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Editorial Style Guide: Religious Terms

I. Usage of Christian and other religious terminology

Apocrypha/ apocryphal

1. Capitalize Apocrypha only when referring to the books included in the Septuagint and Vulgate but excluded from the Jewish and Protestant canons of the Old Testament. Do not italicize Apocrypha or the name of any sacred text. Spell out the names of books of the Apocrypha:

  • Baruch 2 Maccabees
  • Bel and the Dragon Prayer of Manasses (or Manasseh)
  • Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) Rest of Esther
  • 1 Esdras Song of Three Holy Children
  • 2 Esdras Susannah
  • Judith Tobit
  • Letter of Jeremiah Wisdom of Solomon
  • 1 Maccabees

2. Do not capitalize the word apocryphal, which describes information of spurious origin and doubtful authenticity.

archbishop/ bishop

Capitalize archbishop or bishop when used before a prelate’s name or as a title. Lowercase the word archbishop standing alone.

CORRECT: Archbishop Santos celebrated the Eucharist.

CORRECT: The archbishop said the cloister was closed for cleaning.

baptism

See also I.Aprocrypha/apocryphal.2 and scripture/thescriptures/scriptural

Bible/ biblical

1. Capitalize Bible and all nouns referring to sacred texts.

2. Lowercase the word biblical and other adjectives derived from names of sacred texts.

CORRECT: He didn’t have sufficient biblical evidence for his supposition, though he did reference two fairly long Bible verses.

See also I.sacraments/services and rites.

Bible books

1. Capitalize, but do not italicize, names of books of the Bible. Spell out books of the Bible in text but abbreviate books of the Bible in parenthetical or other scripture reference. Use Arabic (1, 2, 3) rather than Roman (I, II, III) numerals in all Bible references.

CORRECT: The “roll call of faith” is found in Hebrews 11.

CORRECT: The “roll call of faith” includes some people who were “stoned,” “sawn asunder,” “slain with the sword” and “wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented,” (Heb. 11:37 KJV), none of which sounds enjoyable.

INCORRECT: The sermon on II Thessalonians led Judy to wonder aloud, “Whatever happened to the Thessalonians?”

CORRECT: The sermon on 2 Thessalonians led Judy to wonder aloud, “Whatever happened to the Thessalonians?”

2. Do not capitalize the words book, gospel or epistle when used as part of the name of a specific book of the Bible.

CORRECT: His sermon referenced the book of Job, the gospel of Matthew, the epistle of Paul to the Romans and, oddly, the Weekly Reader.

See F.biblical citations.1.

3. Following is an alphabetical list of books of the Bible and their abbreviations

Acts Judges
Amos 1 Kings
1 Chronicles (1 Chron.) 2 Kings
2 Chronicles (2 Chron.) Lamentations (Lam.)
Colossians (Col.) Leviticus (Lev.)
1 Corinthians (1 Cor.) Luke
2 Corinthians (2 Cor.) Malachi (Mal.)
Daniel (Dan.) Mark
Deuteronomy (Deut.) Matthew (Matt.)
Ecclesiastes (Ecc.) Micah (Mic.)
Ephesians (Eph.) Nahum
Esther Nehemiah (Neh.)
Exodus (Ex.) Numbers (Num.)
Ezekiel (Ezek.) Obadiah (Obad.)
Ezra 1 Peter (1 Pet.)
Galatians (Gal.) 2 Peter (2 Pet.)
Genesis (Gen.) Philemon (Phm.)
Habakkuk (Hab.) Philippians (Phil.)
Haggai (Hag.) Proverbs (Prov.)
Hebrews (Heb.) Psalms (Ps.)
Hosea (Hos.) Ruth
Isaiah (Isa.) 1 Samuel (1 Sam.)
James 2 Samuel (2 Sam.)
Jeremiah (Jer.) Song of Solomon (Song of Sol.)
Job 1 Thessalonians (1 Thess.)
Joel 2 Thessalonians (2 Thess.)
John 1 Timothy (1 Tim.)
1 John 2 Timothy (2 Tim.)
2 John Revelation (Rev.)
3 John Romans (Rom.)
Jonah Titus
Joshua (Josh.) Zechariah (Zech.)
Jude Zephaniah (Zeph.)

