Citations in footnotes in SBL’s footnote-bibliography style

Last week, the SBL Handbook of Style blog carried a helpful post about the placement of citations in the footnote-bibliography, or traditional, style. Of particular interest is the section related to “Bibliographic Information inside Footnotes.”

According to the Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed., §14.33, when presenting a long citation to support material provided in a content or commentary footnote, the citation should typically be presented as its own sentence:


This situation is exemplified in the SBLHS blog post paragraph “When a quotation or a discussion inside a footnote is followed by a full reference….” According to the CMS example above, the same format appears to occur when an element from the citation (e.g., the author’s name, “Sidney Smith,” in the example) is not repeated in the citation.

For SBLHS, however, relocating the author’s name to the body of the sentence within the footnote requires that even an otherwise full footnote be included in parentheses. Consequently, any parentheses in that footnote would need to shift to square brackets. Thus, in the post’s example:

Correct: 97. Cyrus H. Gordon argued that brh in Isa 27:1 should be translated “evil,” based on an Arabic cognate (“Near East Seals in Princeton and Philadelphia,” Or 22 [1953]: 243; see also Gordon, Ugaritic Textbook, AnOr 38 [Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1965], 376).

For SBLHS, when a given source supports an intra-footnote comment and has previously been cited, then the citation for the intra-footnote comment is given in parentheses. Thus, in the post’s examples:

Correct: It is interesting to note that Richards also seems to anticipate Lakoff and Johnson’s basic definition of metaphor when he writes that metaphor includes “those processes in which we perceive or think of or feel about one thing in terms of another” (Richards, Philosophy of Rhetoric, 116–17).


Correct: 55. Entailments are “rich inferences” or knowledge (“sometimes quite detailed”) that we can infer from conceptual metaphors (Evans and Green, Cognitive Linguistics, 298–99).

By comparison, according to CMS §14.34:


These comments could perhaps suggest that (a) notes of this type should have only page numbers included in parentheses and (b) other information necessary to the citation would need to be included in the prose of the footnote sentence itself. Thus, the SBLHS discussion is a helpful clarification for SBLHS users of when this more generally stated CMS principle would apply.

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