Capitalization and Translation

One of the categories on which I rate trnslations for my Bible Version Selection Tool is on capitalization of divine names. This has resulted many times in people asking me if I’m not being a bit nitpicky in making an issue of something like that.

Wayne Leman has posted about Psalm 2 and his arguments illustrate my point well. Comparing Acts 13:32-33 with Psalm 2:7 in the NET, Wayne comments:

Notice that the NET translators, theological conservatives who believe that Jesus is God’s Son, the promised Messiah, uppercase “Son” in Acts 13:33, but not in Hebrew Bible passage which this verse quotes, Psalm 2:7. I personally believe that the NET translators have translated accurately in each passage and indicate appropriately authorial intent with this differing typographical notation.

Wayne also shows a list of translations that, he says, “Christianize” the Hebrew Bible in this verse. Included among them are the NIV, NASB, ESV, HCSB, and GW. All of this is accomplished by means of the capitalization–something that is a choice of the translators and can be merely stylistic, or can, as in this case, be very meaningful. The choice whether or not to capitalize any pronouns referring to the deity is, in itself, stylistic. But if one chooses to follow that practice, then a verse like Psalm 2:7 cannot be neutral because whether you capitalize certain words or not, it will be taken as an indication of your interpretation.

Now the indication that I give in my selection tool doesn’t test this level of detail, but it can give you an idea. And I think that the better choice in modern English is to lose the capitalization of the pronouns throughout.

Wayne concludes:

Better Bibles should use the least amount of “interpretive translation” necessary for conveying the original meanings of the biblical authors accurately to translation audiences.

I couldn’t agree more.

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  1. I’ve noticed that my NASB Study Bible often capitalizes the word ‘spirit’, which suggests the Holy Spirit, when the text does not necessarily suggest that person of the Trinity.

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