Friday Bible Blogging Archive

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Friday Bible Blogging - Center Verse of the Bible

This entry is part of a series. For a listing of all entries in the series, go to the Index. Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). All headings are links to those Bible chapters.

BibleThis week, you get a bonus Friday Bible Blogging entry in the middle of the week. The main entry that I'll post on Friday covers Psalms 111 through 120, but it brings me to a slightly controversial milestone of sorts that I decided was worth covering in its own entry - the central verse of the Bible.

Right off the bat is trying to determine which manuscripts to use as your basis. As I discussed in the Introduction to this series, the development of the Bible wasn't straight forward. For many books, it would be difficult to pin down the 'original' version, even if time travel were possible, because of how those books developed. They were based on combining already existing books, which themselves were often based on even older stories, with Noah's flood developing from the Mesopotamian Flood Myth being one of the most famous examples. And as the books were passed down and copied, changes, additions, and subtractions were made. Even the New Testament, which is much more recent than some of the Old Testament books, has been modified. I was disappointed to discover that the story of Jesus telling the Pharisees to "let him who is without sin, cast the first stone" was most likely a later addition to John, and not part of the original gospel.

Even in the modern day, when most churches have settled on their canon, there are many different compilations of the Bible. The Wikipedia article on Biblical Canon has a table showing the differences in canon between Protestant, Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Slavonic Orthodox, Georgian Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, Syriac Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, Orthodox Tewahedo, and Assyrian Church of the East versions of the Bible. There just simply is no single 'The Bible', so there's no single central verse.

And on top of all that, the chapter and verse numbers certainly weren't part of the original manuscripts. To quote from Wikipedia's entry on Chapters and verses of the Bible:

Cardinal Hugo de Sancto Caro is often given credit for first dividing the Latin Vulgate into chapters in the real sense, but it is the arrangement of his contemporary and fellow cardinal Stephen Langton who in 1205 created the chapter divisions which are used today. They were then inserted into Greek manuscripts of the New Testament in the 15th century. Robert Estienne (Robert Stephanus) was the first to number the verses within each chapter, his verse numbers entering printed editions in 1551 (New Testament) and 1571 (Hebrew Bible).

The chapters and verses weren't settled on until the 1500s.

Moving past all that, let's pick one version to go with, since that's the version I see used in practically all of these Biblical factoid type articles - the standard Protestant Bible. If you do a google search on 'center verse of the bible', you'll find many sites claiming that the central verse is Psalms 118:8. Here's an example of such a site, Fun Bible Facts for Christian Teens: Get Centered with Psalms 118. I've pulled a fairly extensive quote below, to show how they arrive at that conclusion, and the other types of claims these sorts of sites typically make.

Location, Location, Location
  • The middle chapter of the Bible is Psalm 118.
  • The longest Chapter of the Bible is Psalm 119.
  • The shortest chapter of the Bible is Psalm 117.

Adding It All Up

  • How many chapters exist before Psalm 118? 594
  • How many chapters of the Bible exist after Psalm 118? 594
  • Add the two together and you get 1188.
  • What is the verse at the very center of the Bible? Psalm 118:8*

Get Centered

Psalm 118:8 - "It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man." (NIV)

Are you in the center of God's word? The very center of the Bible reminds us to trust in God over trusting in ourselves or other people. The next time you consider making God the center of your life, remind yourself to go to the center of the Word.

As part of this whole project of reading the Bible, I have a spreadsheet with the chapter count for each of the books. For the Protestant Bible, I count 1189 chapters - which matches the fun facts claims so far. And 1189 chapters total does mean 594 chapters before and after the middle chapter. However, since there are 478 chapters in all the books prior to Psalms, 594 - 478 = 116, meaning that the following chapter, 117, is the central chapter of the Bible, not 118. And if the central chapter is 117, then all the rest of the cute claims don't really mean much. (Interestingly, at the end of that article, the author does note some controversy over which chapter really is the center of the Bible, before dismissing it by saying, "Christians should make God the center of their lives, and numerical controversy should not take away from that spiritual guidance." It's a bit disingenuous to knowingly present something false, and then issue a disclaimer that people may or may not read at the very end of the article. Some people might call that lying, or bearing false witness, to put it in terms that author might appreciate more.)

