The next time you go to a baseball or football game, look for someone in the crowd holding a sign that simply reads: John 3:16. What does it mean? It is a reference to the Gospel of John, chapter three, verse sixteen, which says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” It is a nice, public demonstration of Christian faith. If you and I, however, were at a chariot race in the Coliseum in Rome in the year 200 AD, and saw that sign (it would probably be in Latin: Ioannes III:XVI) we would have no idea what it meant even if we were devout Christians at the time.
What most people take for granted today when they pick up their Bibles is that they can find any passage merely by knowing the book, the chapter, and the verse. Ironically, the original sacred authors never used these tools. When Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John wrote their respective versions of the Gospel, none of them included chapters and verses. Even translators like Saint Jerome, who was the first person to translate the entire Old Testament from Hebrew and Greek into Latin and to translate the entire New Testament from Greek into Latin, and then combine both in a one volume book (circa 400 AD), never used chapter and verse. No Bible had this until 1205 AD, when the Archbishop of Canterbury Stephan Langton assigned chapter numbers to make reading the Bible easier. It took another three and half centuries before the verses were added by Robert Stephanus in 1550 AD. That means there was no 3:16 until 1550. People had to memorize entire passages in their entirety before they could simply say “Matthew 16:18” or any other citation. Another interesting tidbit is that the original sacred authors did not use any punctuation marks, either. Commas, periods, apostrophes, question marks, exclamation marks, and the rest did not exist at the time the books of the Bible were being written. Later on, translators added those to conform to their native tongues and the rules of grammar for languages.