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How To Include A Bible Verse In An Essay

With MLA style, you need to cite the Bible two ways: in the text of your paper, and on your Works Cited page.

In Text

The first time you include a quote from the Bible, you need to include the translation, chapter (abbreviated), book, and verse, like this:

Paul urges Christians to "not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect" (English Standard Version, Rom. 12.2).

If you include quotations from the same translation later in your paper, you only need to include the book, chapter, and verse:

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4.6-7).

Works Cited

On your works cited page, your citation should include the translation you used; the editor's name, if given; and the publication information. Examples are given below (note that The Message is slightly different because it has an author, not an editor).

Printed Bibles

The English Standard Version Bible. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. Print.

The New Oxford Annotated Bible. Ed. Michael D. Coogan. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007. Print.

Peterson, Eugene H. The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2002. Print.

Bible Gateway

English Standard Version. Bible Gateway. Web. 25 Oct. 2012.

Peterson, Eugene H. The Message. Bible Gateway. Web. 25 Oct. 2012.


  • Use a colon (no space) to separate chapter from verse (Acts 4:12).
  • Use an en dash between consecutive verse numbers (e.g. John 14:1–6).
  • Use a comma to separate non-consecutive numbers (e.g. Acts 1:1–8,13–14).
  • Use a semicolon to separate one chapter-and-verse reference from another. If the second chapter-verse reference is from the same book of the Bible, do not repeat the book’s name (e.g. Romans 3:23; 10:9; Ephesians 2:8,10).
  • Unless the context seems to require it, it is not necessary to use an ellipsis (…) before or after a quoted portion of a Scripture verse.
  • When quoting Scripture, place the full stop or comma after the brackets containing the reference: e.g. ‘My words shall not pass away’ (Mark 13:31). But if the quoted matter requires a question mark or exclamation mark, place it within the quote marks and then use a full stop after the brackets: ‘Will ye that I release unto you the King of the Jews?’ (Mark 15:9).
  • Arabic rather than Roman numerals should be used for book titles, e.g. 1 John, 2 Kings.
  • Because different versions of the Bible may use italics differently, Scripture quotations should not be in italics.
  • As a general rule, the source of the majority of Bible verses referred to in any one text should be specified somewhere in the work. Eg. on the publishing details page of a book, ‘Scripture quotations from the Modern King James Version or King James Version (AV) unless stated otherwise’. Add publisher’s details and a copyright notice only if required for that version (in this case, the AV is in the public domain and there are no crediting requirements or copyright restrictions). See The Bible Gateway for more information on Bible copyrights.

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