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 March 2015
Universal:
Scientists: That those involved in scientific research may serve the well-being of the whole human person.
Evangelization: Contribution of women: That the unique contribution of women to the life of the Church may be recognized always.



Comments


More Living Faith

5 excellent tips on how to read the Bible Watch

Image of

By Hannah Raissa Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Bible is one of the most popular published books ever written in the history of life, but also one of the hardest to read and understand. Unlike most books published today, the Bible contains a lot of statements that are full of dates, metaphors and written to ... continue reading


Unholy political positions in the Holy Land Watch

Image of

By Tony Magliano

As the minds and hearts of Christians throughout the world focus on the suffering, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus, we naturally think of the Holy Land. Throughout much of history, in the land where the world's savior taught human beings to love one another as ... continue reading


200 Christian teachers denied day off for Good Friday Watch

Image of The 2014-2015 school years are the first time in recent memory that officials scheduled classes during both Good Friday and the Jewish holidays.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A Rhode Island school district is being sued over the claim that 200 Christian teachers were denied requests to take Good Friday off from work. The teacher's union claims that the decision denies educators the two religious days that they are afforded in their ... continue reading


For the first time in over 150 years -- Blood of St. Januarius liquefies during Francis' visit to Naples Watch

Image of According to legend, Januarius was allegedly born in Benevento to a rich patrician family that traced its descent to the Caudini tribe of the Samnites.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

For the first time in over 150 years, the blood of St. Januarius liquefied in the presence of a pope this past weekend. The phenomenon occurred when Pope Francis visited Naples this past weekend. It was the first time the blood liquefied in the presence of a ... continue reading


Church to Canonize Mom and Dad of St Therese, Show the Holiness of Christian Marriage Watch

Image of Pictured: Louis and Zelie Martin, the Mom and Dad of St Therese
For those called to live their Christian life in a consecrated Christian marriage, it is in the domestic church where progress in the spiritual life finds its raw material. The question we face every day becomes whether we live Christian marriage and family as a Christian vocation by responding to grace.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Louis and Zelie married in France in 1858. They had nine children. Five entered a consecrated or religious life in the Church. We have 218 letters which were written by Zelie.  They record the naturally supernatural pattern of a very real, human and devout ... continue reading


Drinking the Chalice of the Lord: Facing Suffering, Struggle and Failure Watch

Image of All of those who bear the name Christian are invited to follow the path of Jesus' struggle, to walk along with Him on the way of His rejection. We too are invited to climb the mountain of His great saving act of unmerited selfless Divine love. Golgotha beckons.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

James was the son of Zebedee and brother of John. From faithful stock, we see in this encounter that some forms of zeal may indeed be genetic. In fact, the zeal in both of these brothers caused the Lord to name them the Sons of Thunder.(Mk 3:14-17) However, human ... continue reading


7 endangering myths Christians believe about other Christians Watch

Image of

By Hannah Raissa Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Disheartening isn't it? But it has been observed that Christians are divided among themselves. This is not what God wanted, as expressed by the writings in the Scriptures. However, there are some issues between the believers that makes them not united as they should ... continue reading


Josephs Way: Joseph, Husband of Mary, Model for Christian Men Watch

Image of The Dream of Joseph led to the response of a life given over to God

By Deacon Keith Fournier

In an age that has lost its way, because it has succumbed to the selfish pursuit of illusory pleasure, Joseph needs to be lifted up as a model for men who truly want to follow Jesus Christ. It is time for Christian men to follow his example, and become men again. ... continue reading


Pope tells Nigeria's bishops to form united front against terror group Boko Haram Watch

Image of In addition to addressing various issues, the Pope praised Nigeria, with a population of more than 170 million people, and has experienced strong economic growth.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

As the emerging African economic powerhouse of Nigeria takes to the polls, Pope Francis, in a stirring message, has urged the country's bishops to build a united front against the Boko Haram terrorist group. Pope Francis' comments came in a letter to the ... continue reading


The way of the cross

Image of

By Tony Magliano

Writing a column on social justice and peace offers me plenty of timely issues to choose from. And I always truly sense from God the exact issue he desires that I write on. I'm not claiming here any special revelation. God's active, guiding presence is available to ... 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, Jeremiah 20:10-13
10 I heard so many disparaging me, 'Terror on every ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 18:2-3, 3-4, 5-6, 7
2 Yahweh is my rock and my fortress, my deliverer is ... Read More

Gospel, John 10:31-42
31 The Jews fetched stones to stone him,32 ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for March 27th, 2015 Image

St. Rupert
March 27: Bishop and missionary, also listed as Robert of Hrodbert. A ... 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