I saw someone refer to a section in Shmuel

Samuel 1:16

When I questioned which book, I was told that there is only one book of Shmuel, the Christian system divides them.

I would like to learn more about this in general, so if anyone could elaborate in detail, I'd much appreciate it.

My specific question is, how do we use this system to refer to chapters in Shmuel Bet? Do we just add 31? So II Samuel 1:1 is simply Shmuel 32:1 ?

Bonus question - aren't the chapters and pasuk numbering also the Christian system? So what are we achieving here?

  • 1
    If Samuel 1:16 is what Christians call I Samuel chapter 16, then the parallel structure for what Christians call II Samuel 1:1 is clearly Samuel 2:1:1
    – Double AA
    Commented Dec 8, 2022 at 14:21
  • @DoubleAA Oooh I see. So can you explain the "only one book of Samuel" statement? And the fact that chapters and verses are already Christian so what's the difference?
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented Dec 8, 2022 at 14:23
  • 2
    Speaking above my competence, I think that just about all books published in the modern era use the chapter-and-verse numbers, because otherwise the books would probably find very few readers. Editors have added that system to the gemara, for example, and to writings of Rashi and the Rambam and the Ramban. I agree with you that it would be hard to communicate a place in the books divided by gentiles without using taking those book divisions for granted too.
    – Chaim
    Commented Dec 9, 2022 at 3:31
  • 3
    Apparently unlike Double AA, I understood you to mean that your author referred to "1 Samuel" 1:16, chapter 1 verse 16 in the first Book of Samuel, leaving to implication that he intended the first book. If that is what your author meant, perhaps you could look through his book to see if he uses "Samuel" and "2 Samuel" as the two titles, leaving the numeral off of just the first book. In any event, I agree that it seems to create confusion without much purpose.
    – Chaim
    Commented Dec 9, 2022 at 3:40
  • 1
    Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/18100
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Dec 9, 2022 at 13:21

1 Answer 1


The split happened with a greek translation in the ancient era,

The Encyclopedia Judaica (1971), says:

"Originally a single unit, the Septuagint and the Vulgate divide the book in two, titling the resulting parts First and Second Kingdoms (1 and 11 Samuel), followed by Third and Fourth Kingdoms (I and II Kings). In the later Vulgate tradition “Kingdoms” becomes “Kings.” [my comment- in early non-jewish bibles, you had no "samuels," instead 1st Kings, 2nd Kings, 3rd Kings, 4th Kings] Hebrew manuscripts continued to treat Samuel as one book until the introduction of the printed Bible in the 15th century, when the division into I and II Samuel was accepted."

According to the Jewish Encyclopedia 1901, the split entered Jewish books because:

"it passed into the editions of the Hebrew Bible published by Daniel Bomberg in Venice in the sixteenth century."

("1st and 2nd Kings" are also only 1 book just called "Kings" (מלכים-Melechim) in the Jewish Mesorah.)

The bonus question is exactly right, all the numberings have similar origins. Adding 31 like you say would be a way to do it, but you also have to consider that not everyone would know what you are referring to and it would not serve much purpose as the chapter and verse designations have a similar origin.

Instead you could describe the area you are referring to, for example, "In Shmuel, in the event of David joining with the Philistines..." This is similar to how Torah portions are. However most people would have to search for sometime to find the correct area.

If the Jewish corpus wanted to as a whole, they could standardize portions of Nach (the Writings and the Prophets) like the weekly torah portions, and then everyone would easily know where you are referring to, but I don't see the standard chapter and verse scheme going anywhere.

  • 1
    The division into pseudo-books and chapters is indeed of similar origin. That's exactly why it makes sense when using that system to relegate all subdivisions to after the book name. Most biblical books have a two-tiered division system (chapter/verse) but these have a three-tiered one (pseudo-book/chapter/verse) and no reason not to treat it as such.
    – Double AA
    Commented Dec 22, 2022 at 14:10
  • 1
    Pretending there are actually two separate books of Kings, Samuel, Chronicles etc. leads to silly (but unfortunately real) questions like "Can I make a siyum on Shmuel Alef?" or even more extreme (but also real) "Let's put a parsha break here in my handwritten Kings scroll because that's a major division point". You can still to my dismay find plenty of old handwritten scrolls with abominable breaks like that.
    – Double AA
    Commented Dec 22, 2022 at 14:14

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