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.


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


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.


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.


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., §

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.


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?

Header image provided by Fabien Barral

Do You Make One of These Common Mistakes with Footnote Spacing?

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., §

You can insert this blank line a few different ways. Unfortunately, two of the more common ones can have undesirable side effects.

How Not to Space Footnotes

The two ways to space footnotes that might be most apparent are to:

  1. Enter an extra paragraph after each footnote or
  2. Format each footnote paragraph to insert extra space after it.

But each of these methods has downsides. These can cost you additional time if you want to avoid a mess at the bottom of a page.

What’s Wrong with Extra Paragraphs

If you decide to space your footnotes by inserting a new paragraph after each one (e.g., by pressing “Enter”), you can end up with a few different problems.

First, you have to manually enter the new paragraph after each footnote. So if you forget one, it won’t be there.

Second, your extra paragraph can move from after the last footnote on a page to above the first footnote on the next page.

This happens when there’s too much text on the page where the note starts to accommodate the full note and the extra paragraph that follows it. When this happens, you get an extra blank line that shouldn’t be there between the footnote rule and the first footnote on that next page (see below).

Third, Word uses a “continuation rule” whenever a footnote comes over from the bottom of one page to the next. By default, the continuation rule runs the full width of the page rather than just the first few inches.

So if your blank paragraph comes over from one page onto the next, you’ll also see the continuation rule when you shouldn’t. You’ll then get something that looks like this.

Fourth, in order to avoid these issues, you have to pay attention to the spacing after each footnote. As you edit, you may need to manually insert or remove extra paragraphs to avoid the problems they create.

All of this takes time and attention away from much more significant things you could be focusing on instead.

What’s Wrong with Formatting Each Footnote

You’re probably familiar with single or double spacing within a paragraph. But Word also allows you to insert extra space before or after a paragraph.

You can do this from the paragraph formatting dialog box. Footnotes are no exception.

You can even add spacing to all your footnotes at once with this method if you click into a given footnote, select all the footnotes (e.g., Ctrl+A), and then add the appropriate number of points after the footnote paragraphs.

If you space your footnotes using this method, you’ll get a lot fewer problems than you will with entering extra paragraphs.

In particular, Word will know that the extra space “attaches” only to the bottom of a footnote and so won’t allow just an extra blank line to roll over to the top of the footnote section on a following page.

The main downside of adding spacing via the paragraph dialog box is that your extra lines apply only once you’ve formatted each footnote paragraph individually.

In large part, you can avoid this being a problem by formatting your footnote to include extra space after them only in bulk when you think you’re finished editing.

But even then, if you continue editing and insert a new footnote, you’ll need to format that footnote as well.

So this method improves on the first but still requires you to “babysit” your footnotes more than you really need to.


In short, either of these common ways to space footnotes can get you a blank line between notes in a document.

They just require more hassle and cajoling than they’re worth.

Thankfully, there’s a better way to space between notes. This involves editing the style that drives those notes’ formatting in the first place.

Have you used one or both of these methods to space footnotes?

Header image provided by Fabien Barral

How to Avoid Missing Manuscript Images

INTF’s Liste search is a wonderful tool. But sometimes a transcription isn’t available, the default image is harder to read, or both.

In those cases, you might want to consult a different source for the images.

1. “External Images by …”

If you’ve just done a Liste search, you can click through the “External Images by …” link shown atop the left-hand fly out pane below.

2. Other Image Repositories

But there might be still other sets of images you can consult.

To find these, go back to the general Liste, and use the document ID to search for the particular manuscript you’re wanting to see.

You’ll then get a search result page that looks like this.

Scroll down until you see in the right-hand pane a section titled “External image Repo Name.”

This field returns any repositories logged in INTF’s database that have images of the manuscript you’ve searched for.

For 629, there’s just one.

In this case, you’ll get the same thing by clicking through this link as you would using the “External Images by …” link when you have 629 open in the image viewer.

But sometimes, you’ll see more than one external repository listed, as you will if you look up 1881.

If you open 1881, atop the image viewer, you’ll see only a link to CSNTM for external images. You won’t also see the Library of Congress link.

But from the initial Liste search results page, you can click through any external image repository link to view the manuscript images in that repository.

When you do so, you’ll want to know the page number and side (recto or verso) you’re looking for. You’ll need that information to find the corresponding place in the manuscript in the external site.

From there, it’s just a matter of paging through the images on the external site to find the proper page number and side.


Even given INTF’s tools, it still might take you some time to sift through the different image repositories to find exactly what you’re looking for.

But it’s comparatively so easy that I’m reminded of how much more applicable to us are Martin Luther’s comments to the German city councilmen in his day:

What great toil and effort it cost the[ fathers] to gather up a few crumbs, while we with half the labor—yes, almost without any labor at all—can acquire the whole loaf!1Quoted in Pratico and Van Pelt, Basics of Biblical Hebrew, 1st ed., §11.9.

Try checking a manuscript reading for yourself in an external image repository. What do you find there?

Header image provided by Kelly Sikkema via Unsplash

How to Quickly See Manuscript Information in INTF’s Database

If you try to find digitized Greek New Testament manuscripts through Google, you’ll likely find that search rather painful.

But once you’re familiar with INTF’s document ID system, it’s quite simple to use this ID to search their database.

From there, you can find detailed information about a particular manuscript, often including page images.

1. Find a Manuscript in the Database

When you load INTF’s Liste page, you’ll initially see the “Full Search” box as shown below.

Simply enter the proper document ID, then press enter or click the search button at the bottom of the pane (you might need to scroll down to see the button).

So, for instance, let’s say you want to consult manuscript 629. Since this is a minuscule, you’d search for “30629.”

You’ll then get just that one manuscript returned in the results in the left pane and a list of manuscript details in the right.

2. Find the Page You Need in a Given Manuscript

At this point, however, you still need to know where to look in this manuscript to find the text you want to review.

Sometimes, you might simply need to do this by paging through the manuscript’s images.

But INTF’s database often has at least some indexing available. To get to this, you’ll click the document ID number hyperlink (e.g., the “30629” shown in purple above).

This will take you to the manuscript work space. In the fly-over pane on the left-hand side, you can scroll up and down to review the middle “Content” column to find the particular page on which a given passage occurs.

So for instance, if you’re looking at something in 629 from Acts 1:1–12, you can find this on page 1. The recto has verses 1–6 (“1r”). The verso has verses 6–12 (“1v”).

You can click on any of these rows. Where it’s available, a transcription will then appear in the right-hand pane.

If you’re logged into INTF’s website, you’ll see in the image viewer INTF’s internal image for that page.

If INTF hasn’t granted you a user account, you may find the page image is restricted due to copyright (as shown above). In this case, you can follow the instructions in the image viewer area to request a user account.

(I’ve left the left-hand fly out menu open in the screenshot above to partly obscure the contact email address you’d use to request an account. You can see the full address by going to the manuscript work space for yourself and closing the left-hand fly out menu.)


INTF’s Liste search allows many more kinds of queries than pulling up any one manuscript.

But with the document ID handy, the Liste search makes it quite easy to see additional information about that manuscript—and possibly the manuscript itself.

Try looking up a manuscript for yourself. Does it have a transcription or publicly accessible images?

Header image provided by Kelly Sikkema via Unsplash