“holy Spirit”—what the H?

I just bought (er…invested in, at $146) , 2 vols. Washington, DC: Sheed & Ward and Georgetown University Press, 1990Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils.

It is an English translation with the original language on the opposing page. Great emphasis is placed on its being based on the best critical text of the Councils that scholarship has yet to provide.

To my surprise I noticed in the earlier councils the English translation used “holy Spirit”—note the lower case “h”—for the Holy Spirit. I was also irritated by the same usage in the latest NAB Bible. Check out Mt 28:19; 1 Cor 6:16, etc.) So paying all that money for a critical text, provided by objective scholarship, I found out the Latin given in Tanner is Spiritus sanctus. Hmmm.

Well, I thought, maybe that is the earlier usage in the Councils. After all this is the best critical text of the councils that scholarship has yet to provide. So I went to Vatican II in Tanner. Sure enough in these documents as well, say in Dei verbum #11, it uses “holy Spirit.” The creepy thing is Tanner makes the Latin again to be Spiritus sanctus even though the Latin typical text which I have of the documents (published by the Libreria Editrice Vaticana) uses Spiritus Sanctus.

What is going on here?

I don’t see any problem?

Literary styles have grown up in the way in which we express the various names for the Trinity on the printed page.

When writing a reference to Jesus, some will, for example, use “Him” where others will use “him”. I use it interchangeably - usually because my fingers type faster than my brain, although my preference is for ‘Him’ I don’t think there’s any hard and fast rule.

I think if I can understand what is written to mean something special like the Holy Spirit, with or without capitalisation, I wouldn’t get too worked up about it. If the content of the book is orthodox in its information, then literary styles are secondary.

Many things can be holy. It’s an adjective. It describes something sacred. You can have a holy chalice. A holy veil. The major point is the capitalize Spirit to indicate it is a proper name and not just a ‘spirit.’ I don’t see it as a problem.

But we can (and often do) refer to simply “the Spirit.” I think “Spirit” (“breath” in Greek, as in “breath of God”) is the actual name, and “holy” is simply a common (though completely superfluous) adjective which helps to distinguish the divine Spirit from others.

As bmullins mentioned, there is also inconsistency in the capitalization of divine pronouns. It seems to be done more in protestant writing.

Of course, the original Greek manuscripts (and Jerome’s Vulgate) would have been all uppercase, as minuscule fonts had not yet been invented. I think the Greek minuscule was invented because mathematicians were running out of symbols :wink:

Capital letters is an issue in the modern usage. There were no such thing as common usage of capital letters until the 9th century, and even then it was to start a sentence. That evolved from older manuscripts that had an ornate first letter of a page. The rules of the use of Capital Letters has changed and continues to change. I wouldn’t worry about “holy Spirit”. Pay attention to the rules of grammar at the time.

As some would warn to read beyond the individual words, I guess here we should read beyond the individual letter.

Like others are saying, Spirit is the title/name of the being, and “holy” is the adjective that describes or differentiate the Spirit from the spirits. We could just as correctly say “Holy Jesus” or “holy Jesus.”

As to capitalization change, yes, very much so. In the old United States Documents like the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution, almost every Noun is capitalized!

Well, it purports to provide a critical text that reproduces the original. Yet this is clearly not the case in the Docs of Vat II, where the Latin typical text is blatantly altered in this regard. Nor is it the case with the Latin texts on this subject from the medieval Ecumenical Councils. So, for starters, he has gone to significant pains to alter original-language texts, not reproduce them as he claims. That is intellectually dishonest.

Second, it is rather odd and suggestive that he would not just depart (for Lord knows what reason) from the standard English designation “Holy Spirit” when translating, but go on to write this back into the original-language text.

Third, it marks a departure from the customary and habitual designation for the Third Person of the Trinity going back over 1000 years.

Why go to the trouble? What is the point? This kind of consistent alteration and departure is not random. I want to know what is driving it.

Upon what do you base your assumption that it is not random? Or that “Holy Spirit” is the “standard” English designation?

Is there some commonly accepted (or even obscure and neglected) rule of grammar that you can cite?

Nothing “purports to reproduce the original” in font case - the originals (both Greek and Latin manuscripts) were entirely in uppercase. BUT NOBODY WANTS TO READ A LOT OF TEXT WRITTEN ENTIRELY IN UPPERCASE TODAY. On a forum such as this, it is considered “shouting” and is generally regarded as a violation of “netiquette.”

