The Bible is a collection of many shorter books, written at different times, and later compiled into one volume. In the middle ages, the individual books were assigned chapters and verses to make it easier and faster for Bible students to refer to a specific passage of Scripture. Since the chapter and verse divisions are not part of the original text, they often fail to coincide with the beginning or end of a new thought and may subconsciously be disruptive to the “flow” of the text. In spite of this, they are extremely beneficial to the Bible student and overall are very helpful.
How Bible References Work
If you are a new Bible student, you may be a little confused about how Bible references work. It’s really very easy once you understand how things are organized. When you see a reference to a Bible passage such as “Mt 1:1“, what you are looking at is shorthand for the book, chapter and verse.
Using our example of Mt 1:1, the letters Mt refer to the book of Matthew, the first number following the book is the chapter number and the number after the colon is the verse number. If a range of verses are being referred to we’d denote it as Mt 1:1-10. If we wanted to refer to separate verses (not a range) we’d use a comma to separate the specific verses we wanted to call attention to: Mt 1:10, 12, 20. You might also encounter a mixture of both: Mt 1:10, 15-21. This would reference the 10th verse and verses 15 through 21 of Matthew chapter 1.
It’s also pretty common to see letters after the book, chapter and verse like this: Mt 1:1 NKJV. The letters following the book, chapter and verse reference are shorthand for a specific Bible translation. In this example, NKJV stands for “New King James Version”.
Below are charts of common (but not the only) abbreviations for the books of the Bible and also for a number of Bible translations.
Old Testament Books & Abbreviations
|1 Chron.||1 Chr||1 Chronicles|
|2 Chron.||2 Chr||2 Chronicles|
|1 Kings||1 Kgs||1 Kings|
|2 Kings||2 Kgs||2 Kings|
|1 Sam.||1 Sm||1 Samuel|
|2 Sam.||2 Sm||2 Samuel|
|Song of Sol.||Sg||Song of Solomon|
New Testament Books & Abbreviations
|1 Cor.||1 Co||1 Corinthians|
|2 Cor.||2 Co||2 Corinthians|
|1 John||1 Jn||1 John|
|2 John||2 Jn||2 John|
|3 John||3 Jn||3 John|
|1 Pet.||1 Pt||1 Peter|
|2 pet.||2 Pt||2 Peter|
|1 Thess.||1 Thes||1 Thessalonians|
|2 Thess.||2 Thes||2 Thessalonians|
|1 Tim.||1 Tm||1 Timothy|
|2 Tim.||2 Tm||2 Timothy|
Modern English Bible Versions (post 1800)
- AMP The Amplified Bible, The Lockman Foundation (1987)
- ASV American Standard Version (Public Domain, 1901)
- BBE The Bible in Basic English, C. K. Ogden (1965)
- BRV Holy Bible, English Revised Version (1881) [British revision of KJV]
- CB Christian Bible, Christian Bible Translators, Inc. (1991, 1995)
- CEB Common English Bible, Common English Bible (2011)
- CEV Contemporary English Version, American Bible Society (1995)
- Darby Darby Bible, J.N. Darby (Public Domain, 1890)
- DRA/DRB Douay-Rheims Bible, American Edition, Public Domain (1899)
- ERV Easy-to-Read Version, World Bible Translation Center (2006)
- ESV The English Standard Version, Crossway Bibles (2001)
- GNT/GNB Good News Translation, American Bible Society (1992); formerly known as Today’s English Version (1976)
- HCSB Holman Christian Standard Bible, Holman Bible Publishers (2003)
- KJ21 21st Century King James Version, Deuel Enterprises, Inc., 1994.
- LB The Living Bible, Kenneth Taylor (1971)
- MSG The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language, E. H. Peterson (2002)
- NASB New American Standard Bible, Lockman Foundation (1995)
- NCV New Century Version, Thomas Nelson, Inc. (2005)
- NEB The New English Bible (1970)
- NET The NET Bible/New English Translation, Biblical Studies Press (2005)
- NIRV New International Reader’s Version, Biblica, Inc. (1998)
- NIV The New International Version, Biblica, Inc. (1984, 2011)
- NKJV New King James Version, Thomas Nelson, Inc. (1982)
- NLT New Living Translation, Tyndale House Foundation (2007)
- NLV New Life Version, Christian Literature International (2006)
- RSV Revised Standard Version, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America (1971)
- RV Revised Version (NT 1881; OT 1885)
- TNIV Today’s New International Version, Biblica, Inc. (2005)
- WEB World English Bible (Public Domain, 1997)
- YLT Young’s Literal Translation, Robert Young, Public Domain (1898)
Although published in 1611, the King James Version (KJV) remains a popular choice among many people. The KJV Bible in use today is the 1769 edition which includes several changes and improvements over earlier KJV editions.