Recently while reading articles written by PhDs in a Christian University publication, I noticed how these writers who assert their Christian faith and are considered experts in their field of study, do not capitalize the word, biblical. Apparently, not using an uppercase ‘b’ for that particular word is trendy and academically driven by citation/formatting sources such as CMOS, APA, CSE, ASA, and the like.
For the sake of this discussion, biblical used herein refers to the Bible, known as the collection of writings containing both the Old and New Testaments.
I’m also noticing that the pronoun ‘he’ when referring to Jesus Christ is no longer capitalized in contemporary literature, academic writings, and in modern translations of the Bible. In the following passages of Scripture, note the America Standard Version (ASV) versus the New American Standard Bible (NASB) which is considered to be the most rigorously accurate translation of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek Biblical sources.
You are to give him the name Jesus; he is the one who will save his people from their sins. Mathew 1:21 ASV
She will give birth to a Son; and you shall name Him Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. Matthew 1:21 NASB
Do you remember how in old editions of the Bible, the words of Jesus were printed in red ink? Between the caps used and print colour differences, there was never any confusion as to what was being said by/or about whom.
Why no cap on Biblical?
A general reason given for not using uppercase on the word biblical is that capitalizing words is somewhat of a new invention.
Following that logic… since the Bible was written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, often words were not specifically capitalized—
- According to Belgian Tech Writer, Ivo Vynckier, Hebrew is unique in that there are no lowercase letters, further suggesting that this all changed with the invention of the printing press;
- Joon Thomas, history buff and professional calligrapher of Chinese, Arabic, Persian, Sanskrit, English, Hebrew, etc., states that Aramaic (Syriac), Arabic, Hebrew, Ethiopian (Ge’ez) and all the Indic scripts (Tibetan, Devanagari, Malayalam, Kannada, Thai, etc.) do not have upper case (majuscules) and lower case (minuscule) letters. Source
One academic formatting guide says the reason not to capitalize biblical is because the preference is to decrease the number of uppercase words in a document.
A more popular reason for not putting a cap on biblical is because it is commonly done. I smile at Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) that says, If you must capitalize “biblical,” you have our blessing, as long as you do so in a consistent and logical manner.
Perhaps a more precise reason given for the lack of uppercase is because the word Bible comes from the Greek, biblia, meaning ‘many books’. Indeed, the Bible, while considered divinely inspired, contains 66 different books written by various authors. By 5th Century AD, the word Bible referred to “the entire collection of sacred books, the Library of Divine Revelation. Source This reasoning therefore suggests that when saying biblical, one is simply referring to the collection of books in the Bible, and not directly referencing the word Bible.
Merriam-Webster defines biblical as:
- Of, relating to, or being in accord with the Bible;
- Suggestive of the Bible or Bible times.
Clearly, the adjective Biblical is directly linked to the divine word of God known as The Bible, its contents, and its purpose.
My education, both formal and informal, taught that the Bible is the holy word of God, and as divine in essence, it is the very core of Christian teachings. Thus, in honouring the Bible’s divinity and holy purpose, an uppercase is used on the word itself, and subsequently on its adjective form, Biblical. Uppercase usage such as this is sometimes referred to as Reverential Capitalization.
Capitalizing pronouns referring to God seems to many readers an expression of reverence.St. Catherine of Siena Church
Respect / Honour
Christians speak about their devotion to and their personal relationship with God/Jesus. They emphasize the importance of God’s divine ‘Word’ with respect to that relationship and to their process of sanctification—
Sanctification is the cooperative work of God and Christians (Phil. 2:12–13) by which ongoing transformation into greater Christlikeness occurs.Coleman Ford, PhD
We’re speaking of [sanctification] an action of God of a way in which the triune God, by Word and Spirit, intervenes, and engages, and acts for our good, that God steps into the breach and condescends into our very situation of plight, and suffering, and death, and sin—and he does so decisively.Michael Allan, PhD
If indeed Christians do value the Bible and see it as divine, then why not honour its derivatives like its adjective form, Biblical? An uppercase ‘b’ is an easy keystroke when writing articles or blurbs or text messages. Did you see the no-cap on ‘he’ in Michael Allan’s quote above?
I’m suspecting that a profound lack of respect for the Bible and Christianity is running rampant. First off, Christianity, with its 2.38 billion followers, is slowly losing its hold as the world’s largest religion with Islam (1.91 billion adherents) nipping at its heels. Hinduism is also in the running with 1.16 billion followers. Source
Is the Bible being replaced or supplemented? Are Christians losing faith? Have the numerous scandals still rocking the Christian church poisoned belief in the corporate Christian body as well as in its devotees?
