It may seem like a strange thing to say; I don’t capitalize pronouns referring to God’s deity. An instructor hands back your paper, asking you to make lower-case all pronouns, what do you do? This is something people have struggled with for years. So is it right to capitalize pronouns referencing God?
This topic is one that may cause some to cringe but others praise. I’ve often stumbled as a writer in which direction do I write. In my blog, I’ve gone back and forth on this issue. But I have since landed on the idea that it is improper to capitalize pronouns.
Before you burn me at the stake, let me explain.
I have different articles published in various online magazines or newspapers, the editor usually changes the pronouns for me before it’s published.
Example, I may write; “I know that God is alive because He shows Himself to me.” Now, because I was consistent, most English teachers might say I’m okay. But I’ve had editors fix it like this; ”I know God is alive because he shows himself to me.”
Which is correct?
According to the Chicago Manual of Style pronouns referring to God or Jesus are not to be capitalized. You’ll also notice most English translations of the Bible do not capitalize these pronouns, (ESV, NIV, TNIV, NLT etc.). So what’s the point?
1.) It’s a king’s reference to honoring God.
- Capitalizing pronouns of God is something that didn’t begin until King James decided to translate the Bible into the common English language.
- Capitalizing pronouns was in respect to the King of England.
- The King demanded that people write His proper name and pronouns out of respect for Him.
- So when he decided to translate the Bible into the common language, he thought out of respect for both himself and God that all pronouns should be capitalized.
- Up to that point, pronouns denoting God were not capitalized.
2.) Because most Christians think they should be capitalized. This has been a battle between editors and writers, students and teachers. In my research, I’ve found that some say you should always capitalize He, His, Him or Thee whenever God is mentioned in writing and others say you’re not supposed to.
Making these pronouns capitalized is a method of suggesting a more pronounced meaning or giving the sentence a new meaning. But does it? Does the sentence, ”God shows us his love through his word.”, suggest a different meaning than, “God shows us His love through His word.”?
I say no.
The goal of pronouns is to make the identity of the noun clear to the reader. If that is the case, then it doesn’t matter because the reader understands who they’re reading about.
3.) In Hebrew there is no such thing as upper or lower case letters. In Greek they used upper case letters in all of their writing. So what does this mean? In English writing, we now have a choice of style. Why? Because this has nothing to do with remaining true to the original texts.
In England it made sense to capitalize all pronouns referring to God, because that was common practice.
The goal of pronouns is to make the identity of the noun clear to the reader.
– Jason Sisam
I’ll sum it up with this:
There are three other translational issues involved. One is that it seems rather awkward to translate quotations of people who were deriding Jesus Christ, and who at that point didn’t believe that He was the spotless Son of God, capitalizing the pronouns they used to refer to Him. The New American Standard Bible handles this by putting in a footnote to explain that they capitalized the pronouns because of who Jesus Christ is, not who the speaker thought He was.
Another issue is that in some of the coronation psalms, it was clear that the psalm was originally written for the coronation of an earthly king (i. e. King Solomon), but the psalm applies and is used more often to sing praises to the King of Kings. In that case, it is difficult to choose which case to use for the pronouns. By not capitalizing pronouns pertaining to God, we as translators preserve the ambiguity of the original Scriptures and leave the application to the Holy Spirit and the reader.
(This article is from the World English Bible Translation FAQ, by Michael Paul Johnson email@example.com with numerous contributions by others.)
Posted in: FAQs About the Bible
This is why I don’t capitalize pronouns referring to God. I’m not causing disrespect to God, because I believe the content of what I write is respectful of His word. When we talk about him in our writing, if we mention God, then the pronouns that begin or follow within the sentence only helps identify who we’re talking about.