But that's only one way to determine the central verse of the Bible. A way to do it that makes more sense to me is to add up all the verses in all the chapters, and determine which is the center of the whole thing. I don't have verse counts in my spreadsheet, and don't particularly feel like compiling all that information just for this blog entry, so I'm going to rely on other people's analysis here. I actually found a page where somebody went through this entire exercise, Center of the Bible, by Fran Corpier. Corpier found that there are 31,102 verses in the Bible (as somewhat of a double check, reports the same number). From that, since there can be no single central verse when the total is an even number, Corpier determined that the central verses are Psalms 103:1-2, "Bless the Lord, O my soul, / and all that is within me, / bless his holy name. / Bless the Lord, O my soul, / and do not forget all his benefits..."

Corpier also went so far as to determine the center of the Bible by word count, using the King James Version (KJV). However, I fear that she (he?) must have made a mistake here. Corpier found there were 782,222 words in the KJV of the Bible, and went on to claim that the center two words occur in Psalms 74:21. However, the verse Corpier used to determine those words was Psalms 105:21, not 74:21. So, assuming that Corpier did the math right and just pulled up the wrong quote, the center two words of the KJV of the Bible would be the second and third words in Psalms 74:21, " O let not the oppressed return ashamed: let the poor and needy praise thy name." Hmm. Not particularly noteworthy.

So, to summarize:

  • Center chapter, by chapter count: Psalms 117
  • Center verse, by verse count: Psalms 103:1-2
  • Center words, by word count (KJV): "not the", occurring in Psalms 74:21

So by chapter count, I reached the center of the Protestant Bible this week. However, I'm reading the Apocrypha as well, so I'm still not halfway through with this project.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Friday Bible Blogging - Psalms 101 to Psalms 110

This entry is part of a series. For a listing of all entries in the series, go to the Index. Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). All headings are links to those Bible chapters.

BibleWell look at that - two weeks in a row that I've managed to post an entry in this series. I guess I really am getting back into the swing of things.

This week's entry covers Psalms 101 through 110. Psalm 106 is the last of Book IV, which means Psalm 107 is the start of Book V. Book V happens to be the last of the 5 books in Psalms.

The psalms themselves weren't any more exciting than what I've been reading, but I do have a bit more to say about them this week.

Psalms, Chapter 101

So even though I'll have a bit more to say this week, it's not with this chapter. Psalm 101 is pretty run of the mill, with a little bit of praising God, but mostly the person speaking (most likely being recited by the king) promising to be faithful and to do good.

Psalms, Chapter 102

The superscription to this psalm is "A prayer of one afflicted, when faint and pleading before the Lord," which summarizes it pretty well. It's a plea for help from the Lord, blending the psalmists personal complaints with Israel's larger complaints.

Psalms, Chapter 103

This was a psalm of praise, focusing mostly on God's forgiveness and compassion. Like the last psalm, it combined personal and national elements.

Psalms, Chapter 104

If you follow creationism at all, this psalm, or at least the language in it, will be familiar. For example, in one of the first verses, it mentions:

You stretch out the heavens like a tent,
   you set the beams of your chambers on the waters,

Stretching out the heavens is actually a pretty common theme in the Bible. A literal interpretation in line with the cosmology of the time would put it as God actually spreading out something like a tent over the firmament, but modern creationists have more entertaining interpretations. An article on Answers in Genesis, which actually refers to a similar passage in Isaiah, states that "This would suggest that the universe has actually increased in size since its creation. God has stretched it out. He has expanded it (and is perhaps still expanding it)." They're using verses like this to try to say that the Bible supports cosmic inflation.

This whole psalm is even at the center of some debates between different creationists. Here's another article from AiG, Psalm 104:6-9--the Flood or Day 3 of Creation Week?, where they try to refute the old earth creationist, Hugh Ross, who thought this psalm referred to the creation week, when clearly it refers partially to Noah's flood, and partially to the world at the time the psalm was written.

The footnotes in the New Oxford Annotated Bible (NOAB) had a different take.

God, luminous and triumphant (vv. 1-4), organizes the primordial waters (vv. 5-18, 24-26) and darkness (vv. 19-23) into a harmonious whole that supports life (vv. 27-35). The depiction owes much to the mythology of neighboring cultures: the storm god who vanquishes Sea (vv. 1-18), and the Egyptian sun-disk Aten whose rays illuminate the world (vv. 19-30)...

Given which source was written by actual scholars, I know which interpretation I'd pick as most likely.

Psalms, Chapter 105

This is a psalm of praise and thanksgiving, giving a short summary of the history of Israel and God's deeds in helping the people, going all the way back to Abraham.

The NOAB noted many differences between the stories presented here and in other parts of the Bible. For example, there were only seven plagues of Egypt here, compared to the ten in Exodus, and they were in a different order.

