What is the shortest verse in the Bible?

Before discussing the shortest verse in the Bible, it is important to recognize that verse numbers were a later addition to the text. They are certainly very helpful to us, but they do not hold any particularly special meaning. Also, determining the shortest verse in the Bible is not as easy as it might seem. Do we go by words or letters? Do we use the original languages or English? If English, which English translation? These variables put several verses in the running.

If we are using English, then the most common verse considered to be the shortest is John 11:35, which has two words in the majority of English translations and only nine letters: "Jesus wept." However, in the original Greek language, John 11:35 consists of sixteen letters. In Greek, a shorter verse is 1 Thessalonians 5:16, which consist of fourteen letters. In English, it reads, "Rejoice always." In the NIV, Luke 20:30 reads, "The second"—only two words and nine letters in English, and twelve letters in Greek. However, there are some Greek manuscripts that contain a longer version of Luke 20:30.

Of course, this is just from the New Testament. If we look at the Old Testament, the difficulty in finding the shortest verse increases dramatically. The original biblical Hebrew had no vowels, but modern versions of the Hebrew text have vowels added to them in an effort to maintain the original sounds. If we are counting letters, do we count the vowels that were added later? The shortest Old Testament verse in English is Job 3:2 which says, "He said" in some English translations (NIV, CSB, HCSB, NLT)—two words and six letters. In Hebrew, there are thirteen letters in Job 3:2 if you exclude the vowels. If you include the vowels, then Job 3:2 has eighteen letters. In 1 Chronicles 1:25 the English lists the names "Eber, Peleg, Reu" which accounts for twelve letters. However, in the original Hebrew, 1 Chronicles 1:25 consists of only nine letters without vowels. If you add the vowels, the text has fourteen letters.

So, if we want to know the shortest verse of the Bible, we have to decide in which way we want to answer the question. If we are counting by the number of English letters, then Job 3:2 comes in first with only six letters, but even this depends on which version you decide to do the count with. Some versions read, "Job said" (NRSV, seven letters), others, "And he said" (Douay-Rheims, nine letters), and still others, "And Job said" (ESV, NASB, ten letters), not to mention additional variations like "And Job spoke, and said" (NKJV) or "by saying to God" (CEV). If you want to count the letters using the original languages, then 1 Chronicles 1:25 would be the shortest verse in Scripture with only nine letters, but only if you do not count the vowels. If you count the vowels in Hebrew, 1 Chronicles 1:25 has fourteen letters. In that case, the shortest verse is in the Greek text of Luke 20:30 with only twelve letters, and even then, it depends on which manuscript you choose.

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