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December 31, 2009

Happy Holiday Citing: Citation of Classical Works

Chelsea blogby Chelsea Lee

If December has put you in a holiday mood, then maybe you’ll enjoy this little piece on how to cite classical works like the Bible or the Qur’an in APA Style.

The 6th edition of the Publication Manual stipulates that reference list entries are not required when you cite “ancient Greek and Roman works or classical religious works” (p. 179). These works are so widely known and available that all that is required is an in-text citation.

For your first in-text citation, whether it is general or a direct quote or paraphrase, identify the version you used, if that is relevant. You do not need to repeat the version name in subsequent references.

Here is an example of a general reference to the Bible, the first time it is mentioned:

The researchers consulted the Bible (King James Version) to provide items
for the development of their religious values assessment.


If you’re paraphrasing or quoting specific parts of a classical work, also provide the relevant names and/or numbers of chapters/verses/lines. These books “are numbered systematically across all editions, so use these numbers instead of page numbers when referring to specific parts of your source” (p. 179). Again, include the version name upon first cite only.

Here are two examples of how to cite when you are directly quoting (first cite):

The Bible enumerates these virtues: “And now these three remain: faith, 
hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:1 New 
International Version). 


The Qur’an 5:3 specifies some dietary restrictions, such as forbidding 
Muslims to eat "the flesh of swine."

Here are two examples of how to cite when you are paraphrasing (first cite):

In 1 Cor. 13:1 (New International Version), the Bible states that of
the three virtues of love, faith, and hope, love is the greatest.


The Qur’an specifies some dietary restrictions, such as forbidding 
Muslims to eat pork (Qur’an 5:3).

As with all citations, you can put the source information in parentheses or work it into the text.

APA does not provide—nor could it begin to maintain!—a list of all possible classical works, because there are hundreds (a good resource for ancient Greek and Roman works is the Internet Classics Archive). If there’s ambiguity, talk with your professors or your colleagues or with APA. If you are uncertain but believe a reference list entry would help the reader, then let that be your guiding principle.



For seventh edition guidelines, visit the seventh edition APA Style blog.

This search includes only sixth edition blog archive results:


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