"Verse" Article, Cyclopaedia of Biblical Literature
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VERSE (qwsp, st°cov, kçmma, caesum, incisum, versus, versiculus).
inquiry into the origin of the verses into which the printed text of the Bible in
every language is at present divided, will not, we trust, prove uninteresting to the
lovers of Biblical literature. As there was no distinct work on the subject of these
divisions, the writer of this article attempted to supply the deficiency in a series
of papers published in the year 1842 in the Christian Remembrancer, but the
subject was discontinued, as not being found adapted to the present
circumstances of that periodical. We shall here give the results of our inquiries,
which are not fully developed in the papers referred to. [] We shall first
treat of the versicular divisions in manuscripts of the Bible, viz.: --
1. Members of rhythmical passages.
2. Logical divisions in the prose books, peculiar to the versions.
3. Logical divisions in the original texts.
The term verse (versus, from verto, to turn), like
the Greek st°cov, was
applied by the Romans to lines in general, whether in prose or verse, but more
particularly to the rhythmical divisions which generally commenced the line with
a capital letter. The custom of writing poetical books in stanzas was common
to the Greeks, Romans, Arabians, and Hebrews. The poetical books (viz. Job,
Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Canticles), in the oldest Hebrew MSS., as
the Paris, Bodleian, Cassel, and Regiomontanus, are also thus divided, and the
poetical passages in the historical books are still given in this form in our printed
Hebrew Bibles. The Alexandrian MS., and those of the Italic version, are equally
so written, and this division is found in the Psalterium Turicense, the Verona and
St. Germain Psalters, and in Martianays edition of Jerome. Athanasius applied
the term st°cov to the passage in Ps. cxix. 62: I arose at midnight to praise thee
for the judgment of thy righteousness; and Chrysostom observes, on Ps. xlii, that
each stich (st°cov) suffices to afford us much philosophy. He also uses the
termhrÒsiv in the same sense. The poetical books are called by
The following example is from the Alexandrian MS. (Brit. Mus.):-- [Job iii.]
Apoloito j jmera en j egennjqjn en autÛ
Kai j nux j eipon idou arsen
Apenegkoito autjn skotov
Mj eij eiv jmerav eniautou
Mjde ariqmjqeij eis jmerav mjnwn.
Let the day perish wherein I was born,
And the night wherein it was said, There is a man-child conceived.
As for that night, let darkness seize upon it;
Let it not be joined to the days of the year;
Let it not come into the number of the months.
It is not improbably that
this division may have come from the original authors,
which the nature of the subject, and especially the parallelism of the sentences,
seems to require (Jebbs Sacred Literature). In the Cod. Alex. are equally
divided in this manner the songs of Moses and of Hannah, the prayers of
Isaiah, of Jonah, of Habakkuk, Hezekiah, Manasses, and Azarias; the
Benedicite; and the songs of Mary (theotokos), Simeon, and Zachariah, in
the New Testament, to which is added the Morning Hymn, or Gloria in Excelsis.
A similar metrical division is found in the Latin version. Jerome (Ep.
ad Sunn. et Fret.) applies the term versiculus to the words grando et
carbones ignis (Ps. xviii. 13), assigning as a reason why the Greeks had not
this versicle after the interposition of two verses, that it had been inserted in
the Sept. from the Hebrew and Theodotions version (with an asterisk). He
also observes that it was not easy to reply to the question, why St. Paul, in
citing the 13th Psalm, added eight verses not found in the Hebrew.
Martianay remarks that these eight verses, which form but three divisions in
the Latin Psalters, are thus found in an ancient Psalter of the koinÐ and the
Italic, in the Abbey of St. Germain des Pres:
Sepulchrum pateus est guttur eorum
Linguis suis dolose agebant [Ps. v. 9]
Venenum aspidum sub labris eorum [Ps. cxi. 3]
Quorum os maledictionis et amaritudine sanguinem
Contritio et infelicitas in viis eorum
Et viam pacis non cognoverunt [Isa. lix. 7, 8]
Non est timor Dei ante oculos eorum [Ps. xxxvi, 1]
We need scarcely ad that
these eight stichs, although found in Justin Martyr,
in the Vatican MS., and in the Vulgate, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions, are an
early interpolations from Rom. iii. 15-18. They are wanting in the Cod. Alex.
Jerome observes (Pref. to Job) that the book of Job commences
prose, glides into verse, and again ends with a short comma in prose from the
verse 'Idcirco me reprehendo, et ago poenitentiam in cinere et favilla' (the form
assumed also by the text of the oldest Hebrew MSS.). He adds that there were
700 or 800 verses wanting in the old Latin version of this book, and makes
mention of 'three short verses' in Ezek. xxi. and Isa. lxiii. That a stichometrical
arrangement pervaded the whole Latin Bible is further evident from the
Speculum Scripturae, attributed to Augustine, which contains extracts from
Psalms, Canticles, Ecclesiastes, Job, Hosea, Amos, Micah, Zephaniah,
Malachi, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, the four
Evangelists, 2 Corinthians, Philippians, Timothy, 1 John, and Hebrews. All
these passages will be found extracted in the Christian Remembrancer (ut
supra, vol. iii pp. 676-683); and although the first editors of the Speculum
seem to have misunderstood Augustine's meaning (Simon's Hist. Critique),
it is beyond a doubt that the verses in the Speculum (one of which was,
'Populus ejus et oves pascuae ejus') were of the character which we are now
describing. Jerome has not followed any of the divisions of the present
Hebrew text, except in those passages where he could not well have avoided
it, viz., the alphabetical division in the book of Lamentations, and the
alphabetical Psalms, but even here he differs from the present divisions
(Morini Exere. Bibl.* pars ii. cap. 2).
[* Of this learned work the only copy in
any public institution in London is that
in Mr. Darling's Clerical Library.]
Jerome introduced a similar division into the prophetical books
the books of Chronicles. To this division he, in the prophetical books,
applies the terms cola and commata (or 'stanzas' and 'hemistichs'), while in
the Chronicles he only employs the colon, or longer period. 'No one' he
observes, 'when he sees the Prophets divided into verses (versibus), must
suppose that they are bound by metrical lines, or that in this respect they
resemble the Psalms and the books of Solomon; but as the works of
Demosthenes and Tully are divided into colons and commas, although written
in prose and not verse, we have, for the [] convenience of the reader, also
distinguished out new version by a new species of writing.' The Chronicles, he
says, he divided into members of verses (per versuum cola) in order to avoid
an 'inextricable forest of names.'
