honest Bible quoting

The goal of quoting the Bible in any context should be transparency. Here are some general rules of good etiquette for quoting the Bible in published writings:

1. Even if a verse is merely alluded to by the text, the verse reference should be posted.

Good:
As Jesus said in Matthew 7:1 “Judge not…”

Good:
As Jesus said “Judge not…” (Mat 7:1)

Bad:
As Jesus said: “Judge not”.

This allows for both casual readers and critics to be able to quickly cross reference the quote to know the context or to ensure the verse is being used accurately. Absence of a citation usually indicates the author is trying to change the meaning of a verse. Allusions without references should be discounted based on the trustworthiness of the author.

Additionally, some readers may just plain miss the allusion in the first place. Not too many people have the Bible memorized to the extent that they will pick up fleeting allusions. Points can be made more powerfully to these individuals if a reference is given.

2. When quoting verses, use Book / Chapter / Verse citations.

Good:
Mat 7:1 “Judge not, that you be not judged.
Mat 7:2 For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.

Good:
1.”Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. (Matthew 7:1-2)

Bad:
Jesus said:
7:1 “Judge not, that you be not judged.
7:2 For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.

The reader might get lost trying to figure out exactly from where the references are coming. Several pages might have to be backtracked in some cases.

3. Do not cut out parts of a verse without some sort of visual indication.

Good:
Mat 7:1 “Judge not…

Bad:
Mat 7:1 “Judge not”

One indicates that the thought is not complete, that the verse contains additional information, and the author is aware that they are chopping off parts of the verse. The second hides the possibility of a continuous thought, represents the statement as a standalone concept, and will show the author to be fraudulently representing the verse if the verse is referenced.

4. Do not skip verses without some sort of visual indication. Continuous numbering is good. Ellipses are good. Both, used in conjunction, are better.

Good:
Mat 7:1 “Judge not, that you be not judged.

Mat 7:5 Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Bad:
“Judge not, that you be not judged.
Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

5. Unless using an obvious translation (like the KJV, NKJV, or ESV), list out the version being quoted.

Good:
Mat 7:1 “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. (NLT)

Bad:
Mat 7:1 “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged.

Certain Bibles have a reputation for being particularly bad translations. The New Living Translation comes to mind. If someone is forced to wonder “what Bible translation is that?”, then is forced to search the text, and then finds a particularly bad translation, this will not help the author. Especially bad is when the quoted translation significantly differs from the most scholarly used translations.

6. Do not mix and match Bible Translations within the same work unless specifically noted. This also may call for a specific explanation of why the different translations were used.

This is confusing to the reader and could indicate fraud if not explained.

About christopher fisher

The blog is meant for educational/entertainment purposes. All material can be used and reproduced in any length for any purpose as long as I am cited as the source.
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