Pop quiz for GetReligion readers: Without checking your handy-dandy Associated Press Stylebook, pick the proper journalistic style for the following terms:
1. Is it Scripture or scripture when referring to religious writings of the Bible?
2. Is it Bible or bible when referring to the aforementioned writings?
3. Is it Mass or mass when referring to the Catholic religious observance?
I'll provide the answers soon, but all three questions figure in a Wall Street Journal report today on tearful farewells at Roman Catholic churches in New York:
Parishioners of the Roman Catholic Church of All Saints in Harlem openly wept at Mass on Sunday as the sounds of the choir lifted up to the soaring ceilings.
Rosalind Maybank, president of the usher board, broke into tears as she thanked congregants for spending one last Sunday “with your family.”
“It’s very hard, but the love that we share among each other will always be with us no matter where we go, whatever church we go to,” said Ms. Maybank, 68 years old, as sunlight poured in through the stained-glass windows. “Family is always together, forever.”
The final Sunday services for thousands of area parishioners marked another step in the broad, controversial reorganization of the Archdiocese of New York parishes. Across a region stretching from Staten Island to the Catskills, 368 parishes are set to merge into 294, effective Aug. 1.
The WSJ story prompted this very GetReligion-esque note from a friend:
It's an interesting piece in several different ways. But I have to admit that one thing that really stuck out to me was the description of a parishioner who had taught "bible classes" for years. Later, the article refers to "Scripture." It seems like the new rule is that when "bible" is an adjective, it's spelled with the lower-case "b." Is that a thing now? If so, when did that happen?
Here's the relevant section of the story:
At a packed Mass for Spanish-speakers at Holy Rosary Church in East Harlem, parishioners described the church as a home away from home, where generations of baptisms and first communions took place.
Dominick Dicerto, 83, started attending Mass at Holy Rosary in 1957, taught bible classes for three decades and produced the church’s weekly newsletter. He and many other parishioners plan to move to Our Lady of Mount Carmel three blocks away, rather than their new appointed parish, St. Paul, which is farther away.
He was saddened by the move but cited Scripture for inspiration.
“If the Israelites traveled 40 years in the desert, how can we complain about walking to 116th Street?” Mr. Dicerto said. “It’s not about the building. It’s about the faith.”
You'll note that the Journal got two out of three questions right: Mass and Scripture are both proper AP style.
But the AP Stylebook — known as the journalist's bible — calls for uppercasing Bible in this case. The specific stylebook entry:
Capitalize, without quotation marks, when referring to the Scriptures in the Old Testament or the New Testament. Capitalize also related terms such as the Gospels, Gospel of St. Mark, the Scriptures, the Holy Scriptures.
Lowercase biblical in all uses.
Lowercase bible as a nonreligious term: My dictionary is my bible.
Do not abbreviate individual books of the Bible.
Old Testament is a Christian designation; Hebrew Bible or Jewish Bible is the appropriate term for stories dealing with Judaism alone.
The standard names and order of Old Testament books as they appear in Protestant Bibles are: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi.
Jewish Bibles contain the same 39 books, in different order. Roman Catholic Bibles follow a different order, usually use some different names and include the seven Deuterocanonical books (called the Apocrypha by Protestants): Tobit, Judith, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch.
The books of the New Testament, in order: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Jude, Revelation.
Citation listing the number of chapter and verse(s) use this form: Matthew 3:16, Luke 21:1-13, 1 Peter 2:1.
So what happened in this case? Why did the WSJ refer to "bible classes" instead of the proper "Bible classes?"
In some cases, newspapers — particularly large ones such as the WSJ — adopt their own, different style rules. I suppose that's a possibility in this case. However, a quick Google search finds that the WSJ consistently used "Bible study group" in reporting on the Charleston, S.C., church shooting.
So my guess is that this lowercase "bible" simply slipped by an editor on deadline. Perhaps the reporter or editor — or both — confused the different rules on "Bible" and "biblical" as adjectives.
Of course, this isn't the first time this same question has come up at GetReligion. Even more often, we're seeing references to lowercase "god" (this was the case in that stunning Gawker piece that tmatt wrote about last week).
"Is that a thing now?" my friend asked, concerning the lowercase "b" in Bible.
At this point, I don't think so.
Then again, you might ask me again next week and see if my answer has changed.