The following specimens of Jerome's divisions are from Martianay: --
'Pereat dies in qua natus eum
et nox in qua dictum est: Conceptus est homo.
Dies illa vertatur in tenebras
non requirat eum Deus desuper
et non illustretur lumine.'
'Consolamini, Consolamini, popule meus,
dicit Deus vester.
Loquimini ad cor Jerusalem, et advocate eam:
Omnis vallis exaltabitur,
et omnis mons et collis humiliabitur,
Et erunt prava in directa,
et aspera in vias planas.
Et revelabitur gloria Domini,
et videbit, &c.
Vox dicentis: Clama.
Omnis caro foenum,
et omnis gloria ejus quasi flos agri.'
[1 Chron. xiv.]
'Misit quoque Hiram rex Tyri nuntios ad David,
et ligna cedrina, et artifices parietum,
lignorumque, ut aedificaerunt ei domum.
Cognovitque David quod confirmasset eum
Dominus in regem super Israel, et
soblevatum esset regnum suum super populum
Accepit quoque David alias uxores in Jerusalem:
genuitque filios, et filias.'
A division of the prophetical books into cola, or stichs, has
considered by some to have had its origin before the time of Jerome.
Eusebius acquaints us (Hist. Eccl. vi. 16) that Origen, in his Hexapla, divided
the Greek and other versions into kòla, which, however, Bishop Christopherson
(in Euseb. Eccles. Hist.) supposes to be the columns containing the different
texts into which Origen's Polyglott was divided. Hesychius, who died in A.D.
433, also published his sticjre²v of the twelve prophets, which he calls an
invention of the Fathers, in imitation of David and Solomon, who had thus
divided their rhythmical compositions. He observes that the had found a similar
division in the apostolical books. In this case such division must have been
anterior to the stichometrical edition of Euthalius, if the date assigned to his
publication be correct, viz., A.D. 450 [HOLY SCRIPTURE]. It is not improbable
that the work of Hesychius was but an adaptation of Jerome's cola and
commata to the Greek text. This is also the opinion of Martianay. Epiphanius
(De Orth. Fid. iv) adds the two books of Wisdom to the poetical books thus
We have seen that Jerome imitates the mode of writing the works
Demosthenes and Cicero in his divisions of Chronicles. This custom of
writing kat st°couv appears to have been usual among profane writers.
Josephus observes that his own Antiquities consisted of sixty thousand st°coi,
although in Ittigius's edition there are only forty thousand broken lines. Diogenes
Laertius, in his Lives of the Philosophers, recounts the number of stichs which
their works contained. There have, however, existed doubts as to what
the st°coi really were; some supposing them to be simply lines, or lines
consisting of a certain number of words or letters, as in our printed books, while
others have maintained them to be lines of varied length regulated by the sense,
like the cola and commata of Jerome. The fact is that there are MSS. written in
both kinds of verses or stichs, with the number of the stichs placed at the end of
each book; and this is what is called stichometry, or the enumeration of lines.
The introduction of lines regulated by the sense into the New Testament is
supposed to have been a rude substitute for punctuation. The second mode,
resembling our printed books, is also common; it is that adopted in the
Charlemagne Bible, at the close of each book of which will be found the number
of verses, that is, lines of equal length, but without any regard to the number of
words or letters.
We are not aware at what time or by whom stichometry was adapted
the Gospels, but not long after the time of Euthalius we find it in common use.
The Cod. Bezae (C) and the Clermont MS. (D) are thus written.
The following is from C: -- [John i]
En arcÛ jn é logov kai é logov jn prov ton Qeon
Kai Qeov jn é logov. outov jn arcÛ prov ton Qeon
Panta di autou egeneto kai cwriv autou
Egeneto oude n é gegonen; en autû
Zwj jn kai Ó zwj jn to fwv twn Anqrwpwn
Kai to fwv en tÛ skotia fainei
Kai Ó skotia auto ou katelaben
Egeneto anqropov apestalmenov
Para Qeou, onoma autou Iwannjv.
The following is from Acts xiii. 16, in Greek and Latin:-- (Kipling, p. 747).
Anastav de é Paulov -- Cum surrexisset Paulus
Kai kataseisav tÛ ceiri eipen -- Et silentium manu postulasset, dixit,
Andrev Istrajlitai, kai oi foboumenoi ton Qeon --
Viri Istraheliti, et qui timetis Deum
Akousate -- Audite
O Qeov tou laou toutou, k. t. l. -- Deus populi hujus, &c.
Afterwards, in order to save parchment, it became usual to write
stichometrical books continuously, separating the stichs by a point, but still
placing their numbers at the end of each book. The following is a specimen
from the Cod. Cypr.:--
O de egerqeiv. paralabe to paidion. kai tjn mjtera autou. kai jlqen
eis gj Israjl. akousav de. éti Arcjlaov basileuse epi tjv Ioudaiav.
anti Jrwdou tou patros autou. efobjqj ekei apelqein.
Sometimes, instead of the point, the stichs commenced with a
as in the Cod. Boerner., which, however, seems to have been written by an
ignorant Irish scribe, unacquainted with the languages in which the MS. was
Ut non quasi ex necessitatetem bonum tuum
Ina mj wv katanagkjn to agaqon sou
sit. Sed voluntarium forsitan enim ideo
j. Alla katekouseion. Taca gar. Dia
[] t propterea. Ad horam t ad tempus ut
toutou Ecwrisqj. prov wran Ina.
eternum illum t eum recipias non jam quasi
aiwneion auton apecjv ouk etei wv
servum fratrem dilectum maxime mihi
doulon. Adelfon. Agapjton. Mallista emoi
quanto autem magis tibi et in carne et in dno
Posw. de mallon soi kai. en. sapkei kai en kw
si igitur t ergo me habes socium accipe
ei oun me eceis koinwnon Proslaboi
illum sicut me. 77. Si autem aliquid nocuit t
auton wv emai. Ei de .ti. jdei-
essit te aut debet hoc mihi imputa ego
kjsen se j. ofeileitai. Touto moi elloga Egw
paulus scripsi mea manu ego reddam
paulov. egraya tj. emj cirei. Egw apoteisw.
ut non dicam tibi quod et te ipsum mihi
Ina mj legw soi. oti kai se auton. moi.
debes ita t utique frater ego te fruar
prosofileiv. Nai. Jai adelfe. Egw sou. onaimjn.
en kw. [Philem. 14-20.]
