The Authority of the King Matthew 8:1-9:38
The last words in chapter 7, verse 29 were, “for He was teaching them as one having authority.” It is easy to allow the chapter division to stop our thought process at the end of chapter 7, and then start it again at chapter 8, as if there was no connection between the two. Because this happens…it is important for us to remember that when the Bible was written there were no chapter and verse divisions. These were added later, as this article explains…
Where did the chapter and verse numbers in our Bibles come from?
Chapter and verse numbers are such a familiar (and useful) part of Bible reading that we rarely give them much conscious thought. In fact, verse numbers are so integral to the way we talk about Scripture that it’s hard to imagine the Bible without them. But those numbers haven’t always been there.
The Old Testament has long been organized into sections and subsections; our modern chapter and verse divisions generally (but not always) correspond to the traditional Jewish organization of the text. While the Old and New Testaments have been roughly organized at least since the Bible canon was established, it wasn’t until 1,000 years later that something resembling our modern chapter and verse system was widely accepted.
The person credited with dividing the Bible into chapters is Stephen Langton, the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1207-1228. While Langton’s isn’t the only organizational scheme that was devised, it is his chapter breakdown that has survived.
But while chapters are a useful organizational tool, the ability to refer to specific phrases within those chapters would make the system even more usable. Robert Stephanus (aka Robert Estienne) created a verse numbering system in the mid-16th century and was the first person to print a Bible with verse numbers in each chapter.
The chapter and verse numbers we know and love today are direct descendants of these systems. Different languages and versions of the Bible occasionally make use of alternate systems, but our current chapter/verse system is almost universally understood.
The history of Bible reference numbers may be interesting in its own right (at least to Bible scholars and history geeks), but it’s also had an important influence on the ways that each of us reads the Bible today. Not everyone is happy with the chapter/verse numbering system—and in fact, it’s worth taking a moment to consider some of the implications of this familiar system.
For one thing, our chapter/verse numbering occasionally creates quirky or confusing situations. In your own Bible reading, you’ve probably noticed places where a sentence or train of thought is oddly interrupted by chapter or verse numbers. (See Acts 8, which opens with the final sentence of the previous chapter’s story.) Chapters and verses vary widely in length, and don’t necessarily correspond to the beginnings and ends of stories or sentences.
Here are just a few interesting facts about the chapters and verses in the Bible…
- There are 929 chapters in the Old Testament and 260 chapters in the New Testament. This gives a total of 1,189 chapters (on average, 18 per book).
- Psalm 117 is the middle chapter of the Bible, being the 595th Chapter.
- Psalm 117 is also the shortest chapter of the Bible.
- Psalm 119 is the longest chapter of the Bible.
- Five books are a single chapter: Obadiah, Philemon, 2 & 3 John, Jude. In many printed editions, the chapter number is omitted for these books, and references just use the verse numbers.
- There are 23,145 verses in the Old Testament and 7,957 verses in the New Testament. This gives a total of 31,102 verses, which is an average of a little more than 26 verses per chapter.
- Contrary to popular belief, Psalm 118 does not contain the middle verse of the Bible. The King James Version has an even number of verses (31,102), with the two middle verses being Psalm 103:1–2.
- 1 Chronicles 1:25 (“Eber, Peleg, Reu”) is the shortest verse in the Old Testament.
- The shortest verse in the Greek New Testament is Luke 20:30 (“και ο δευτερος”, “And the second”) with twelve letters, according to the Westcott and Hort In the Textus Receptus, the shortest verse is 1 Thessalonians 5:16 (“παντοτε χαιρετε”, “Rejoice always”) with fourteen letters, since Stephanus‘ rendering of Luke 20:30 includes some additional words.
- Isaiah 10:8 (“Dicet enim“) is the shortest verse in the Latin Vulgate.
