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SBL Handbook of Style

A guide to using the SBL Handbook of Style.


For the most part, the Bible should not be included in a bibliography.  However, as always, consult with the professor.

8.2 Bible Texts and Versions

The Bible should be cited in the main text or in a parenthetical note. Specific instructions and accompanying examples appear below. 

SBL specifies that when citing a book without a chapter, the Bible book should be written out in the main text as in this example:

  • Matthew contains the most frequently referenced version of Christ's Sermon on the Mount. 

When citing a chapter and verse, the book of the Bible should be abbreviated unless it appears at the beginning of the sentence. An example of both is shown below.

  • The Beatitudes found in Matt 5:3-12 continue to be a source for numerous sermons and books.
  • Matthew 5:3-12 contains the familiar Beatitudes which continue to be a source of numerous sermons and books.

Bible passages may also be cited using a parenthetical citation which is particularly useful when quoting a specific passage of scripture as indicated below.

  • Jesus teaches "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy" (Matt 5:7 NIV).

Note: there is not a period after the abbreviation but a colon separates chapter and verse.

SBL indicates the version used in a citation should be noted in the citation when multiple translations or version is used

If multiple passages are cited, SBL has specific guidelines for listing them. 

  • Multiple single verses from a chapter should have a comma and space between them such as Matt 5: 3, 5, 7
  • Multiple chapters from the same book should be listed in numerical order and separated by a semi-colon such as Matt 5:7; 9:13; 12:7
  • Multiple passages from different books of the Bible should be listed in canonical and numerical order and separated by a semi-colon such as Hos 6:6; Matt 9:13

8.2 and 8.3 Abbreviations

SBL provides a list of abbreviations to use for Bible translations and version in section 8.2.1. Abbreviations for books of the Old Testament are provided in section 8.3.1 and the New Testament in section 8.3.2

Study Bibles

The helpful Student Supplement for The SBL Handbook of Style, Second Edition reminds writers that articles, notes, and other resources provided in study Bibles are not part of the biblical text and must be cited as a book with a footnote and bibliographic citation.