Citing Text Collections 5: COS

As noted previously (see here), The Context of Scripture (COS) has largely supplanted Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament as the standard source for translations of ancient Near Eastern texts. Although either may be referenced in any context, the collection of texts in COS is far more extensive and current, which leads most academic writers to cite it instead of ANET.

Originally published in three volumes, COS now comprises a fourth volume that supplements the first three. Thus, volume 1 presents Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World, volume 2 Monumental Inscriptions from the Biblical World, volume 3 Archival Documents from the Biblical World, and volume 4 various texts and compositions from the Egyptian, Anatolian, West Semitic, Akkadian, and Sumerian contexts (see the table of contents on the Brill website here).

Because COS now includes four volumes, the SBLHS abbreviation listing is modified to reflect this new reality:


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

Even with a fourth volume, the principles of citing COS remain the same (see SBLHS § Assuming that one has listed COS in an abbreviation section, references to it need only list the abbreviation plus the volume, text number, and page(s). Note in the examples that follow that: (1) no comma is used between the abbreviation and the volume number (because COS is a multivolume work) and (2) a period appears between the volume and text number and a colon between the text number and pages.

1. A simple pointer to a text within COS may include only the abbreviation and the full location (i.e., volume, text number, page).

13. For a New Kingdom model letter reporting the arrival of bedouin at a border fortress, see COS 3.5:16–17.

2. If identifying the title of the ancient work is deemed useful, enclose the title as given in COS within quotation marks.

13. For a New Kingdom model letter reporting the arrival of bedouin at a border fortress, see “A Report of Bedouin” in COS 3.5:16–17.

3. When quoting from COS, it is good practice to identify both the title of the work and the name of the translator.

13. Egypt’s attempt to exercise rigorous control over its borders is clearly reflected in a letter reporting the arrival of bedouin at a border fortress: “We have just let the Shasu tribes of Edom pass the Fortress of Merneptah-hetephermaat, LPH, of Tjeku, to the pool of Pithom of Merneptah-hetephermaat, of Tjeku, in order to revive themselves and revive their flocks from the great life force of Pharaoh, LPH, the perfect Sun of every land” (“A Report of Bedouin,” trans. James P. Allen, COS 3.5:16–17).

4. Many COS texts are short and can be referenced by page only. However, in some cases readers will be better served by a more precise reference to a specific part of the text, as in the following examples.

21. For the ritual of praise, see COS 1.170:175, §14.

37. For Shalmaneser’s account of his defeat of Hadad-ezer of Damascus and thirteen allied kings, see COS 2.113D:267, col. ii, lines 13–25.

42. Tiglath-pileser III states: “[…] I filled [the plain] with the bodies of their warriors [like gras]s, [together with] their belongings, their cattle, their sheep, their asses […] […] within his palace […] […] I accepted their plea to [forgive] their rebellion (lit. ‘sin’) and s[pared] their land” (“Summary Inscription 8,” trans. K. Lawson Younger Jr., COS 2.117E:290, lines 10′–13′).

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