From time to time I blog about Christianity from a secularist perspective...
One can become accustomed to certain features of modern Christianity.
For example, take bible verses.
One sees them on garish posters:
And also, it would seem, on gun sights:
Indeed, sometimes with the very same verse.
Bible verses, however, are relatively new: the versification of the New Testament, in particular, dates back only to the 1500s. For one and a half millennia, the Christian churches managed happily without any such organising method to their sacred texts.
Of course, the priests and the pious would know various passages, often by heart, just as we can quote Shakespeare without any express regard to the scene and line number.
But there was not this - in effect - deification of the convenient quotation.
Versification may have accompanied the rise of printing and Protestantism; but, as with all human cultural developments, it was not inevitable.
We could, even today, have Christianity and the bible without verses, or chapters.
I suspect that Protestantism may have taken a markedly different form; but there was no necessity that versification would catch on.
And without versification, then that other relatively recent (as well as intellectually absurd) phenomenon - the literal interpretation of the bible - may not have become so popular.
There would then be a bias in favour of treating all the constituent books of the bible (themselves an arbitrary selection of the texts available) as the literary narratives and brilliant stories which they really are.
A lack of versification would also tend to undermine the idiotic wrenching out of context by many Evangelicals of certain passages in Leviticus and elsewhere.
Christian fundamentalists would probably be at a loss without this (artificial) versification: they would actually have to take the books of the bible seriously, and not just their favourite sentences.
The bible is a wonderful collection of ancient texts, each with significant literary and historical value.
The pick-and-mix approach of many Christians to various verses does the bible a great disservice.
An ambitious publisher would do well to commission an edition of the bible without verses, or even chapters: a retelling of the stories without the straight-jacket imposed by having to sequence all the sentences by the usual numbers.
And then the stories of the bible can take their rightful place along Homer and Gilgamesh.
"By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures."
No purely anonymous comments will be published; always use a name for ease of reference by other commenters.