Why Doesn’t The ESV Capitalize Pronouns Referring To God?

November 7, 2011

From Crossway:

The ESV does not capitalize deity pronouns mainly for two reasons: (1) The capitalization of deity pronouns in the Bible is a recent innovation that began less than fifty years ago. For example, the KJV Bible and its later revisions (except for the NKJV) did not capitalize deity pronouns. Given the legacy of the KJV, the ESV translation thought that this would be best. (2) Also, the original Bible manuscripts in Greek and Hebrew do not capitalize deity pronouns. Hebrew manuscripts do not have capital letters. In Greek manuscripts, the letters are all either capital or lower case.


4 Responses to “Why Doesn’t The ESV Capitalize Pronouns Referring To God?”

  1. […] Why Doesn't The ESV Capitalize Pronouns Referring To God … […]

  2. Jane Welch Says:

    Today, we capitalize words such as President and King, when they precede the person’s name, because of honor. It is dishonorable in our day not to capitalize pronouns for God, especially considering that it has been the norm for most God-fearing believers for many years. If we are going to stop capitalizing pronouns for God based on the reasoning that they didn’t when the Bible was written, then why does ESV continue to capitalize other words, such as “Scripture” in John 7:38 and in 2 Timothy 3:16, out of honor for God’s Word?

    • Mark Says:

      I appreciate your comments. I wouldn’t argue with anything you said. In addition to the “honor” idea, capitalizing pronouns referring to God builds interpretation into the text. There is no ambiguity as to whom the text is referring to. Two thoughts: historically, pronouns referring to God haven’t been capitalized (Wycliff, Tyndale, KJV). So you have centuries of strong believers who didn’t capitalize. I think the first translation to capitalize pronouns referring to deity is the relatively recent NASB. Then, of course, style guides (e.g. Chicago, AP) suggest that pronouns referring to God shouldn’t be capitalized. I realize that Christians aren’t called to adhere to style guides, however translators would want to produce a document that adheres to the literary conventions of the day. Someone not familiar with the recent “tradition” of capitalizing deity might view it as an error undermining the competency of the document. This to say, I’m comfortable either way. I’m an old man, and I’ve never capitalized pronouns referring to deity. I am trying to change my practice, not so much to honor God, but to avoid being a stumbling block. Here is the real issue for me: this is no biblical mandate to capitalize deity. It seem legalistic to add something that God doesn’t command. I’m good with either practice and respect the scholars who decided not to capitalize.

  3. Don P Says:

    To capitalize pronouns, especially those referring to God (He,Him,His) is a practice I learned in grade school (mid-50’s), and I have always appreciated that training and practice. It does hold the reader close in the realm of respect, and sets the tone of the written work. How could we not feel compelled to honor our great God with such a purposeful practice?

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