Have you ever read a Bible that has no verse or chapter numbers?
Chapter and verse numbers were actually added to the Bible fairly recently, only becoming popular about 500 years ago. Sometimes we forget that when Moses, Luke, Paul, and all the other biblical authors first wrote their accounts, there were no chapter or verse divisions. Their documents were continuous, uninterrupted texts.
Oh, how times have changed! Most Bibles nowadays are jam-packed with notes and numbers added by commentators and translation committees. Chapter numbers, verse numbers, section headings, footnotes, study notes, and cross references all populate the pages of our Bibles, as do maps, diagrams, tables, articles, book introductions, and other study helps. Sometimes the biblical text itself occupies only a small part of each page.
Wouldn’t it be nice to read a clean, streamlined version of God’s word that isn’t cluttered with all that stuff?
I thought so. And so, last month, I placed an order for the recently-released ESV Reader’s Bible six-volume set, which is available for $99 on Amazon. Ever since it arrived in the mail, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading the Bible without all the unnecessary distractions you typically see in Bibles these days.
Right now I’m reading through Genesis. You would be astonished by how much the stories—even the ultra familiar ones—come alive when read this way. It’s like reading a really good, interesting book with a plot that flows seamlessly from page to page. Instead of getting bogged down in details, you are able to appreciate how events like the Fall, the Great Flood, and the calling of Abram fit into the overarching narrative.
Tony Reinke of Desiring God agrees.
“The size and simplicity of the text will make you read the Bible in new ways,” he wrote in a recent review of the ESV Reader’s Bible six-volume set. “The format will force you to orient yourself in the text, rather than in the structures around the text. “
Obviously, chapter and verse numbers serve a good purpose, and I very much appreciate cross-references, commentaries, and other common Bible features. But exploring this reader’s Bible has been a refreshing change of pace, and if you’re looking for an invigorating new way to read your Bible, I highly recommend a reader’s Bible. For me, this six-volume ESV set has helped the Word of God come alive in a special way, and I think you would be similarly encouraged by the experience.
The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. | Hebrews 4:12