Dividing Scripture: Chuck Hill on the First Chapter Divisions

The form of the Word belongs to the meaning of the Word, and this includes its providentially ordered literary presentation. How do the Church’s ways of dividing up the Scriptures inform the way the Church has heard and read the Scriptures?We at Greystone were very pleased to speak recently with Prof. Charles (Chuck) Hill, Professor Emeritus of New Testament and Early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando. We’ve long benefitted from Professor Hill’s meticulous attention to matters of text and reception, and his exemplary standards of scholarship. He retired from his regular post at RTS in 2021 but thankfully continues to be quite active and productive, and you can see something of his prodigious output if you visit his faculty page at the RTS website. Professor Hill’s most recent book, called, The First Chapters: Dividing the Text of Scripture in Codex Vaticanus and Its Predecessors, published by Oxford in 2022, is the focus of today’s episode of Greystone Conversations.As the posted book description explains, Hill’s book, The First Chapters, uncovers the origins of the first paragraph or chapter divisions in copies of the Christian Scriptures. Its focal point is the magnificent, fourth-century Codex Vaticanus (Vat.gr. 1209; B 03), perhaps the single most significant ancient manuscript of the Bible, and the oldest material witness to what may be the earliest set of numbered chapter divisions of the Bible. The First Chapters tells the history of textual division, starting from when copies of Greek literary works used virtually no spaces, marks, or other graphic techniques to assist the reader. It explores the origins of other numbering systems, like the better-known Eusebian Canons, but its theme is the first set of numbered chapters in Codex Vaticanus, what nineteenth-century textual critic Samuel P. Tregelles labelled the Capitulatio Vaticana. It demonstrates that these numbers were not, as most have claimed, late additions to the codex but belonged integrally to its original production. The First Chaptersthen breaks new ground by showing that the Capitulatio Vaticana has real precursors in some much earlier manuscripts. It thus casts light on a long, continuous tradition of scribally-placed, visual guides to the reading and interpreting of Scriptural books. Finally, The First Chapters exposes abundant new evidence that this early system for marking the sense-divisions of Scripture has played a much greater role in the history of exegesis than has previously been imaginable.In other words, these markings have hermeneutical, and thus theological significance.

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