Why You Need to Delegate Your Title Pages

Perhaps the simplest way of distributing content vertically on your title page is simply to press Enter to create blank paragraphs where you need them.

Unfortunately, using this method has three at least three problems.

1. Single Lines Are Rough Spaces

First, you can only space by one full line at a time. So, this method allows only for a comparatively rough spacing.

The Student Supplement to The SBL Handbook of style requires four text blocks on your title page.1

Each block is single spaced, except if your title runs onto more than one line. In that case, you’ll double space your title block.

I won’t go into the math here. But depending on how many lines are in your title, you’ll actually need about the following fractions of lines to distribute the four title page blocks:

Title LinesLines Space between Blocks
1 9.50
2 8.50
3 7.83
4 7.17
5 6.50

So if you do space your title page by using blank paragraphs, you’ll end up having spacing that’s slightly off unless you also create a good deal more work for yourself to correct the spacing.

By delegating your title page formatting to Word as much as possible, however, you’ll get a more precise title page with less time and effort spent coaxing the layout into line.

2. You’ll Have More Repetitive Formatting Work

Second, you’ll need to redo the spacing in each new document by pressing Enter however many times and judging whether you’ve gotten it about right.

You can cut some of this work by copying, pasting, and editing a title page from an existing document.

But even then, you may well still have some additional reformatting work to do that you could have avoided if you had let Word handle your title page formatting.

3. Changing Your Title Might Require Reformatting Your Title Page

Third, if you change your title you might end up lengthening it onto an additional line. Or you might end up shortening it onto fewer lines.

But if you’ve spaced your title page by manually entering blank paragraphs, you’ll then need to manually adjust the spacing to account for the change in the number of lines your title occupies.

When you do so, you’ll be investing additional time in the minutiae of your title page. But you can easily avoid this if you delegate your title page’s formatting to Word.

Conclusion

In any of these scenarios, you’re spending time and effort doing something you can instead delegate to Word.

But if you do delegate your title page formatting to Word, you can both save yourself time spent formatting and end up with a title page that’s more precisely formatted.

In order to delegate your title page formatting to Word, you need to take four basic steps. These are to

  1. Capitalize and center your title page text,
  2. Prepare your title page blocks,
  3. Vertically justify your title page blocks, and
  4. Check your title’s line spacing.

I’ll walking through each of these steps in detail next week.

How often have you found yourself re-editing a title page?


  1. Melanie Greer Nogalski et al., Student Supplement for The SBL Handbook of Style, Second Edition, ed. Joel M. LeMon and Brennan W. Breed, rev. ed. (Atlanta: SBL, 2015), §§2.8, 3.1. 

Header image provided by Etienne Girardet

The Fundamentals of How to Format a Title Page

The Student Supplement for The SBL Handbook of Style has some specific requirements for your essay’s title page.

Because it’s just the one page in your essay, you can handle these requirements manually.

But there are also some very simple steps you can take to save yourself time spent formatting title pages both now and in the future.

What the Student Supplement Requires

Before detailing those steps, however, it might be useful to review what the Student Supplement requires.1

On an essay’s title page, all text appears center justified and in capital letters. This text falls into four blocks:

  1. The institution block. This is just the name of your institution.
  2. The title block. This is the title of your paper. If your title runs more than one line long, you need to have those lines double spaced.
  3. The class block. This block gives information about the class for which you’re submitting the paper on three lines. Line 1 has “SUBMITTED TO” and the name of your professor(s). Line 2 has the text “IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF”. And line 3 has your course number and title.
  4. The author block. This block gives information about you as the paper’s author on three lines. Line 1 has “BY”. Line 2 has your name. And line 3 has the paper’s submission date.2

In terms of spacing,

  • The first block should be two inches from the top of the page,
  • Each of the blocks should be “approximately” two inches from any neighboring block, and
  • The last block should be two inches from the bottom of the page.

The reason for the “approximate” spacing of the blocks from each other is that, on an 11-inch high page, there actually isn’t quite enough space to accommodate all the required text and spaces at a full 2 inches. But you can get pretty close.

