The Signs of the Times, vol. 9

The Signs of the Times, Vol. 9


March 1, 1883

“Value of Marginal References” The Signs of the Times 9, 9, p. 98.


AS a kind of religious “last ditch,” the marginal references of Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2 and Revelation 1:10 are adopted as proof that the first day of the week is the Lord’s day, and therefore holy. SITI March 1, 1883, page 98.1

I would not utter a word against the use of the marginal references of the Scriptures as helps to the study of the sacred word; but there are inseparable objections to there being adopted as the basis of doctrine, or their use as authority in connection with the word itself. SITI March 1, 1883, page 98.2

The marginal references, the punctuation, the divisions into verses and chapters, are all the work of men. Not of men met together for that purpose as in the translation of the Scriptures; but by several men at different times, and each independent of all the others. SITI March 1, 1883, page 98.3

First was the division into chapters. This was made by Hugo de Sancto Caro who was born at St. Cher, Dauphine, France, about A.D. 1200, was created a cardinal by Pope Innocent IV., in 1245, and died in 1263. In preparing to make a concordance to the Latin Vulgate version of the Scriptures, he divided both the Old Testament and the New into chapters, and that division still remains as he made it, in all our Bibles. SITI March 1, 1883, page 98.4

Next was the division into verses. The first direct step toward this was taken by Rabbi Mordecai Nathan, a celebrated Jewish teacher, in a “Concordance to the Hebrew Scriptures,” composed A.D. 1438 to 1445. In this concordance, he made the division into verses, and marked every fifth verse with a Hebrew numeral letter. Then in 1661, Athias, a Jew of Amsterdam, printed an addition of the Hebrew Bible, in which he adopted the verses of Rabbi Nathan, and marked every verse with the figures in common use 1, 2, 3, 4, &c., &c., except the verses previously marked with the Hebrew numerals by Rabbi Nathan. With the rejection of these Hebrew numerals, and placing instead the corresponding figures, the verses and numbers of Nathan and Athias are still retain and all the copies of the Bible and other languages. But observe, this refers only to the Hebrew Bible i. e. the Old Testament. The verses of the New Testament as now used our the invention of a printer, Robert Stephens by name, in imitation of those made for the Old Testament by Rabbi Nathan. They were first introduced in 1551, in an addition of the New Testament printed by Stephens. SITI March 1, 1883, page 98.5

As for punctuation points, with the exception of the period, no such things were known when the New Testament was written, nor for a long time afterward, for the riding in the oldest manuscripts is all in Without accent or mark of any kind, not even spaces, between the words. Here is a copy of the first few lines of the gospel of John as it was written:— SITI March 1, 1883, page 98.6


About 400 A. D. Jerome, and others from him, used points that correspond with our comma and colon, but they did not go into general use at all. Again in the eighth century the stroke now called comma was received, and Jerome’s points were again used at the command of Charlemagne, and in the ninth century the Greek note of interrogation, which is now our semicolon, was first use. But it was not till the invention of printing that any of these points came into general use. Thus the colon and the period began to be used about 1485, the comma was next given a better shape, and the semicolon added about 1521, and in surface Philip Sidney’s “Arcadia” 1587 they all appear, as also the note of interrogation, the asterisk, and the parenthesis. SITI March 1, 1883, page 98.8

Then again, there were no of knowledge rules to guide the editors and printers and the use of the points, consequently they were placed just as each one please, and very often arbitrarily. And yet again the same editors and printers would change the punctuation in the different editions of the same work as they were successively printed; especially did Stephens vary his points in every addition of the Bible that he printed. And more than that, this variance in the punctuation of the Bible is not yet ended, as any one may prove by comparing copies of the Bible printed only as far back as 1830 or 1840 with the later editions, and looking at Matthew 19:28 and Hebrews 10:12. In the earlier copies, at Matthew 19:28 you will see the comma placed after “regeneration” in the passage reading thus:—“Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory,” &c, whereas in the later copies the comma is placed after “me,’ thus: “ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory,” &c. See what a difference it makes. The first would imply that Christ had been in Hebrews 10:12 is still more apparent, for in the older editions the comma is after “sins,” thus; “But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins, for ever sat down on the right hand of God,” where in the newer editions the comma is placed after ‘ever,’ thus: “But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God.” While the first would make Christ sat down at the right hand of God forever, the last only makes one sacrifice for sins for ever, and then sat down at the right hand of God only “till his enemies be made his footstool.” SITI March 1, 1883, page 98.9

To anyone who will compare the Revised New Testament with the old version of common use, it will be apparent that the Revision Committee did not hold themselves subject to the punctuation of the common version, but changed it wherever they chose; and it would seem that there changes are not always for the better, for instance, Matthew 27:52, 53. From this it would appear that at the death of the Saviour, “many bodies of the saints that had fallen asleep were raised;” and yet did not come out of the tombs till after his resurrection, which was the third day after his death. Such a thing is hardly to be supposed, but rather, as our old version gives it, that, at the death of Christ “the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of their graves after his resurrection,” that is, the graves were opened at his death, when the earth quaked, and the rocks were rent; but the saints did not arise till after his resurrection. This looks more reasonable, and is less ambiguous. Yet there are places in our old standard version where the punctuation needs to be changed before the Scripture will be in harmony with itself. One notable instance is Luke 23:43; by placing the comma after “to-day,” instead of after “thee.” Then it will harmonize perfectly with Zechariah 9:12 and John 20:17, and with the whole course of Scripture on that subject. SITI March 1, 1883, page 98.10

Now we come to the marginal references. The first introduction of these was in Coverdale’s Bible, the first English translation of the entire Bible, which was printed in 1535. The marginal references were few however, but they served as an introduction, and as an inducement to others to follow his lead. The next was King James’ translation of 1611, now our Authorized Version. This had in the first edition, 6,588 references in the Old Testament and 1,527 in the New. In an addition printed by J. Harris, in 1677, there were 14,699 references in the Old Testament and 9,857 in the New. In Dr. Scattergood’s edition 1678, there were 20,300 to 27 references in the Old Testament, and 11,717 in the New. In Dr. Blayney’s, 1769, there were 43,318 in the Old Testament, and 19,898 in the New. In Bishop Wilson’s, 1785, there were 45,190 in the Old Testament, and 19,993 in the New, making total in Old and New of 65,183. These were perhaps a few additions are the ones we now use, and thus we have Acts 20:7, and 1 Corinthians 16:2 referring to Revelation 1:10. No doubt these Bishops believed, as many will claim now, that the first day of the week is the Lord’s day, but the Scripture does not say so, and there running the references from one to the other does not make it so, any more than the references from Leviticus 16:10, 21, 22 to Isaiah 53:6, 11, 12, and 1 John 2:2, &c., make Christ, the Holy Saviour, the scapegoat. Neither of these is any nearer to the truth than is the explanation in the margin of Daniel 9:24, in saying that the seventy weeks begin from the twentieth year of Artaxerxes. And not one of all three is any nearer to the truth than is the margin of 2 Chronicles 21:12, in explaining the writing which came to Jehoram from Elijah the prophet, when it says, “Which was written before his [Elijah’s] death.’ Everybody knows that there is no truth in that, for all know that Elijah never died, but was caught up alive, by a whirlwind, into heaven. SITI March 1, 1883, page 98.11

All this goes to show that the references are not to be followed implicitly as are the Scriptures, but simply and alone, as helps to the study of the Scripture. As such they are a very great help. But always bear in mind that the plain reading of the word of God is to be taken above any, or all, references, punctuation, or division of verses or chapters. SITI March 1, 1883, page 98.12