The God-Shaped Hole!

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Bible Without Verses?

It takes time and training to learn to ignore the verse numbers, footnote indicators, and reference markers embedded in the text of the Bibles sold today. I am an avid reader; I have been since an early age. Now I want to read the narratives of the Bible as I would read any other book: without interruption, in single-column text.

The only other text I've ever seen with a built-in reference system is Shakespeare's plays, and even then, the reference numbers are in the margins. By contrast, the Phillips translation of the New Testament has verse numbers on the side, due to text recontextualization which resulted in the recombination of several verses into complete thoughts or arguments. The Message was similar, until the Message/remix edition reinserted the verse numbers.

Some Bible software, such as the ESV's WORDSearch software, allows the color of various categories of text to be altered. Turning the verse numbers the same color as the background effectively removes the verse numbers. But there are still gaps.

The verse system also makes the Bible's texts seem more uniform than they really are. The Bible is an anthology of books and letters written by forty different authors from similar but changing cultures, over a period of at least 1500 years. The literary styles include poetic narrative, historical narrative, poetry, philosophy, prophecy, law, ethics, and advice on how to live wisely.

The Books Of The Bible is a reformat of the Today's New International Version which tries to address these concerns. It formats poetry as poetry, and the rest as single-column text. It places footnotes at the end of each book, instead of at the bottoms of the pages. It puts the chapters and verses in an unobtrusive corner of the page.

But I want the English Standard Version or the New King James translation of the text formatted this way. Even if it's just available by special order, I would buy it. I would give it without reservation or preface to an unbeliever. I would also buy giveaway paperback gospels I could give to people I meet who need God's Word in their lives.

Accessibility is the key here, folks. Accessibility for people not yet trained by time to ignore the constant, nagging verse count. Accessibility for people whose brains won't allow them to ignore the embedded footnote markers. Accessibility for children more sensitive to the tedium of ignoring the language they've worked so hard to acquire. Accessibility for the unchurched, who would probably be more interested in a slightly annotated narrative than an encyclopedia of cross-references.

Would you buy such an edition?

EDIT: It's being published in May 2014!  Praise God!  ESV Reader's Edition



  • "Would you buy such an edition"

    Absolutely! Today, in fact, I went into the local Christian bookstore and asked, "What options do you have for Bibles without verse indicators?" They looked at me like I was crazy...

    Did you ever find a non-TNIV-based one?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:02 PM  

  • Not yet. However, I did find out the ESV Pew Bible has fewer footnotes, and the verse numbers are in a less distracting font. It has the best typography of any ESV I've read yet.

    By Blogger BlueNight, at 11:24 PM  

  • Hey guys,

    I've been looking for a bible without verse numbers for awhile and came across this version. It's a multi-volume set. Has a nice color and not too big in terms of size. Here are some links if you're interested:

    By Blogger Unknown, at 4:09 PM  

  • I could not agree more. So much context and flow of argument is lost with the verses. Not to mention the continual misuse of passages and taking verses out of context. You are correct! These are letters, these are arguments meant to take you to sequential conclusions. Please ESV, give us a bible that is designed for people really " reading" this thing, staying alone in a coffee shop wrestling in Romans for hours. This is the greatest work of literature on the planet. Not merely a book of numbered proverbs and cliche one liners. I would pay a great price for such a needed upgrade.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 4:53 AM  

  • Hi jacobcarpenter,

    I found one. It's the American Standard Version without verse indicators. This is the link if you're interested.


    By Blogger Unknown, at 4:34 PM  

  • Yes, I have heard about this "Bible deversified" project. No chapters. No verses. Just like what we our doing at our site, The Bible in Metre (a.k.a. metrebible). The Bible was not written with either. Now in my own fallible words, one cannot say they are bad, or that they are good. But, if like me, you have a goal of memorizing the Bible, it seems to help not to have them there. And this "proof-texting", as you call it, is also harmful in the case where the other person (or you for that matter) does not know what lies around the quote; the context. When the Bible is not split into verses, "easy referrence" does not exist, and the reader is forced to be more familiar with the text. Faithful Bibles, these are. GOD be with you, and everyone else here with a passion for GOD's WORD.

    Here's a link to a version of the World English Bible that does the same thing:

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:23 AM  

  • There is a KJV version that is also in chronological order:

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:47 PM  

  • I just published a verseless Bible on Kindle at,*Version*=1&*entries*=0

    and in epub format at,

    By Blogger Dallas James, at 8:14 PM  

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