Conclusion

Probably the simplest way of distributing content vertically on your title page is simply to press Enter to create blank space where you need it.

Unfortunately, this method has several problems. But chief among them is that your title page layout is entirely something that Word can handle for you.

And by delegating your title page to Word, you free yourself up to put time and attention into more important work.

How have you formatted title pages in the past?


  1. Melanie Greer Nogalski et al., Student Supplement for The SBL Handbook of Style, Second Edition, ed. Joel M. LeMon and Brennan W. Breed, rev. ed. (Atlanta: SBL, 2015), §§2.8, 3.1. 
  2. According to the SBL Handbook of Style, dates are to be given in the day-month-year format (e.g., 1 January 2020). Society of Biblical Literature, The SBL Handbook of Style, 2nd ed. (Atlanta: SBL, 2014), §4.3.7.1. But the Student Supplement’s title page sample gives “Month, Day, Year” as the format. Nogalski et al., Student Supplement, §3.1. Probably this comment is an erroneous hold over from the first edition of the SBL Handbook of Style and the student supplement for it (where the month-day-year format was preferred). But I have yet to see firm confirmation on this fact from SBL Press. 

Header image provided by Etienne Girardet

5 Reasons You Should Read Your Bible

Whatever else it does, biblical studies starts with the Bible.

A lot of academic biblical studies has to do with thinking critically about the biblical text.

It has to do with bringing preconceptions into question and making judgments like historians. It has to do with looking closely at the text again and again.

This work is good and important. Nothing can substitute for this kind of detailed, careful attention to a particular book, a given passage, or even a single verse.

But with this kind of close attention also comes the danger of paying so much attention to the individual trees that the forest fades from view.

There’s a risk of increasing knowledge of a small slice of the biblical literature at the cost of increasing unfamiliarity with other parts.

To counteract this tendency toward unfamiliarity, it’s helpful to cultivate a regular habit of Bible reading.

There are at least five reasons for this. The first two apply whatever language you’re reading in. The last three are special benefits reading Scripture in its primary languages.

1. To remind yourself that your Bible is Scripture.

True, not all biblical scholars would claim membership in a particular faith community—especially one they see as relevant to their scholarship.

But biblical scholarship is a coherent discipline only because of the faith communities within which biblical texts emerged.

In practice, “Bible” might mean quite a lot of different things. It might be

  • A “Hebrew Bible” without a New Testament,
  • A “New American Standard Bible” with a New Testament but not an apocrypha, or
  • A “New Jerusalem Bible” with both a New Testament and an apocrypha.1

But whatever its specific content, speaking of a “Bible” as such inevitably requires reckoning with the fact that this text has been deeply embedded in the faith and practice of the communities that have cherished it.

Ignoring this history is then precisely a historical oversight. And before critical biblical scholarship lies the task of avoiding historical oversights.

In addition, if you come to the biblical text from one of its communities, reading the text for its own sake can help remind you to cherish it—whatever else you also then do with it, either analytically or critically.

2. To see things you won’t by reading only isolated passages.

Specialists in any given book or corpus have a very real tendency toward functional ignorance of other books and corpora.

The focus involved in specialization is logical. But it shouldn’t come at the cost of not knowing other primary literature that might also be very relevant.

For instance, while Luke and Paul shouldn’t be confused, they are at least both very early witnesses to the memory, faith, and practice of the Jesus movement. So texts like these might, in principle, just have as much to say about each other as would Josephus or Philo.

Readings of Paul might then feasibly be enriched by readings of Luke, just as much as by readings of Josephus or Philo, and vice versa.

But literature you don’t know the contents of can’t help you. So it’s helpful to read widely across the biblical text as also in other primary literature beyond it.

3. To sharpen your languages.

When you read the biblical text in its primary languages, you can practice and sharpen your ability to work with these languages.

You’ll get a better feel for the languages by experiencing them first hand rather than only reading about them in a grammar.

