Introduction: Using and Citing Texts from the Bible


Welcome to the introductory Quick-Start-Guide on using and citing Bible Texts to support your essay argument! The Bible is a collection of books that were written over hundreds of years and contains many good principles that are applicable to everyday life. If you are new to reading and citing Bible texts, this guide is for you! If you have been reading the Bible, you may like to check out the Quick-Start-Guide on “How to Cite and Reference Bible Texts in the APA 7th Edition Style” to learn how to cite Bible verses in your essay. 

I. The Main Sections of the Bible and their Content 

The Bible consists of two main sections referred to as the Old Testament (OT for short) and the New Testament (NT for short). The OT is a library of books that were originally written in the Hebrew language. The Bible contains many books written in different genres and includes stories about God and man, the Israelites, and wisdom for daily living. All the books in the OT section were written centuries “Before Christ” (B.C.), meaning before the birth of Jesus Christ. The OT is the Hebrew Bible. The NT is a collection of books that were originally written in ancient Greek and contains biographies concerning the life of Jesus, the start of the Christian movement, and letters containing instructions for Christian living. These books and letters were written between the mid-first century to early second century “Anno Domini” (A.D.), after the birth of Jesus Christ. 

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II. Citing the Bible to Support Your Essay Arguments 

The Bible contains much wisdom for living well and relating well with others. Some parts of the Bible, such as the Ten Commandments and other laws in the Old Testament, even became the foundational basis for the Western legal system. While many of the stories may have been written centuries ago, the truths and principles contained therein are timeless and are just as applicable to our generation as they were to the original audience. For example, the book of Proverbs is a book of wisdom that contains about 800 proverbial sayings about human behavior and the need to exercise wisdom in daily choices. So, you may find support for your essay arguments based on principles that you read in the books of the Bible.  

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Click on this video link to see what the Bible has to say about justice: 


III. Who is Jesus? Why is it Worth Considering “What would Jesus do?” 

More specifically, for some courses or assignments, you may be required to consider, ‘What would Jesus do?’ This is a common question that people ask when they are faced with a situation that requires them to make choices and apply relevant principles to address a particular issue or situation. Who is Jesus and why is it worth considering what Jesus would do in any particular situation? 

Jesus’s life events, actions, and teachings are recorded in the New Testament books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. In these books, Jesus is described as an itinerant teacher, social-prophet, and miracle-healer who lived in Israel during the first century, when Israel was under the rule of the Roman Empire. He lived a perfect and exemplary life and showed mercy and love to the ordinary, the poor, the sick, and the outcasts of society. He stood for social justice and denounced the hypocritical leaders who oppressed ordinary people for their own gain. As a teacher with several hundreds of followers, Jesus was a leader extraordinaire. He often surprised even other highly regarded teachers with wisdom that far surpassed common human thinking and understanding. It is thus worth considering “What would Jesus do?” in our own situations. There are certainly many teachings from Jesus that are relevant to issues that we face in the world today. 

Key Points about Jesus’ Life & Teachings 

The first four books in the New Testament, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, are referred to as the “gospels” – a word that derived from the old English words ‘god’ (good) and ‘spel’ (news); so gospels contain good news about the kingdom of God. These gospels are based on eye-witnesses accounts of Jesus’ life and teachings and are focused on the responses of people to his teachings and actions. Jesus sometimes spoke truths directly but more often spoke indirectly through the use of parables, metaphors, hyperboles, proverbs, and riddles. This approach allowed his listeners time to think and consider the meanings of his teachings. Check out the video links below to explore further! 

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Since the original manuscripts were written in Hebrew and Greek, there are many different translations.  Each translation is guided by different principles and slightly different goals for expressing the original language. When making decisions about translating certain words and passages, some translations work to express the most literal meaning (ex. It was very hot.), while others try to express the rhetorical form of the original language (ex. The sun baked the ground.)  

  • King James Version (KJV): English Bible translation authorized by King James I in 1604. This has been a standardized version across the English-speaking world.  
  • New International Version (NIV): The goal was clarity and ease of reading knowing that modern word usage in English is always changing (   
  • English Standard Version (ESV): The goal was to be as literal and close to the original text as possible (  
  • New Living Translation (NLT): The goal was “to create a text that would make the same impact in the life of modern readers that the original text had for the original readers” (   
  • New English Translation (NET): The goal was to use notes to explain grammar, lexical, and textual data to the reader (Biblical Studies Press).  

Some authors work to put the language into modern paraphrase to express the ideas without a word-by-word transcription. A popular paraphrase version is The Message by Eugene Peterson.  

Many versions of the English translation of the Bible can be freely accessed online through the Bible Gateway website (link provided below). When citing or referencing text from the English Bible, be sure to state the version and the year of publication. More information about citing text from the Bible can be found in the section below.  

Where to Find Resources 

The TWU Library has many resources on the Bible, including study Bibles, concordances, journal articles, and eBooks. Study Bibles provide the historical background, culture, and other information relevant to the context in which the books were written. Concordances allow us to search for topics or key words and locate them within the Bible. When accessing resources on the TWU Library website, login to your TWU account to gain full access to articles, journals, and eBooks. 



Tips on How to Search for Relevant Information 

While searching for examples to support your essay arguments, keep in mind that the books of the Bible were written in ancient languages and are not likely to contain modern terms, such as “transformational leadership” or “holacracy.” The key is to search for terms with related ideas and themes. It may be helpful to start with an internet search of what’s been discussed on a topic. From the search results, select the examples and connections that are relevant to your main argument (try this in Exercise A below).  

Another tip is to search for synonyms, antonyms, and other word forms of related ideas. For example, to search about humility, we could search for “humble,” “humility,” “proud,” and “boastful.” If you are specifically looking for examples from the life and teachings of Jesus, focus on search results from the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (try this in Exercise B below). 

Try This Exercise A 

Open the Bible Gateway website and select a version of your choice. You may like to consider reading from the English Standard Version (ESV) or the International Standard Version (ISV) for more recent translations into modern English. Then type in a key word such as “integrity” and see what principles you can find on this topic! 

Try This Exercise B 

Open your internet search engine on your browser and type in “transformational leadership examples in the Bible” and see what examples you find in the Bible! 

Try This Exercise C 

Open the Bible Gateway website and type in “servant” for a version of your choice. Then on the right panel that shows the search results, click on the results from the New Testament to see if you can find examples from the life of Jesus!