The psalm did reference one of my favorite stories from the Bible, from when the Hebrews were wandering the desert.

They asked, and he brought quails,
   and gave them food from heaven in abundance.

Now, I'm assuming the psalm is referring to a slightly different version of the story than what was recorded in Numbers 11, because that version of the story is not something the Israelites would have given praise for. Delivering quails 'in abundance' is a bit of an understatement, "a wind went out from the Lord, and it brought quails from the sea and let them fall beside the camp, about a day's journey on this side and a day's journey on the other side, all around the camp, about two cubits deep on the ground," keeping in mind that 2 cubits is about 3 feet. And then, when the people actually started eating the quails, "while the meat was still between their teeth, before it was consumed, the anger of the Lord was kindled against the people, and the Lord struck the people with a very great plague."

Psalms, Chapter 106

This was a rather long psalm, again looking at the history of the Israelites, but in a slightly different manner. This psalm focused on cycles of sin and forgiveness (of course, going through seven cycles, because so much of the Bible focuses on seven).

The NOAB notes that the final verse, 48, was an addition from whenever Psalms was divided into five separate books.

Psalms, Chapter 107

Psalm 107 marks the beginning of the fifth and final book of Psalms. It's a psalm of thanksgiving, for, according to the NOAB, "bringing back the people from exile". It used four examples of divine deliverance. Again according to the NOAB, "these are all metaphorical for the tribulations of the Babylonian exile of the sixth century BCE, and the difficulties of returning by foot from Babylon."

Psalms, Chapter 108

This psalm is a prayer for victory, which as the NOAB notes, is largely composed by recycling content from other psalms (57 & 60).

Psalms, Chapter 109

This is a somewhat long psalm, supposedly by David seeking vengeance on his enemies. It seems a bit odd from a continuity perspective, however. Verses 6 & 7 start off his request by saying:

They say,* 'Appoint a wicked man against him;
   let an accuser stand on his right.
When he is tried, let him be found guilty;
   let his prayer be counted as sin.

The language makes it seem like what his enemies are asking for. But then verse 20 turns it around to make it seem like it's coming from David.

May that be the reward of my accusers from the Lord,
   of those who speak evil against my life.

The request for vengeance isn't as bloodthirsty as some sections of the Bible, but it does ask God to punish the children of his enemies.

Psalms, Chapter 110

This is a short psalm for the king, promising him victory over his enemies and faithfulness from his subjects.


One more week down. Only four more weeks of Psalms to go. I guess this week was a bit more entertaining than last week, at least.

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Friday Bible Blogging - Psalms 91 to Psalms 100

This entry is part of a series. For a listing of all entries in the series, go to the Index. Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). All headings are links to those Bible chapters.

BibleWow. It's been a while since I've done one of these entries. I fell off the routine of posting regularly back in March, and have only had a handful of posts in the series since then, mostly explaining why I was too busy to post a review. But I'm back. The big work project that was keeping me super busy is over, and the big personal event that the whole family was busy preparing for is over. So, I should once again have the time to come up with a new post every Friday (the only concern now is motivation).

This week's entry covers Psalms 91 through 100. I guess that's a bit of a milestone - reaching the 3 digit mark. This is the only book of the Bible where that's even a possibility. I forgot to mention this in the last entry, but Psalm 90 marks the beginning of Book IV in Psalms. Book IV only goes through Psalm 106, so this weeks entry actually covers the bulk of that book.

I wish I could say that the chapters this week were exciting, but it's really just more of the same. Even a 5 month break isn't enough to make this material seem fresh.

Psalms, Chapter 91

This Psalm brought back memories from when I used to go to church as a kid, the hymn Blest Be the Lord. Read verse 5.

You will not fear the terror of the night,
   or the arrow that flies by day,

And compare it to the refrain from the hymn (which I'll now have stuck in my head all day).

Blest be the Lord; blest be the Lord.
the God of mercy, the God who saves.
I shall not fear the dark of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day.

The hymn has plenty of other references to the Psalm, but none quite so closely copied.

One note for this chapter from the New Oxford Annotated Bible (NOAB), the 'under his wings' language from verse 4 may be "a reference to protecting bird as in Egyptian iconography..."

Psalms, Chapter 92

Psalm 92 is 'A Song for the Sabbath Day'. It's pretty typical - praise, thanksgiving, fallen enemies, etc. There's a little insult at the people that can't see God's mighty works, "The dullard cannot know, / the stupid cannot understand this..." One interesting aspect I wouldn't have noticed if not for the NOAB is that God's name was used seven times, almost certainly symbolic in a psalm about the Sabbath.