Grammars do, of course, make very profitable reading of their own. 🙂 But they can’t substitute for deep familiarity with the literature they try to describe.

If you’re reading in Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek, you can even take the opportunity to read the text aloud.

That way, you can practice your pronunciation and develop your “ear” for the language.

Don’t worry if it sounds bad or halting. And don’t worry too much about your choice of a pronunciation system.

As a child, that roughness was part of your learning process for your first language. It will be here too.

But gradually and by degrees, you’ll find yourself making progress. You might even see things in the text that you’ve previously missed because you heard yourself saying the text aloud.

4. To see things you won’t in translation.

To communicate some things in whatever language, translators inevitably have to obscure others.

This fact is wonderfully encapsulated in the Italian proverb “traduttore traditore​”—”a translator is a traitor.”2

From an English translation, you might well learn about a time when a ruler of Egypt dreamed about cows.

But English simply isn’t able to communicate the humorous irony involved in having פרעה (paroh) dream about פרות (paroth; Gen 41:1–2).

Many translations do a great job with rendering the core of what a passage communicates.

But for getting at the fine details both within and across passages, there’s no substitute for reading the original text.

Here also, your lack of familiarity with a biblical text’s primary language can sometimes be an asset.

In English translation, you might well read it overly quickly and so gloss over its implications.

But by reading the text in a primary language, you might pause long enough to consider it more deeply than you otherwise might in English.

5. To learn vocabulary.

When you learn biblical languages, you learn a certain amount of vocabulary that occurs frequently. But even with this under your belt, there is still a huge amount of vocabulary you don’t know.

Continuing to drill larger sets of vocabulary cards might have a place. On the other hand, you may well remember the language better by seeing and learning new words in context.

You’ll also learn new usages, meanings, and functions for the vocabulary you thought you knew.

You may have learned a small handful of glosses for a word. But you’ll start seeing how that term might have a much wider range of possible meanings than what those glosses might have lead you to suspect.

Don’t Settle for the Cliché

Unfortunately, biblical scholars who doesn’t have a regular discipline of Bible reading are common enough to be somewhat cliché.

Whether you find yourself in this boat or whether you’d just like to join biblical scholars who are actively in the text, I’d like to invite you to join my students and me this term as we read the biblical text.

Every term, my students and I do a daily Bible reading exercise together. Each day’s readings are quite short—normally only a few verses.

The reading plan will work whether you’re using a translation or working from the biblical languages themselves.

But the readings are designed to be short enough to complete in the primary languages without taking too much time out of your day.

It would be wonderful to have you join us. To get started, just drop your name and email in the form below.

You’ll get an email delivering this term’s readings directly to you. And you’ll be ready to pick up in the biblical text right where my students and I are.

Feel free also to revisit this post to comment on interesting things you come across in your reading. It would be great to hear what you see as you read through the text.

Looking forward to reading with you!


  1. For further discussion, see my “Rewriting Prophets in the Corinthian Correspondence: A Window on Paul’s Hermeneutic,” BBR 22.2 (2012): 226–27. 
  2. For making me aware of this proverb, I’m grateful to Moisés Silva. 

Header image provided by Kelly Sikkema

How to Cite Dictionaries with Zotero

The SBL Handbook of Style prescribes different citation conventions for Bible encyclopedias and dictionaries than it does for theological lexicons and dictionaries.1

Zotero can handle both citation types. To get the proper output, you just need to:

  1. Install an updated version of the SBL citation style and
  2. Input information into your Zotero database properly.

1. Install an Updated Version of Zotero’s SBL Citation Style

From Zotero’s style repository, you can install the “Society of Biblical Literature 2nd edition (full note)” style.

This style, like all others, depends on the quality of the records you have stored in your Zotero database.

But if you make get information into the database correctly, this style will do a wonderful job. Your citations and bibliographies will very closely match the requirements of the SBL Handbook of Style.

Why You Need an Updated Citation Style

There’s one particular area, though, where Zotero’s default SBL style doesn’t get things quite right.

That is, for a number of specific resources, the SBL Handbook of Style specifies completely custom citations.