‘Not religious’ has become a specific American identity… America’s unique synthesis of wealth and worship has puzzled international observers and foiled their grandest theories of a global secular takeover.Derek Thompson, Journalist
Is it possible that Christian professors question the divinity of the Bible? Any such doubt of the Bible’s authority would indeed trickle down to Christian believers, leaving them to question their overall belief in God, in Christianity as a religion, in the church as its earthly structure, and, sadly, in other believers.
Is it possible that how one writes about Biblical matters is a testament to one’s true Christian beliefs?
Islam . . . soon be the world’s largest religion?
Does the world’s second largest religious group respect and honour their bible, The Quran, and its teachings? Is this why their numbers are growing?
The Quran has a different place in the hearts and minds of Muslims than the Bible does in the hearts and minds of Christians… The traditional Muslim reverence for the Quran is almost inestimable.Jeremy Bouma, ThM
Regarding Islamic teachings, Dr. Muhammad Abdul Bari, Honorary Chairman of one of the largest mosques in the UK, believes the reason that 50% of active Islamic believers are young people is because Islam’s family values are “really bonded, and families really try to nurture young people in the folds of Islam”. Source
Islam says NO – people find a sense of direction in it [Islam] because their religion of origin has lost that.Professor Sara Silvestri
Reviving a respect for the Bible . . . could it make a difference?
If one accepts that Christians are in a ‘faith relationship’ with God, Jesus Christ, Holy Spirit, Mother Mary and/or heavenly saints, and that this relationship is dependent on the Bible, then how does respect or the lack thereof for the Bible play into our overall response to Christian teachings and lifestyle?
Psychologist Marcia Reynolds PsyD., says, “One of the quickest ways to destroy a relationship is to lose respect.”
Banning and Burning Bibles
History is filled with examples of Bibles being destroyed, mutilated, confiscated, and we continue to perpetuate that history. Cancel/Woke Culture is committed to burning entire chapters of any Scripture viewed as culturally offensive. Source
In China, the government is closing churches, imprisoning religious leaders, and… believe it or not, rewriting Scripture so that “correct” communist understanding of the text is established. Source
The terror of “woke” cancel culture knows no bounds. First, they came for Babar the Elephant; then for Curious George; then for Disney children’s movies; then Mr. Potato Head; and then Dr. Seuss. Undoubtedly next on the guillotine will be the Berenstein Bears. Soon enough, they will come after the Bible for its “racist” and “gender-backwards” content.
David M. Weinberg Think Tank Director & Columnist
To B or not to b . . . that is the question!
Approaching this query from a different angle entirely is to briefly explore global literacy. Follow my thinking here . . .
- Consider global illiteracy rate… “Illiteracy affects 774 million adults aged 15 or older”. Source
- Consider that reading print has been reduced to the screen size of a cell phone.
- Consider that content writers are told to aim for a readability level of age nine. Source
- Consider that people only read about 18% of what’s on a page. Source
- And, consider the work of Pulitzer Prize winner, Ann Wylie, who says that “The average American reads at the 7th- to 8th-grade level.”
Perhaps Christian experts don’t see a need to use an uppercase on Biblical. It does take extra energy to hold the ‘shift’ key down, and, since only 18% of all that they’ve written might actually be read, and since the average reader has a literacy level of a nine year old, perhaps they ask themselves, “Why bother expending the energy on an extra finger-keystroke for so few competent readers?”
If the Bible and/or Biblical teachings are the core of the global religion of Christianity, might it not be prudent to make reading the Bible as easy as possible, in light of global literacy concerns? If “reaching others for Christ”, a phrase often used by clergy and their parishioners, is the goal of the Christian movement, doesn’t it make sense to use a simple key-stroke cap on pronouns used for the Lord Jesus, or to put an uppercase ‘B’ on the adjective relating to Christians’ divine book of teachings and instruction?
If the literates reading the articles of Christian experts are left with the impression that the Biblical books of God’s divine Word are being shown honour in print by the use of a simple cap, maybe, just maybe we’d respect Christianity more and maybe, just maybe we’d be inspired to believe.
Selling a cool, trendy version of Christianity seems to be important these days. Because it’s cool and trendy to not use a simple uppercase on words like Biblical, and with respect for this religion’s status slipping globally, I’m left wondering if this might not be a systemic force for the many who are losing or switching their faith focus.
CHALLENGING THE BIBLE… Learn More —