Citing the Bible in a Paper

Biblical Citation Style Guide

When you refer to a verse from the Bible, refer only to the book title, chapter number, and verse number. Do not spell out the words chapter or verse. For example:

John 3:16
John chapter 3 verse 16.

“Citation of modern Bible versions do not require publisher’s information in either footnotes or bibliography; instead, use the standard abbreviation for the Bible Version (e.g., NRSV, RSV, NIV, NASB; see SBLHS2). If citing scripture from a single version, include the abbreviation of the version following the chapter and verse on the first scripture reference only. When citing more than one version in a paper, include the version after each citation” (From the Student Supplement for The SBL Handbook of Style, 2d ed., 1.2.). For example:

“Rejoice always,” (1 Thess 5:16 NIV).

When you refer to a passage from the bible, only spell the entire name of the biblical book when it is the first word in a sentence. Otherwise, use the standard abbreviations given below. When you abbreviate the biblical books, do not use a period or italics.

For example:

One of my dad’s favorite biblical passages was, “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me'” (Matt 25:40 NIV). Dad would always point out that that the passage goes on to say, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me” (Matt 25:45).

If you are quoting the biblical passage as well as the chapter and verse for that passage, cite the biblical text in parentheses after the quotation marks but before the period. For example:

“Jesus wept” (John 11:35).

The following are the standard abbreviations established by the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL).

Old Testament / Hebrew Bible

  • Gen              [Genesis]
  • Ex                 [Exodus]
  • Lev               [Leviticus]
  • Num            [Numbers]
  • Deut            [Deuteronomy]
  • Josh             [Joshua]
  • Judg             [Judges]
  • Ruth            [Ruth]
  • 1-2 Sam      [1-2 Samuel]
  • 1-2 Kgs       [1-2 Kings]
  • 1-2 Chr      [1-2 Chronicles]
  • Ezra            [Ezra]
  • Neh            [Nehemiah]
  • Esth           [Esther]
  • Job              [Job]
  • Ps/Pss       [Psalms]
  • Prov           [Proverbs]
  • Eccl           [Ecclesiastes]
  • Song          [Song of Songs]
  • Isa              [Isaiah]
  • Jer              [Jeremiah]
  • Lam          [Lamentations]
  • Ezek          [Ezekiel]
  • Dan           [Daniel]
  • Hos           [Hosea]
  • Joel            [Joel]
  • Amos        [Amos]
  • Obad         [Obadiah]
  • Jonah        [Jonah]
  • Mic            [Micah]
  • Nah           [Nahum]
  • Hab           [Habakkuk]
  • Zeph         [Zephaniah]
  • Hag           [Haggai]
  • Zech         [Zechariah]
  • Mal           [Malachi]


New Testament

  • Matt          [Matthew]
  • Mark         [Mark]
  • Luke          [Luke]
  • John          [John]
  • Acts          [Acts]
  • Rom          [Romans]
  • 1-2 Cor     [1-2 Corinthians]
  • Gal             [Galatians]
  • Eph            [Ephesians]
  • Phil            [Philippians]


  • Col              [Colossians]
  • 1-2 Thess  [1-2 Thessalonians]
  • 1-2 Tim      [1-2 Timothy]
  • Titus           [Titus]
  • Phlm           [Philemon]
  • Heb             [Hebrews]
  • Jas                [James]
  • 1-2 Pet        [1-2 Peter]
  • 1-2-3 John  [1-2-3 John]
  • Jude              [Jude]
  • Rev               [Revelation]


2 thoughts on “Citing the Bible in a Paper

  1. Pingback: NT | BibTheo

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