Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

3/12/2013 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

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) 

Highlights

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

3/12/2013 (2 years ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: Sabaoth, Sabbath, ICEL, Sanctus, Andrew M. Greenwell


CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - In our last article on the series Tres Sacrae Linguae we explored the word Hosanna, a Hebrew word with which Catholic worshipers are familiar because it is recited twice in that last prayer of the Preface to the Eucharistic Prayer or Canon of the Mass, the Sanctus.

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 well-translated "of power and might"  (i.e., the translated prayer was Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord / God of Power and Might.) 

Probably, the intent of the translators at the time was to avoid the martial implications if the literal translation "armies" was used, and the word "hosts" was seen as too obsolete to be warranted.  But because of ICEL's choice, it was impossible, based upon the translated prayer alone, to understand its intense Scriptural connection to the Old Testament prophets' reference as titular.  The image was further weakened by the use of abstract terms power and might (instead of the concrete word "armies").  And the translation was just plainly inaccurate, and liturgically muddled.

For example, one wonders if the reference to the Lord God of Hosts in this prayer 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) 

Was Jesus identifying himself with YHWH Sabaoth at his arrest and before his passion which we re-present in an unbloody manner on our Catholic altars?  Are we to recall this during the Preface?  It would seem so.  But the translation "God of power and might" in lieu of God of Armies or God of Hosts or God Sabaoth seems to lose this linkage.

Because the old ICEL translation suffered from problems, the new ICEL translation translates the word Sabaoth more accurately into "Hosts."  One supposes that the more obsolete word "Hosts" was used to avoid using the military and hence violent connotations that would arise had the equally valid word "Armies" been used.

Curiously, the translators could have elected to use the word Sabaoth without translation (as had the Latin original they were translating), but they opted against it. 

Perhaps the translators were worried about popular confusion of a relatively unknown Sabaoth with the well-known Sabbath, an entirely unrelated Hebrew word. 

Such a concern is understandable.  Indeed, even Shakespeare (or his typesetter) confused the two when, in the Second Quarto manuscript of the "Merchant of Venice" (IV.1), Shylock the Jew says:

And by our holy Sabaoth have I sworn
To have the due and forfeit of my bond.


Shylock, of course, would have sworn by the Jew's holy Sabbath, and not by the holy armies of Jewry.  Similarly, Walter Scott was also confused when, in his famous novel Ivanhoe, he refers to "the grains of a week, aye, the space between two Sabaoths."  It is doubtful that the Scotsman intended to refer to two armies.

The confusion between Sabaoth and Sabbath trapped even the erudite Samuel Johnson who, in the First Edition (1755) of his famous Dictionary of the English Language, identified Sabbath and Sabaoth as being different versions of the same word.  (It was corrected in later editions.)

As a final word, we might mention that the translation of Sabaoth into "Hosts" does not remove all possibility of misunderstanding.

There is some misunderstanding that could creep in as a result of the translator's use of the word "Hosts" to translate the Hebrew Sabaoth, and that comes from Catholic's use of the word "host" in another sense, specifically meaning the Eucharist. 

The words "Hosts" as used in the Sanctus does not refer to the "Host" as used in reference to the Holy Eucharist.  The word "Host" as we use in the Holy Eucharist comes from Latin hostia, which means sacrificial victim.  We use it in Latin, for example, when we sing the hymn: O Salutaris Hostia, whose opening lines mean O Saving Victim.  It is an entirely different word from the Latin word hostis (armies), from which the word Hosts as used in the English translation of the Sanctus is derived.

-----

Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas.  He is married with three children.  He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum.  You can contact Andrew at agreenwell@harris-greenwell.com.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for July 2015
Universal:
That political responsibility may be lived at all levels as a high form of charity.
Evangelization: That, amid social inequalities, Latin American Christians may bear witness to love for the poor and contribute to a more fraternal society.