These formats work well enough for us in biblical studies who know what they represent (e.g., BDAG, HALOT).

But there’s not a good way for Zotero’s default SBL style to handle these custom citation requirements programmatically. After all, Zotero is software—not a biblical scholar. 😉

For this reason, you’ll want to install an updated version of Zotero’s SBL citation style. If you do this especially before citing theological lexicons and dictionaries, you’ll find it easier to get the correct output.

How to Get an Updated Citation Style

You can read more about how to update Zotero’s base SBL style for yourself. Or drop your name and email in the form below, and I’ll email you a copy of the updated style.

2. Input Information into Your Zotero Database Properly

Encyclopedias and Bible Dictionaries (§6.3.6)

What SBL Style Requires

When you cite Bible encyclopedias and dictionaries, SBL style wants an initial footnote to look like

1. Krister Stendahl, “Biblical Theology, Contemporary,” IDB 1:418.

Subsequent references should use only the author’s surname, a shortened article title, and drop the dictionary title abbreviation. Thus, you’ll have a citation like

3. Stendahl, “Biblical Theology,” 1:419.

Then in the bibliography, you should have an entry for each individual encyclopedia or dictionary article like

Stendahl, Krister. “Biblical Theology, Contemporary.” IDB 1:418–32.

How to Get What SBL Style Requires

To get this output from Zotero, use the “Dictionary Entry” resource type for each entry you want to cite. You can then fill out the resource metadata as usual.

The one exception is that, in the “Dictionary Title” field, you often won’t put the full dictionary title.

Instead, if one exists, you’ll want to use the standard abbreviation for that dictionary’s title.

Some of these abbreviations are available in the SBL Handbook of Style. For others, you may need to consult the third edition of Internationales Abkürzungsverzeichnis für Theologie und Grenzgebiete (IATG).

(For more about using IATG alongside the SBL Handbook of Style, see my e-book on SBL style.)

Lexicons and Theological Dictionaries (§6.3.7)

For lexicons and theological dictionaries, things are a bit trickier. And it’s here that you’ll be thankful you’ve installed an update to Zotero’s default SBL citation style.

First, however, note that the SBL Handbook of Style heads §6.3.7 as discussing citation of “An Article in a Lexicon or a Theological Dictionary.”

But apparently, the section is intended to address only articles in theological lexicons and theological dictionaries.

If you’re citing a Greek lexicon like BDAG, a Hebrew lexicon like DCH, or something similar, §6.3.7 doesn’t apply. Instead, you’ll follow a different citation method for those kinds of lexicons.

What SBL Style Requires

With that distinction made, note that, for theological lexicons and dictionaries, the SBL Handbook of Style wants initial footnotes like

1. Hermann W. Beyer, “διακονέω, διακονία, κτλ,” TDNT 2:93.

Or if you’re citing only the article on one particular word in a larger group, you’ll have something like

1. Hermann W. Beyer, “διακονέω,” TDNT 2:81.

Subsequent citations need to have the author’s surname and the lexicon or dictionary title but drop the article title. (This requirement is opposite of that for Bible encyclopedias and dictionaries.) Thus, you’ll have a subsequent reference like

3. Beyer, TDNT 2:83.

Then, in the bibliography, you won’t include the individual articles. (This is also opposite the requirement for Bible encyclopedias and dictionaries.) You include only one entry for the whole theological lexicon or dictionary. So you’ll have something like

Kittel, Gerhard, and Gerhard Friedrich, eds. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Translated by Geoffrey W. Bromiley. 10 vols. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964–1976.

How to Get What SBL Style Requires

There are a few different options for how to ask Zotero to produce this output. Different methods might work better in different situations, particularly depending on whether your document needs a bibliography.

If it does, the best method I’ve found is to cite from only one Zotero record. This record will be for the theological lexicon or dictionary as a whole.

You’ll then use the “Extra” field for that resource to enter Annote: followed by how you want to cite the lexicon or dictionary overall.

