How to Cite the Bible in MLA

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When writing a research paper, there may be an instance where you need to cite the Bible or another sacred text. It can be tricky to know how to properly cite the Bible, since its formatting makes it different from citing other books.

In this guide, you will find the basics of what you need to know about how to cite a Bible in MLA 9, the current edition of MLA handbook (we follow the handbook but are not associated with it). This guide contains formatting guidelines and examples of how to cite a print Bible, an online version of the Bible, an e-book Bible, and a Bible app, both on in-text and on your reference page.


Why Cite?

Citing sources is important in any research paper. It shows that you have done the necessary work to make credible arguments, it helps readers understand the context of your quotes, and it gives credit to the original sources. In order to avoid plagiarism, you need to cite all direct quotes or paraphrasing from other sources. Properly citing your sources shows that you are an experienced and ethical scholarly writer.


What You Need

To create your reference page citation, you will need to following information:

  • title of the Bible
  • name of the editor(s) (if applicable)
  • version of the Bible (which may differ from the title)
  • publication information.

For your in-text citation, you will need:

  • the title of the Bible
  • the Bible verse(s), including book name, chapter, and verse numbers

Works Cited Citation for a Print Version of the Bible

Format:

Bible Title. Edited by Editor’s First and Last Name, Bible Version, Publisher, Year of Publication.

Example:

Holy Bible. New International Version, Zondervan Publishing House, 1984.


Works Cited Citation for an Online Version of the Bible

The guidelines for citing an online version of the Bible are different from a print version. If your source is an e-book or an app, those guidelines are different as well. These are the guidelines for a Bible found on a website. Note that you only need to create one reference page citation for every web page you cite from the same online Bible (MLA Style Center).

Format:

Bible Title. Title of Website/Organization, URL. Accessed Date.

Example:

New International Version. Biblica, www.biblica.com/bible/niv/genesis/2/. Accessed 22 Mar. 2020.


Works Cited Citation for an E-book Version of the Bible

In MLA, citing an e-book version of the Bible is the same as citing any other e-book (MLA Style Center). Since MLA e-book citations begin with the author name, skip straight to the title information instead of beginning the citation with the author.

Format:

Title. E-book edition, Publisher, year of publication.

Example: 

The King James Version of the Bible. E-book edition, Project Gutenberg, 2011.


Works Cited Citation for a Bible app with Multiple Translations

List The Bible as the title and use the translation as the version (MLA Style Center). The name of the bible app should follow in italics, then the version (if available), and app publication information.

Format:

Title. Name of translation Version. App Title, app version number, app publisher, year of app publication.

Example:

The Bible. Good News Bible Version. YouVersion, app version 5.0, British & Foreign Bible Society, 1996.


Creating In-Text Citations for the Bible

Whether you are citing a print or online version of the Bible, the in-text citation format remains the same. You will need the Bible verse you are quoting, including the book name, chapter number, and verse number. For longer book names, you will use an abbreviated version in your in-text citation (MLA Handbook). For example, abbreviate the book of Genesis as Gen. Shorter books can be completely written out, such as Mark.

You need to include the italicized title of the Bible, which should match the italicized title on your reference page, at the beginning of your first in-text citation. The remaining in-text citations should only include the book name, chapter, and verse number.

First in-text citation format:

(Title of Bible, Book Name Chapter.Verse)

All following citations:

(Book Name Chapter.Verse)

Example first in-text citation format:

(New International Version, Gen. 2.1)

Following citations: 

(Gen. 2.5)

(Mark 3.5-7)

(1 Cor. 1.5-11)

In this section, Jesus explained, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, so that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (King James Version, John 3:16-17).

Many believed John the prophet was the Messiah, evidenced by him saying, “A man can receive nothing, unless it be given him from heaven. Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him” (John 3:27-28).


Works Cited

“How Do I Cite a Bible App with More than One Translation?” The MLA Style Center, 27 June 2019, style.mla.org/bible-app-multiple-translations/.

“How Do I Cite an e-Book in MLA Style?” The MLA Style Center, 4 Sept. 2019, style.mla.org/citing-an-e-book/.

“If I Am Citing an Online Version of a Sacred Text and Each Chapter Is on a Separate Web Page, Must Each Web Page Be Listed in the Works-Cited List?” The MLA Style Center, 2 July 2019, style.mla.org/citing-web-pages-sacred-text/.

MLA Handbook. 9th ed., Modern Language Association of America, 2021.


Published August 10, 2012. Updated May 15, 2021.

Written and by Grace Turney. Grace is a former librarian and has a Master’s degree in Library Science and Information Technology. She is a freelance author and artist.


 

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