 

Bible references

1. Enclose a biblical reference in quotation marks, observing established rules of punctuation for quoting.

2. When the quotation is cited in running text, cite the abbreviated name of the book from which the reference comes, the numbers for the reference and the abbreviated name of the Bible version used, as follows: book, chapter and verse, version. Enclose the whole in parentheses.

CORRECT: The New Testament tells us that God is a “rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:6, KJV), but that doesn’t mean we seek God for rewards.

3. When a biblical quotation forms a complete sentence, cite book, chapter and verse, and version following the quotation without enclosing in parentheses.

CORRECT: “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” Heb. 11:6 KJV.

See also H.quotation marks.

Bible sections

1. Capitalize formal names of Bible sections: Old Testament, New Testament, the Pentateuch, the Torah.

NOTE: Old Testament is a Christian term, and Hebrew Bible or Jewish Bible is the appropriate reference in material dealing with Judaism or Jewish themes.

2. Lowercase less formal designations such as gospel and epistle. Do not capitalize adjectives modifying Bible sections: the pastoral epistles, the synoptic gospels.

CORRECT: That verse is found in the Pentateuch, but I can’t begin to tell you in which book.

CORRECT: Something like that verse is found in the gospels, specifically in Matthew but maybe also in Luke or Mark. Wait, it’s in the gospel of John!

CORRECT: He was searching the concordance (in vain) to find some verse about biorhythms he swore was in the pastoral epistles.

Bible versions

1. Capitalize, but do not italicize, the names of Bible versions spelled out in text.

CORRECT: Pastor Goodman believed that the King James Version was the only legitimate version of the Bible and that a cane pole was the only legitimate fishing rod.

2. Use abbreviations for Bible versions in parenthetical and other scripture reference.

CORRECT: “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” Heb. 14:15 KJV.

3. Translations of the New Testament by Eugene Peterson, J.B. Phillips and James Moffatt, as well as the Douay-Rheims version, are not abbreviated.

CORRECT:“Seeing that we have a great High Priest who has entered the inmost Heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to our faith. For we have no superhuman High Priest to whom our weaknesses are unintelligible—he himself has shared fully in all our experience of temptation, except that he never sinned.” Heb. 4:14–5 Phillips.

4. Following are the names and abbreviations of some common Bible versions:

  • American Standard Version, ASV
  • Amplified Bible, AB
  • English Revised Version, ERV
  • English Standard Version, ESV
  • Good News Bible, GNB
  • Jerusalem Bible, JB
  • King James Version, KJV
  • Living Bible, LB
  • New American Bible, NAB
  • New American Standard Bible, NASB
  • New English Bible, NEB
  • New International Version, NIV
  • New Living Translation, NLT
  • New King James Version, NKJV
  • New Revised Standard Version, NRSV
  • Revised Standard Version, RSV
  • Today’s New International Version, TNIV

biblical events

Capitalize biblically based and other religious events, such as the Creation, the Crucifixion, the Exodus, the Flood, the Resurrection, the Second Coming. Lowercase, however, when using these terms generically.

CORRECT: His sermon ranged widely, from Creation to Second Coming, hitting all the high points in between.

CORRECT: Many cultures have creation myths.

CORRECT: When one patron failed to obey the “No Smoking” sign, there was a general exodus in the direction of the parking lot.

See also I.religious events, concepts and doctrines.

Calvinism/ Calvinist

Capitalize the words Calvinism and Calvinist and other words referring to adherents of John Calvin’s teaching.

CORRECT: I think some local Calvinists would be surprised to learn that John Calvin isn’t Dutch, but French.