The stichs were sometimes very short, as in Cod. Laud. (E), in
there is seldom above one word in each. The Clermont MS. (D) contains a
list of the stichs in all the Greek books of the Old and New Testaments, and
the Stichometry of Nicephorus contains a similar enumeration of the
Canonical books,-- the Antilegomena of the Old and New Testament,-- and
of the Apocryphal books, as Enoch, the Testaments of the Patriarchs, &c. &c.
Hug (Introd.) observes that the
Codex Alexandrinus might be easily
mistaken for the copy of a stichometrical manuscript, from the resemblance
of its divisions to the st°coi, as,
jkousa de fwnjv lefousjv moi. anastav Petre. quson kai fage.
but these occur only in occasional passages.
Instances occur in other MSS. in which the stanzas are numbered
the margin, as in the Song of Moses in Greek and Latin in the Psalter of
Sedulius of Ireland, who flourished in the ninth century. The song consists
of forty-two commas or stichs, with a Roman numeral prefixed to each-- all
in the handwriting of Sedulius. The Latin in Ante-hieronymian (Montfaucon,
Palaeogr. Graec.; also Christ. Rememb. ut supra, p. 687).
There is a Greek Stichometrical manuscript of Isaiah, probably
the ninth century, in the Bibliothèque du Roi (1892), in which the stichs do
not commence with the line, but there is a Greek numeral letter attached in
the margin opposite each stich, the enumeration recommencing at the end
of every hundred lines, in this form:--
1. The vision of Isaiah, the son of Amoz, which
he saw concerning Juda and Jerusalem, in
the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and
Hezekiah, kings of
2. Judah. Hear, O heavens, and
3. give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken.
4. I have nourished and brought up children,
5. have rebelled against me. The ox knoweth
6. his owner, and the ass his master's crib:
7. but Israel doth not know, my people
8. doth not consider. O sinful nation,
9. a people laden with iniquity, a seed
10. of evil-doers, children that are corrupters,
they have forsa
11. ken the Lord, they have provoked the ho
ly one of Israel to anger; they are gone away
backward. Ye will revolt more and more, &c.
12. Why should ye be stricken any more?
Hug is of the opinion that the Stichometrical system gave rise to
continuous and regular grammatical punctuation. Attempts at interpunction for
the sake of the sense were, however, of much greater antiquity in profane
authors that the era of Stichometry. Grammatical points are said to have
been introduced by Aristophanes of Byzantium about two centuries before the
Christian era. We have already seen that interpunction was in use in MSS. of
the New Testament before Euthalius, as in the Cod. Alex. Isidore of Spain
acquaints us that in the only note of division in his time was a single point,
which, to denote a comma, or short pause, was placed at the bottom; to
denote a colon, or larger pause, in the middle; and to denote a full pause, or
period, was placed at the top of the final letter of the sentence. Manuscripts of
the New Testament, as the Zurich Cod. Bas. E., have come down to us thus
pointed. In others, as the Cod. Alex. and Cod. Ephrem., the point is placed
indifferently at the top, bottom, or middle of the letter (Tischendorf, Cod.
Ephrem.). Others, as L., use a cross for the purpose of marking a period, and
Colb. 700 makes use of no other mark. Hupfeld, however, (Stud. u. Krit.),
doubts whether the points in Cod. Cyprius are notes of the stichs, and denies
any distinction between grammatical and other interpunction.
Originally there were no spaces between the words, but in the eighth
ninth century they began to be separated either by spaces* or by points.
About the same period the present marks of punctuation began to be
gradually and imperceptibly adopted, and had become universal in the tenth
century. Michaelis (Introd. ch. xiii.) says, 'that Jerome introduced the comma
and colon;' but this was not for the purpose of dividing sentences [VULGATE].
Cod. V., however, in Matthaeii, of the eighth century, has the comma and the
point, and Cod. Vat. 351, the colon. The Greek note of interrogation came
into use in the ninth century. After the invention of printing, the Aldine editions
fixed the punctuation, which was, however, varied by Robert Stephens in his
different editions of the Bible. It is scarcely necessary to observe that the
punctuation of the Bible possesses no authority, and that no critic hesitates to
dissent from it. The accents, or the writing kat prosûd°an, which were
already in use in the Old Testament, were added by Euthalius to his edition,
but were not in general use before the tenth century.
[* In the Cod. Alex.
blank spaces are found at the end of the commas or
sections, but nowhere else (Marsh's Michaelis).]
The Hebrew MSS. all contain a versicular division, marked with
accent called silluk, and the soph pasuk (end of the verse). The word
pasuk, qwsp, is found in the Talmud, where it denotes some division of this
kind; but whether the Talmudical pesukim are identical with those in the
manuscripts, has been strongly contested. [] It is said in tract
Kiddushun (30, c. 1), 'Our rabbins assert that the law contains 5888 (or,
according to Morinus, 8888) pesukim,' while, according to the division in our
Bibles, there are 5845 verses. 'The Psalms have 8 more.' There are at present
2527. 'The Chronicles 8 less.' This division rather resembles the st°coi in the
Sept., of which the Psalms contain 5000. In the Mishna (Megilla, iv. 1) it is said,
'He who reads the law must not read less that three pesukim. Let not more than
one be read by the interpreter, or three in the Prophets.' The passage in
Isa. lii. 3-5 is reckoned as three pesukim. In Taen (iv. 3), a precept is given for
reading the history of the creation according to the Parashes and the verses in
the law; and in the Bab. Talmud (Baba Bathra, xiv. c. 2) the passage in
Deut. xxxiv. 5-12 is called 'the last eight verses (pesukim) in the law.' It is
evident, therefore, that some at least of our present verses correspond with the
Talmudical. The term £yqwysyp [[sic.]] pisukim is also applied in the Gemara,
as anonymous with £ymvX, to reading lessons in general, and sometimes to
short passages or half verses. But no marks appear to have existed in the
text to distinguish these divisions, which were doubtless preserved by oral
teaching. The first notice of such signs is found in Sopherim (iii. 7), in these
words: 'Liber legis, in quo incisum est, et in quo capita incisorum punctata
sunt, ne legas in illo.' No such marks occur in the synagogue rolls. The Sept.
