Citing the Bible is a crucial aspect of academic and professional writing, ensuring accuracy and proper attribution of holy scriptures. Whether you are a student, researcher, or religious scholar, understanding the rules and nuances of citing the Bible is essential. In this guide, we will explore the importance of Bible citation, and general rules, and learn more about specific citation styles – MLA, APA, and Chicago/Turabian.

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Citing the Bible serves several purposes. Firstly, it adds credibility to your work by acknowledging the source of your references. This is particularly important in scholarly writing, where accuracy and proper attribution are paramount. Additionally, citing the Bible is crucial in theological and religious studies, ensuring that interpretations and analyses are anchored in the original text.

What styles are the best for citing the Bible

The Bible is cited in various citation styles, and the choice of citation style often depends on the academic discipline, the nature of the work, or the preferences of the author or publication. There are a few factors that influence a style choice: 

📚 DisciplineThe academic discipline often plays a significant role in determining the preferred citation style. Different disciplines have established conventions, and scholars within those fields tend to follow the conventions of their discipline.
⚠️ Publication RequirementsJournals, publishers, or academic institutions may have specific style requirements. Authors may need to adhere to these guidelines to ensure consistency and compliance with the publication’s standards.
🎓 Personal or Institutional PreferencesAuthors or academic institutions may have preferences for a particular citation style based on tradition, ease of use, or institutional guidelines.

Therefore, three common citation styles used for citing the Bible are MLA, APA, and Chicago/Turabian. 

How to cite the Bible correctly?

MLA (Modern Language Association) Style

MLA style is commonly used in literature and humanities disciplines. As the Bible is a significant literary and cultural text, MLA provides a suitable framework for citing it. MLA places a strong emphasis on in-text citations, which is practical for referencing specific verses or passages in the Bible.

General guidelines

  • underlining, italicizing, or placing versions of the Bible or individual books in quotation marks is not customary
  • individual published editions of the Bible should be underlined or italicized:
An example of the Bible citation in MLA
  • identifying the version in subsequent references is unnecessary unless there is a switch to a different version
  • abbreviations are used for books of the Bible:
An example of the Bible citation in MLA
  • a period is used to separate chapter and verse
  • initial references to a particular version should include the name, followed by a comma, and then the passage:
An example of the Bible citation in MLA

Works Cited

Include the title of the Bible, the version, the publication information, and whether it is print or web, in the citation.

An example of the Bible citation in MLA

APA (American Psychological Association) Style

APA style is often used in the social sciences, including psychology and sociology. When biblical references are made in academic work within these disciplines, APA style may be preferred. APA style provides a clear and concise format for in-text citations, making it suitable for incorporating biblical references seamlessly into scientific writing.

Parenthetical Citations

  • First, specify the version used for the citation:
An example of the Bible citation in APA
  • When Integrated within a sentence:
An example of the Bible citation in APA
  • Subsequently, provide only the scripture reference, except when changing versions.

Reference Page

Well-known sources like the Bible are not typically required on the reference page unless specifically requested by a professor.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Chicago style is versatile and is commonly used in various disciplines. It includes both the notes-bibliography and author-date systems, accommodating different citation needs.

In historical and theological studies, where the context of biblical references is often explored, the Chicago style’s flexibility allows for detailed footnotes or endnotes.

In Chicago style, citing scripture from the Bible in the bibliography is not required. Citation details should be confined to the notes. Due to the multiple versions of the Bible, it’s important to identify the specific version referred to in the note.

An example of the Bible citation in APA

Footnotes, Endnotes, and Parenthetical Citations

When citing a scripture passage, provide the abbreviated book name, chapter number, and verse number, excluding page numbers. A colon separates the chapter and verse.

How To Cite The Bible

Chicago Style features two abbreviation lists for books of the Bible: a traditional set and a shorter one. Either list can be used, but consistency throughout the paper is key. 

In the first reference, include and fully spell out the name of the version.

Parenthetical reference:

How To Cite The Bible

Footnote or endnote:

How To Cite The Bible

Conclusion

Mastering the art of citing the Bible is indispensable for anyone engaged in academic, theological, or professional writing. Understanding the significance of accurate citation, adhering to general rules, and navigating specific styles like MLA, APA, and Chicago/Turabian ensures that your work is grounded in authenticity and respect for the sacred text. Avoiding common mistakes enhances the professionalism of your writing, contributing to a scholarly and nuanced discussion of biblical references.

FAQ

How do I cite Bible verses in MLA, APA, and Chicago styles?

  • MLA: Cite Bible verses by mentioning the book name, chapter, and verse, with the version of the Bible in your first in-text citation. Example: (Genesis 3:10, New International Version).
  • APA: Include the book name, chapter, and verse with the version in the first citation. In subsequent citations, omit the version unless it changes. Example: Genesis 3:10 (New International Version).
  • Chicago: Reference Bible verses in the footnotes or endnotes. List the book, chapter, and verse, followed by the version (abbreviated) in the first citation. Subsequent citations can omit the version if it remains the same.

What are the unique rules for citing the Bible in MLA 8 format?

In MLA 8 format, when citing the Bible, include the version only in the first citation. Abbreviate the names of the books of the Bible, and do not use page numbers. Always mention the chapter and verse numbers.

In Chicago/Turabian style, Bible verses are usually cited in the notes (footnotes or endnotes) rather than the bibliography. The first citation should include the book, chapter, and verse, followed by the version of the Bible. Subsequent citations can omit the version if it remains unchanged. Use traditional or shorter abbreviations for the books as per the style guide.

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