Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.


A research guide for general research in Religion

Citing Sources in Religion

Citing Commentaries

Citing scriptural commentaries works the same as citing books - it depends on what type of book it is. The most common examples include:

  • A book in a series (print or web)
  • A Chapter in an Edited Book in a Multi-Volume Work

Grove City College has a very complete list of citation examples in multiple styles, but here are examples from MLA and Chicago.

MLA examples: 

Chapter in an Edited book
Longenecker, Richard N.  “Acts.” John and Acts, 1981, pp. 205-573.
     The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: With the New International Version,
     general editor, Frank E. Gæbelein, vol. 9, Zondervan, 1976-92. 12  vols.
Book in a series (print) Enns, Peter. Exodus. Edited by Terry Muck, Zondervan, 2000. The NIV Application
     Commentary Series. 
Book in a series (web)
Henry, Matthew. GenesisMatthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible
     (Complete), n.p., 1706. Bible Study Tools Online,


Chicago examples:

Chapter in an Edited Book
Longenecker, Richard N. “Acts.” In John and Acts. Vol. 9 of The Expositor’s
     Bible Commentary: With the New International Version, edited by Frank E.
     Gæbelein, 205-573. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981.
Book in a series (print) Enns, Peter. Exodus. The NIV Application Commentary Series. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000.
Book in a series (web) Henry, Matthew. Genesis. Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible
     (Complete). N.p., 1706.

Citing Dictionaries, Encyclopedias, & Concordances

All the style guides agree that dictionaries, encyclopedias, and concordances each be treated like a reference work when citing. Grove City College has an excellent set of examples, from print sources, web sources, and databases, in a vareity of styles.

Citing Scriptural Writings in MLA


In general, following the regular MLA style template will be the way to start. Many scriptural writings will have editors or translators, and these should be noted. The title may vary based on edition, so you may have a copy of a book titled The Torah, and another titled The King James Bible and these should be noted accordingly.


Parenthetical References

In general, references to scriptural writings do not need to be italicized unless one refers to a certain published edition. So when writing generally about the Quran, Bible, Talmud, etc, use standard text.


Many translations of the Quran have been problematic throughout history.

The King James Version of the Bible is often studied alongside English literature, due to its influence. 

The 2018 New Oxford Annotated Bible uses a translation intended to serve the broadest range of readers.

The first time you cite a scriptural work in-text, make it clear which version you're using.


In parenthetical citations, chapters of scriptural works are often abbreviated. The books of the Christian Bible have a list of common abbreviations used in MLA. If all references are using the same edition of the Bible, you can list only the book, chapter, and verse in parenthetical citation and skip the edition after the first citing.


Questions of authenticity are often used in feminist readings of Paul's charge to silence women (1 Cor. 14:34-34), leading some scholars to find a much more inclusive New Testament.

The idea of Joseph owning a many-colored coat comes from the King James Bible, which reads "Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours" (King James Version, Gen. 37:3), a result of the Septuagint translation. However, newer translations use more exact translations from the original Hebrew, leading some to translate it as "a long robe with sleeves" (Revised Standard Version, Gen. 37:3).


Works Cited

The Bible. Authorized King James Version, edited by Robert Carroll and Stephen Prickett, Oxford UP, 1998.

The Qurʼān. A New Annotated Translation, 3rd ed., translated by Arthur J. Droge, Equinox, 2013.

Citing Online Versions of Sacred Texts

Many websites have sacred texts available for free, and often will include each chapter/hymn/surah on separate web pages, but these do not need to be listed separately in the works-cited page if they all come from the same general website.

Example from the MLA Website:

Many passages from the Bible encourage human reproduction, from “Be fruitful, and multiply” (King James Bible Online, Gen. 1.22) and “And God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful” (28.3) to “Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house” (Ps. 128.3).


Work Cited

King James Bible Online,


Citing Scriptural Works in Chicago Style

General Style Information for Chicago Style

Names of the books/surahs/chapters of scriptural texts are not italicized. Names and versions of Hebrew and Christian bibles are capitalized but not italicized, nor abbreviated when discussed in text. 


Many basic laws of kashrut, or kosher food, originate from the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy in the Tanakh.


Footnotes, Endnotes, and Parenthetical References

  • Specific versions, translations, and editions of scriptural works should be included in a bibliography.
  • Citations should include abbreviated versions of a book/chapter/surah, but not page numbers. Chicago Style has two lists of abbreviations for the Bible, which can be viewed here.
  • Versions of scriptural works may also be abbreviated in citations.
Examples of Parenthetical Reference: Examples of footnotes or endnotes:
(Gen. 16:1 JPS) 1. Ps. 139:13-16 NAB
(Hb 3:16-17 New Revised Standard Version)  2. Koran 19:17–21