CORRECT: I don’t think “Calvinistical” is a word, but Webster’s includes "Calvinistically.”

Christmas/ X-mas

See I.holidays.2.

church

The word church is capitalized only when used in the name of a specific church or denomination. It is not capitalized when it stands alone or is used to denote the worldwide church or the church of a particular country.

CORRECT: The Old Time Methodist Church in Alto and the Tabernacle Community Church in Grand Rapids are two of the many churches that make up the church worldwide.

CORRECT: The Roman Catholic Church is well-established in that neighborhood.

denominations

Capitalize the full names of denominations.

CORRECT: Members of the local Methodist church also attended the clambake.

CORRECT: The African Methodist Episcopal Church holds weekly prayer meetings with members of the United Methodist Church.

See also I.religions.

evangelical/ evangelicalism/ fundamentalist/ fundamentalism

Lowercase the words evangelical and evangelicalism, fundamentalist and fundamentalism.

God/ god

1. Capitalize all of the names for the Christian God—including the names of members of the Trinity. Capitalize the names of the deities of other religions.

CORRECT: Yahweh is the Hebrew name for God.

CORRECT: Christians are baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

CORRECT: Islam serves Allah.

2. Capitalize both biblical and extra-biblical names for God: Adonai, Yahweh, the Supreme Being, the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, etc.

INCORRECT: She discussed the trinity in the context of monotheism.

CORRECT: She discussed the Trinity in the context of monotheism.

3. Capitalize the pronouns for deity, unless quoting a Bible version in which they are not capitalized.

CORRECT: We thank the Lord for His steadfast love.

See also Lord, lordship.

holidays

1. Capitalize the names of religious holidays and seasons.

CORRECT: “Christmas, Yom Kippur, Lent, Passover, Holy Week, Good Friday, Hanukkah, Ash Wednesday, Ramadan—lots of potential days off,” said the clever slacker, who was evasive about his actual beliefs.

2. Christmas/ X-mas

Do not abbreviate Christmas as X-mas.

CORRECT: Good Calvinists send Christmas cards, not X-mas cards, to those who send them holiday cards.

Koran/ Qur’an

Capitalize the names of sacred texts. The title Koran is interchangeable with Qur’an.

See also I.sacred texts.

Lord/ lordship

Capitalize Lord when referring to God. Lowercase lordship or other adjectival references.

CORRECT: I have placed my life under the lordship of Jesus Christ. Jesus is Lord.

See also I.God/god.3.

Mass

Capitalize Mass when it refers to the Eucharist.

Muhammad

Muhammad is the preferred spelling of the name referring to the founder of Islam.

Muslim

Muslim is the preferred spelling for the name referring to followers of Islam.

Reformed/ reforming

1. Capitalize the word Reformed in running text when referring to the Reformed tradition of Christianity.

INCORRECT: She is a reformed Christian.

CORRECT: She is a Reformed Christian, raised in the Reformed faith, who attends a Reformed church, and her recent book is a good example of Reformed thinking.

2. Do not capitalize the word reforming as in the phrase “always reforming.”

INCORRECT: Though always Reforming, he knew how to relax, too.

CORRECT: Though always reforming, he knew how to relax, too.

religions

1. Capitalize the names of major religions, their adherents and the adjectives derived from them: the Anglican Church, Anglicanism, Buddhist, Buddhism, Catholic, Catholicism, Confucian, Confucianism, Hindu, Hinduism, Judaism, Protestant, Protestantism, Roman Catholic Church, etc.

CORRECT: He was raised as a Catholic, but he really embraced Catholicism in his middle years.

2. Capitalize the names of denominations, communions, sects, religious movements as well as their adherents and the adjectives derived from them: the Amish, Baptist, Christian Science, Christian Scientist, Druid, Gnosticism, Sufism, etc.

CORRECT: Raised in an Amish community, the intrepid fellow investigated Druidism, the Church of Christ, Scientist, and Quakerism, finally settling among the Methodists.

