Note- Title was "Why do different Bible versions, KJV and WLC(Westminster Leningrad Codex), have a different number of chapters in Joel and Malachi?" I've changed it to ... Since then i've found that the WLC(Westminster Leningrad Codex aka WTT - Westminster Theological Text), is a digitized version of the BHS, and the BHS has chapters and verses. So the WLC got its chapter and verse divisions from the BHS.

Why do the KJV and BHS(Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia) have a different number of chapters in Joel and Malachi?

Which division came first(The KJV one, or the BHS one?), who changed it, and why?

I'm aware that chapter divisions were created around 1205 by Archbishop Stephen Langton.

How many chapters did he put in Joel and how many in Malachi?

When I look in bibleworks, I see that the KJV has 3 chapters in Joel and 4 in Malachi. And I see that the WLC (aka WTT), which is a digitized BHS, so, the BHS, has 4 chapters in Joel and 3 in Malachi.

I see that reflected also on websites. I'm aware that Jews adopted the Christian chapter divisions. A Jewish website http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt1401.htm has the format that the BHS uses of 4 in Joel and 3 in Malachi. Whereas a Christian website, has the format used by the KJV, of 3 in Joel and 4 in Malachi. So bibleworks and websites agree.

And it seems the difference is in Bible versions.

So I'm interested in what came first, whether it was A) 3 chapters in Joel, 4 chapters in Malachi, like the KJV. Or whether it was B) 4 chapters in Joel, 3 chapters in Malachi, like the BHS. And why was it changed?


curiousdanni has pointed out in comment, a line from wikipedia's page on the book of Malachi , that says "The book of Malachi is divided into three chapters in the Hebrew Bible and the Greek Septuagint and four chapters in the Latin Vulgate" Though since chapter divisions were created around 1205CE which is after all those books were produced, that line doesn't tell us which came first, who changed it and why.

According to this webpage, https://muse.jhu.edu/article/439032 which discusses old masoretic divisions(nothing to do with and not to be confused with, chapters and verses), and tries to draw similarities with christian chapters and verses, it happens to mention that Stephan Langton used the Vulgate. So that'd indicate that the Vulgate chapter divisions has the original ones that Langton or his Paris School Of Savants, came up with. I have then looked at the Vulgate online. And I see that it has 4 Chapters in Malachi, like the KJV.. which suggests that the BHS chapter divisions are a departure. I will update the question again accordingly to take this into account, as we now have a source for the KJV's chapter divisions. And we know it's the original one. Which just leaves the question of who came up with the variation and why.. whether it's the BHS authors that did.

In response to curiousdanni's comment bringing up about masoretic jewish divisions of the text.. Some of these websites that discuss the christian chapter divisions try to compare them to the masoretic jewish divisions, but i'm not talking about the masoretic jewish divisions. Note that the jewish masoretic divisions aren't called chapters, aren't numbered, and don't number verses, and even differ from christian chapters if looking at the first and second chapters of genesis, I'm talking of the jewish adoption of the christian chapter divisions. Where total chapters in each book are identical apart from that the number of chapters in joel and malachi are reversed!

And in response to curiousdanni's comment regarding the relationship between the WLC,BHS,and the LC.. I have found the relationship to be the following https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leningrad_Codex "The Westminster Leningrad Codex is an online digital version of the Leningrad Codex....transcribed from BHS". (Therefore the source of the WLC is the BHS). As for the BHS https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblia_Hebraica_Stuttgartensia "The Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, abbreviated as BHS or rarely BH4, is an edition of the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible as preserved in the Leningrad Codex, and supplemented by masoretic and text-critical notes. It is the fourth edition in the Biblia Hebraica series started by Rudolf Kittel and is published by the Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft (German Bible Society) in Stuttgart....The Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia ...the editors have "accordingly refrained from removing obvious scribal errors" (these have then been noted in the critical apparatus)...[it] is meant to be an exact copy of the Masoretic Text as recorded in the Leningrad Codex.......exception to that is the Rafe diacritic.....One more difference to the Leningrad Codex is the book order, the Books of Chronicles have been moved to the end as it appears in common Hebrew bibles, even though it precedes Psalms in the codex...."

So, the BHS is the most accurate transcription made of the Leningrad Codex. Thet WLC is a digitized form of the BHS. I understand the BHS has chapter divisions.

This link analyzing chapter divisions between bible versions may be of interest http://catholic-resources.org/Bible/OT-Statistics-Compared.htm

  • It would help if you had said that WLC means the Westminster Leningrad Codex. Even though I know that I don't know what the WTT means. And furthermore, I don't know how accurate it is to say that the WLC has chapter breaks either.
    – curiousdannii
    Nov 4, 2016 at 23:24
  • Wikipedia says that the Hebrew and Greek texts of Malachi have three chapters, but the Vulgate has four, which must be where our modern divisions originate.
    – curiousdannii
    Nov 4, 2016 at 23:27
  • There is a much bigger break between Malachi 1:13-14 than 1:14-2:1 in the WLC. See this PDF, bottom right of page 32. So it is all rather odd. I point this out because I think your question should not ask about the WLC, but instead modern Hebrew texts like the BHS.
    – curiousdannii
    Nov 4, 2016 at 23:30
  • @curiousdannii I said WLC(aka WTT) (aka stands for also known as), so when I wrote a.k.a., i'm saying they're the same thing. I think WTT stands for Westminster Theological Text.
    – barlop
    Nov 5, 2016 at 0:10
  • 1
    If anyone asked me what WLC meant, I'd probably refer them on to William Lane Craig. It seems a lot less effort just to add the clarification rather than to argue over what it's reasonable to expect people to know/be able to look up, at such length
    – danl
    Nov 5, 2016 at 11:53

