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"The Bible" is typically used to refer to the collection of holy books of the Christian faith. It's a proper noun and it gets capitalised.

However, "bible" can also be used as a common noun, in sentences like "TAOCP is a programmer's bible", meaning some kind of an extensive and comprehensive manual. In that case it is not capitalised.

What about when it is used in phrases that refer to the holy texts of various religions (or cults, or whatever), like "the Christian Bible", "the Hebrew Bible", "the Discordian Bible"? Should those be capitalised?

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  • Per standard practice, when it's (part of) a "proper noun" it's capitalised. In more general "figurative" contexts like This book should be the programmer's bible, it's not. To a first approximation, "the Hebrew Bible" and "the Satanic Bible" are recognised texts, so they're effectively proper nouns. – FumbleFingers Mar 3 '15 at 17:40
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    But is "Discordian Bible" a proper noun phrase? The name of the Discordian bible is not "Bible" or anything like it. (I removed "the Satanic Bible" because "The Satanic Bible" is the exact title and thus doesn't matter here) – R. Martinho Fernandes Mar 3 '15 at 17:42
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    I'd never heard of the "Discordian Bible" before. Google Books claims to have 95 written instances, but I can only see the actual text in two of them (one capitalised, the other not). Nevertheless, if it's credible to use it as an "alternative title" for Principia Discordia, I guess that makes it a proper noun. – FumbleFingers Mar 3 '15 at 17:50
  • I know I sound like an annoying five-year-old now, but why would "the Discordian Bible" become a proper noun, and not "the Discordian holy book"? Or... would it? – R. Martinho Fernandes Mar 3 '15 at 17:51
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    I think it would be stretching a point to say that something as "larky" as Principia Discordia (originally published under the title "Principia Discordia or How The West Was Lost" in a limited edition of five copies in 1965) was actually a "religious text". So unless you're happy with the idea that you could go to your local bookseller and say "Have you got a copy of the Discordian Bible?", you should probably assume it's a figurative usage, and thus not capitalised. – FumbleFingers Mar 3 '15 at 18:00
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The Christian Bible is two separate capitalization issues. The adjective Christian and the name of the holy document, the Bible. By convention, this text is not put in italics, nor are any of its books. The Book of Job, for instance.

The Hebrew Bible would be up for interpretation because Jews do not refer to their document as such. The Torah is clearly capitalized, as is The Five Books of Moses. I wrote a religious drama a while back and was not corrected for using lower case b in this particular example.

The Vatican Press does not capitalize he or him when referring to God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit. Writers at this point should be cognizant of convention in their audience. Holy Communion, stations of the cross, Mass, Confession, the Sh'ma, and the Last Supper are some more examples.

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  • Of late English authors have not typically kowtowed to the Vatican. – Hot Licks Jan 30 '16 at 14:02
  • Ha, ha! Right? Just an example of a large religious body not using such capitalization. I went to a synagogue last night, which in and of itself is a miracle, and He, Him, and You were capitalized within the English translation. However, the transliteration only capitalized Adonai, "Lord," which is the important one. – Stu W Jan 30 '16 at 15:51
  • Oh, and the Hebrew language doesn't have lower case. – Stu W Jan 30 '16 at 15:57
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Yes - "Christian Bible" should be capitalised. Because the Bible is the name of a book - i.e. its title - it is a proper noun. However, "bible" can, as you mentioned, be used as a noun. In that sort of a situation it is not the name of a book but rather a "description" of it, thus it not requiring a capital letter.

"Bible" may also be capitalised as a sign of respect for God and Jesus, similar to the way some sources will capitalise "him" when referring to God. This, however, has been a question of style ever since the presence of the Bible due to the lack of capital letters in the Hebrew language.

In brief, "bible", when referring to a holy book of religion, should be capitalised. When "bible" is referring to a book of great usefulness, it is not capitalised.

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  • Could the downvoter please offer a suggestion? – Dog Lover Apr 17 '15 at 0:46
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    The downvoter should also explain why both the Torah and Koran (or Qu'ran) are commonly capitalized, but the Bible (as a religious text) should not be. – WhatRoughBeast Apr 17 '15 at 2:15
  • I gave you your vote back, Dog, but the issue was probably regarding the statement of the Hebrew language. Although true, the Greeks were the first to translate from the Hebrew scrolls. Ancient Greek doesn't have lower case either. You know this site is tough on talking out of your arse. – Stu W Nov 29 '15 at 22:48
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Nouns concerning religion are capitalized, especially words for God, the names of religions and their adjectives: the Lord, the Almighty, Paradise,the Bible, Christianity, a Christian, Protestanism, a Protestant service, a Roman Catholic church (source: my old school grammar).

There are a lot of web-sites about capital letters on the Internet, but words concerning religion are mostly forgotten. Nothing is perfect.

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