I get these chain letters from time to time depicting the importance and novelty of Psalm 118:8 being the “center of the Bible.” From what I can tell, it has been around since about 2002, maybe longer. The power point or email goes something like this.
Q. What is the shortest Chapter in the Bible? A. Psalm 117
Q. What is the longest Chapter in the Bible? A. Psalm 119
Q. Which Chapter is in the exact center of the Bible? A. Psalm 118
Fact: There are 594 Chapters before Psalm 118.
Fact: There are 594 Chapters after Psalm 118.
…Add these Chapters together and the total is: 1188.
Q. What is the Center Verse in the Bible? A. Psalm 118:8
Q. Does this Verse say something significant about God’s Perfect Will for our lives?
A. The next time someone says they would like to find God’s Perfect Will for their life, and that they want to be in the Center of His Will…just send them to Psalm 118:8!
“It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.”
Now that’s catchy and all, but it’s just not totally true. The first two statements are correct in that Psalm 117 is the shortest chapter and Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible. It is from the third point onward that I disagree. In fact there are actually 595 chapters that precede Psalm 118 and 593 that follow after it. Now 595 + 593 does equal 1188 but, this number no longer matches up to the middle of anything. The “middle chapter” then would have to be adjusted to Psalm 117, which only has two verses. Having only two verses Psalm 117 does not allow us to have a middle verse to pick from. Others have crunched the numbers ever more extensively to find that there is an even number of verses within Scripture, thus not allowing for any one verse to stand out as the middle of Scripture.
Psalm 117 as a whole is still very wise and impactful on its own, just like the rest of scripture.
“O praise the Lord, all ye nations: praise him all ye people. For his merciful kindness is great toward us, and the truth of the Lord endureth forever. Praise ye the Lord.” – Psalm 117
Psalm 118 as a whole and verse 118:8 are still valid and important pieces of Scripture too.
What bothers me is the methodology by which we were supposed to “find God’s perfect will for our lives.” There is not a numerical method of crunching numbers to break some secret code within Scripture that supersedes reading it. The Whole counsel of God (the entire Bible) is God’s revealed will for our lives. I’m afraid that we Christians have a lot more careful study and prayer to do in order to be discerning about our individual direction in life.
To use the Bible in this chain letter like manner is to use it as like divination, or some mystical/spiritual superstitious kind of way. It’s a book, given to us in words, such that we would read it as is, not expecting God to have hidden messages, but as a Loving God, He tells us straightway His plan and working out of His story of the redemption of mankind by Jesus.