1 Answer 1


I hope somebody can post a better answer, but I think i'm getting close enough to an answer that it makes more sense to write the finding here rather than in an edit to the question

It seems the original christian chapters would've first appeared as an addition to the Vulgate..(as that was the bible that Stephen Langton used) and the Vulgate has 4 chapters in Malachi

The deviation from that would then have been when the christian chapters were placed in the hebrew text..


"The Christian division into chapters, invented by Archbishop Stephen Langton about the beginning of the thirteenth century, has gained an entrance into the Hebrew Bible. The beginning was made by Rabbi Solomon ben Ismael who first (c. A D. 1330) placed the numerals of these chapters in the margin of the Hebrew text. In printed Bibles this system made its first appearance in the first two Bomberg editions of 1518. Arias Montanus, in his Antwerp Bible of 1571, “broke up the Hebrew text itself into chapters and introduced the Hebrew numerals into the body of the text itself” (Ginsburg).."

So the earliest one might be able to find, for the deviation may be Arias Montanus, unless one can find Rabbi Solomon Ben Israel's bible. It does seem strange that all the other chapters have the same number, apart from Joel and Malachi which have the number of chapters in each, reversed!


The deviation from the Christian chapter divisions - the deviation being seeing 3 chapters in Malachi, predates the BHS

The BHS "originally appeared in installments, from 1968 to 1976"

I have found a PDF of a Mikraot Gedolot (a bible + more than one rabbinical commentary included, commentating on the text).. It is dated 1525

So Arias Montanus's antwerp bible is irrelevant as he was later at 1571. This Bomberg one is 1525..


On page 4/953 of the PDF, it says

enter image description here

which means beraishit-Genesis parshiyot-portions(Jews wouldn't refer to christian chapters as parshiyot-portions nowadays , nowadays they call each christian chapter a perek, but they , or the bomberg publication does, there, and the word parasha is a general term so technically it can be used that way), and it says Chamishim-50, i.e. 50 chapters in Genesis..

Shmot-Exodus, then the letter Mem, which has the hebrew value of 40. So Exodus 40 chapters.. definitely seeing total chapters here in each book enter image description here

So looking onwards, to Joel and Malachi, to see which is 3 and which is 4.

Joel is 4

enter image description here

Malachi has 3

enter image description here

So for some reason, Bomberg (who funnily enough was a Christian publisher, but one interested in printing the hebrew bible, the first printed mikraot gedolot, and the first printing of all tractates of the talmud bavli.

And significantly, according to this wikipedia page, the first to print chapter and verse numbers in a hebrew bible.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Bomberg " Innovations in use of Chapter and Verse Numbers Bomberg was the first to print chapter and verse numbers in a Hebrew bible.[10] Today this innovation has become so commonplace it is hard to believe how remarkable it was at the time. The division of the Vulgate into chapters was made in the 13th century, and Jews began adopting the numbers for use in concordances by the mid fourteen hundreds, yet until Bomberg, no Hebrew bible had ever included the chapter numbers as part of the book itself.[10] Bomberg not only added the chapter numbers; he was the first to indicate verse numbers on the printed page. Though verse numbers were used by convention for centuries, no one had thought to include these numbers on the printed page of the bible. This seemingly trivial innovation immediately caught on and can be seen in many bibles of his era, and is still in use today "

Now why Bomberg or the scholars he hired would've reversed the number of chapters in Malachi and Joel, is still a mystery.. but that pretty much narrows down when it happened.. . who did it.. The only way one might be able to go further back is if we had the bible of Rabbi Solomon ben Ismael, mentioned earlier in this answer.

Interestingly, as this link notes.. while the KJV(I suppose like the Vulgate), has 3 in Joel. The NAB, like Bomberg, has 4 in Joel

  • But if the Vulgate is divided into 4 then that is long before the thirteenth century.
    – curiousdannii
    Nov 6, 2016 at 1:42
  • @curiousdannii The Vulgate wouldn't have originally been divided into the christian chapters.. The chapter divisions would've been added to the Vulgate around 1205.
    – barlop
    Nov 6, 2016 at 2:01
  • @curiousdannii I don't disagree with wikipedia.. can you quote where you think I disagree? I think perhaps you misinterpreted one of my sentences.. i'll reword it. I did mention more in my question about how Stephen Langton used the Vulgate and would've added the chapters to the Vulgate.. I could move it into the answer from the question..
    – barlop
    Nov 6, 2016 at 2:02
  • Never mind, I guess Wikipedia isn't quite as clear as I thought it was, and it may not mean the chapter divisions were there from the beginning.
    – curiousdannii
    Nov 6, 2016 at 2:04

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