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How to Cite the Bible as a Source Using the MLA Format


When you're writing on religion, morality, philosophy or even history, citing the Bible can enhance your paper by providing a spiritual, cultural or historical perspective. Because you must choose one of the Bible’s numerous versions, editions or publications, figuring out how to cite the Scriptures calls for a few more guidelines than citing a simple book or article. The Modern Language Association, or MLA, has established specific rules for referencing the Bible.

In the Body of Your Paper

Cite, in a parenthetical reference, the title of the specific edition or publication that you are using, such as the New Jerusalem Bible or the Thompson Chain-Reference Bible, followed by a period. Italicize this title. However, if you mention it in the text as a work of literature, rather than as a citation of the specific volume, don't italicize just the word “Bible.”

Specify the book of the Bible you are referencing, and don’t italicize it. Add a comma after the title of the Bible version and then write the name of the book. If you mention the book in the text of a sentence, write out the full name, but if you place the book in the parenthetical citation, abbreviate the book’s title. For example, abbreviate “Revelations” to “Rev.” and abbreviate 1 Chronicles to “1 Chron” inside the parenthesis.

Cite the chapter and verse after citing the book of the Bible. In MLA format, separate the chapter and verse by a period, not a colon. For example, to cite the sixth verse from the 34th chapter of Edoxus, write “Exodus 34.6” in the text of a sentence or write “Exod. 34.6” in a parenthetical citation.

In the Works Cited List

Begin the entry with the title of the specific Bible -- for example, the New Jerusalem Bible or the Thompson Chain-Reference Bible -- and italicize it. Follow the title with a period.

Cite the version’s general editor, or the person who wrote the introduction and notes for that version or edition. Clarify what the person did for the volume. For example, write “Introd. and notes by John Doe,” “Ed. Robert Smith” or “Jane Brown, gen. ed.” Follow the entry with a period.

Cite the publisher’s location, publisher’s name, and date of publication, as you would for a normal book in MLA style. First write the city where the Bible’s publisher is located, then add a colon. Next write the publisher’s exact and full name, followed by a comma. Then write the Bible’s year of publication, followed by a period.

Write the word “Print,” capitalized and followed by a period.

Specify the translation or version of the Bible, such as King James Version or New American Standard Bible. If the version’s title includes the word “version,” then abbreviate it to “Vers.” Add a period at the end, unless the title ends with the word “Vers.” and hence already has a period.

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About the Author

As a professional copywriter since 2004, Lily Medina researches to expand her expertise in technology, parenting, education, health, fitness and writing. She has also taught high school and worked as a copy editor. Medina majored in political theory at Patrick Henry College.

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