I am not always right. I am sure I make Bible mistakes ALL THE TIME. But when I discover I’ve made one, I work to fix it. And I hope that when I make these mistakes someone will graciously point them out to me.
So, in a desire to be faithful in even the little things and improve our biblical literacy, I share this list with you. Most of us have probably made them at one time or another. They are easy mistakes to make, but also easy to fix. These Bible mistakes include the way we reference Scripture and a couple of my pet peeves.
4 Reference Mistakes
- PSALM or PSALMS – The word “psalm” refers to a song or poem set to music. The book of “Psalms” is a collection of psalms. When we talk about the book we use the “s.” BUT, when we are referencing an individual chapter of the book, there is NO “s.” For instance: Psalm 1:3 or Psalm 1. (See also “5 Tips to Help You Understand the Psalms.”)
- Revelation or Revelations – When we are talking about the last book in the Bible, we should never include an “s.” The name of the book is taken from the first verse of the first chapter. The apostle John recorded the revelation he received from Jesus. ONE revelation. No S.
- I, II, III or 1, 2, 3 – How should we reference Bible books with the same name? It has been acceptable in the past to reference them with Roman numerals. For instance, I John, II John, III John. But in recent years, the preferred/accepted style in publishing and academics is to use Arabic numbers. For instance, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John. (10-Day Deep Rooted Daily Enhanced Bible Reading Guide available through 1 & 2 Thessalonians!)
- Philemon 17 or Philemon 1:17 – Five books in the Bible – Obadiah, Philemon, Jude, 2 John, 3 John – only have one chapter. They are so short they only needed verse numbers. Technically, it’s correct to cite a verse from these books with just book name and verse. For instance, Philemon 17. However, depending on the setting and the audience, you may need to clarify. (See also “10 Characteristics from Philemon We All Need.”)
3 Other Common Bible Mistakes
- To capitalize or not to capitalize – There are a few words we often capitalize when they shouldn’t be. We use these words often when talking or writing about spiritual things. Here’s a few – godly, biblical, scriptural. Unless they are at the beginning of a sentence they should not be capitalized. “Gospel” should sometimes be capitalized and sometimes not. When referring to one of the four Gospels, it should be capitalized. When we mean the message of salvation we should use lower case. (See also “4 Tips for Understanding the Gospels.”)
- Fruit of the Spirit not fruits – The Greek word “karpos” translated as “fruit” in Galatians 5:22 is singular. This signifys that “fruit” is a unified whole. As we grow spiritually through the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, our character will look more and more like Jesus’. The “fruit of the Holy Spirit” is the overall character of Christ. The individual traits listed in Galatians 5:22-23 describes His character. (Get the “Fruit of the Spirit” 6-Session Bible Study.)
- “He” not “it” – The Holy Spirit is a person. He is a fully divine person of the Godhead. The Bible refers to Him as “He.” Jesus used “He/he” not “it.” (John 15:7-11). We should too.
Have you ever made any of these mistakes? (You don’t have to ‘fess up!) What other common biblical literacy mistakes have you seen? And yes, if you’ve seen me make one I want to know!