In the gospels (and other places) there are quotes of other books of the Bible but only the text with no numeric references e.g. (John 1:1).

In Jesus's time and before, a quote by anybody did not include where it came from.

Now, when somebody quotes a book of the bible, it includes a reference to the book, chapter and verse it comes from.

I was wondering, from a historical point of view, how these precise references came to be.

When did these references start being used?

  • Do you mean the margin references in some Bibles or something else?
    – Dottard
    Commented Nov 16, 2022 at 20:11
  • An example (Jn 10:34) Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? He quotes but doesn't say where exactly it comes from. Where did the references of book, chapter and verse start?
    – f p
    Commented Nov 16, 2022 at 20:54
  • 3
    Bible chapters were added in the 12th century and verse numbers were added for the 1560 edition of the Geneva Bible.
    – Dottard
    Commented Nov 16, 2022 at 21:07
  • 1
    This question is likely to be closed, not because it isn't a good question (the answer is something those interested in the Bible should be aware of), but because it has an answer that could easily have been found in the obvious places. For instance, read this article: Chapters and verses of the Bible - Wikipedia. It was the first result returned when I entered the Title question into Google search. Commented Nov 17, 2022 at 15:46
  • 1
    @fp says "It seems that, for at least a millennium, being in latin or greek, the bible was not very available to people in general.". Until Gutenberg's printing press people in general had no access other than the word of the priests etc., and even then it took a long time before the Church allowed local language translations, with those that dared often ending up executed for heresy (Censorship of the Bible - Wikipedia). Commented Nov 17, 2022 at 15:57

1 Answer 1


Stephen Langton, in the 12th century, added what we use today as the chapter divisions. He did this into the Latin Vulgate. The tradition is that these divisions were later transfered to the Hebrew Bible. From manuscripts dating back to the fourth century, however, some form of chapter divisions were used. In 1551, Robert Estienne (a.k.a. Stephanus) added verse divisions to his fourth edition of the Greek New Testament, while en route between Paris and Lyons, France. The first translation to employ his versification was the Geneva translation of 1557 (whole Bible, 1560).

Taken from Bible.org.

  • In my notes on this (from the Trinitarian Bible Society) the date for Stephen Langton starting chapter divisions is given as 1228. For Stephanus, the dates for verses agrees. Interesting about 4th century MSS!
    – Anne
    Commented Nov 18, 2022 at 15:27

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.