MM glorified-stick-figure illustrations.

  6. In order to avoid "continuing an accidental omission of a verse number", we should simply have a look into the first edition having verse numbers, which is Stephanus (Estienne) 1551. But where can we find such an edition? Does it still exist?