Biblical References: Format, Examples, History
by Felix Just, S.J., Ph.D.

see also the related page on: Guidelines and Tips for Writing Papers

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:

Examples: Format Standards for the American System of Biblical References:
American Abbr. Biblical Passage European Abbr.
John 9 The Gospel according to John, chapter 9 John 9
John 9, 12 John, chapters 9 and 12 (two chapters only) John 9; 12
John 9–12 John, chapters 9 through 12 (four chaps. total) John 9–12
John 9:12 John, chapter 9, verse 12 (only one verse) John 9,12
John 9:12b John, chapter 9, only the second part of verse 12 John 9,12b
John 9:1, 12 John, chapter 9, verses 1 and 12 only John 9,1.12
John 9:1-12 John, chapter 9, the passage from verse 1 to verse 12 John 9,1-12
John 9:1-12, 36 John, chapter 9, from verse 1 to verse 12, and verse 36 John 9,1-12.36
John 9:1; 12:36 John, only the two verses 9:1 and 12:36 John 9,1; 12,36
John 9:1–12:36 John, the whole section from 9:1 to 12:36 John 9,1—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 9:12-13 John, chapter 9, verses 12 and 13 ("12 and following") John 9,12f
[ 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!
John 9,12ff

Cautions: Be careful not to get books with similar names or abbreviations mixed up:


Biblical Book or Passage
John 1 The Gospel according to John, chapter 1
1 John 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
Abbreviations 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.).


(Please use your internet browser's "Back" button to return to the page from which you came.)

Go to the HOMEPAGE of Felix Just, S.J.
This page was last updated on
May 5, 2012
Copyright © 2001--2012