and Vulg. differ both from the Hebrew and from each other in divisions of this
character. (Ps. xliii. 11, 12; xc. 2; Lam. iii. 5; Jon. ii. 6; Obad. 9; Vulg. Cant. v. 5;
Eccles. i. 5). The pesukim of the Talmud, which are said there to have
descended from Moses, may have been possibly separated by spaces. From
a Targum on Cant. v. 13, it appears that the decalogue was originally written in
ten lines (tammim). All the pointed or Masoretic MSS. contain the present
verses, divided by the soph pasuk (:). We have already referred to the
practice of the Masorites in numbering these verses, which was done at the
end of each book. Thus at the end of Genesis: 'Genesis has 1534 verses,' &c.;
and at the end of the Pentateuch: 'The number of verses (pesukim) in the book
of Deuteronomy is 955,' it sign ¦nh [[sic.]] (which represents the same number);
the middle verse is, "And thou shalt do according to the sentence" (xvii. 10); the
number of the parashes is 10, and of sidarim 27; and the number of the verses
in the entire Pentateuch is 5245 [5845?] . . . . . The number of verses in the
Psalms is 2527, the sign ¢zk''; the middle verse, "Nevertheless they flattered
thee with their mouth" [lxxviii. 36]; the number of sidarim 19, and the number of
Psalms 150.' The Venice edition of Ben Chaijim, from which these divisions
are taken, omits them in Chronicles, but they are supplied by two manuscripts.
In the Pentateuch the number of verses in the greater sections, or those marked
by p p p and s s s, is also indicated at the end of each section, thus: 'Bereshith
has 146 verses, sign hycm'; Noah has 153 verses, &c. The entire number of
verses is 23,206.' Before the Concordance of Rabbi Nathan in the fifteenth
century [HOLY SCRIPTURES], the Jews made their references by citing in the
Pentateuch the two first words of the Sabbath lessons, making no use of the
shorter sidarim, or of the open or shut parashes. Of these, which are confined
to the Pentateuch, there are 290 open and 379 shut. Of the larger parashes,
or Sabbath lessons, Genesis contains 12, Exodus 11, Leviticus, Numbers,
and Deuteronomy 10 each. Of the lesser sidarim Genesis contains 42, &c.
These always commence in the Pentateuch with an open or closed section.
From the time of Cardinal Hugo's Concordance citations began to be made
by chapter and letter [SCRIPTURE, HOLY]. All MSS. of the Vulgate after this
period began to be thus marked, and we find Nicholas de Lyra in the
fourteenth century frequently citing them in this manner. The citation of chapter
and verse was a Jewish improvement of the succeeding century.*
[* Mr. Gresly (Forest of
ch. i.) is guilty of an anachronism in making
Latimer, in 1537, cite for his text the twentieth verse of the tenth chapter of
Matthew. The New Testament was not referred to by verses until long after
The ancient Greek MSS. which have descended to our times
contain a division into short sentences, which have been sometimes
called st°coi and verses. They are regulated by the sense, and each
constitutes a full period. They are frequently double or treble the length of
the verses in our present New Testament, although sometimes they are
identical with them. The Alexandrian, Vatican, Cambridge, Dublin, and other
ancient MSS., all contain similar divisions. The following is from the Cod.
Ephremi:-- [I Tim. iii. 12-16].
Diakonoi estwsan miav gunaikov andrev; teknwn
kalwv pro»stamenoi kai twn idiwn oikiwn; o³ gar
kalwv diakonjsantev; baqmon autoiv kalon
peripoiountai; kai polljn parrjsian en pistei
tÛ en Cw. IÂ;
Tauta. soi grafw elpizwn elqein prov se en tacei;
ean de bradunw; ina eidjv pwv dei en oikû qou
anasrefesqai eitiv estin ekkljsia qou zwntov;
stulov kai draiwma tjv aljqeiav;
Ka± émologoumenwv mega estin to tjv eusebeiav
mustjrion; ov[?] efanerwqj en sarki; edikaiwqei
pni; wfqj aggeloiv; ekjrucqj en eqnesin;
episteuqj en kosmû; aneljmfqj en doxÛ;
Versicular divisions in the printed Bibles.-- These, together with
numerical notation, are generally attributed to Robert Stephen, or Stephens
(Etienne). Their origin is, notwithstanding, involved in obscurity. Even those
who attribute the invention to Stephens are not agreed as to their date. 'We
are assumed,' observes Calmet (Pref. to the Bible), 'that it is Robert Stephens
who, in his edition of 1545, has divided the text by verses, numbered as at
present.' This division passed from the Latins to the Greeks and Hebrews.
'Robert Stephens," says Du Pin (Proleg.), 'was the first who followed the
Masorites in his edition of the Vulgate in 1545.' 'Verses,' says Simon (Hist.
Critique), and after him Jahn (Introd.), 'were first introduced into the Vulgate
and marked with figures by Robert Stephens in 1548. Morinus (Exercit. Bibl.),
who is followed by Prideaux (Connection), attributes the verses to Vatablus,
without naming a date, while Chevillier (Hist. de l'Imprimerie) and Maittaire
(Historia Stephanorum) assert that Stephens divided [] the chapters into
verses, placing a figure at each verse, in the New Testament in 1551, and in the
Old in 1557. Chevillier adds that James Faber of Estaples had introduced the
practice in his edition of the Psalms printed in 1509 by Henry, father of Robert
Stephens; and he is followed by Renouard (Annales des Etienne, Paris, 1843),
in supposing that Stephens took his idea from this very work. But, not to multiply
instances, Mr. Horne (Introd. vol. ii. p. i. ch. ii s. iii. § 1) gives the following
account of their introduction: 'Rabbi Mordecai Nathan . . . . undertook a similar
Concordance [to that of Hugo] for the Hebrew Scriptures [SCRIPTURES, HOLY],
but instead of adopting the marginal letters of Hugo, he marked every fifth verse
with a Hebrew numeral, thus, ' 1, h 5, &c.; retaining, however, the cardinal's
divisions into chapters . . . . The introduction of verses into the Hebrew Bible
was made by Athias, a Jew of Amsterdam  . . . . with the figures common
in use, except those which had been previously marked by Nathan with Hebrew
letters in the manner in which they at present appear in the Hebrew Bibles. By
rejecting these Hebrew numerals, and substituting for them the corresponding
figures, all the copies of the Bible in other languages have since been marked.'