Psalms, Chapter 93

This psalm is full of imagery I've mentioned before, representing Yahweh as a storm god, and showing the primordial fight against chaos. According to the NOAB, this is "referring to the Canaanite myth in which Baal, the storm god, defeats Sea".

Psalms, Chapter 94

This is another typical psalm, asking God to right all the wrongs committed against the community.

Psalms, Chapter 95

This one's mostly a psalm of praise and worship, with a reminder of the rebellion after the Exodus that brought on the 40 years of wandering the desert.

Psalms, Chapter 96

Another psalm praising God and his glory.

Psalms, Chapter 97

Psalm 97 included more storm god imagery, "Clouds and thick darkness are all around him...", "His lightnings light up the world..." There was also mention of other gods.

All worshippers of images are put to shame,
 those who make their boast in worthless idols;
   all gods bow down before him.

I think it's interesting that those first two lines indicate that the other gods are just images or idols, but then the third line has them bowing before Yahweh. It sounds to me like the first two lines are meant to belittle other gods, but that the author still believed they were deities.

Psalms, Chapter 98

Similarly to Psalm 93, this one is about God winning a battle over forces of evil.

Psalms, Chapter 99

And another hymn praising God. According to the NOAB, this was part of a group of "enthronement hymns", including Psalm 93, and Psalms 95-99, which were about God establishing his throne and his "authoritative decrees".

Psalms, Chapter 100

Psalm 100, 'A Psalm of thanksgiving', was rather short, calling on "all the earth" to worship the Lord.


Ugh. My first week back, and I'm right back to remembering why I was getting so bored with this book. It's not that it's horrible. It's just so repetitious. And I'm sure these reviews are reflecting my boredom. I'm doing my best to try to find interesting tidbits, but I know I'm just making more and more chapter reviews like "Another psalm praising God and his glory" or "This is another typical psalm..." At least I'm two thirds of the way through this book, so there's only 5 more weeks of me whining about how boring it is.

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Friday Bible Blogging - Hiatus

This entry is part of a series. For a listing of all entries in the series, go to the Index. Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). All headings are links to those Bible chapters.

BibleI hate to do this, but I'm going to announce another hiatus on this series. But let me offer a bit more explanation this time. There are three main time sinks to write the normal Friday Bible Blogging entries:

  1. Reading the Bible
  2. Reading the footnotes in the New Oxford Annotated Bible (NOAB)
  3. Writing the entry

The first of those isn't actually too bad. Ten Bible chapters are usually pretty short, and I can access the NRSV on my mobile phone from practically anywhere, so I can usually find the time to get that part done. The last two hiatus announcements were mostly about the third one of those. As the name implies, this blog is mostly written during my lunch breaks, and I was just so busy there for a while that I was working through lunch breaks. If you've been paying attention, you might have noticed that I've been posting other entries more regularly here recently, so it should be clear that I've gotten my lunch breaks back.

The problem now is that second item - finding time to read the footnotes in the NOAB. The NOAB's a pretty bulky book, so I don't carry it around with me like my phone. I pretty much have to read it at home. But we've tackled some huge renovation projects around the house, and we're having a get together in a little over a month, with family flying in from out of town, so we have to get the projects done. What had been my routine of reading the NOAB on weekend mornings before everybody else got up just doesn't work right now. We've all been getting up earlier, along with some local family members who've spent a few weekends helping out. And even if I do wake up before everybody else, I get right to work. There's no time for spending an hour or two reading Bible footnotes.

Anyway, the get together is in the beginning of August, so whether we're done or not, the pressure will be gone after that, and I'll be able to get back into my Bible reading routine and start these posts again.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Friday Bible Blogging - Psalms 81 to Psalms 90

This entry is part of a series. For a listing of all entries in the series, go to the Index. Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). All headings are links to those Bible chapters.

BibleI hadn't realized just how long of a break I'd taken on this series. The last real entry was on March 14 - just about two and a half months ago. I was just slammed at work, and I suppose I was getting a little bit burnt out on the book of Psalms, but now I'm back to it.

As one more quick announcement before getting into the meat of the review, I just learned of a year and a half old development. When I first started this series, the NRSV translation was only available a handful of places online, and was notably absent from one of the most useful Bible sites, Well, apparently 1 month after I started, they announced that the NRSV was now available on their site. So, if you want a handy resource where you can read the NRSV, and immediately jump to different translations for comparison, then go check out NRSV on

This week's entry covers Psalms 81 through 90. They're fairly typical psalms, none of which really jump out as particularly well known or frequently used. To me, the most interesting was Psalm 82, for the relationship between Yahweh and other gods.

