Home > Bible, formatting, literature > >The Books of The Bible

>The Books of The Bible

>International Bible Society released The Books of The Bible in 2007. It is the Bible in a modified format. It has been released in Today’s New International Version (TNIV).

I think this is a good idea, though I am uncertain it is as revolutionary as it suggests.

My thoughts on the features.

1. They have removed the chapter and verse divisions.

This is probably the main feature. The goal of this is to encourage people to read the Bible in books (ie. The Books of the Bible), or longer passages rather than a few verses. I already do this and do not find the verse numbers affect my ability to do such. Though this can be an issue for some people. I had a Bible that has many of the words indexed to translation numbers within the text, which didn’t bother me; but a friend found it very difficult to read.

My thoughts are that the verses should stay and the chapter numbers should be reduced in size (and bolded) and removed to the left of the text; Psalms excepted. ESV places the verse numbers in a different font to illustrate they are not part of the text, but they also bold them which highlights their presence.

2. They use paragraphs

They comment that verse and chapter divisions are not part of the text and were added later, which is true, but of what significance. It is also commented that the text is formatted to reflect the author’s intentions. Presumably that means paragraphs for prose and stanzas for poetry. The use of paragraphs is the best advance in biblical format and significantly improves readability while removing reliance of verse format. But this is hardly new! And traditionally verse formatted versions such as the NASB and the NKJV are now formatted in paragraphs. I am not certain what is meant by author’s intentions other than this. There were no paragraph breaks in the (Greek) autographs, or punctuation, or even spaces between words. Hebrew had white space but I would be surprised if they follow this format (the Transparent English Bible does).

3. They remove the translators section headings and relegate footnotes to endnotes.

Reasonable on the section headings. I use them for reference and finding passages, though electronic searches are better for that. I would leave section headings in a study Bible, but shift them to the right of the text.

Endnotes are to prevent flow interruption. Whatever your preference I suppose. Footnotes are similar to verses, though perhaps more likely to affect flow, I am liable to check the footnotes. But I would probably anyway and footnotes are less disruptive than endnotes. I really don’t like endnotes (save webpages where footnotes are endnotes).

5. They alter the book order.

No big issue. The books are separate and the order of several is somewhat arbitrary. I believe the Protestant and Catholic order of the Old Testament follow the Septuagint. Books of The Bible has its own order for both Testaments with the Old similar to the Hebrew order.

I don’t like the New Testament order though. The gospel of John is located with his letters. Mark with Peter’s letters, presumably because Peter was a source for Mark. The only good modification in book order is Paul’s letters seem to be chronological, or as best as can be ascertained; I believe there is uncertainty on the dating of Galatians for example.

5. They join some books together.

It is true that Samuel was split into 1 and 2 Samuel, presumably for ease of use in scroll form. I think joining some books is a positive, though minor change. I am not certain of the legitimacy of joining Samuel and Kings into a single book. I wouldn’t join Chronicles to Ezra-Nehemiah. And though I understand the joining of Ezra-Nehemiah, I think the internal evidence is these were written as separate books.

But Luke-Acts? Sure, have them follow each other but Acts clearly documents these were written separately.

My understanding is that the gospel order reflects the sequence they were written in (traditional belief). This may be correct, although the current consensus is that Mark antedates Matthew. I would shift John to the beginning of the New Testament; the parallel to Genesis is appropriate; and then Luke would be followed by Acts. Then the letters in chronological order (with or without Pauline subgrouping), then Revelation.

6. They display the text in a single column.

Reasonable. Not the first Bible to do so. It depends on the size of the page I think. Narrow columns are quicker to read; and newspapers use columns so the format is familiar. I would use a single column in a study Bible, as I note the ESV Study Bible has also done, because of other formatting considerations.

7. They include book and book grouping introductions.

This is completely reasonable and I think introductions can be quite helpful if well written. This is because the Bible was written in a variety of genres and within a different culture. I do note the irony though: of removing verses and translation footnotes because they affect the text; then adding in significant interpretative advice.

My comments seem mildly negative. Probably because I have explained where I depart but only mentioned where I agree. The concept is reasonable and I would consider buying one if I didn’t already have Bibles in the double digits. I don’t own a TNIV so it may still be a consideration. Note also that I have not actually read it. Perhaps doing so will make evident that verse and chapter numbers affect reading more than I am aware. And if it gets people reading more of their Bible….

I have included the book order below as the link is a 3MB pdf. At only 2 pages long, this size is a little excessive.