'The verses into which the New Testament is now divided are much more
modern [than the st°coi], and are an imitation of those invented for the Old
Testament by Rabbi Nathan in the fifteenth century. Robert Stephens was the
first inventor.' In another place (§ 2) Mr. Horne has observed that the
Masorites were the inventors of verses, but without intimating that they are the
same with those now in use. Doubts were entertained on this subject so early
as the sixteenth century. 'Who first,' observes Elias Levita, 'divided the books
of the Old and New Testament into st°coi? There are even some who entertain
doubts respecting a matter but recently come into use, viz., who the person was
who introduced the division of verses into the Greek and Latin Bibles.'
Serrarius (Proleg.) makes the following allusions to the circumstance: 'I
strongly suspect that it is far from certain who first restored the intermitted
division into verses. Henry Stephens, indeed having once come to Wurzburg,
would fain have persuaded me that his father Robert was the inventor of this
distinction in the New Testament: and I afterwards observed this same
statement in his preface to his Greek Concordance, with the addition that it
was on his way from Paris to Lyons that he made the division, a great part
of it while riding on horseback' (inter equitandum). 'This may, after all, be
an empty boast; but supposing it true, as Catholics have used the versions
of Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion, who were apostates or heretics,
so may we use this division of Robert Stephens;' and, not able to conceal
his mortification that the honour should belong to a Protestant, he
significantly observes that Seneca had found the best scribes (notarii)
among the vilest slaves. Henry Stephens, in the preface to his Concordance,
thus expatiates on his father's invention: 'As the books of the New Testament
has been already divided into the sections (themata) which we call chapters,
he himself sub-divided them into those smaller sections, called by an
appellation more approved of by others than by himself, versicles. He would
have preferred calling them by the Greek tmematia, or the Latin sectiunculae;
for he perceived that the ancient name of these sections was now restricted to
another use. He accomplished this division of each chapter on his journey from
Paris to Lyons, and the greater part of it inter equitandum. A short time before,
while he thought on the matter, every one pronounced him mad, for wasting his
time and labour on an unprofitable affair which would gain him more derision
than honour: but lo! in spite of all their predictions, the invention no sooner saw
the light, than it met with universal approbation, and obtained such authority that
all other editions of the New Testament in Greek, Latin, German, and other
vernacular tongues, which did not adopt it, were rejected as unauthorized.'
Henry Stephens had already stated the same fact, in the dedication to Sir
Philip Sydney, prefixed to his second edition of the Greek Testament (1576).
We now proceed to Stephens's own statements.
Upon leaving the church of Rome, and embracing Calvinism in 1551,
which year he took refuge in Geneva, he published his fourth edition of the
Greek Testament, combining also the Vulgate and the Latin version of
Erasmus, with the date in the title MDLXI., an evident error for MDLI. The X
has been, in consequence, erased in nearly all the copies. In the preface, he
observes: 'As to our having numbered this work with certain versicles, as they
call them, we have herein followed the most ancient Greek and Latin
manuscripts of the New Testament, and have imitated them the more willingly,
that each translation may be made the more readily to correspond with the
opposite Greek.' Bishop Marsh (notes to Michaelis), and after him Mr. Horne
(ut supra), asserts that 'Beza split the Greek text into the verses invented by
Robert Stephens;' but the bishop is evidently mistaken, as Stephens's fourth
edition is divided into these breaks as well as Beza's (see facsimile in Christ.
Remembr. ut supra). Each verse commences the line with a capital, the
figures being placed between the columns.
The fourth editions of the Greek Testament was followed, in 1555,
the seventh of the Latin Vulgate, in 8vo., containing the whole Bible, having the
present verses marked throughout with numerals, and the following address to
the reader. 'Here is an edition of the Latin Vulgate, in which each chapter is
divided into verses, according to the Hebrew form of verses, with numerals
prefixed, corresponding to the number of the verse which has been added in
our new and complete Concordance, after the marginal letters A, B, C, D, E, F,
G, that you may be relieved from the labour of searching for what these figures
will point out to you as with the finger.' The title page bears Stephens's olive;
and the name of the printer Conrad Badius, the son-in-law of Stephens, with
the date 8 idibus Aprilis 1555, shows where and when it was printed. It was
the first edition of the entire Bible printed by Stephens since he left the church
of Rome. The text is continuous, the verses being separated by a ¶, with the
figures in the body of the text.
The next edition of the Bible by Stephens is that of 1556-7, in three
fol. containing the [] Vulgate, the version of Paginus, and Beza's Latin
version of the New Testament, now first published. The notes are those
commonly ascribed to Vatablus, with those of Claude Badwell in the
Apocryphal books. The text is broken up into divisions, and there is a notice to
the reader apprising him that this edition contains the text divided into verses,
as in the Hebrew copies.
Again, in the preface to Stephens' Latin and French New
published at Geneva in 1552, which is also thus divided, but which we have
never seen cited, he observed: 'Et a fin de plus aisement pouoir faire la dicte
collation et confrontement, avons distingue tout iceluy Nouveau Testament
comme par vers, a la façon et manière que tout le Vieil a este escript et
distingué, soit par Moyse et les prophets compositeurs et autheurs ou par
scavans Hebrieux succedans, pour la conservation des dictes Escriptures,
suyuans aussi en ce en partie la manière de ceux qui ont escript le premières
exemplaires Grecs, et le vieulx escripts de la vielle tralation Latine du dict
Testament, qui de chasque sentence, ou chasque moitie de sentence, voire
de toutes les parties d'une sentenceeu faisoyant commedes versets. Et en la
fin de chasque livre mettoyent le nombre d'iceulx versets: possible a fin que
par ce moyen on n'en peust rien oster, car on l'eust appercen en retrouvant le
contenu du nombre des dicts versets.' Stephens adds that he has also given
references to the verses in indexes and concordances, not omitting the letters
(lettrines) by which the chapters had been divided by his predecessors into
four or seven parts, according to their length, for the purpose of a concordance.
He makes reference to the chapters and verses in his Harmonia Evangelica,
taken from the work of Leo Judah, and placed at the end of his edition of the
New Testament (1551).
