Purpose: For clarity and precision in exegetical writing, always back up all of your claims with brief but specific references to the biblical texts, citing the appropriate book names followed by the chapter and verse numbers:
Follow the examples in good biblical textbooks or commentaries to learn how to cite scriptural references properly.
List specific references not only when you directly quote a biblical text, but also when you mention specific passages.
Biblical references are usually put at the end of the sentence (in parentheses), followed by the concluding punctuation.
References are given within a sentence (without parentheses) if they are an integral part of what you are claiming.
Use "see" or "cf." if you want your reader to "see" or "compare" what you have said with similar or contrasting texts.
Use "e.g." when you mean "for example"; use "par." to refer to "parallel" passages in the other biblical books (esp. the Gospels).
Spell out the full names of biblical books when they appear within your text, but use the standard short American abbreviations for biblical books in your parenthetical references (see HarperCollins Study Bible, xxxi; or Catholic Study Bible, xii)
You can omit the abbreviated name of a biblical book after the first reference if you are obviously still referring to the same book; but if you are dealing with more than one book, include the names to make all references clear.
The American system for biblical references normally does not use italics or periods in biblical abbreviations.
The European system for biblical references uses slightly different punctuation (explained in the chart below).
Have you read the parables of Jesus, such as the famous parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37)?
The Gospel according to Mark is the first Christian text that uses the word "gospel" or "good news" (1:1).
The death of Jesus is briefly but powerfully described in the Fourth Gospel: "When Jesus had received the wine, he said, 'It is finished.' Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit" (John 19:30).
Matthew usually uses the phrase "Kingdom of Heaven" rather than "Kingdom of God" (e.g., Matt 3:2; 4:17; 5:3; etc.; but cf. 6:33; 12:28; 19:24; 21:31, 43).
The feeding of the 5000 is found in all four canonical Gospels (Mark 6:32-44; par. Matt 14:13-21; Luke 9:10b-17; John 6:1-15).
The Fourth Gospel begins with the same two words as the LXX Greek version of Genesis (cf. John 1:1 and Gen 1:1).
Format Standards for the American System of Biblical References:
Use colons between chapter and verse numbers (most Europeans use a different format, putting commas here).
Use commas between verse numbers of the same chapter (and between chapter numbers, but only if no verses are given).
Use semicolons between references that give chapter and verse numbers from different chapters.
Use a single dash between verses to indicate "from-to" within one chapter (or between chapter numbers without verses).
Use a longer dash to indicate "from--to" between different chapters (with or without spaces, does not matter much).
Do not use periods after abbreviated book names, but do put spaces between the abbreviations and chapter numbers.
The Gospel according to John, chapter 9
John 9, 12
John, chapters 9 and 12 (two chapters only)
John 9; 12
John, chapters 9 through 12 (four chaps. total)
John, chapter 9, verse 12 (only one verse)
John, chapter 9, only the second part of verse 12
John 9:1, 12
John, chapter 9, verses 1 and 12 only
John, chapter 9, the passage from verse 1 to verse 12
John 9:1-12, 36
John, chapter 9, from verse 1 to verse 12, and verse 36
John 9:1; 12:36
John, only the two verses 9:1 and 12:36
John 9,1; 12,36
John, the whole section from 9:1 to 12:36
John 9:1-12; 12:3-6
John, the two passages 9:1-12 and 12:3-6
John 9,1-12; 12,3-6
John 9:1-3, 6-12; 12:3-6
three passages: John 9:1-2; and 9:6-12; and John 12:3-6
John 9,1-3.6-12; 12,3-6
John, chapter 9, verses 12 and 13 ("12 and following")
[ not used; better to
list exact verse #s ]
John, chapter 9, verse 12 "and the following verses"; but how many? the end of the text is not specified!
Cautions: Be careful not to get books with similar names or abbreviations mixed up:
Biblical Book or Passage
The Gospel according to John, chapter 1
The First Epistle of John (all of it)
1 & 2 John
The First and Second Letters of John
John 1 & 2
The Gospel of John, chapters 1 and 2 (usual abbrev. John 1-2)
1 John 2
The First Letter of John, chapter 2
Biblical Books Possibly Confused
Ex vs. Ez vs. Ezr
Exodus vs. Ezekiel vs. Ezra
Hb vs. Heb
Habakkuk vs. Hebrews
Jon vs. Jn
Jonah vs. John
Phil vs. Phlm
Philippians vs. Philemon
Ti vs. Tim
Titus vs. Timothy
In order to avoid these possible confusions, it is often better to use slightly longer abbreviations or the full short names:
(e.g., Exod, Ezek, Ezra, Hab, Jonah, John, Titus, etc.).
Book Names: There is some variation in the titles given to the books of the Hebrew Bible, the Greek Septuagint, and Latin Vulgate versions of the scriptures (see the Jewish-Christian Bibles page), but the titles used in most English translations of the Bible have been fairly consistent, with only a few exceptions. For example, the "Song of Songs" is sometimes called "Canticle of Canticles" or "Song of Solomon"; and the "Book of Revelation" is sometimes called the "Revelation to John" or "The Apocalypse."
Chapter Numbers: Since antiquity, all books of the Hebrew Bible were subdivided into "paragraphs" (Heb. parashot). The five books of Torah were also subdivided into larger sections so they could be read in their entirety over a three-year period (in Palestine, 154 divisions) or a one-year period (in Babylonia, 53 or 54 divisions). Beginning in the 4th century AD, the New Testament books were variously subdivided into topical sections (Gk. kephalia, lit. "headings"). These ancient divisions, however, do not correspond to our modern chapter numbers, which were established by Steven Langton (1156-1228), the Archbishop of Caterbury (elected 1205) and author of the Magna Carta. Only the shortest biblical books are not subdivided, but consist of only "one chapter" (Obadiah, Philemon, 2 John, 3 John, and Jude).
Verse Numbers: The books of the Hebrew Bible have been subdivided into sections, paragraphs, and phrases for the last thousand years, following the divisions indicated in Masoretic texts. English translations of the Old Testament use chapter and verse divisions that predominantly follow the Hebrew system, with some exceptions. The New Testament versification used almost universally today was created by Robert Estienne (Greek NT in 1551; French translation 1553). The Geneva Bible (1560) was the first English translation to use the full system of chapter and verse numbers.
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