How to Easily Cite ANF and NPNF with Zotero

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The Ante-Nicene Fathers (ANF) and Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (NPNF) series are now well over a century old.1 But they continue to prove useful resources. And when you need to cite them, Zotero can easily handle SBL style’s special requirements for these works.

Use a Critical Text First

Useful as they are however, the translations in ANF and NPNF aren’t based on critical texts of the fathers. And the manuscripts of the fathers’ works sometimes evidence different readings, just as do manuscripts of biblical literature.

So, before you rely on ANF or NPNF, you should typically ask yourself if there’s a better text available. Often, there will be.

The Fathers of the Church (FC) series published by Catholic University of America Press can often be a good alternative. The introduction to each volume typically tells you what text the translation is based on. So, you can double check before opting to work with that text.

What SBL Style Requires

But let’s say you look around for a better option than ANF or NPNF and, for whatever reason, you don’t find one. In that case, the general citation pattern SBL style requires is as follows

  1. Tertullian, On Baptism 1 (ANF 3:669).

If you’re citing NPNF, however, there’s an additional wrinkle that you need to distinguish between the first or second series. SBL Press’s guidance on this question has changed over the years. But according to the SBL Handbook of Style blog, the example given for citing NPNF in the SBL Handbook of Style’s second edition isn’t the most consistent with what the style does in similar cases elsewhere.2 So,

Contra the example given in SBLHS, the series number is best indicated by a 1 or 2 plus a solidus preceding the volume number (not a superscripted 1 or 2). Thus volume 12 of the second series would be cited as follows:

NPNF 2/12:85–963

Consequently, as SBL Press explains, you’d generally have a fuller have a citation like

44. Augustine, Letters of St. Augustin 28.3.5 (NPNF 1/1:252).4

How to Use Zotero to Cite ANF and NPNF

To cite ANF and NPNF as SBL style requires with Zotero, you’ll first want to have the current style installed.

How to Set up Your Zotero Records

Once you do, you’ll generally want one record for ANF, one for NPNF 1, and one for NPNF 2. You’ll then add to the Extra field for each of these records

  • annote: <i>ANF</i> for ANF and
  • annote: <i>NPNF</i> for both NPNF 1 and NPNF 2.

These entries will tell Zotero to bypass its normal process of composing citations and instead use the abbreviations you’ve specified.5

How to Create a Citation

So, if you wanted to recreate quoted above from the SBL Press blog, you’d

  • create a citation with your NPNF 1 resource,
  • leave the locator field set at “Page,” and if you’re citing NPNF 1 or NPNF 2, enter the corresponding series number and a forward slash (thus: “1/” or “2/”),
  • in the locator field, enter (also) your citation’s volume and page number or range (thus: 1:252 or 1:252–53),6
  • in the prefix field, enter everything you want Zotero to include before the series abbreviation (e.g., “Augustine, <i>Letters of St. Augustin</i> 28.3.5 (“), and
  • in the suffix field, enter the closing parenthesis that should follow the page number (thus: “)”).

Conclusion

If you look carefully enough, you’ll probably often find you’re often able to find better translations of the fathers than what are included in ANF and NPNF. But when you can’t, these series can be incredibly helpful standbys that Zotero can help you manage your citations for, despite SBL style’s special requirements.


  1. Header image provided by Zotero via Twitter

  2. “Citing Text Collections 6: ANF and NPNF,” weblog, SBL Handbook of Style, 13 July 2017; Society of Biblical Literature, The SBL Handbook of Style, 2nd ed. (Atlanta: SBL, 2014), 101. 

  3. “Citing Text Collections 6: ANF and NPNF.” 

  4. “Citing Text Collections 6: ANF and NPNF.” 

  5. Normally, you would want to specify separate abbreviations for separate sources. But in most cases an abbreviation-based citation in SBL style requires a space between the abbreviation and the locator. And there’s not currently a good way to tell Zotero to exclude this space if the citation is for NPNF 1 or NPNF 2. Something like this is what would be required to use an abbreviation like <i>NPNF</i> 1, <i>NPNF</i> 1/, <i>NPNF</i> 2, or <i>NPNF</i> 2/ successfully. So, for the time being the user needs to supply the series information in the abbreviated citation. 

  6. Zotero will only automatically convert hyphens to en dashes and truncate page number ranges if page numbers, commas, and hyphens are the only things in the locator field. Having the colon for the volume number disrupts this flow. So, you’ll need to enter in the locator field exactly what you want Zotero to output. In the future, we may be able to adjust the style to provide the volume number directly. In this scenario, you would want to have one record in Zotero for each volume number in ANF, NPNF 1, or NPNF 2. If your piece has a bibliography, you would then also need to condense the references so that you listed a full reference to ANF, NPNF 1, or NPNF 2 just once in your bibliography or in an abbreviations section at the front of your piece. 

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