Henry Stephens, in his
preface to his Concordance, states that it was
this division with first suggested to his father's fertile mind the idea of a Greek
and Latin concordance to the New Testament, in imitation of his Latin
concordance, Concordantiae Bibl., utriusque Testamenti VII Cal. Feb. 1555,
fol; in the preface to which he says that he has followed the Hebrew mode of
numbering the verses. In the title-page he makes an appeal to his brother
printers no to 'thrust their sickle into his harvest;' not that he 'feared such
plagiary from well-educated printers, but from the common herd of illiterate
publishers, whom he considered as no better than highway robbers, no more
capable of Christian integrity than so many African pirates.' 'Whether his
apprehensions were well founded,' continues his son, 'let the experience of
others tell.' Owing to Stephens's death in 1559, his Concordance was
published by Henry Stephens, in 1594.
But it is far from being true that Stephens, as has been
believed, was the first who either followed the Masorites, or divided the
chapters into verses, or attached figures to each verse. This had been done,
not only in regard to the Psalms, by James le Fevre, in this Psalterium
Quincuplex in 1509, but throughout the whole Bible by Sanctes Pagninus in
1528. The Psalterium was beautifully printed by Henry, father of Robert
Stephens, each verse commencing the line with a red letter, and a number
prefixed; and we may here observe, that the Book of Psalms was the first
portion of the Scriptures to which numbers were attached by designating each
separate Psalm by its number. Some ascribe this numeration to the Seventy;
it is, we believe, first referred to by St. Hilary (Pref.), and is found in the
manuscripts of the Sept. Whether they were so numbered at the Christian era,
is somewhat doubtful. In Acts xiii. 33, the second Psalm is cited by its number,
but to some of the best manuscripts the reading here is the first Psalm. In
ver. 35 'in another' is said, without reference to its number; and Kuinoel is of
opinion that the true reading in ver. 33 is simply en yalmþ -- 'in a psalm.'
In the year 1528 the Dominican Sanctes Pagninus of Lucca
at Lyons, in quarto, his accurate translation of the Bible into Latin from the
Hebrew and the Greek. This edition is divided throughout into verses marked
with Arabic numerals in the margin, both in the Old and New Testament. The
text runs on continuously, except in the Psalms, where each verse commences
the line. There was a second edition, more beautifully executed, but without the
figures and divisions, published at Cologne in 1541. The versicular divisions in
the Old Testament are precisely the same with those now in use, -- viz., the
Masoretic. Each verse is separated by a peculiar mark ([[like ¶ without the tail]]).
Masch (Biblioth. Sac.), in reference to Stephens' statement that
followed the oldest Greek manuscripts, says that this assertion was made by
Stephens to conciliate those who were taking all methods of blackening him,
for that the ancient divisions were quite different. The reader will judge from
Stephens preface to his French translation above cited, whether this assertion
is borne out. Stephens there asserts that the authors of the ancient
(stichometrical) division reckoned by whole books, and he only professes to
imitate them in part, as well as the Hebrew copies: which he did by making a
versicular division of each chapter, and prefixing a figure to each verse (as in
Nathan's Concordance), instead of adding the amount at the end of each book.
Hug observes that it is really true that ancient MSS. of the New Testament are
sometimes divided into smaller sections, which have some analogy to our
verses, instancing the Alexandrine, Vatican, and others. We have already
given an example of this in C, to which we shall here add one more
instance-- viz., V. in Matthaei (Appendix to vol. ix. p. 265), who observes
that 'this MS. is stichometrically arranged.' His facsimile contains eight of
the nine first verses of St. Mark's Gospel, each of which commences the line
with a capital. All but one are identical with those in Stephens, whose first two
verses form but one in the Moscow MS.
It is, however, only in the canonical books of the Old Testament
Stephens follows Pagninus. In St. Matthew's Gospel, Pagninus has 577
verses, and Stephens 1071. The number of verses in each chapter in
Stephens is often double, frequently treble that in Pagninus. In John v. for
instance, Pagninus has 7 and Stephens 22 verses. In the deutero-canonical
books, into which no Masoretic distinction had found its way, Stephens has
also a different division; thus, in Tobit he has 292 verses, while Pagninus has
but 76; and the same proportion prevails throughout the other books, only
Pagninus has not the third and [] fourth books of Esdras, the Prayer of
Manasses, nor the addenda to Daniel.
There are two editions of the Bible containing this division, stated
Le Long to have been published this year in Lyons, one by John Frellon, the
other by Antony Vincent. The former is entitled Biblia Sacro-Sancta Veteris
et Novi Testamenti, Lugdun., apud Joannem Frellonium, 1556, 8; the
colophon of which has 'Lugduni, ex officinâ typographicâ Michaelis Sylvii,
MDLV.,' which, doubtless, induced Le Long to assign to it the latter date.
We have at present a copy of this rare edition before us, and there was a
second, which exactly represented it, published in 1566, of which there is a
copy in the Brit. Museum. Masch, the continuator of Le Long, observes of
this edition (vol. iii. p. 202), that the publisher did not venture to ascribe the
division of verses to Stephens, but refers it to Pagninus. Le Long places
Stephens' edition and Vincent's together among the Protestant versions;
Character minutissimo. R.
Stephanus lectori. En
Bibliorum Vulgata &c. (ut supp. p. 910).) in 8vo. Olivã Rob. Stephani. 1555.
Minutioribus characteribus, versibus, numerorum
distinctione notatis, in 8vo., Lugduni, Ant. Vincentii, 1555, 1556. Eadem est
prorsus editio. Ex monitione typographi: "Biblia Sacra quum jam non semel
variis tum typis tum formis emiserim, sicque passis ulnis accepta, ut pe unum
quidem aut alterum nobis superesset exemplar . . . . . . id operis minutioribus
quam antea unquam excudi placuit characteribus. . . . . . . Deinde quae ad
sacrarum sensum literarum pertinere visa sunt non omissurus, Hebraeorum
secutus morem, versos quoslibet notandos curavi . . . . . . quo send ipsa certis
distincta versibus clarius innotescerent, et minori negotio linguae sanctae
candidati concordantius, commentaria, &c., consulere possent." . . . . . utraque
editio prima est his distincta versibus, &c.'
