How to Reference Footnotes in the Bible

The Bible is a great work of cultural significance across the western world. Allusions to the Bible can be found everywhere from day-to-day colloquialisms to literary classics and epic films. Due to the ubiquitous nature of the Bible, it is not cited in the same manner as most other written works. The rules for citing the Bible depend on the style guide being followed. Referencing footnotes within the Bible is largely the same as referencing actual passages from the Bible.

Determine the style guide you will be using for your writings. If you are writing for an educational assignment, the style will usually be specified in a rubric or syllabus. If you are writing for pleasure or personal publication, you can choose the style that is best suited for your work. Generally, if you are unsure about which style guide to follow, you should choose the MLA format.

Denote the translation being used in your citations. Individual passages, and the subsequent footnotes relating to them, vary wildly based on the translation being used. It is important to note the translation so that readers can understand and examine passages even when their translation differs from the cited text. There are hundreds of translations of the bible such as "New King James," "Revised Standard Edition," "New International Version" and "World English Bible." The translation is usually noted directly on the cover of the Bible.

Do not underline or italicize individual books of the bible. Only the title of the published edition/translation should be underlined or italicized. When using the MLA style, each book of the bible should be abbreviated using the suggested abbreviation. For example "Deuteronomy" is abbreviated as "Deut" and "Ephesians" is abbreviated as "Eph."

Include the full title of the translation followed by the abbreviated book title, chapter and verse when writing your first in-text citation. A proper initial citation would appear as follows "New King James. Acts. 4.13" Note the location of periods after the translation, book title and chapter.

Use shortened citation form for any in-text citations after the first. The shortened form includes only the abbreviated book title, chapter and verse. For example "Deut. 1.13." Continue to use the shortened form unless you change translations.

Include the full text of a footnote when possible. Making reference to footnotes can be very confusing to readers due to the complex amount of information and formating required. Footnotes generally use subscript or superscript formatting of numbers for ease of readability. These sub/superscript numbers can be referenced directly using the proper formatting. However this can cause some confusion as it may appear that you are including a footnote at the end of your reference. Including the full text of a footnote when referencing it will help avoid this confusion.

Write a complete citation for your "Works Cited" page. A complete citation includes title, place of publication, publishing house and date of publication.

For example:

"The Holy Bible: Containing the Old and New Testaments with the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical books. New York: Collins, 1989. Print. New Revised Standard Version."


You may wish to consult with your publisher or professor about the best methods for citing footnotes. Some people may prefer the use of asterisks or superscript characters within the in-text citations. Full-text quotations of footnotes may be preferred for academic or professional publications.

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