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April 8, 2004 10:08 AM   Subscribe

To capitalize or not to capitalize a deity? As far as I know Hebrew, Aramaic, Arabic and the modern descendants of Sanskrit use no capital letters, so for those languages the point is moot. I can’t speak for too many of the other language families, but I don’t know of any syllabaries or abugidas that use majuscules, so the question seems to be most relevant to the alphabetic languages that use capitals such as the Latin, Greek and Germanic families (including English). Some people even completely capitalize the name of their deity, apparently disdaining minuscules completely.
posted by snarfodox (6 comments total)

 
I think as the links points out (and the others), the capitalization has less to do with respecting God but respecting grammatical conventions. God, Satan, Lynyrd Skynyrd are all proper nouns and should be capitalized. Kind of a moot point. The only people I know who intentionally lowercase the reference to the Christian God are coffee sipping college liberals trying to make a lame point. Oh you didn't capitalize a proper noun? You rebel you!

Of course the whole YHWH case is interesting. I know Jews who are really offended to see it written out with vowels and all. And Yhwh looks stupid so capitalization works in that case. In such cases, even if I was trying to argue against the existence of a god I'd respect the religuous conventions in place.

And on a side note, most Christians frequently confuse basic tenets about their views of God. They frequently refer to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit/Ghost/Slimer as three separate persons. Or they perpetuate such heretical theological arguments that were against those early Christian councils at Nicea and Chalcedon. I was under the impression that pretty much every council till the one that talked about the filioque were accepted by all Christians.

No hurt feelings to all the 1992 Teva wearing, coffee sipping, Seattle grunge rockers out there.
posted by geoff. at 10:34 AM on April 8, 2004


I am your Gxd.
posted by dfowler at 12:20 PM on April 8, 2004


YHWH in Hebrew (yud hay vav hay) is considered in Judaism to be either a placeholder for the actual name of the deity or a name whose pronunciation has been lost since biblical times. It isn't that writing it with vowels is offensive, it's that the addition of those vowels is fairly arbitrary. Besides, there is no W sound in Hebrew (there aren't really any vowels either, especially in the Torah). The point is that you aren't supposed to be able to pronounce it. Modifying that combination of Hebrew letters so that it's pronouncable and then using it in a sentence like an actual name is the equivalent of a little kid coming up with a way to say @$#! when he's angry because that is how he sees characters do it in the Sunday comics.
posted by bingo at 12:36 PM on April 8, 2004


They frequently refer to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit/Ghost/Slimer as three separate persons.

I believe that the councils do refer to them as separate persons (Greek: hypostasis) united by a single essence (Greek: ousia). But, yes, many modern Christians do simply unknowingly repeat earlier heresies that were covered centuries ago.

I was under the impression that pretty much every council till the one that talked about the filioque were accepted by all Christians.

Theologically, yes, pretty much all Christians agree with all Christological stands of the councils up to and including the 6th (the second council of Constantinople). "Officially," not all are accepted.

The fourth council (The council of Chalcedon) and on are not accepted by the Coptic, Armenian, Ethiopian, and Syrian Jacobite Christians (called-- surprise! -- non-Chalcedonian Orthodox). The Third Ecumenical council is not accepted by the Assyrian (so-called Nestorian) Christians. This might have something to do with the fact that the 3rd Council condemned Nestorius.

However, theologically speaking, those Christian Churches would not now have any great theological disagreements with the Christological stands outlined in the 4th through the 7th ecumenical councils. (in fact, theological reconciliation between the non-Chalcedonian Orthodox and the pro-Chalcedonian Orthodox is considered only a bureaucratic, not a theological, matter)

The 7th ecumenical council dealt with the appropriateness of the use of icons, and all Christians but the protestants would probably have no theological objections.

No Orthodox Christians accept any councils past the 7th, mostly because the council termed by the Catholics to be the "8th Ecumenical Council" never had its decrees accepted by the Orthodox, and thus, tautologically, cannot be a church council.

A quick googling came up with this executive summary of what each council covered.
posted by deanc at 12:41 PM on April 8, 2004


ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn
posted by jfuller at 2:23 PM on April 8, 2004


I don’t know of any syllabaries or abugidas that use majuscules

Man, me neither. Super weird!
posted by mikrophon at 2:41 PM on April 8, 2004


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