1   Introduction: Using This Handbook

This handbook has been created to help editors, proofreaders, and professors of ancient Near Eastern studies, biblical studies, and early Christianity as well as graduate students, and perhaps even undergraduates specializing in these disciplines. Obviously a book like this cannot explicitly address every style-related question that might arise in the course of writing a book, thesis, or term paper; rather, it is meant to resolve questions arising in our particular fields that are covered inadequately, or not at all, in the standard manuals.

In preparing this Handbook, we have consulted various of these standard manuals, especially The Chicago Manual of Style (14th ed.; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993; referred to hereafter as CMS ) and the "Instructions for Contributors" in the Journal of Biblical Literature 117 (1998): 555–79 and also the now somewhat dated Chicago Guide to Preparing Electronic Manuscripts (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987). Although this style manual takes precedence over these other manuals, CMS in particular will remain a helpful and even indispensable supplement.  The next section explains the place of CMS and other reference works in the hierarchy of authorities.

As it is written in CMS, "No editor worth the title will apply identical rules to every book manuscript." At the same time, experience has taught us that minute deviations from standard style at the outset can later metastasize gruesomely, causing extra work, frustration, eye strain, and delays. To make the writing process less painful for author and publisher alike, we have decided to apply uniform standards to all books in as many details as possible.


2   Editorial Responsibilities

2. Editorial Responsibilities

    2.1 Book Style Sheet

    2.2 The SBL Handbook of Style

    2.3 Other Authorities

      2.3.1 Biblical Names and Terms

      2.3.2 Nonbiblical Ancient Near Eastern Names

      2.3.3 Names of Deceased Persons

      2.3.4 Place Names

      2.3.5 Other Words

      2.3.6 Unusual Words

Editors and proofreaders strive to ensure that a given book both adheres to a specific style and respects the unique demands of each volume. To achieve their myriad goals, editors and proofreaders rely on "authorities." The top three authorities in this case are—in descending order:

    (1) Book style sheet (§2.1)

    (2) The SBL Handbook of Style (§2.2)

    (3) Other authorities (§2.3)


Chief among the arbiters of editorial problems is the book style sheet. Inevitably, each book will present unique issues. If enough issues arise, the project editor will need to create a book style sheet. These issues, often concerning capitalization, spelling of unique terms, hyphenation, and so on, should be documented (not merely listed in alphabetical order) in the book style sheet.


The SBL Handbook of Style is designed to address those editorial and stylistic issues that are not specific to a particular book manuscript.


Questions of style that are not covered by The SBL Handbook or the book style sheet may be resolved by other authorities.  For the orthography of proper names, we follow the authorities noted in §§2.3.1 through 2.3.5.  For other questions, CMS may be helpful.


For biblical names and terms, follow the version of the Bible used in your book, which should be specified in the book style sheet. If the translations are your own, indicate that. In general, we prefer the names and terms found in the NRSV or the Anchor Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992), which follows the NRSV.


For nonbiblical ancient Near Eastern names, use the gazetteers and indexes in the following: Michael Roaf, Cultural Atlas of Mesopotamia (New York: Facts on File, 1990), and John Baines and Jaromír M`lek, Atlas of Ancient Egypt (New York: Facts on File, 1980), supplementing these sources with Jack Sasson, ed., Civilizations of the Ancient Near East (4 vols.; New York: Scribners, 1995).

For the titles of ancient Near Eastern texts, follow any of the resources mentioned in the previous paragraph, as well as such works as James B. Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament (3d ed.; Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969 [= ANET]), William W. Hallo, ed., The Context of Scripture (3 vols.; Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1997– [= COS]), or the Society of Biblical Literature Writings from the Ancient World series (= SBLWAW).

For more technical Assyriological matters, consult Riekele Borger, Handbuch der Keilschriftliteratur (3 vols.; Berlin, de Gruyter, 1967–1975 [= HKL]), which contains resources for Akkadian and Sumerian studies up to 1974. The annual "Keilschriftbibliographie" in Orientalia supplements HKL. Further issues can be resolved using Erich Ebeling et al., eds., Reallexikon der Assyriologie (Berlin, 1928– [RlA]). For more technical Egyptological questions, see Wolfgang Helck, Eberhard Otto, Wolfhart Westendorf, eds. Lexikon der Ägyptologie (7 vols.; Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1972–1992 [= ]). Undoubtedly, the Encyclopedia of Egyptology, in progress at Oxford University Press, will be an exceptional resource.


Consult Merriam-Webster's Biographical Dictionary (Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster, 1997).


For place names, consult Merriam-Webster's Geographical Dictionary (3d ed.; Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster, 1997).


For all other words, consult Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (10th ed.; Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster, 1994). For compound words not in Merriam-Webster, see the rules and examples in CMS.



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