Verbum Tip 4u: Bible Browser: Aside: Pericope

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Posted: Sun, Dec 6 2020 4:09 PM

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Aside: Pericopes

Pericope comes with three different meanings in Bible study:

  • Pericope as the unit of a lesson/reading in a liturgical setting
  • Pericope as a unit of scripture as determined by the editors of a specific Bible edition.
  • Pericope as a meaningful unit for study in scripture study.

For the latter meaning, for years I’ve depended upon Wim Weren, Windows on Jesus. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International. 1999 for the elements to consider in identifying pericope boundaries.

Pericope boundary markers

potential pericope boundary markers


  • Narrative structures
    • Change of place
    • Change of time
    • Change of characters
  • Structural elements
    • Concentric pattern
    • Chiasm
    • Inclusion
    • Parallelism

Any proposed pericope boundaries, I compare against those criteria. Any disagreement regarding pericope boundaries, I try to find ambiguity in those criteria.

Bible Browser

The Bible Browser provides results either by verse or by pericope:

Viewing God speaking to Abraham in verse format yields:

While viewing God speaking to Abraham in pericope format yields:

Not all Bibles available in the Bible Browser have editor supplied pericope boundaries. For those that do not, the pericope option is not available

Liturgical pericope boundaries

In liturgical use, the Catholic Daily Readings (U.S. Lectionary) shows the following pericopes:

  • Genesis 12:1-9
  • Genesis 12:1-4a
  • Genesis 12:1-7

How does one determine this? Guides → Bible Reference Guides → Liturgy → Genesis 12 → mouse-over

There is no way in Verbum to specify a portion of a verse as is required for Gen 12:1-4a. One must select the text including the partial verse to simulate the reference.

Consistency in pericope boundaries

One can judge the strength of a proposed boundary by comparing the pericopes boundaries across several Bibles (or Bible Commentaries). Verbum provides a tool for comparing pericopes across Bibles -- Tools → Passage → Passage Analysis → Compare Pericope.

In the 13 selected Bibles:

  • All treat Gen 12:1 as the start of a pericope
  • All treat Gen 12:20 as the end of a pericope
  • 1 suggests Gen 12:1-3 and Gen 12:4-20 as the pericopes (LEB)
  • 1 suggests Gen 12:1-20 as a single pericope (NASB 95)
  • 11 suggest Gen 12:1-9 and Gen 12:10-20 as the pericopes (ESV, HCSB, ISV, LES, Logos, NABRE, NIV, NJB, NKJV, NLT, and NRSV
  • The liturgical Gen 12:1-7 appears in no Bible

Note that the column labeled “Logos” shows the standardized pericopes that are reflected in Factbook.

From pericope to event

While the liturgist looks at scripture via pericopes, the historian or storyteller looks at scripture via events.  For the pericope Gen 12:1-9, Factbook shows us three events:

  • God calls Abraham Gen 12:1-5
  • God appears to Abram at Shechem Gen 12:6-7
  • Abram builds an altar near Bethel Gen 12:8-9
  • Abram and Sarai go to Egypt Gen 23:10-20 (see below)

This information is also available through the Biblical Event Navigator – Tools → Interactive Media → Biblical Event Navigator.

Note that looking at the text from the perspective of events subdivided a pericope while supporting the basic pericope boundaries. In addition, the events fall into two groups, neither of which is entirely within Gen 12 – Abram is called and Abram travels. This lends even more credence to Gen 12:9 and Gen 12:10 having a strong break (pericope boundary, event boundary) between them. This mid-chapter break also illustrates why chapter is not a good unit of study or proclamation.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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