Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Capitalization Rules for Writers (Part 8 of 8)

(Kathy Ide wrote this eight-part series.)

Religious Terms
The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style has a comprehensive list of what religious terms should be capitalized. Here are a few examples:

* Bible and Scripture are capitalized, but biblical and scriptural are not. Similarly, capitalize the Almighty but not almighty God.

* Lowercase the apostles, the apostle Paul, Paul the apostle, and apostolic, but capitalize Paul’s title Apostle to the Gentiles and John’s the Beloved Apostle.

* Only capitalize the word Bible in phrases like “Bible study” and “vacation Bible school.”

* Noah’s ark and the ark of the covenant are lowercased.

* Lowercase baby in “the baby Jesus” and child in “the Christ child.”

* Lowercase body in “the body of Christ,” whether referring to the church or Jesus’ physical form.

Kathy Ide is a published author, ghostwriter, and freelance editor. She speaks at writers’ conferences, teaches online writing and editing courses, and mentors new writers. She’s the founder and coordinator of The Christian PEN: Proofreaders and Editors Network (www.TheChristianPEN.com) and the Christian Editor Network (www.ChristianEditor.com). Learn more at www.KathyIde.com.


  1. I was confused by the conflicting rules above. One says to capitalize Bible. But then another says only to capitalize it in some phrases. When we refer to the Bible, I assume it's capitalized, but when we refer to a book being a writer's bible it isn't.

    I'm wondering what this rule means specifically: Only capitalize the word Bible in phrases like “Bible study” and “vacation Bible school.”

    Thanks for the helpful posts!

    1. The placement of the word "only" is wrong. It should say, "Capitalize ONLY the word 'Bible' (not the other words) in phrases like 'Bible study' and 'vacation Bible school.'"

  2. When Bible is a noun and we mean the Holy Book (and not the bible of baseball trivia), we cap it. When it's an adjective (biblical) we don't: The biblical story of David is inspirational.

  3. What about the capitalization of the word "Gospel"?

  4. We cap gospel when it's the Gospel of John or one of the other three, but when we speak about the gospel truth or use the word in any other phrase, the rule is the same as Bible and biblical.

  5. I spent most of my life teaching in Free Gospel Bible Institute. It is a Bible School, and it makes me cringe to write it as Bible school. I refer to Bible School frequently in a book I am writing. Is it really a hard rule to lower case "school"?

  6. You'd capitalize the actual name of the school: "Free Gospel Bible Institute." But when referring to "a Bible school" or "the Bible school," it's generic, so you would need to lowercase the word "school."

  7. Wonderful site! Where have you been most of my life!

  8. When referring to a verse of Scripture, such as this sentence, should it be capitalized? "This is one of my favorite scriptures about God's love."

    1. My understanding is that references to an individual scripture or scriptures is not capitalized. Only capitalize the term when it's used as a substitute for the Bible. Thus, "Scripture says you ought to read your favorite scriptures in the Scriptures day and night."

  9. What if you are using the phrase "Bible verse?" Would you say the word "Bible" is an adjective in this phrase and should be lowercase? Or is it incorrect to use it this way anyway?

  10. The wording in the explanation at the top of the thread is misleading. It would be more clear if it said "in phrases like Bible study, only the word Bible should be capitalized." When you're saying Bible verse, you capitalize Bible but not verse. The only time the word Bible is not capitalized is if it is not referring to the Bible (Holy Scriptures) such as "the hunter's bible" which is a catalog of hunting items or a book of guidelines for hunters that has nothing to do with the Holy Bible.

  11. I realize the words "Holy Scripture" are capitalized. However, I have a couple brief questions.

    First, should the word "Scripture" be capitalized?

    For example, in the following sentence: I was thinking about what part of Scripture that God wanted me to read today.

    Second, should the word "Scriptures" be capitalized?

    For example: I always tell my friends to read the Scriptures in order to obtain greater knowledge of the word of God.

    Thank you.

  12. This is such a great thread. I too am wondering about Scripture and scripture in text. Is it just like Bible?
    Also, is Devil capitalized or if we refer to him as the Enemy...enemy?

  13. This is a common question, and you can see how much discussion there is. Here are my suggestions
    1. Decide for yourself and use what's comfortable.
    2. Be consistent.
    3. Check publishers’ guidelines if they're available.
    3. If you can't get their guidelines, do it your way
    4. Allow your publishers to change to fit their guidelines.
    I don't think an editor will reject your manuscript over that issue.

  14. In the Phrase Jesus you are awsome. Should you be capitalized?

  15. “Praise you, Jesus” must have a comma before Jesus. As far as capping the divine pronoun (you or YOU), it's a matter of preference. Not capping doesn't mean intend any irreverence, but it’s a time-honored literary preference.
    The King James Version of the Bible doesn’t cap divine pronouns. Traditionally, no Bible publishers did; however, a few modern versions have opted for capping.
    In an earlier post I wrote Check each publisher’s guidelines (if available). The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS is THE guidebook for book publishers. They say not to cap (CMOS 8.94). The Christian Writers Manual of Style (CWMOS), published by Zondervan agrees. (See pages 144-147.) Both publications also point out publishers make their decisions. Whether you cap or don’t cap, be consistent. PLEASE READ MY COMMENTS ABOVE, posted 1/25/17.

  16. Awaiting my Christian Writer style guide. When writing about books of the Bible that are numbered, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, etc. in text (not citing book, chapter, and verse at end), would one write "First Kings," or 1st Kings, or 1 Kings? Example: "In First (1st, or 1) Kings, the reference made is...." Which is correct in the middle of text?

  17. When citing them, you write 1 Kings. However, if your sentence begins with a reference, you write out the number (This true with any number). First Kings 9:11 states. . . Nineteen eighty was my favorite year.


What are your thoughts?