Most English translations captialize "Holy Ghost".

Which is true:

  • The original Greek capitalized it too.
  • The original Greek capitalized proper nouns, but not these.
  • The original Greek didn't capitalize proper nouns.

The last two would imply that the English capitalization is due to the Trinitarian beliefs of the translators.

Added clarification: By "capitalization" I don't necessarily mean literal capital letters, but any equivalent textual convention that identifies proper nouns (e.g. "John Baker's father was a baker." would be ambiguous without the B/b distinction).

2 Answers 2


The earliest Greek manuscripts up to at least the 6th century use all capital letters and were known as "uncial" or "majuscule" manuscripts. However, the 6th century saw the first signs of the early development of miniscule script that was fully developed by about the 9th century. It is only in this later miniscule manuscripts that there is any distinction between capital and lower case letters. Between the 6th and 9th centuries, manuscripts were produced in both forms in different places.

For the sacred proper names like "God", "Jesus", "Messiah", "Spirit", "Lord", "Father" and a few others, there was a practice dating from the very earliest manuscripts of the second century a system of abbreviation showing that the words represented sacred proper names. Here are a few. The abbreviation was highlighted by an overbar drawn atop the letters (not reproduced below). These were known as "nomina sacra".

God -> Θεός -> ΘΣ

Lord -> Κύριος -> ΚΣ

Jesus -> Ἰησοῦς - ΙΣ

Spirit/Ghost -> Πνεῦμα -> ΠΝΑ

Savior -> Σωτήρ -> ΣΗΡ

Thus, if we follow the earliest manuscripts (at a time before the formal doctrine of Trinitarianism/Arianism/Modalism/etc even developed) we see that the word "Sprit" in numerous places was regarded as sacred.

For more information see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nomina_sacra

In modern translations since about 1960, capitalisation of "Holy Spirit" is more restrained than in the earliest manuscripts.

The Greek phrase "pneuma hagios" (= Holy Spirit) occurs 90 times in the NT. Here are the first few: Matt 1:18, 20, 3:11, 12:32, 28:19, Mark 1:8, 3:29, 12:36, 13:11, Luke 1:15, 35, 41, 67, 2:25, 26, 3:16, 22, etc. (The writer Luke uses this phrase more than any other NT author and more than all other NT authors combined.)

  • I see from the wiki article that about 20 manuscripts have nomina sacra for the word "spirit", maybe half of all manuscripts with nomina sacra. I would like to see more about the importance of these manuscripts, but am totally unqualified to investigate further.
    – Bit Chaser
    Commented Mar 8, 2019 at 18:13
  • What would you like to know? How can we help?
    – user43409
    Commented Mar 8, 2019 at 18:58
  • The Nomina Sacra wikipedia article includes "Spirit", but it also includes "Cross/Stake", "Jerusalem", and "Heaven". So while implying an instance with special significance for each word, it doesn't necessarily imply that the word refers to a person, which was my unstated, but I suspect obvious, original reason for my question. Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 3:09
  • That is true but not entirely. The earlier MSS only has Nomina Sacra for Deity but the practice, in SOME MSS spread to other things as you have suggested. Further, look carefully at which they abbreviate - sometimes "spirit" does NOT get abbreviated.
    – user43409
    Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 10:17

Actually none of the above. The original Greek manuscripts were written in all capital letters. The minuscule script (which evolved into the Greek lowercase) was developed only during the 9th-10th centuries.

Capitalising "Holy Ghost" does not imply Trinitarian theology, all it says is that the translators think it is a proper noun. There are many theological positions which would identify "Holy Ghost/Spirit" as a proper noun without accepting Nicene or Chalcedonian Trinitarian theology, such as gnosticism, modalism, Arianism, Mormonism, and many more.

  • 1
    The publications of Jehovah's Witnesses don't capitalize "holy spirit" unless they're referring to the Trinitarian practice of doing so.
    – user32540
    Commented Jan 16, 2019 at 2:17
  • @4castle Would it still be recognised as a proper noun though? Anyway, I'll edit out the JW just to keep it straight forward. Thanks.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Jan 16, 2019 at 2:22
  • 1
    I can't find an article specifically discussing whether it can be a proper noun, so I can only speak from personal experience and belief. Generally the answer is no, though I could imagine someone could formulate a sentence that would make it a proper noun (though it probably still wouldn't be capitalized to avoid misunderstandings).
    – user32540
    Commented Jan 16, 2019 at 2:32
  • The Nestle-Aland edition, which is very accurate in any detail, has Sanctus Spiritus in Novum Testamentum Latine, but ἅγιον πνεῦμα in Novum Testamentum Graece. Commented Jan 16, 2019 at 8:21
  • 1
    @PietroMajer NA is an edited text which generally follows modern conventions. It doesn't try to present either the capitalisation or punctuation of the early manuscripts.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Jan 16, 2019 at 8:30

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