Comments


More Living Faith

Catholic priest who blessed atomic bomb crews -- and his conversion

Image of

By Tony Magliano

Seventy years ago, on August 6, 1945, the single most destructive weapon ever unleashed upon human beings and the environment - the atomic bomb - was dropped by an American B-29 bomber on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, killing approximately 80,000 people. Three days ... continue reading


Pastor Tullian Tchividjian breaks his silence: Admits life felt like a bad dream after recent affair scandal Watch

Image of Pastor Tullian Tchividjian is the grandson of famous evangelist Billy Graham,

By Linky C. (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Ex-Pastor Tullian Tchividjian of the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida broke his silence after his recent moral failure admission and stepping down from his post. Billy Graham's grandson wrote an open letter to his supporters and friends, ... continue reading


Pope Francis warns of 'genocide' as Christian Persecution increases globally Watch

Image of

By Nikky Andres (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Christians all over the world are suffering from increasing prejudice and persecution. It is no secret that Islamic extremism and repressive governments are trying hard to perpetuate the oppression of Christianity. Pope Francis has been moved to warn of "a form of ... continue reading


'Let Jesus satisfy your hunger for God': Pope Francis encourages people to make offers to God Watch

Image of Pope Francis reflected on the Sunday reading from the Gospel of John in which a vast crowd follows Jesus, but lacks enough food to eat.

By CNA/EWTN News

Jesus Christ's miraculous multiplication of the loaves shows that he offers "fullness of life for hungry man," Pope Francis said Sunday. He encouraged everyone to offer what little they have to God so that God can multiply their gifts and good deeds. Vatican ... continue reading


What to wear to church: What's more important, physical or inner beauty? Watch

Image of

By Hannah Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Wearing your best outfit or putting on a little makeup in preparation for Church isn't too looked down upon. A leading Christian writer shared with Crosswalk.com what she has realized over years of church participation. Although she loves beautiful clothes and make-up, ... continue reading


'Nothing can separate me from the love of God': The first American Ebola patient shares his profound realization on deathbed Watch

Image of

By Atarah Haely (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

He was the first American who contracted the deadly Ebola virus - fearful and sick, Dr. Kent Brantly came to realize something important for Christians and their relationship with God. Amid the pain and moments of uncertainty, from being diagnosed positive with ... continue reading


J. Matt Barber: The Meaning of Life

Image of Matt Barber is founder and editor-in chief of BarbWire.com. He is an author, columnist, cultural analyst and an attorney concentrating in constitutional law.

By J. Matt Barber

So this was rock bottom. The day, which yet again wore into night with fast food and old Bonanza reruns, would end like all the rest. Where were my car keys? As I searched in preparation for another trip to the liquor store, I made my way to my bedroom and opened ... continue reading


'There is no hope, no life, no hope for an end': 'Donor fatigue' setting in among those helping Christians in Middle East fleeing ISIS Watch

Image of Refugees now realize that they will be unable to return to their homes in Iraq or Syria.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

With no end in sight, "donor fatigue" is setting in for those trying to help Middle Eastern Christians fleeing ISIS. There appears to be no solutions, only increasing refugees and more need. The refugees' situation is only getting worse. Refugees now realize ... continue reading


Giant cross at veteran memorial to stay standing with game-changing agreement made Watch

Image of

By Atarah Haely (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Legal battle over the issue of a giant cross standing over a veterans' memorial has been a long and tedious fight, but an agreement may now put it all to rest, keeping the monument on the land. Atheists and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have filed legal ... continue reading


A MIRACLE? Virgin Mary painting caught on tape moving lips along with the Lord's Prayer (VIDEO) Watch

Image of

By Nikky Andres (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The lips on a painted image of the Virgin Mary, on display at the St. Charbels Church in New South Wales, Australia, were reportedly witnessed moving along with the reading of the Lord's Prayer. MUNTINLUPA, PHILIPPINES (Catholic Online) - The video featuring the Virgin ... continue reading


All Living Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Numbers 12:1-13
1 Miriam, and Aaron too, criticised Moses over the ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 51:3-4, 5-6, 6-7, 12-13
3 For I am well aware of my offences, my sin is ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 14:22-36
22 And at once he made the disciples get into the ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for August 4th, 2015 Image

St. John Vianney
August 4: St. John Vianney, Priest (Patron of priests) Feast day - August ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter