Book, Chapter, and Verse

October 9, 2020

When a Christian refers to book, chapter, and verse, he or she is locating a portion of the Bible. Although the word, Bible, means book, the Bible is really a library of 66 books — 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament. The chapter and verse divisions were a later addition to the text. The chapter divisions are usually attributed to Stephen Langton in the thirteenth century, and the verse divisions were added by Robert Estienne (also know as Stephanus) in the 16th century. Chapter and verse indicators are not essential, but they are certainly helpful. When citing book, chapter, and verse, you can point to a portion of the Bible very easily and precisely. The system works very well to provide a location in the Bible.

When a Christian demands book, chapter, and verse, he or she are making a plea to base our authority for religious matters on the Bible. I’m not wanting an opinion that we should do thus or so when it comes to worship, church life, or Christian living. I’m wanting to know that it is from God’s word. Citing specific passages allows others to examine the evidence, just as the Bereans did at Paul’s preaching: “they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11 ESV).

Citing the evidence of book, chapter, and verse is important because the Bible can be misunderstood. Peter reflecting on how some have misunderstood Paul’s letters says, “There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures”(2 Peter 3:16 ESV). That means we need to check out what the Bible says for ourselves.

There are no special rules for inspired writings. We have to ask the same questions as we would any other text. What genre or kind of writing is this? We have to ask the typical reporter’s questions: who, what, when, where, and why? We must understand what is said in context — both the literary and historical contexts. But citing book, chapter, and verse allows others to read and conclude for themselves. I don’t want someone to believe something just because I said it, but because I’ve provided the evidence which others can check for themselves.

For the novice to the Bible, “book, chapter, and verse” can seem like a code. But once you see that it is a system of navigation for this library, it begins to make sense. What is required is to get familiar with the library of books which comprise the Bible. Citing book, chapter, and verse is our way of citing the evidence for our beliefs and practices, because the Bible is our sole authority for Christian faith and practice.

— Russ Holden


Submission to God’s Written Word

June 3, 2016

Dr. Harvey Floyd was my Greek teacher at Lipscomb as well as having him for many important Bible classes like Romans. I recently came across an interview of Floyd from the Gospel Advocate (October 1993). His words are still instructive though said over twenty years ago.

My greatest emphasis in life is to convince everyone of the complete authority of Scripture. If churches of Christ ever abandon submission to God’s written Word, we’ve lost everything.

Restoration only makes sense with an authoritative source. Without the guidance of Scripture, life becomes a sea without a shore.

Today’s religious leaders are far too interested in trendiness. They float from one fad to another without any clear emphasis or substance. Instead of the Bible, they fill their teaching with insight into “many things, of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings” very entertaining, perhaps, but not distinctively Christian.

In the past, you could accept that our brethren were inerrantists — that cannot be assumed today. We are moving into a vague religiosity instead of a passion for restoring New Testament Christianity. This is more dangerous than anything else.1

Rodney Stark gives a memorable illustration of the loss of confidence in the authority of Scripture in his book, The Triumph of Faith. After World War I, the majority of missionaries to Africa came from the United States. At that time, ninety percent of these American missionaries came from Congregationalists (today known as the United Church of Christ), the Presbyterians, the Methodists, and the Episcopalians. By 1935, they were only sending half of all American missionaries. By 1948, it dropped down to 25 percent, and today, the number is only 4 percent. Stark explains:

Why the decline? The liberal denominations stopped sending missionaries because they lost their faith in the validity of Christianity.2

If there is one thing Floyd taught me, it is that there are good, satisfying reasons for believing in God, the Bible, and the resurrection of Jesus. When questions are raised about our faith, you only need to search for answers, and they will be found. Making fun of faith is nothing new (“a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles”), but the wisdom of God is always stronger. It is a vital thing to learn submission to God’s written Word.

1Gregory Alan Tidwell, “An Interview with Dr. Harvey Floyd” Gospel Advocate (Oct. 1993):14. The quotation in Floyd’s interview is from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There.

2Rodney Stark, The Triumph of Faith, Kindle location 2260.


When Is a Foot not a Foot?

April 16, 2015

My wife made an unusual discovery during a sewing project. Her tape measure was off ¼ inch per foot. Since her project involved cloth that was to be over 100 inches long and was to fit something measured with an accurate tape measure, the project would have been ruined if she hadn’t discovered the problem. She did the only sensible thing she could. She threw away the tape measure and used a more accurate rule.

Her tape measure was an expression of an ideal. A standard for one foot actually exists. When a particular tape measure doesn’t measure up to that standard, it is time to get a more accurate tape measure.

This experience in real life has a spiritual application. The questions for each of us go something like this. If what you believe about God isn’t true, would you want to know? If what you believe about God isn’t true, would you be willing to change?

The Bible gives us examples of people who are confronted with these questions. In Acts 26, Paul is making his defense before King Agrippa, but Paul places Agrippa on the defense by sharing the good news about Jesus. Paul asserts that Agrippa is a believer in the prophets. Most understand Agrippa’s question as a deflection: “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?” (Acts 26:28, ESV) The audience with Agrippa is over. Agrippa apparently doesn’t want to know.

Paul’s experience in Berea was different. When Paul preached in that city’s synagogue, Luke records this about the Bereans. “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11, ESV).

What happens when the ideas we have for faith and daily living don’t measure up to God’s word? I suspect it is much easier to throw away tangible tape measures, but it is more important to conform to the word of God even if it is harder to do. So the questions remain for each of us. If what I believe about God isn’t true, am I willing to know? If what I believe about God isn’t true, am I willing to change?