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Thread: Capitalization of personal pronouns

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
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    Capitalization of personal pronouns

    (If this has already been discussed, please redirect me)

    What is the history of capitalizing the personal pronouns of God in Scripture and otherwise? What were the reasons and when/why did it cease to be the norm?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
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    Grammar ain't my strong suit, but I'll take a stab at answering this question.

    First of all, it is my understanding -- someone knowledgeable in Greek and Hebrew (which is probably most folks on this board) please correct me I'm wrong -- that the Hebrew scriptures do not use any capital letters and the Greek scriptures use all capital letters - Nuncial style. So looking to the Biblical manuscripts doesn't seem to tell us anything in particular about capitalizing pronouns for God.

    It's interesting to me that typically, in English translations, the Tetragrammaton is translated in all capital letters.

    Without consulting my hexapla, it is my recollection that Reformation-era translations do not capitalize pronouns for God. Certainly the King James Version does not, and most would agree (even George Bernard Shaw, for example) that this translation is perhaps the greatest 'achievement' in English literature. I think this is a later development. Some people today argue that it is disrespectful to God to fail to capitalize 'his' pronouns. It is referred to as 'Christian capitalization' and it is a big deal to certain folks. I personally feel that this issue is merely one of convention and that standards for capitalization change just as language itself changes over time. If there is a return to not capitalizing such pronouns I don't think it necessarily follows that there is disrespect involved. Just changing conventions.


  3. #3

    I was going to say something witty, but then I realize I talk too much about irrelevant stuff.
    1689 London Baptist Confession

  4. #4
    Originally posted by Ezekiel16
    (If this has already been discussed, please redirect me)

    What is the history of capitalizing the personal pronouns of God in Scripture and otherwise? What were the reasons and when/why did it cease to be the norm?
    It is a modern innovation. I think they do it just to clarify the meaning of the text.
    MDiv, RTS Jackson
    Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church (OPC), Lisbon, NY

    "He does well, that discourses of Christ; but he does infinitely better, that by experimental knowledge, feeds and lives on Christ." Thomas Brooks.
    "Let us not please ourselves that we have deep understandings, but let us shew our understandings by our practice." Richard Sibbes

  5. #5
    This came up just recently in a conversation with a fellow church member. He was asking about modern translations. The one thing he has against the ESV is that it does not capitalize "he" in reference to God. A quick check revealed that this is also the case with the KJV, ASV, and the 1599 Geneva Bible. Both the NKJV and NASB do capitalize "he."

    As Patrick indicated it is a modern innovation.

    I wonder if this practise came in as thee and thou disappeared from common usage. The use of thee and thou continued in relation to God and lost their significance as second person singular and became a sign of honor. Did this also lead to capitalizing "he" as a sign of honor.
    Soli Deo Gloria

    John Schultz
    Member, Riveroaks Reformed Presbyterian Church (PCA)
    Germantown, TN

    Be careful what you send in an e-mail ... it might get published!

  6. #6
    We should clarify that this is a modern American innovation. The Brits do not captalize personal pronouns referring to deity, and rightly so.

    I don't think it was done to clarify meaning (as Patrick proposed) but rather to show reverence. Grammars often refer to such capitalizations as being unique to American style. We kind of screwed up grammar, spelling, and punctuation, not to mention style!


    [Edited on 4-6-2006 by Randall Pederson]
    Randall J. Pederson
    B.S., Kuyper College
    M.T.S., Calvin Theological Seminary
    Th.M., Calvin Theological Seminary, under Richard A. Muller
    PhD Candidate, Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia (Elizabethan Puritanism)
    PhD Candidate, Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands (Puritan historiography)


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