Often, this will be by an abbreviation. For example, for the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, the corresponding abbreviation is TDNT. So in Zotero’s “Extra” field for that resource, you’ll enter Annote: <i>TDNT</i>.

Zotero won’t do anything with what follows Annote: except use it exactly to cite your resource. So you have to include the <i> and </i> tags to tell Zotero you want the title abbreviation italicized, as SBL style requires.

When you initially cite an article, put the full author name and article title in the citation dialog’s “Prefix” field. If you cite the same article again in the same document, you’ll use the “Prefix” field to include only the article author’s surname.

In both cases, you’ll also include in the “Prefix” field the comma that will appear before the dictionary abbreviation. Annote: completely bypasses any of the other citation management that Zotero normally does for a note.

If you use this method throughout your document, you’re only ever citing one resource from Zotero’s viewpoint. Then Zotero can easily generate your bibliography and include only this one theological lexicon or dictionary as a whole.

Conclusion

As Zotero continues evolving, the process for getting certain types of output will probably change as well.

But of all the bibliography managers available, Zotero continues to provide one of the easiest out-of-the-box experiences for managing and citing research in biblical studies.

What Bible encyclopedias, Bible dictionaries, theological dictionaries, or theological lexicons do you frequently use?


  1. Society of Biblical Literature, The SBL Handbook of Style, 2nd ed. (Atlanta: SBL, 2014), §§6.3.6–6.3.7. 

Header image provided by Zotero via Twitter

Okhlah we-Okhlah: What It Is, Why It’s Important, and How to Get It

Okhlah we-Okhlah is a medieval compilation of information about the Hebrew Bible.

As a credit to the scholars that stand behind it, Okhlah we-Okhlah remains relevant even today.

A Bit about Okhlah we-Okhlah

Okhlah we-Okhlah isn’t unique.1 It’s one of several medieval masoretic treatises. But Okhlah we-Okhlah does have the distinction of being the largest of these.

Okhlah we-Okhlah contains around 400 lists. These lists sometimes document common phenomena (e.g., qereketiv). Other times, they document words or phrases that are similar but differ in one or more respects.

The work exists in two modern editions:

  • S. Frensdorff, Das Buch Ochlaḥ W’ochlah (Hannover: Hahn, 1864; repr., New York: Ktav, 1972).
  • E. F. Diaz-Esteban, Sefer Oklah We-Oklah (Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificos, 1975).

Why Okhlah we-Okhlah Is Important

If you’re specializing in masorah, you’ll likely have various entry points for interest in Okhlah we-Okhlah.

Otherwise, you’re most likely to come to Okhlah we-Okhlah from one of its citations in Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (BHS).

Okhlah we-Okhlah isn’t cited often. But when it is, you’ll find it included in the upper apparatus along with the much more frequent references there to the masorah magna (Mm).

You can then use the indexing number provided in BHS to consult the material in Okhlah we-Okhlah to learn more about the text.

How to Access Okhlah we-Okhlah

Understanding BHS’s Abbreviations

In BHS, Okhlah we-Okhlah is cited under two different abbreviations.

The front matter doesn’t explicitly define these abbreviations. But they become more transparent when you note the publication dates of the Okhlah we-Okhlah editions mentioned earlier.

Frensdorff’s edition originally appeared in 1864. Diaz-Esteban’s appeared in 1975.

Fittingly then, BHS references Frensdorff’s edition with “Okhl.” The abbreviation “Okhl II” points to Diaz-Esteban’s edition.

Accessing the Modern Editions of Okhlah we-Okhlah

Frensdorff

If you come across a citation in BHS of “Okhl,” you can actually get the full text of Frensdorff’s edition online. Internet Archive has a good quality scan available.

But when using this scan, do note that page and section numbers descend in the Frensdorff text as they ascend in the PDF.

Presumably, this is due to a left-to-right process of scanning Frensdorff’s edition, which was printed right-to-left.

Diaz-Esteban

If you come across a citation of “Okhl II,” you have a three main options.

