Citing Text Collections 1

Scholarly writers often rely on references to or quotations of ancient texts to buttress and develop their arguments. When a text is not part of an accepted biblical canon, an author should cite some other publication that provides the text and/or translation of the work. This series of posts will address how the citations of some of the most common text collections should be formatted (see the preliminary list below).

We begin, however, with general observations about citing ancient texts.

1. Authors put ancient texts to a variety of uses: to document a claim being made, to illustrate or illuminate a statement, to provide a basis for comparison, and so on. The careful writer will reference ancient texts with a well-defined and reasonable purpose, not merely to fill space or to embellish a bibliography.

2. The intended function of a citation should govern the particular text collection referenced. For example, attempting to draw a lexical link between a biblical text and an Akkadian text generally requires one to reference the latter at least in transliteration. On the other hand, appealing to a text from the Hittite corpus to illumine aspects of prayer in the ancient world typically is best served via translation, not a transcription of the original work.

3. A wise author will reference sources appropriate for the intended readership. A technical work meant for other specialists, for example, may freely reference works that include texts only in their original languages (e.g., Hans von Arnim’s Stoicorum Veterum Fragmenta). If, however, one is writing for specialists and nonspecialists, citation of a work that includes original text and translation is preferable (e.g., Martha Roth’s Law Collections from Mesopotamia and Asia Minor).

4. Along the same lines, if one’s goal is to enable readers to follow up a reference for themselves (a reasonable goal, one would think), text collections that are widely available should be preferred over exceedingly technical works that are held only by the most highly specialized libraries. Of course, when it is necessary to reference the latter sort of material, one may be inclined not merely to reference it but to include it within one’s own work, so that readers can work with the textual evidence on their own.

In the end, readers are best served by authors who provide all the necessary (but only the necessary) material or references from ancient texts that the argument requires—preferably in a source that readers can access with relative ease. Fortunately, many of those sources are made available in a limited number of text collections that the remainder of this blog series will address. The posts that follow will survey at least the text collections below, but we also invite readers to email or to leave a comment suggesting other text collections that merit attention.

Each post will offer a brief description of the collection, then describe and illustrate how authors should reference texts in that collection.


Pritchard, James B., ed. Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament. 3rd ed. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969.


Roberts, Alexander, and James Donaldson, eds. The Ante-Nicene Fathers: Translations of the Writings of the Fathers Down to A.D. 325. 10 vols. 1885–1887.


Charles, Robert H., ed. The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon, 1913.


García Martínez, Florentino, and Eibert J. C. Tigchelaar, eds. The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition. 2nd ed. 2 vols. Leiden: Brill, 1999.


Hallo, William W., and K. Lawson Younger Jr., eds. The Context of Scripture. 4 vols. Leiden: Brill, 1997–2016.


Bauckham, Richard, James R. Davila, and Alexander Panayotov, eds. Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures. 2 vols. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2013–.


Robinson, James M., ed. The Nag Hammadi Library in English. 4th ed. Leiden: Brill, 1996.


Meyer, Marvin, ed. The Nag Hammadi Scriptures: The International Edition. New York: HarperOne, 2007.


Schaff, Philip, and Henry Wace, ed. A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church. 28 vols. in 2 series. 1886–1889.


Schneemelcher, Wilhelm, ed. New Testament Apocrypha. Rev. ed. English trans. ed. Robert McL. Wilson. 2 vols. Cambridge: Clarke; Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2003.


Charlesworth, James H., ed. Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. 2 vols. New York: Doubleday, 1983–1985.


Migne, Jacques-Paul, ed. Patrologia graeca. 161 vols. Paris: Migne: 1857–1886.


Migne, Jacques-Paul, ed. Patrologia Latina. 217 vols. Paris, 1844–1855.


Kaiser, Otto, et al, eds. Texte aus der Umwelt des Alten Testaments. Gütersloh: Mohn; Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 1984–.

For citing collections of inscriptions and papyri, see our post here.

3 thoughts on “Citing Text Collections 1

  1. How would citations to the Ugaritica series work? For example, if I wanted to cite line 10 from text number three in the fifth volume, would I write Ugaritica V 3 rev. 10 (with Ugaritica V in italics, treating the whole thing as the title), or would I write Ugaritica 5: 3 rev. 10 (with Ugaritica in italics)? Thanks.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s