Mark’s Gospel, chapter and verse – did you know?

Did you know that the earliest manuscripts of Gospels that we have were written in Greek capital letters with no gaps between words, no punctuation, and no division into chapters and verses? The earliest manuscript is a small fragment of John’s Gospel dating from about 125 CE.

So, the end of chapter one of Mark’s Gospel marks an artificial division that some later editor has imposed. So far as we know Mark didn’t put those divisions in his original manuscript which is lost. (Incidentally, if there’s any reader of this blog out there who knows when  chapter and verse divisions were introduced and by whom I would be glad to hear from you.) The Gospel writers weren’t just stringing together sayings of Jesus and stories about him. They weren’t writing a biography of Jesus of Nazareth. They had a plan, a message they wanted to get across. They were part of that great onward flow of the river ‘Jesus Event’. They were helping to shape what we now call Christianity and the Church. Whatever facts they knew about the history of Jesus of Nazareth, they took and shaped according to the purpose they had in mind. Later editors noticed what the Gospel writers were trying to do and introduced chapter and verse divisions to help readers see what they could see.

So far, I’ve been publishing a post more or less every day but things cannot go on at this pace. I’m retired and I’ve got plenty of time but I’m aware that many readers are much busier than I am, so I’m going to limit myself to two posts a week. Actually it will be slightly more than a week before my next post which will focus on the fourth fundamental part of Jesus’ teaching – forgiveness. I dealt with the other three in my first post.

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