According to this statement of Le Long, it would appear that the
of Robert Stephens and that of Antony Vincent were the same. Masch, however,
who places Stephens' edition of 1555 in its chronological order (p. 209), and
does not transfer it to the Protestant editions, notices Vincent's thus:--
'Biblia utriusque Testamenti, Lugduni, in aedibus Antonii
Biblia . . . MDLVI. versibus distinct. Eadem est prorsus
editio . . . . . utraque est (ut supra).' Now, whatever the word utraque or eadem
here refers to, the very extract from the preface given by Le Long as Vincent's
(whose edition we have never seen), commencing with 'Biblia Sacra quum
jam non semel,' forms part of the preface to Frellon's edition, of which Masch
had observed that the publisher did not venture to assign the invention of the
verses to Stephens, but ascribed them to Pagninus. It was this circumstance
which led us to turn to this preface, which also contains the identical assertion:
'Et ne quem sua frustratum a nobis laude quispiam clamitet, aut peculatus arguet,
et etiam ut institutum hoc nostrum plus ponderis obtineat, ultro fatemur nos
imitatos Santem illum Pagninum Heb. linguae peritissimum, qui et hoc ipsum
ceu necessarium magnopere probans, eo modo sua imprimenda curavit.' Now
it seems clear that Frellon, whom, from the evidence before us, we must believe
to have been the true author of this preface, wishes to take credit to himself for the
introduction of the division of verses into his Bible, and from his declaration that
he takes Pagninus for his model, in order that none should complain of being
defrauded, we think it by no means improbable that he meant this observation as
a sly insinuation against Robert Stephens, who had, in the preface to his
Concordance just published, not only protested against such frauds on the part
of his brother printers, but had himself adopted Pagninus's figures without
acknowledgement, while it is equally evident that Frellon adopts not Pagninus'
but Stephens' division, both in the New Testament and in the deutero-canonical
books of the Old; for we presume from the dates that Stephens' edition was the
earliest printed; and his Concordance, as we have seen, was published so early
as the month of January in the same year. The verses in Frellon's edition are
divided into breaks, with the figures on the left margin.
The next edition containing this division into verses is
eighth and last edition of the Vulgate, 1556-1557, 3 vols. fol. This is one of
the editions called Vatablus' Bibles, of which there are three, viz., Stephens'
nonpareil (1545), his eighth edition of which we are not treating, and the triglott
edition published at Heidelberg in 1599. It is the Bible which Morinus (Exercit.
Bibl.), Prideaux (Connect. vol. i.), and so many other, conceived to have been
the first containing the division of verses. Prideaux observes that Vatablus soon
after published a Latin Bible after this pattern, viz., that of Rabbi Nathan (1450),
with the chapters divided into verses. 'Soon' after, however, meant about a
century; Vatablus died 16th March, 1547. It is evident also, that Vatablus' Bible
was no other than Stephens' eighth edition.
There was a beautiful edition of the Psalter published in 1555 by
Stephens, containing the Latin of Jerome, with that of Pagninus, the numerals
attached to each verse being placed in the centre column between
perpendicular rubricated lines. It is entitled Liber Psalmorum Davidis, Tralatio
duplex, vetus et nova. Haec posterior Santis Pagnini, partim ab ipso Pagnino
recognita partim et Francisco Vatablo, in praelectionibus emendata et
exposita. The title bears the date MDLV., but in the colophon is the
subscription: 'Imprimebat Rob. Stephanus, in suã officinã, Anno MDLVII.,
The form of printing the Bible in verses, with numerals, now
established. It appeared in 1556 in Hamelin's French version. It found its way
the next year into the Geneva New Testament (English), printed by Conrad
Badius, of which a beautiful fac-simile has lately issued from the press of Mr.
Bagster. It was adopted, by marking every fifth verse with a Hebrew numeral,
into the Hebrew Pentateuch, printed this same year (1557) at Sabionetta
[SCRIPTURE, HOLY]. In 1559 Hentenius introduced Stephens's division and
figures* into his correct [] Antwerp edition of the Vulgate; which was
followed by that of Plantin in 1569-1572, and passed into the Antwerp
[* 'Biblia, etc., in quibus
capita singula in versibus distincta sunt ut numeri
prefixi lectorem non remorantur, et loca quaesita tanquam digito demonstrant.']
The Sixtine edition of the Vulgate (1590) having adopted this division,
was continued in the Clementine (1592), and has been ever since used in all
editions and translations in the Roman Catholic Church. Hentenius, however,
having printed the text continuously, with the figures in the margin, and a mark
(thus, [[a circle with a line perpendicular at its bottom]]) at the commencement
of each verse, this plan was followed by the Clementine* and Sixtine editions,
in which the verses are marked with an asterisk, capitals being used only at the
commencement of a period, while the Protestant Bibles of Basle and Geneva
commence the verse with the line, and with a capital letter. In the Roman
editions, the only exceptions are the metrical books of Psalms, Job, and
Proverbs, from the tenth chapter.
[Maittaire and Chevillier
are both mistaken in asserting that the Sixtine and
Clementine adopted the division immediately from Stephens' ed. of 1557.]
This division appeared in the Geneva (English) Bible in 1560 and
the Bishops' Bible (1568), and passed into the Authorized Version in 1611.
Some of the Protestant editions followed the Roman in adopting a continued
text, of which it will be sufficient to name the beautiful Zürich edition of Osiander,
in which each verse is distinguished by an obelus in the body of the text; and it is
to be regretted that this practice has not been generally continued either in
Protestant or Roman Catholic Bibles. We may add that Pagninus, Stephens,
Frellon, and the Roman editions, all slightly vary among each other, both in the
divisions and the placing of the figures. Nor do the chapters, owing to a diversity
in the manuscripts, invariably coincide, as the versicular divisions of the Psalms
in the Sept. and Vulgate are not always the same with the Hebrew; Stephens'
figures sometimes occur in the middle of a verse in the Roman editions.
The Roman edition of the Sept. (1587 and 1589) was printed without
division or figures; and the present notation first appeared in Plantin's edition of
the deutero-canonical books, Antwerp, 1584, from Tobit iv. 24 (the
commencement, to ch. iv. 23, being marked by decades). The Frankfort
edition of the Sept. (1597) has the present numeration throughout, but without
any notice of the fact by the editors. The numbers are placed in the margin,
but each verse commences with a capital, while in Plantin they are separated
by spaces only.
