As noted in Part 1 of this topic, quoting material from the Bible (and indeed any source) can be tricky. Editors need to be sticklers when it comes to sacred texts (and indeed, with any quoted material).
I offered 5 guidelines in Part 1. Here are 6 more guidelines when quoting (and then copyediting) material from the Bible.
(6) Watch your punctuation.
In addition to the quotation marks noted in Part 1, watch for other types of punctuation. The style for typing a verse within the text of a manuscript is generally quotation followed by punctuation. Notice in the following example that there is no punctuation at the end of the verse itself; instead, the period follows the close parenthesis of the reference.
“In the beginning the Word already existed” (John 1:1 NLT).
If your verse ends in a question mark or exclamation point, put that inside the close quote and put a period after the close parenthesis.
“Who has a claim against me that I must pay?” (Job 41:11 NIV).
“And Abraham said to God, ‘If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!’” (Genesis 17:18 NIV).
Notice in the Genesis verse that I had to add the open and close quotation marks around the entire verse, which means I had to put single quotations marks around Abraham’s words. The exclamation point stays, and the period is placed after the close parenthesis.
However, note that when you have a text in a block, the punctuation closes out the block with the reference without punctuation following.
You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me! (Psalm 139:16–18 NLT)
(7) Watch how you use ellipses.
Most publishers are fine with quoting a portion of a verse without ellipses at the beginning or the end. That is, if you’re talking about Jesus and what he said, and you want to drop off the “Jesus said” at the beginning of the verse and just quote what he said, you don’t need to include ellipses to indicate that you dropped the words “Jesus said.” The same often goes if you’re quoting just the first part and not the end; you don’t necessarily have to include the ellipses trailing at the end. Of course, you must use ellipses if you’re dropping material from the middle of the verse, or dropping a verse from a series of verses, to indicate that material is missing.
However, I would advise you to make these kind of changes carefully. Always remember that you’re working with God’s Word. Be respectful of it for its own sake and for the sake of your readers. Be careful not to cause contextual problems with ellipses. Make sure that you are letting the verse say what it says, without causing confusion by dropping out parts of it.
(8) Follow consistency in references.
While it’s important to know what to do with the Bible book name throughout your references, you will need to make several other consistency decisions as well—or you might ask your publisher how they want you to do it by requesting their style guide. (You can also get advice from The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style.) This attention to consistency may seem like overkill, but trust me, if you make these decisions early on and are consistent, your manuscript will make so much more sense to an editor and ultimately to your readers. For instance, in the Christian Writer’s Manual of Style, you’ll find an alphabetized text that includes extensive word lists of Christian terms and suggested spellings and capitalizations, along with every other question you might have and want to look up (for example, “Clerical titles and clerical positions” and how to use them is in the section for the letter C).
If you’re going to be quoting several verses from the same chapter (say, you’re discussing the story of Daniel in the lions’ den and your readers know you’re in Daniel 6, but throughout the coming pages you’re working your way through different verses), decide how to handle each reference. It might look awkward to put the full book name or even the abbreviated book name and chapter in each reference after each quote. Maybe opt for saying (verse 6) and (verse 7) and (verses 8–9), or maybe even (v. 6) and (v. 7) and (vv. 8–9). Or maybe keep just the chapter without the book name (6:6), (6:7), (6:8–9). The most important consideration is clarity for your readers.
(9) Let readers know if you are using emphasis.
Perhaps you want to emphasize a portion of a verse you’re quoting. Do that by putting it in italics, but let your readers know that the emphasis is yours. (This rule is true for quoting from anything anywhere, not just Scripture.) After the reference, say something like “italics mine” or “emphasis mine.” If you want to focus on the word patience in these verses about the fruit of the Spirit, do this: “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22–23 NLT, emphasis mine).
(10) Use brackets to indicate added material.
As we’ve established, quoting from anywhere is sacrosanct. Leave the quote exactly as it is rendered—and this rule is obviously extremely important in Scripture. But sometimes, you’re quoting and must give your readers some context. Indicate that you are editing the direct quote by putting the edited material in brackets.
For example, quoting Genesis 45:25, “So they went up out of Egypt and came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan” (NIV). You might need to explain who “they” refers to. Revise the verse to explain who “they” is by replacing the word and putting the referent in brackets, as follows: “So [Joseph’s brothers] went up out of Egypt and came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan.”
Don’t use parentheses, because parentheses could be part of the quote. The brackets make it clear that you have added the material.
(11) Stay true to the Bible version.
Take care to always use the place and people names as rendered in the version you’re using. For example: Is that son of Saul named Ishbosheth or Ish-bosheth or Ish-Bosheth or Ish Bosheth? It’s actually all of them, depending on the Bible version. Some versions have John the Baptist’s mother spelled with a z “Elizabeth,” some with an s “Elisabeth”; some have his father as Zechariah and some as Zacharias. In some, Esther is married to King Ahasuerus; in others, King Xerxes.
Did the Israelites wander for 40 years in the “desert” or in the “wilderness”? Depends. In some Bible versions, place names are rendered as two words, others hyphenate, others just run them together, and capitalizations vary: Baal Peor, Baalpeor, Baal-peor, or even Baal of Peor.
This is not an issue of error; it’s an issue of translation and sources and Greek and Hebrew—and I suppose, whatever the translation committee eventually agreed upon.
And then, of course, some versions include upper-case deity pronouns (such as the NKJV) and some do not. So in some cases God is Him, His, Himself; in others, him, his, himself.
Even if a publisher’s style guide says not to capitalize deity pronouns, if in that same book you quote from a Bible text that does capitalize those pronouns, then always quote the Bible text as it is.
I know it seems like a lot, but, as with anything, the more you do it the easier it will become.
When quoting anything from printed material, always be exact, always give the source, always double check yourself.
After all, if someone quotes you, you would want it to be your exact words.