What Irks Me About Bible Translations!

Posted on August 14, 2020


By David Ettinger

A Brief Explanation
This is a rant, but not a big one. I promise to contain it.

A brief explanation. Notice the title says “Bible Translations.” These are actually scholarly endeavors compared with “Bible Paraphrases,” which I don’t care for. The Bible translations I will reference are the New American Standard Bible (NASB); Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB); New King James Version (NKJV); English Standard Version (ESV); New International Version (NIV); New English Translation (NET); King James Version (KJV); and the Geneva Bible.

What Irks Me
What irks me most about English translations of the Bible are those which DON’T capitalize pronouns referring to God and Jesus. A pronoun is a word that replaces a noun in a sentence. Example: “Larry was sick all day because he drank expired milk.” The word “he” refers to Larry and spares us from having to write his name twice. Other pronouns include I, me, mine, my, he, his, her, and hers.

In English, we capitalize proper names, but not pronouns; which makes sense. However, any pronoun referring to God or Jesus is no ordinary pronoun! If I am writing about myself, I write “me,” “my,” or “mine.” This is because I am a mere human and don’t merit capitalization.

God, however, is NOT a mere human, and any references to Him should ALWAYS demand a capital letter! When quoting God in the Bible, English translations should ALWAYS capitalize the pronouns referring to Him and Jesus. I love how the NASB puts it in its introduction: “Personal pronouns are capitalized when pertaining to Deity.” No explanation, no apologizing; just a statement of intent. Period!

Those Who Do and Don’t
Here are the versions that DO capitalize pronouns of Deity: NASB, HCSB, and NKJV. Those who don’t: ESV, NIV, NET, KJV, and Geneva. These last two get a pass because the English language was a different entity way back when they were written.

That the NIV doesn’t capitalize pronouns related to God is no surprise as it is the most “liberal” of the major translations. The NET, which is regarded for its scholarship, likely made a “scholarly” decision not to capitalize such pronouns.

The real shock, though, is the ESV, highly regarded as an excellent conservative translation. Of all the modern versions, I would have bet the house on it capitalizing pronouns referring to God and Jesus. I’m baffled it doesn’t.

Doing What’s Right
I work for the magazine Zion’s Fire, established in 1990 and has a worldwide circulation of 70,000. For years I noticed that Christian publishers rarely capitalized the word “gospel” when referring to “the Gospel” (that is, the actual “good news” of salvation rather than the four Gospel books of the New Testament).

I thought this was absurd and could care less that the mega-Christian publishing houses all fell in line with this ridiculous rule. Unfortunately, our magazine did the same. Therefore, in 2002, I decided to fight this. Assembling the magazine staff, I made my case for capitalizing the word “Gospel” and won! We have done so ever since.

That languages such as Hebrew have no capital letters, and the Greek used for the original New Testament contained ALL caps, should have no bearing on English translations. In modern-day English, to highlight importance, we capitalize certain words.

How can English Bible translators not do the same across the board? Love and reverence for God and Jesus should make this a “no brainer”! I understand “scholarly considerations” – I have (a measly) two college degrees in English – but when it comes to showing reverence for God, scholarship should have no bearing.

Pronouns related to Deity in the Bible should ALWAYS be capitalized, and when they release their new editions, the NIV, NET, and especially the ESV should correct this delinquency!

That’s it, rant over. As usual, you’re invited to share your thoughts, and if you disagree with me, I welcome you all the more!