First Testament
Covenant History

The Prophets





The Writings
Song of Songs




New Testament
1 Thessalonians
2 Thessalonians
1 Corinthians
2 Corinthians
1 Timothy
2 Timothy


1 Peter
2 Peter

1 John
2 John
3 John


Categories: Bible, formatting, literature
  1. Chris Smith
    2009 July 21 at 19:59

    As one of the editors who helped produce The Books of The Bible, I read this post with great interest. Thanks for blogging about the edition and helping to spread the word.
    I’d like to respond to some of the things you wrote.
    – You suspected that actually using a Bible without chapter and verse numbers would show that they affect reading much more than you currently realize. This is exactly what we’re hearing from people who are reading The Books of The Bible. One of them told us, “I had no idea how the presence of verse numbers caused me to focus on individual verses and made my reading very ‘jerky.’ Removing the verse numbers instantly made it easier to understand the Scriptures in context.” So I’d encourage you to give it a try and see for yourself. You can start by downloading some sample books in PDF form at http://thebooksofthebible.info/sample.php.
    – When we say that we’re trying to present the biblical books in a way that reflects their authors’ intentions, we mean on higher levels of literary structure than paragraphs. We use white space of varying widths to do this. The wider the space, the higher the literary division. For example, in 1 Corinthians, 3 spaces separate the main body of the epistle from the opening and closing. 2 spaces separate Paul’s discussions of various topics (lawsuits, marriage, the resurrection, etc.) from one another. 1 space separates the phases of longer discussions. Paragraphs are marked by indentations. The idea is that visual cues will guide the reader through a book’s natural literary structure–which is typically very different from the structure that chapters and verses would suggest.
    – You’re right that there really is no “correct” or “official” order for the books of the Bible. The order varied widely until the invention of printing, when it was somewhat fixed, although several different orders are still in use by various communities. The preface to The Books of The Bible and the introduction to its New Testament explain the rationale behind our order and groupings. In the New Testament specifically, we are trying to “express the ancient concept of the fourfold gospel in a fresh way.” Any one of the four groups of books we created around the gospels could arguably have been placed first in the New Testament. We chose to put Luke-Acts first because it provides an overview of the New Testament period.
    – Luke and Acts are actually two volumes of a single historical study. Each has a separate dedication to the patron, Theophilus, but together they make up a single work. Samuel-Kings is similarly one long work, a history of the Israelite monarchy. In the Septuagint this is known as the “Book of Reigns” and its parts are numbered 1-4.
    – We did add introductions to help people read the books of the Bible as whole literary works in their historical contexts. But we were careful to keep this material outside the text and present the text alone on the

  2. Chris Smith
    2009 July 21 at 20:00

    [Here’s the rest of my comment.]
    But we were careful to keep this material outside the text and present the text alone on the page, precisely so that the supporting material would not interfere with reading.
    Once again, I appreciate you writing about The Books of The Bible on your blog. I hope you will get a copy for yourself and share your impressions once you’ve had a chance to work with it for a while. Thanks.

  3. 2009 July 22 at 04:48

    I’ve been interested in getting this very Bible. Thanks for the review

  4. 2009 July 22 at 11:38

    Hi Chris, thanks for commenting. (For other’s reading here’s Chris’ profile).
    I said perhaps! I actually suspect it won’t because of the way I read. But as I mentioned, many others will probably find it beneficial. :)
    I did look around the site quite extensively. I noted that the paragraph divisions were big and small. I am also aware that the NIV and TNIV use “list format” as well as prose and poetry. I grew up on the NIV so I have never particularly read Bibles in verse format. I don’t like them.
    Perhaps I will buy it. It is quite cheap, but with conversion from my currency and international shipping, it is less so! I couldn’t find it at Christianbook.com but note your other link.
    jc_freak, not certain I will call it a review until I actually buy it and read it! More my thoughts on formatting principles. I have ideas how I would like a study Bible formatted and what it would include. Perhaps I should write about that some time.
    If you get it, let us know what you think.

  5. 2009 August 23 at 18:55

    I just got finished reading how the order of the NT books reflect the nature of the overall story. I.e. The gospels show the Messiah presenting Himself to His people. Acts detail Israel’s rejection of their messiah. Romans-Philemon reveal the mystery of the Body of Christ. Hebrews-Jude reflect that one day God will return to Israel and Revelation wraps it all up.
    Not that I consider it wrong to read books in other orders, but I think it is worth noting this synchronisation. :)

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