Psalms, Chapter 81

Psalm 81 is 'God's Appeal to Stubborn Israel'. After an introduction praising God, the psalmist claims to be relaying "a voice I had not known", admonishing Israel for not remaining faithful to the Lord, and saying God would "subdue their enemies" and "feed you with the finest of the wheat, / and with honey from the rock" if they would just submit to him.

Psalms, Chapter 82

Psalm 82, 'A Plea for Justice', starts off with another of Psalms indications of polytheism:

God has taken his place in the divine council;
   in the midst of the gods he holds judgment

In this psalm, God admonishes the other gods:

How long will you judge unjustly
   and show partiality to the wicked?

He goes on to tell them to set things right, but also telling them that they will die like mortals. It's a bit strange, almost like an attempt to solve the Problem of Evil by passing the buck to other gods, but at the same contradicting a monotheistic stance.

Psalms, Chapter 83

This psalm is a 'Prayer for Judgment on Israel's Foes'. It's about like you'd expect, claiming that Israel's enemies conspire against Israel and God, and asking God to wipe them out. It actually wasn't as violent as some other psalms have been. It did have a scatalogical reference, however.

Do to them as you did to Midian,
   as to Sisera and Jabin at the Wadi Kishon,
who were destroyed at En-dor,
   who became dung for the ground.

Psalms, Chapter 84

The next psalm was 'The Joy of Worship in the Temple'. It's a typical psalm of praise to God.

Psalms, Chapter 85

Next came a 'Prayer for the Restoration of God's Favor'. It's just what the title implies, asking God to favor Israel once again and restore them to their former glory.

Psalms, Chapter 86

Psalm 86 was a 'Supplication for Help against Enemies', attributed to David. After spending two thirds of the psalm praising God, 'David' finally asked God to save him (David) from his enemies, and to put his enemies to shame. It was, in fact, not particularly violent compared to other psalms I've read.

There was another hint at polytheism, "There is none like you among the gods".

There was also a passage that caught my eye for its familiarity. It's actually a pretty common theme.

But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
   slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

Psalms, Chapter 87

Similar to Psalm 84, this one is titled 'The Joy of Living in Zion'. It's a very short psalm that basically just says how good it was to be from Zion.

Psalms, Chapter 88

Psalm 88 is a 'Prayer for Help in Despondency'. It's a rather bleak prayer for help from someone in a bad place, but without the typical praise of God - just wondering why everything's going so badly for him.

There were two passages that really highlighted the different concept of the afterlife that the ancient Hebrews had compared to modern Christians. This first one really struck me for saying that there are "those whom you [God] remember no more".

I am counted among those who go down to the Pit;
   I am like those who have no help,
like those forsaken among the dead,
   like the slain that lie in the grave,
like those whom you remember no more,
   for they are cut off from your hand.

This second one is similar to passages I've quoted before, indicating that Sheol was a pretty dreary place without much going on.

Is your steadfast love declared in the grave,
   or your faithfulness in Abaddon?
Are your wonders known in the darkness,
   or your saving help in the land of forgetfulness?

Psalms, Chapter 89

This psalm is 'God's Covenant with David'. This starts off with typical praise - God is good, and strong and mighty, and crushes his enemies, and the people exult in his name, etc. Next came the passage explaining God's covenant with David and his line ("It shall be established forever like the moon"), followed by a passage where the psalmist accused God of forsaking David's line. It was actually pretty explicit in calling God out.

But now you have spurned and rejected him;
   you are full of wrath against your anointed.
You have renounced the covenant with your servant;
   you have defiled his crown in the dust.

The psalm closed by asking God when he would remember his covenant and return favor to David's line.

Psalms, Chapter 90

The last psalm for this week's review is 'God's Eternity and Human Frailty', supposedly written by "Moses, the man of God". After praising God and highlighting human weakness, the psalmist returned to a theme that's been common in this section.

Turn, O Lord! How long?
   Have compassion on your servants!

It certainly makes it seem like this psalm came from the same time period as the other psalms asking for God to return his favor to Israel, and not from the days of Moses.


I know I'm just getting back into this after a two and a half month break, but it's easy to remember why I was getting burnt out on this book. While there were a few interesting aspects in these chapters, so much of Psalms is just the same thing week after week.

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


Selling Out