The New Testament was early portioned out into certain divisions, which appear under various names. The custom of reading it publicly in the Christian assemblies after the law and the prophets, would soon cause such divisions to be applied to it. The law and the prophets were for this end already divided into parashim and haptaroth, and the New Testament could not long remain without being treated in the same way. The distribution into church lessons was indeed the oldest that took place in it. The Christian teachers gave the name of pericopes, to the sections read as lessons by the Jews. Justin Martyr avails himself of this expression, when he quotes prophetical passages. Such is the case also in Clemens of Alexandria; but this writer also gives the name of περικοπαι to larger sections of the Gospels and St. Paul's Epistles. Pericopes therefore were nothing else but αναγνωσματα , church lessons, or sections of the New Testament, which were read in the assemblies after Moses and the Prophets. In the third century another division also into κεφαλαια occurs. Dionysius of Alexandria speaks of them in reference to the Apocalypse, and the controversies respecting it. Some, says he, went through the whole book, from chapter to chapter, to show that it bore no sense. In the fifth century Euthalius produced again a division into chapters, which was accounted his invention. He himself however lays claim to nothing more than having composed την των κεφαλαιων εκθεσιν , the summaries of the contents of the chapters in the Acts of the Apostles and the Catholic Epistles. In the Epistles of St. Paul, not even these are his property; but they are derived "from one of the wisest of the fathers, and worshippers of Christ," as he himself says, and he only incorporated them into his stichometrical edition of the New Testament. The chapters must, therefore, have been in existence before Euthalius, if the father whom he mentions composed notices of their contents. But how old they are cannot easily be known. The Euthalian κεφαλαια are distinguished from the pericopes, or reading portions, by their extent. The Jews had divided the law into fifty-three parashim, according to the number of the Sabbaths, taking into account the leap year. Nearly so distributed were the Acts of the Apostles, St. Paul's and the Catholic Epistles, according to the Alexandrine ritual, which Euthalius follows in his stichometrical edition, namely, into fifty-six pericopes; three more than the number of κυριακαι ημεραι , Sundays, probably for three festivals, which might be observed at Christmas, Easter, and Whitsuntide. The Gospels too had naturally in the same way many pericopes. Such in older times was the practice in Asia also; for Justin says, that the believers there assemble themselves for prayer and reading on Sunday only, εν τη του ηλιου ημερα . Since then the whole New Testament was distributed into so few sections, these must necessarily have been great, and a pericope in Euthalius sometimes includes in it four, five, and even six chapters. We have spoken hitherto only of the chapters of the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles. In the Gospels there occur to us κεφαλαια of two sorts, the greater and the lesser. The lesser are the Ammonian which Eusebius rejected, after which he composed his ten canons in order to point out in the Monotessaron of Ammonius the respective contents of every Evangelist. He has explained himself in the Epistle to Carpianus on their use, and on the formation of his ten canons, where he names his sections sometimes κεφαλαια , sometimes περικοπαι . Matthew has three hundred and fifty-five of these, Mark two hundred and thirty-six, Luke three hundred and forty-two, and John two hundred and thirty-two. The other chapters are independent of these, which from their extent are also named the greater. Of these, Matthew contains sixty-eight, Mark forty- nine, Luke eighty-three, and John only eighteen. There are but very few manuscripts which have not both of them together. As to the church lessons, to come back to them once more, various alterations took place in them. As the festival days multiplied, the old division could no longer subsist, and in many churches the pericopes were shortened. At last as the ritual of ceremonies was enlarged, only certain portions were extracted from the Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, and the Epistles, which sometimes were very short. A codex of this sort was termed εκλογαδιον ; in reference to the Gospels alone, ευαγγελισταριον ; and in respect to the other books, πραξαποστολος . This seems to have taken place among the Latins much earlier than among the Greeks. There are perfectly credible testimonies, which establish such an arrangement among the former at the middle of the fifth century, at which date nothing of the kind is perceptible among the latter. The expression, πραξαποστολος , appears indeed frequently in the Typicum of St. Sabas, who died in the beginning of the fifth century. But the Greeks do not disavow, that this Typicum or monastic ritual was not by himself, that it perished in the invasions of the barbarians, and was composed anew by John of Damascus, with references memoriter, [from memory,] to that of Sabas. He lived toward the middle of the eighth century, and with an earlier notice of lectionaries among the Greeks we are not acquainted. Finally, our present chapters come, as it is well known, from Cardinal Hugo de St. Cher, who in the twelfth century composed a concordance, and to this end distributed the Bible according to his own discretion into smaller portions. They are now moreover generally admitted in the editions of the Hebrew and Greek texts. The verses, however, are from Robert Stephens, who first introduced them in his edition of the New Testament, A.D. 1551. His son, Henry Stephens, was the first to record this for the reformation of posterity, in the preface to his Greek Concordance to the New Testament; in which he says, that two facts connected with it equally demand our admiration: "The first is that my father, while travelling from Paris to Lyons, finished this division of each chapter into verses, and indeed the greater part of it [ inter equitandum ] when riding on his horse. The second fact is, that, a short time prior to this journey, while he had the matter still in contemplation, almost all those to whom he mentioned it told him plainly that he was an indiscreet man, as though he had a wish to spend his time and labour on an affair which would prove utterly useless, and which would not obtain for him any commendation, but, on the contrary, would expose him to much ridicule. But behold the result: in opposition to the opinion which condemned and discountenanced my father's undertaking, as soon as his invention was published, every edition of the New Testament, whether in the Greek, Latin, French, German, or in any other language, which did not adopt it, was immediately discarded." It perhaps will not be unedifying to add, that this passage has yielded mankind another proof that Learning is not always synonymous with Wisdom: for the phrase respecting riding, which occurs in it, has furnished matter of warm dispute to literary men; some of them contending that
inter equitandum means, that Robert Stephens performed the greater part of his task while actually on horseback; but others, giving a more extended construction to the expression, assert that he was engaged in this occupation only when stopping for refreshment at inns on the road. Though the first interpretation would probably obtain the greatest number of suffrages from really learned and impartial men; yet it is quite sufficient for mankind to know, in either way, that this division into verses was completed in the course of that journey.