What About Capitalizing Pronouns Referring to God?

I’ve been asked by readers over the years, “Why don’t you capitalize the pronouns referring to God in your books?”

The old practice of capitalizing pronouns of deity has been done in very few Bible translations historically, and was abandoned by most Christian publishers years ago. I continued to do it for years but it created inconsistencies since I would capitalize pronouns of deity, then quote Scripture that didn’t. The inconsistency stood out. The only alternative would be to quote from NASB or NKJV, both of which capitalize pronouns of deity, but neither of which is my preference for purposes of clarity.

On our website and blog, and on social media, we usually capitalize pronouns referring to deity. I never would have stopped doing it in my books if my publishers hadn’t changed their policy. (EPM has chosen to capitalize the pronouns in our self-published books.) I think there’s not really a big down side. It not only shows reverence, but also sometimes increases clarity—as in “Jesus and Peter were talking, and then suddenly He said to him, ‘Look out.’” But where it’s not possible, i.e. in my books with publishers, I’ve gone with their policy.

Of course, I would never agree to Christ or God not being capitalized. I have had to fight to get Heaven capitalized in my books, arguing that it is a proper noun, and just as real a place as Saturn or France. I argue the same for capitalizing the New Earth—if we capitalize New England, why not the redeemed creation that Scripture calls the “New Earth”?  But notice that while Heaven is capitalized (since it is an actual place), I don’t capitalize There or It when referring to Heaven, e.g. “If we go There” or “Without a doubt, It is a happy place!” Only the actual word Heaven is capitalized, and industry standard is similar with pronouns referring to deity.

The Orthodox Presbyterian Church explains it this way on their website:

We follow the style, which does not capitalize pronouns relating to deity. This intends no disrespect to God; it is the usage of the historic English Bibles: Wyclif (1380), Tyndale (1534), Cranmer (1539), Geneva (1557), Rheims (1582), and King James Version of KJV (1611). Moreover, it is the style followed by the New International Version (NIV) and English Standard Version (ESV), as well as by our denominational magazine New Horizons. The NASB and NKJV do capitalize pronouns relating to deity (introducing something which is not in the Greek or Hebrew, I might add).

I also like this answer from Got Questions:

Many people struggle with this question. Some, believing it shows reverence for God, capitalize all pronouns that refer to God. Others, believing the “rules” of English style should be followed, do not capitalize the deity pronouns. So, who is right? The answer is neither. It is neither right nor wrong to capitalize or not capitalize pronouns that refer to God. It is a matter of personal conviction, preference, and context. Some Bible translations capitalize pronouns referring to God, while others do not. 

In the original languages of the Bible, capitalizing pronouns referring to God was not an issue. In Hebrew, there was no such thing as upper-case and lower-case letters. There was simply an alphabet, no capital letters at all. In Greek, there were capital (upper-case) letters and lower-case letters. However, in all of the earliest copies of the Greek New Testament, the text is written in all capital letters. When God inspired the human authors of Scripture to write His Word, He did not lead them to give any special attention to pronouns that refer to Him. With that in mind, it follows that God is not offended if we do not capitalize pronouns that refer to Him.

If you capitalize pronouns that refer to God to show reverence for His name, fantastic! Continue doing so. If you capitalize pronouns that refer to God to make it more clear who is being referred to, great! Continue doing so. If you are not capitalizing pronouns that refer to God because you believe proper English grammar/syntax/style should be followed, wonderful! Continue following your conviction. Again, this is not a right vs. wrong issue. Each of us must follow his/her own conviction and each of us should refrain from judging those who take a different viewpoint.

Photo by Amador Loureiro on Unsplash

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries