How to Cite The Bible

Updated July 12, 2018
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When writing a term paper or other formal article, you may need to cite books of the Bible for historical or literary purposes. You will need to follow the format provided by your professor, and that will usually mean looking up guidelines according to the American Psychological Association (APA), Modern Language Association (MLA) or Chicago Manual of Style.

Identify in the first Bible citation in your text which version of the Bible you are using, if you're following APA style. Do this for parenthetical references. Subsequent references do not need the version identified unless you switch versions.

For example: (John 3:16 King James Version).

The Bible or other major classical works need not be included on the reference page in APA style.

Do not italicize names of the books of the Bible when using Chicago style. Names and versions of the Hebrew and Christian bibles are capitalized but not italicized. Do not abbreviate books of the Bible in the text of your paper. To cite a particular passage or verse in footnotes, endnotes or parenthetical notes, include abbreviated name of book, chapter and verse separated by colon.

For example: (2 Cor. 4:1-3,5:17)

Chicago Style has two lists of abbreviations for books of the Bible. Either is acceptable, but be consistent. The Bible does not need to be included in your bibliography.

Do not place books and versions of the Bible in italics when using MLA style. Also, do not put them in quotation marks or underline them. You would, however, underline or italicize published editions of the Bible, as in the following: The New Oxford Annotated Bible.

In parenthetical references, titles of the books of the Bible are usually abbreviated. A period is used to separate chapter and verse.

Example: (John 3.16)

The first time you refer to a version of the Bible, include the name of the version, followed by a comma.

Example: (New International Version, John 3.16)

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