- John 11:35 (“Jesus wept“) is the shortest verse in most English translations. Some translations — including the New International Version, New Living Translation, New Life Version, Holman Christian Standard Bible and New International Reader’s Version — render Job 3:2 as “He said”. However, this is a translators’ condensation of the Hebrew which literally translated is “And Job answered and said.”
- Esther 8:9 is the longest verse in the Masoretic Text. The discovery of several manuscripts at Qumran (in the Dead Sea Scrolls) has reopened what is considered the most original text of 1 Samuel 11; if one believes that those manuscripts better preserve the text, several verses in 1 Samuel 11 surpass Esther 8:9 in length.
Chapter 7 ended speaking of the authority of Jesus. Continuing with that thought, chapters 8-9 contain numerous incidents that display the authority of Jesus. Don’t let the chapter divisions interrupt the thought process of Matthew. He is identifying Jesus as the Messiah by showing us His authority over both the physical and spiritual realms of life. 8:17 clearly states this and says that the reason that Jesus performed these miracles of healing was to fulfill Isaiah 53:4…this fulfillment of prophecy would identify Him as the Messiah.
Matthew 8:1-4-His authority over sickness (a leper).
Matthew 8:5-13-His authority over the Gentile world (a Roman centurion’s servant. This incident clearly shows us that Matthew is dealing with the matter of the authority of Jesus. The centurion says, “For I, too, am a man under authority…”.) The Centurion had several obstacles to overcome: he was a gentile, he was a Roman soldier, it wasn’t even him who was sick. But Jesus spoke of his “great faith”…such that Jesus, Himself “marveled” (in various contexts the word means “admiration, astonishment, wonder, uncommon). Oh, that we would have faith that would even amaze Jesus!
Matthew 8:14-15-His authority over sickness (Peter’s mother-in-law had a fever).
Matthew 8:16-17-His authority over demons.
Matthew 8:18-22-His authority over His disciples (Ryrie)-“The title ‘Son of God’ is Jesus’ divine name. (Matthew 8:29); ‘Son of David,’ His Jewish name (Matthew 9:27); but ‘Son of Man,’ the name that links Him to the earth and to His mission. It is His favorite designation of Himself (used over 80 times) and was based on Dan. 7:13-14. It emphasizes: (1) His lowliness and humanity (Matthew 8:20); (2) His suffering and death (Luke 19:10); and (3) His future reign as King (Matthew 24:27).”
There seems to be a sharp contrast between the people who responded in faith to Jesus in verses 1-17, and those who wanted to place requirements on following Him in verses 18-22. They didn’t have the faith to trust Him with their future…so, they decided to ask Him to agree to a contract of employment before beginning. The next verse, 23, is interesting when we read it in its natural progression with what had just happened with these disciples who were unwilling to simply follow Him by faith. It reads, “His disciples followed Him.” This was an act of faith. They didn’t have all of the answers to what would happen if they followed Him, or where it would lead them…they just followed. However, immediately we find Jesus telling the disciples that they had “little faith”. It is the same word that is used in 6:30. Is He expressing the fact that their faith was limited…they had faith only in the realm of things they had already experienced (they had faith that He could heal because they had seen Him do it), or could explain, and thought possible? They did not attribute absolute control, power to Him, yet. Now the disciples “marveled”…same word as in verse 10. My question is: When they called out to Him to save them, what were they expecting. Because obviously when He rebuked the waves and the wind their response was, “Didn’t see that coming!” These examples of the authority of Jesus are given to expand our faith. We should not come away saying, “Okay, Jesus has authority over this, and this, and this. I know it because of what I saw Him do.” No! The purpose of the miracles was to authenticate the authority of Jesus over everything…not just some things.
Matthew 8:23-27-His authority over nature.
Matthew 8:28-34-His authority over demons.
Prayer: Lord, give me the faith of the Centurion. Give me faith that places no boundaries, or restrictions on what You can do. Lord, give me “marvelous” faith! Faith that marvels at You, and faith that is marvelous to You.