Article 6 – Re-Versing The Gospel

Early in the 13th century, the Arch-Bishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton, divided the words of the longer books of the Bible into the arrangement of chapters that is still in use today.  In 1551, a French Catholic who became a Protestant named Robert Estienne, further divided the chapters of the Greek New Testament into sets of verses, which made it even easier to reference everything.

While the verse divisions of Estienne are very useful, the assignment of those verses was inconsistent and resulted in some very lengthy groupings of words composed of multiple sentences, which often contained many ideas, and too much information.  This example of a single, long verse from the Gospel of John consists in English of three full sentences, and contains as many as ten inter-related pieces of information:

"You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father.  He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him.  Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies."

At 59 words and 283 characters, it is a sound-bite that would take three tweets to send.  While some see this as Estienne overlooking a division in the flickering light of a dying candle at the end of long day, the New Testament is full of verses longer than this, with the 76 words of Revelation 20:4 consisting of more than 380 characters.

Another inconsistency in the assignment of verses can be seen in the parallel sections of the Gospels, where they mention the same saying, or are describing the same event.  In many places, a grouping of words from one of the Gospels was divided into two verses, while the parallel text from another Gospel(s) was left as a single, long verse.  Although Estienne was a printer, these types of inconsistencies might not have occurred if he had consulted a parallel harmony of the Gospels, where he could have seen the four texts in columns side-by-side; or, if he had remembered how he had previously divided that same section of words the first time(s) that he saw it in the other Gospel(s).

As with the original four Gospels, for ease of reference, the sequence of words within the fifth column of FIVE COLUMN: The Synoptic Gospel is divided into concise verses, that generally contain a single major or important thought, idea, or action, or a few, if they are closely related in meaning.  In general, the verses of this book are on average slightly shorter than those of the four original Gospels.

To be able to quickly reference any verse in this book, the entire combined narrative of the fifth column is laid out like a play, with chapters, acts and scenes.  Each scene of action is identified with a three digit scene reference number, which chronologically indicates when the scene may have happened, in relation to all of the other scenes of action in the combined Gospel story.

Each verse within each scene is designated by a one or two digit verse reference number, which follows the three digit scene reference number.  For more information on the FIVE COLUMN: The Synoptic Gospel reference system, click here.

As an example of the difference between the old verse system used within the four Gospels, and the verses of this book, consider where in John 13:38, Jesus says to Peter, "... a rooster will not crow until you deny Me three times."  While a reference of John 13:38 is useful, it does not tell you much about when Jesus may have spoken these words, except that as there are 21 chapters in John’s Gospel, then perhaps this event in the 13th chapter likely happened more than half way through John’s narrative of the life of Jesus.

Further, a reference of John, chapter thirteen, verse thirty-eight, does not tell you that these words are part of a large parallel verse set, with Matthew 26:34, Mark 14:30, and Luke 22:34, and that the full text and reference for these words of Jesus is actually these four verses taken together.

By contrast, FIVE COLUMN: The Synoptic Gospel lists these words of Jesus as verse 778.11 (or TSG 778.11), where the first number designates the chapter (7 - The Final Week), the second number is the act (7 - Thursday - The Last Supper), the third number is the scene (8 - Peter, You Will Deny Me Three Times), and following a period, is the verse reference - verse 11 - the text of which reads as:

"Truly, truly, I say to you Peter, that this very night, a rooster will not crow until you yourself have denied that you know Me three times."    ~ 778.13

Combining shorter verses with The Synoptic Gospel reference system makes the complete text of all of the sayings and events from the Gospel story of The Life of Jesus quick to reference and locate, and easy to understand.