There's an interesting discussion happening over at the ESV Blog about punctuation and verse numbering in the Bible. If that sounds like a strange topic to be fussing about, consider for a moment: what would the Bible be like without verse numbers? Without paragraph breaks? All of those are "extra-biblical" features that Bible translators have added over the centuries for the sake of readability. Do those features add a subtle sort of editing twist to the Bible text? Would our Bibles be "better" without them?
The ESV Blog talks about the different ways that translators deal with the problem of puncutation. And they have a fun challenge for anyone who wants to understand the importance of this question:
Do It Yourself: An Experiment
...You can produce something to help you with your personal study: take Phillipians 1 without paragraphs, verse numbers, headings, or footnotes (Word document). Now add paragraphs where you think they should go. (Don’t look at the paragraphs in an existing Bible.) Where does Paul begin a new thought? Where does he build on previous thoughts? An exercise like this one can increase your appreciation for a book’s structure and argument. Paragraphing this chapter might take about fifteen minutes to half an hour. [Link in original]
They encourage readers to try it and post the results at their blog. Try it and see what you come up with--does your version of the text match up with the way it's formatted in your favorite Bible translation? Is the focus or meaning of the passage affected at all by your puncutation choices?
A fun little exercise, and it helps me better appreciate the challenges faced by our friendly neighborhood Bible translators.