Writing Rules for Quoting Scripture

Close-up of Bible scripture

Incorporating Bible scripture into your essay, research paper or term paper isn't difficult, as long as you comply with your teacher's instructions and follow either Modern Language Association guidelines or American Psychological Association rules. They differ slightly. Always use quotations around scripture verses and include the book, chapter number and verse number at the end of the quotation. Provide the name of the Bible version in your first in-text citation.

Modern Language Association Style

Place parentheses at the end of your in-text Bible quotation when you're using the MLA style. The vital information for first citation is Bible version, book, chapter and verse. Include the full name of the translation, such as the New King James Version, the New International Version, the Living Bible or the New American Standard Bible. Italicize the name of the Bible version and place a comma after it. Next, add the name of the book, the chapter number -- followed by a colon -- and the verse.

For example, if you quote the first Book of John, Chapter 1, Verse 19, from the New International Version, you write:

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (New International Version, I John 1:9).

American Psychological Association Style

Add parentheses after your Bible quotation and write the name of the book when you're using the APA style. Next, include the chapter number and verse number, separated by a colon. In this style, you write the name of the specific Bible translation after the chapter and verse and include your closing parentheses.

For example, if you quote Romans, Chapter 3, Verse 23 from the New American Standard Bible, you write:

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23 New American Standard Bible).

Note that nothing is italicized in the APA citation.

Works Cited Page

APA style doesn't require you to include a Bible citation on the References page -- an in-text citation is sufficient. When using MLA style, include the Bible reference on your works cited page. Italicize the name of the Bible version and place a period after it. Use the abbreviation "Ed." for the editor, followed by her name and another period. List the name of the city of publication, a colon and the name of the publisher. Add a comma and the date, followed by a period.

For example, according to the Purdue University Online Write Lab you should write the works cited entry like this:

The New Jerusalem Bible. Ed. Susan Jones. New York: Doubleday, 1985.

Special Considerations

You can abbreviate most books of the Bible that contain more than four letters, or you can spell them out. Exceptions include First and Second Kings -- "Kings" is always spelled out. Abbreviate First and Second Chronicles "Chron.," Ecclesiastes "Eccles." and "Thess." for First and Second Thessalonians. Use "Philem." for Philemon and "Song of Sol." for the Song of Solomon, according to the Henry Buhl Library.

When using either the MLA or APA style format, list the version of the Bible in your first in-text citation only, unless you switch to another version. In subsequent citations, the book, chapter and verse information is the only information required.

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