Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God Sabaoth!
One wonders if the reference to the Lord God of Hosts in the Sanctus may not have been a subtle reference to Jesus' statement after his triumphant entry into Jerusalem but before his crucifixion (which is just where the Preface intends to place us liturgically) when, at his arrest at the Garden of Gethsemane, he told his apostles that he could have called at once to his Father who would have placed at this disposal more the twelve legions of angels from the angelic armies or hosts at his command? (Matt. 26:53)
In the Latin (as well as in the Greek liturgies) another Hebrew word is part of the Sanctus, and that is the word Sabaoth (צבאות). A favorite of the Jewish prophets, particularly Jeremiah and Isaiah, it is a title of majesty and power and authority that is applied to God, YHWH Sabaoth.
The word Sabaoth is a directly transliteration of the Hebrew word tsebha'oth, a word meaning "armies" or, to use a rather more obsolete word for the same thing, "hosts." The English word host (meaning army) comes from the Old French word host itself derived from the Medieval Latin hostis, both of which mean army.
Sabaoth is a common word in the Bible, used to refer to God approximately 282 times in the Old Testament, particularly in the prophetic books such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah, Haggai, and Malachi.
Curiously, it is not used to refer to God in the first five books of the bible, which are referred to as the Pentateuch. Nor does its use in reference to God occur in the Book of Joshua or Judges. It appears for the first time in reference to God in the first Book of Samuel (1 Sam. 1:3). It also appears rarely in the Psalms as referring to God.
As we noted in our prior article, the word Sabaoth enters the Sanctus, and hence our liturgy, as a direct quotation of Isaiah 6:3: "Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God of Hosts (צבאות=Sabaoth), all the earth is full of his glory."
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus
Dominus Deus Sabaoth
Pleni sunt caeli et terra gloria tua
We also see it in the ancient prayer called the Te Deum:
Tibi omnes angeli,
tibi caeli et universae potestates:
tibi cherubim et seraphim,
incessabili voce proclamant:
"Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dominus Deus Sabaoth.
Pleni sunt caeli et terra maiestatis gloriae tuae."
To you all the angels,
and to you all the heavenly powers:
to you the cherubim and seraphim
sing with an unending voice:
"Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Sabaoth.
Heaven and earth are full of the majesty of your glory."
In the New Testament, the word Sabaoth is transliterated (and not translated) in two passages: Romans 9:29 ("And as Isaiah predicted: 'Unless the Lord of Hosts [Σαβαὼθ, Sabaoth] had left us descendants, we would have become like Sodom and have been made like Gomorrah.'") and James 5:4 ("Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of Hosts [Sabaoth].")
The Jewish-sponsored translation of the Greek New Testament (Septuagint) inherited by the early Christians sometimes transliterates the word as, for example, in 1 Samuel 1:3 or Isaiah 6:3; 37:16 (using σαβαωθ, sabaoth, rather than a translation).
In some places, however, the Septuagint translates the word sabaoth literally as "armies" or "hosts," for example Deuteronomy 20:9 where the word sabaoth is translated literally to refer to "armies" or "hosts" (στρατιᾶς [stratias]) of Israel. But clearly, the use of this term is not in reference to God.
In other places, the Septuagint translates the term sabaoth not as "armies" or "hosts," but as "Almighty" (δυνάμεων = dynameon), as, for example in 2 Samuel 6:2. Sometimes, the Septuagint translates the word sabaoth as "Ruler of All" (παντοκράτωρ = pantokrator), as, for example in 2 Sam. 5:10 or Amos 5:15, 16.
All this seems to indicate that the Jewish translators understood the term Sabaoth (literally armies) was used only in an analogical sense when used of YHWH, and was meant as a title that evoked God's heavenly power and command over the armies or hosts of angels and spiritual beings at his disposal, the stars, and indeed all creation.
In the original ICEL English translation (1973) of the Novus Ordo Mass, the word Sabaoth in the Sanctus was loosely and not particularly ...
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