  1. If you’re lucky enough to be in proximity to a library that has a copy of Diaz-Esteban’s edition, you can go there to consult it.
  2. You can befriend librarians with around an $800 surplus in their acquisition budget and encourage them to pick up one of the few copies of Diaz-Esteban’s edition that are currently on the market.
  3. You can try your hand at getting a copy of Diaz-Esteban’s edition via interlibrary loan.

Conclusion

The work that went into Okhlah we-Okhlah means that it can still be worth consulting around a millennium after it appeared.

And although the references in BHS to “Okhl II” can be more difficult to follow up, those to “Okhl” are comparatively easier since the full text of Frensdorff’s edition is openly available online.

Try to find a reference to “Okhl” in BHS and look up the corresponding material in Frensdorff’s edition. What do you find there?


  1. In this section and below, I’m drawing primarily on Page Kelley, Daniel S. Mynatt, and Timothy G. Crawford, The Masorah of Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia: Introduction and Annotated Glossary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 21, 56–57. 

Header image provided by Tanner Mardis

The No-fail Way to Space Footnotes

Style manuals often require that footnotes be single spaced but have a blank line between them.

This is true for SBL style if you’re a student.1See the Student Supplement for The SBL Handbook of Style, §3.3. It’s also true if you use Turabian.2See Manual for Writers, 9th ed., §16.3.4.1.

You shouldn’t try to create this spacing by entering a new paragraph after each note. You also shouldn’t try to adjust the paragraph formatting for each note.

Instead, the best way to space footnotes is by altering the “Footnote Text” style.

Once you edit the “Footnote Text” style, the formatting you specify will apply to all footnotes in your document, regardless of when you create them.

How You Should Actually Space Footnotes

To edit the “Footnote Text” style takes just a few simple steps.3I’m assuming you have a current version of Word via Office 365. These instructions are based on v16.0.12430.20198. They should work on other recent versions as well. But you’ll notice greater differences in the process if you have an older version of Word.

First, from the Home tab, expand the Styles panel.

Second, scroll through the list until you see the style titled “Footnote Text.” Click the drop-down button to the right of this style title, and choose “Modify….”

In the “Modify Style” dialog box, choose “Format” in the lower left-hand corner. Then click “Paragraph….”

From here, change the spacing “after” to 10 or 12 points.

If you use 10-point font in your footnotes, use a 10-point space after your footnote paragraphs. If you use 12-point font, use a 12-point space.

Press “OK.”

This will take you back to the “Modify Style” dialog box.

Decide whether you want to use this same style formatting in other documents based on the same Word template.

If so, choose the “New documents based on this template” option at the bottom of the “Modify Style” dialog box. Otherwise, leave the default “Only in this document” selected.

Press “OK” at the bottom of the “Modify Style” dialog box.

One Thing to Watch For

At this point, your document should automatically create and format footnotes with the proper spacing after them.

The only time you should need to give additional attention to footnote spacing is if you have a long footnote with more than one paragraph in it.

In this case, you’ll first want to consider whether the footnote is long enough to make it more helpful for your readers to have any discussion in it in the main text of your document.

If so, you could potentially split up the larger footnote into more than one and use the notes more purely for citations.

If you decide you want a longer, multi-paragraph note, you’ll only want to have additional spacing between that note and a following note. You won’t want additional spacing between the paragraphs within that note.

In Word, however, the “Footnote Text” style and the additional spacing you added to the end of it will apply to each paragraph in your multi-paragraph note.

In this case, you’ll need to remove the extra spacing from all but the final paragraph in the note.

You can do this either by directly modifying the formatting of the particular paragraphs where you need to omit the spacing. Or you can create and apply a different style to the paragraphs that shouldn’t have extra spacing after them.

Conclusion

Whenever you’ve finished a document, you’ll want to proofread it carefully to ensure you’re satisfied with its content and formatting.

But by adjusting the “Footnote Text” style, you’ll radically reduce the amount of time and effort you put into massaging your footnote spacing.

And having gained this back, you can reinvest it into the people and projects that matter most to you.

What method have you normally used to space footnotes?

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