From what has been said, the reader will, we presume, be satisfied
the great inaccuracies and misconceptions which have hitherto prevailed on
this subject. It will no longer be doubtful that the figures were not introduced by
Robert Stephens into his edition of 1545, as asserted by Calmet, nor of 1548,
as stated by Father Simon and Jahn (in which latter year there was no edition
published). It is equally untrue that they first appeared in Stephens' edition of
1556-7, as stated by Chevillier, Maittaire, and Prideaux. Neither is it altogether
correct, as stated in Mr. Horne's Introduction, that the verses in the New
Testament were an imitation of those invented by Rabbi Nathan, as Rabbi
Nathan only referred in his Concordance by numerals to the Masoretic verses.
Nor was it from the Hebrew Bible of Atbias, in 1662, that this notation came
into the copies of the Bible in other languages (Horne, l. c.), as they had been
in use in all editions for above a century before. Equally far from the truth is the
statement of Du Pin, that Stephens was the first who followed the distinction of
the Masoretes in his Latin Bibles, as this had been done by Pagninus many
years before Stephens published any one of his numerous editions.
Having now succeeded in detecting the errors of the former writers,
are arrived at the more difficult task of eliciting the truth out of so many
contradictory statements. Our limits will not allow us, however, to do more than
offer the following view as the result of our inquiries.
Rabbi Nathan having in his Concordance (in 1450) commenced
practice of referring to a versicular division of each of the Latin chapters by the
number of each masoretic verse in the chapter. Arabic figures were, after the
example of Le Fevre's edition of the Psalms, affixed to each verse by Pagninus
in his Latin Bible in 1528. Pagninus introduced a somewhat similar division into
the New Testament and Apocryphal books. His system was adopted by Robert
Stephens in the New Testament in 1551, and in the whole Bible in 1555, with
scarcely any alteration except in the deutero-canonical books and the New
Testament, wherein he introduced a different division. This division was partly
founded on the practice of ancient manuscripts, and was partly his own. But as
his object was to adapt his division to his Concordance, without any reference
to the sense, he unfortunately introduced a much worse division than he found in
any of his models. And it is to be lamented that his 'wild and undigested system'
of breaking up the text into what appear to the eyes of the learned and to the
minds of the unlearned as so many detached sentences (Michaelis' Introd.), has
had a deleterious effect on the sense of Scripture, and perhaps given rise to
some heresies* (See Pref. to Bishop Lloyd's Greek Testament). Michaelis
supposes that the phrase 'inter equitandum' does not mean that Stephens
accomplished his task whilst actually riding on horseback, but that during the
intervals of his journey he amused himself by doing it at his inn. If his division
was a mere modification of that of Pagninus (see BIBLE in Taylor's ed. of
Calmet's Dict.), it might easily have been done 'inter equitandum;' a phrase
which, however we understand it, no inaptly represents the post-haste
expedition with which his work was executed. Whether Pagninus himself
adopted his division in the New Testament from manuscripts, or what his
design was in [] introducing it, must be the result of an investigation
which we cannot now enter again. Stephens, it is true, never once refers to
Pagninus' system; but we could hardly suppose that he was unacquainted with
it, even had we no evidence to this effect. The evidence, however, does exist,
for we discovered, after the greater portion of this article was written, that
Stephens, in 1556, had in his possession two copies of Pagninus' Bible. The
preface to his edition of 1557 contains the following words: 'In exteriori antem
parte iterpretationem Sanctis Pagnini (quam potissimum, ut maxime fidam,
omnes uno ore laudant), crassioribus litteris excusam damus: sed hanc
quidem certa multis partibus ea quam in aliis editionibus habes, meliorem.
Nacti enim sumus duo ex prima illius editione exemplaria, in quibus non
solum typographica errata non pauca, nec levia, manu propria ipse author
correxant, sed multos etiam locos diligentius et accuratirus quam antea
[* Tholuck (see Robinson's
Bibl. Sacra, 1844, vol. i p. 354) conceives the
omission of the verses to be a defect in Lachmann's edition; but Lachmann
has inserted Stephens's figures in the body of the text, and has properly
discarded the use of capitals, except at the commencement of a period.]
Croius (Observat.) states that he had seen very ancient Latin
containing Stephens's division, with the first letter of each verse rubricated, but
he does not designate his MSS. We believe this was a biased assertion. We
have ourselves seen Latin MSS. with periods so marked; but they are not the
same with Stephens' verses. There is in the British Museum also a MS. of part
of the Sept. (Harl. 5021), dated in 1647, which is versiculated throughout, and
marked with figures, but the verses are much longer than those of Stephens's.
Latin MSS. are found divided in the same manner as the Greek, one of which is
the Cod. Bezae, which was collated by Stephens for his edition of 1550. Dr.
Laurence's book of Enoch is divided into verses with numbers attached, as well
as into chapters called Kefel. Dr. Lawrence says that these divisions into verses
are arbitrary, and vary in the different Ethiopic MSS. of Enoch. The numbers, we
presume were added by the translator. By a letter from Dr. Bandinel, keeper of
the Bodleian Library, we learn that that Library possesses an Ethiopic MS. of the
New Testament divided into sections and paragraphs entirely different from ours,
not numbered, but separated by a peculiar mark. The verses in the Gospel of the
Templars [GOSPELS, SPURIOUS], instead of spaced or figures, are separated
by a horizontal line [ __ ] (Thilo, Cod. Apoc.).
The MS. of the Syriac New Testament in the British Museum (No.
written at Beth-kuko, A.D. 768 (see Wright's Seiler, p. 651, note), contains a
numerical division in the Gospels, with the numbers in rubric inserted by a
coeval hand into the body of the text. Attached to each number is another
number in green, referring to a canon of parallel passages on the plan of that of
Eusebius, but placed at the foot of each page. The sections, which are called
versiculi in the Catalogue, and have been mistaken for verses, are more
numerous than the Ammonian, Mathew containing 426, Mark 290, Luke 402,
and John 271. There is a complete capitulation also throughout all the books,
the chapters being separated in the text by a peculiar ornament, with the letter
in the margin: of these chapters Matthew has 22, Mark 13, Luke 22, John 20,
Acts 25; of the Catholic Epistles, James 1, and  John 6, and the Pauline
have 54. After the first Gospel there is a double number, by which the former
are recapitulated, and a treble number from the Acts to the end.
The numerical divisions into chapters and verses were first adapted
liturgical use in the Anglican Church -- the chapters in Edward VI.'s first Book
of Common Prayer (1549), and the verses in the Scotch Liturgy (1637), from
whence they were adopted into the last revision (1662). -- W. W.