People have questioned this author, “Why do you capitalize the word ‘God’ when virtually no-one else does? The scholars do not capitalize it. Authors who do so are simply expressing their ignorance and lack of sophistication. Even when the Neoplatonists are translated, they seem to only capitalize when it is referring to what they call ‘the One.’ If you look at the ancient Greek texts, you will discover that they also did not capitalize the word.”
Ancient Greek was originally all capital letters; the small case letters were the invention of the Alexandrian scholars, expanded in the Byzantine era. And yes, it is true that they did not capitalize the word θεός, nor any of its forms, and when the ancient texts are translated, the word θεός is never God with a capital G, but god with a small-case g, that is, with certain exceptions.
The Christians capitalize the word “god” out of respect for their deity, but there is more to this idea. The Christians, from the beginning, made a point of stating that, not only is their deity superior, but that this deity is the only true God. Thus, we have a type of religious zealotry. Scholars in the English language, for centuries, and until very recently, have been Christian, almost exclusively. Many of the scholars of the 19th century were even clerics. This being the case, it would be obvious why they would translate the word with a capital letter for their deity, but deliberately not do so for deities of other religions. Consequently, a convention has been established in the English language which favors one religion over all the others: if a deity exists, a word which refers to such a deity is capitalized, and it would be improper to begin such a word with a small-case letter, and that deity can only refer to the Christian god.
There are various reasons offered why the multiple Gods are not “worthy” of such treatment, largely because of literal interpretations of the mythology, but when deity is properly understood, every single God is worthy of the greatest veneration. There are a handful of scholars who understand the difference between the literal interpretation of mythology, and the actual meaning of these stories, but no scholar is going to translate θεός using a capital letter, regardless of the private beliefs of that scholar, because his or her work would not be taken seriously and accusations of loss of “scholarly distance” would be leveled at such a scholar.
In translations of Plato, you will find reference to God in the singular and, in such instances, the translators usually capitalize the first letter. Neoplatonists differentiate the One from the vast multitude of deities. When they use the capitalized word God, they seem to be referring to deity in general, or sometimes the Demiourgos, or sometimes even to τὸ Ἑν, “the One,” discriminating it from the deities. Therefore, the translators pick up this practice (I assume from centuries of texts and commentary on Christian authors) and apply it to texts of the various Platonic philosophers, who have interesting things in common with the Christian theologians.
So how can an author approach this subject? Well, to virtually every writer, the solution is very simple: don’t capitalize the word, but let us now reconsider. Some individuals propose that you should capitalize the word God only when it refers to Zeus, who is the highest (ὕπατος) of all deities, but that the other Gods are inferior. While there is some truth to this view, it is disrespectful of deities in general, who are free from the circle of births and have capabilities of the highest order.
Some people believe that capitalizing the word God is, simply, excessive, and that a resulting text looks strange or overly religious or fanatical; and, because a writer can extend the capitalization to a whole host of words, there is something to be said for this argument. Therefore, a balance must be found, and this author tends to minimize capitalization, restricting it mostly to this word only. However, since I am one of a very few writers who capitalize the word, it jumps out at the reader; it is not what the reader expects, but I say this is perfectly “okay.”
The purpose of this little essay is simply to explain why the present author capitalizes the word θεός for any God. I do so out of respect. I am perfectly aware that the scholars do not do so, and why they do not do so; their situation is completely different from mine. I am a religious author who never intends to teach at a university. While you will discover in my writing considerable content normally only found in scholastic books, ultimately, I speak from inside the religion, from a believer’s perspective, and, since I am a holder of this tradition, I would feel untrue to myself if I did not capitalize θεός for each and every deity, despite the fact that this practice has made me subject to ridicule. Regarding other writers from our religion, I do not walk in their shoes and, therefore, I do not judge them, but this is my answer to the queries I have received.
The story of the birth of the Gods: Orphic Theogony.
We know the various qualities of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology.
Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.
SPELLING: HellenicGods.org uses the Reuchlinian method of pronouncing ancient Greek, the system preferred by scholars from Greece itself. An approach was developed to enable the student to easily approximate the Greek words. Consequently, the way we spell words is unique, as this method of transliteration is exclusive to this website. For more information, visit these three pages:
Pronunciation of Ancient Greek
Transliteration of Ancient Greek
Pronouncing the Names of the Gods in Hellenismos
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