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How to Cite the Bible in MLA Style


Citing the Bible poses special challenges. The Modern Language Association (MLA) requires the name of the book of the Bible and chapter and verse numbers; you should also know the version’s name. You may need additional information, including publication data and translators’ names, but the Bible is never cited with an author.

Citing the Bible in the Text

When you reference the Bible in the text, you must cite the translation, book title, chapter and verse, explains Michelle Spomer, associate professor with Azusa Pacific University libraries. Italicize the translation name, and abbreviate the book name. For instance, an essay quotes from the book of Matthew: “While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples.” This quote is from the New International Version, so the parenthetical citation would look like this: (New International Version, Mat. 9:10). The second time you refer to this passage, only cite the book, chapter and verse: (Mat. 9:10).

Printed Bible in the Works Cited

Title your list of references “Works Cited”; it begins on the a new page after the end of the essay, according to Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab. Each entry uses a hanging indent, with second and subsequent lines indented a half-inch; most word processors will include this setting. Put your references in alphabetical order, and italicize the full title of the translation you are using. If that version gives an editor’s name, include that information next, followed by the place of publication and publisher’s name, and the date of publication and format. A full entry would look like this: New International Version Quickview Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012. Print.

Online Bible in the Works Cited

Citing an online edition of the Bible is very similar to citing a hard copy. In addition to naming the translation, include the name of the website and the date you accessed it. If your quote was from the Bible published online by Bible Gateway, your citation would look like this: New International Version. Bible Gateway. Web. January 29, 2015. Under normal circumstances, MLA style does not call for including the URL, or Web address, in the citation. As the Purdue Online Writing Lab explains, however, if your instructor or editor prefers it, you may include the URL at the end of the listing inside angle brackets, like this: <https://www.biblegateway.com>

The Bible in Footnotes or Endnotes

The MLA discourages endnotes and footnotes, according to the Purdue Online Writing Lab. Depending on the type of research you’re doing, however, you may need brief notes that further explain a point, provide context or give additional sources. MLA-style endnotes go on a separate page, headed “Notes,” after the essay text but before the Works Cited; number them consecutively. Footnotes are also numbered consecutively, but they go at the bottom of the page where the numbered citation first appears; if you use footnotes, ask your editor or instructor for specific formatting requirements since the MLA no longer provides detailed guidelines. Treat citations within a note just as you would in-text citations.

About the Author

Jennifer Spirko has been writing professionally for more than 20 years, starting at "The Knoxville Journal." She has written for "MetroPulse," "Maryville-Alcoa Daily Times" and "Some" monthly. She has taught writing at North Carolina State University and the University of Tennessee. Spirko holds a Master of Arts from the Shakespeare Institute, Stratford-on-Avon, England.

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