See also I.denominations.

3. Capitalize both the historic and current official names of religious councils, synods, divisions and jurisdictions, but lowercase the words council, synod and the names of other such entities when they stand alone.

CORRECT: The Second Vatican Council is also called Vatican II.

INCORRECT: The Synod met in the Calvin Fine Arts Center this year, debated and voted on some stuff.

CORRECT: The Synod of the Christian Reformed Church, aka Synod 2006, met in the Calvin Fine Arts Center this year, debated and voted on some stuff.

religious events, concepts and doctrines

1. Capitalize religious events such as the Inquisition, the Diaspora, the Hegira. Lowercase, however, when using these terms generically.

CORRECT: Everyone in history class agreed that the Inquisition was shameful, even the Spanish majors.

CORRECT: The second trip to Woodstock began as something of a hegira for the aging hippie, though the hitchhiker he picked up turned it into something of an inquisition: “Did you meet Hendrix? How about Wavy Gravy?”

See also I.biblical events.

2. Lowercase the names of religious doctrines: the atonement, justification by faith, sanctification, original sin, transubstantiation.

INCORRECT: His defense of Justification was completely justifiable.

CORRECT: His defense of justification was completely justifiable.

25. religious titles

1. Capitalize a religious title when it precedes a name. Lowercase a religious title when it stands alone, when it follows the name or when it is used as a job description.

CORRECT: While enjoying their weekly 18 holes, Father Santos, Rabbi Gottesman, Imam Abdullah and Reverend Goodman discussed the fact that, together, they were the setup for a joke.

CORRECT: A priest, a rabbi, an imam and a Baptist minister were playing golf … .

See also titles,of persons.1 and titles,of persons.2.

2. Capitalize honorific titles attached to religious titles.

INCORRECT: A popular speaker, the right reverend Michael Homily, often began sermons with, “Let me be brief.”

CORRECT: A popular speaker, the Right Rev. Michael Homily, often began sermons with, “Let me be brief.”

See also See also I.the Reverend.

the Reverend

Reverend is both a title and an adjective, and the proper form of the address includes the article the preceding the title. Common usage, however, allows the use of reverend sans the the. Abbreviate the term Reverend as Rev. when used before a full name.

CORRECT: Reverend Jones’ wife, Grace, said grace, and then he preached on grace.

CORRECT: The Reverend Jones’ wife, Grace, said grace, and then he preached on grace.

CORRECT: The ceremony was performed by Reverend Homily in the chapel.

CORRECT: Rev. Thomas Homily performed the ceremony in the chapel.

sacraments/ services and rites

1. Capitalize the terms referring to the Lord’s Supper or Communion and its equivalents the Mass and Eucharist.

CORRECT: Raised both Lutheran and Catholic, Gerard Duo took awhile to understand that the Lord’s Supper and the Mass were different interpretations of the same sacrament.

2. Lowercase the names of religious services and rites.

CORRECT: Seder followed vespers, which followed bar mitzvah, which followed confirmation; it had been a long and ecumenical week.

See also I.baptism.

sacred texts

Capitalize, but do not italicize (as with book titles) all nouns referring to sacred texts: Apocrypha, Bhagavad Gita, Bible, Dead Sea Scrolls, Qur’an (Koran), Talmud. The adjectives derived from names of sacred texts are lowercased: apocryphal, biblical, scriptural, talmudic.

See also I.Apocrypha/apocryphal and I.Bible/biblical.

Saint/ St.

The word saint may be abbreviated both when referring to a religious figure or a locale.

CORRECT: The Saint Bernard traveled from St. Louis to St. Paul, tracking its owners to their new home.

CORRECT: St. Paul addressed more than one letter “to all the saints at,” which raises some interesting questions about the qualifications for sainthood.

scripture/ the scriptures/ scriptural

Lowercase the nouns scripture, the scriptures and the adjective scriptural.

See also I.Apocrypha/apocryphal and I.BIble/biblical.

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