Translation is an inexact and ever-changing process (because language is ever-changing - compare the KJV to the NIV). When lowercase characters were finally invented, various translators incorporated them into their work. There are no “rules” that say whether the original “SPIRITUS SANCTUS” should be represented (in newly-invented lowercase characters) as “Spiritus Sanctus” or “Spiritus sanctus.” There are certainly no doctrinal standards within the Church that govern this.

So, yeah, I think it is perfectly reasonable to believe it is perfectly random - or, at least, subject to the opinion of whatever translator is producing the text, with no clearly defined rules or conventions.

I believe that even today, in German, nouns are capitalized and adjectives are not. So holy Spirit would be natural to someone who grew up learning to write in German. When such a person uses latin, I could see them using the same rule.

Spiritus – noun
sanctus – adjective

Spirit – noun
holy – adjective

Bear in mind I’m primarily talking about the original-language texts of conciliar decrees a critical text of which Tanner claims to provide.

Proper nouns and titles are capitalized; 1000 years of usage in Ecclesiastical Latin; hundreds of years of usage in English; and the fact that the original texts of the decrees of the Ecumenical Councils in question do capitalize the “H.” This calls for an explanation.

Nothing “purports to reproduce the original” in font case - the originals (both Greek and Latin manuscripts) were entirely in uppercase. BUT NOBODY WANTS TO READ A LOT OF TEXT WRITTEN ENTIRELY IN UPPERCASE TODAY. On a forum such as this, it is considered “shouting” and is generally regarded as a violation of “netiquette.”

Yes, in fact a critical text does purport to reproduce the autograph. The autographs of the decrees in question are not in uncial script (a caps). That was largely done away with in the years following Charlemagne. The Latin typical text of the Docs of Vat II use “Spiritus Sanctus” as does Trent and Lateran IV and prior to that. So again I ask why go through the trouble to consistently alter the original-language text? That can’t be random. A choice was made not to present what is there in the autograph. I want to know why. What is driving this?

Translation is an inexact and ever-changing process (because language is ever-changing - compare the KJV to the NIV). When lowercase characters were finally invented, various translators incorporated them into their work. There are no “rules” that say whether the original “SPIRITUS SANCTUS” should be represented (in newly-invented lowercase characters) as “Spiritus Sanctus” or “Spiritus sanctus.” There are certainly no doctrinal standards within the Church that govern this.

There is 1000 years of practice. An explanation for this departure in translation to say nothing of an alteration of an original-language text should be given.

so, yeah, I think it is perfectly reasonable to believe it is perfectly random - or, at least, subject to the opinion of whatever translator is producing the text, with no clearly defined rules or conventions.

So, no, it is not in the least reasonable to assume a deliberate and consistent alteration of the original-language text of an Ecumenical Council is random. I would like him to explain what the point is for his decision.

Capitalization is a convention and many publishers (particularly those who publish religious books) have their own sets of editorial rules that they follow in that regard. It is much simpler and easier for them to apply these rules across the board than pause to stop and consider every exception.

I wouldn’t call changing the capitalization “changing the text” anymore than I would call adding chapters and verses “changing the Bible.”

If that’s the only issue with the books, I would count them to be a worthy investment. :slight_smile:

I bet you mean anymore than I would call adding Chapter Numbers and Verse Numbers "changing the bible"

Adding some new chapters or verses might just upset 1/3 of the people in the world. :shrug:

Yeah, I definitely think the book is a worthwhile investment.

All language is a convention. And conventions develop and are established to convey meaning. Capitalization conveys meaning.

But there are no exceptions to “Spiritus Sanctus” that I know of in ecclesiastical documents for the last 800 years. And why go back and alter the Latin text of the Docs of Vat II? The Vatican web site manages to distinguish between the adjective “sanctus” and “Spiritus Sanctus”. The Sacramentary manages. The Lectionary manages. Denzinger manages. Ditto for the English Translations.

I just want to know why. Given that this started with the new NAB despite the fact that every other English translation that I have been exposed to uses “Holy Spirit” not “holy Spirit” as a title for the third Person of the blessed Trinity, I think there is some ideology or other point behind it. Why not be up front and state it? I think it is more than just random publishers’ policies. But . . . it’s not the end of the world.:slight_smile:

:blush: LOL. Yes, that’s what I meant.

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