Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

3/12/2013 (1 year 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 (1 year 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'


2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for October 2014
Peace:
That the Lord may grant peace to those parts of the world most battered by war and violence.
World Mission Day: That World Mission Day may rekindle in every believer zeal for carrying the Gospel into all the world.



Comments


More Living Faith

Christians shouldn't badmouth others, Pope warns Watch

Image of People are

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Speaking at his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square this week, Pope Francis says that Christians must set a good example lest they drive people away into atheism. "How many times we've heard in our neighborhoods, 'Oh that person over there always goes ... continue reading


'Structural causes' of poverty must be dismantled, Pope tells activists Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In a wide-ranging speech to activists, Pope Francis urged the gathered to join the fight against the "structural causes" of poverty and inequality, calling for a "revolutionary" program drawn from the Gospels. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "The poor no ... continue reading


God's existence does not contradict the discoveries of science, Pope Francis says Watch

Image of The pontiff reassured that the Big Bang theory, as well as the theory of evolution do not eliminate the existence of God.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

God remains the one who set all of creation into motion, Pope Francis told the Pontifical Academy of Sciences this week. The pontiff reassured that the Big Bang theory, as well as the theory of evolution do not eliminate the existence of God. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


Yesterday's Faith is Not Enough: How We Can Overcome Pride Watch

Image of Monks in prayer

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

Jesus continued to do what the Father had sent Him to do, in spite of opposition from apparently religious people. We are invited to follow his example. He will give us the grace to do so, if we ask Him. St Josemaria Escriva used a phrase to refer to the kind of ... continue reading


Christian rapper comes out of the closet --as straight Watch

Image of Jackie Hill-Perry is living testament to the power of God to change those who are willing to accept Him.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Christian rapper, Jackie Hill-Perry has come out of the closet --as straight. Hill-Perry says she experienced gender confusion after being sexually abused as a child and sought same-sex relationships until she says God helped her to change for the better. LOS ANGELES, ... continue reading


Every Christian is 'to create unity in the Church,' Pope Francis declares Watch

Image of This creating of unity in the Church, the Pope said, recounting the reading from Saint Paul to the Philippians,

By CNA/EWTN News

In his homily for Mass at the Santa Marta residence on Oct. 24, Pope Francis reflected on the call of Christians to perpetuate unity in the Church by being "living stones" built upon the "cornerstone of Christ." Vatican City (CNA/EWTN News) - This creating of ... continue reading


Abolish death penalty and life imprisonment, Pope Francis declares Watch

Image of The Vatican recently eliminated life imprisonment from its own penal code, Pope Francis noted.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Calling for the abolition of the death penalty as well as life imprisonment, Pope Francis soundly denounced what he called a "penal populism." The world's prescribed cure for crime - punishment, should never overtake the pursuit for social justice, he says. LOS ... continue reading


Making a Difference - Newly beatified pope championed justice and peace

Image of Pope Paul VI addresses the UN during his 1965 appeal for peace.

By Tony Magliano

With numerous armed conflicts raging in various parts of the world, and the Vietnam War worsening, Pope Paul VI on Oct. 4, 1965 proclaimed before the U.N. General Assembly: "No more war, war never again. It is peace, peace which must guide the destinies of peoples and ... continue reading


'War does not begin in the battlefield. Wars begin in the heart,' Pope Francis says Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Speaking at his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis addressed the topic of war. With the majority of the world engaged in some sort of battle, and it's up to the individual to realize that major conflicts begin with little things. LOS ... continue reading


Finding the Path to Peace Through Forgiveness Watch

Image of For he (Jesus) is our peace, he made both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his Flesh, abolishing the law with its commandments and legal claims, that he might create in himself one new person in place of the two, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile both with God, in one Body, through the cross, putting that enmity to death by it. He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near, for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father- St Paul

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

In 1999 I was a part of Project Reconciliation led by a true peacemaker, paralyzed police officer Detective Steven McDonald. This trip was a part of Steven McDonald's mission of preaching peace through forgiveness. It had the goal of helping to heal the wounds ... 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, Ephesians 6:10-20
10 Finally, grow strong in the Lord, with the ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 144:1, 2, 9-10
1 [Of David] Blessed be Yahweh, my rock, who trains ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 13:31-35
31 Just at this time some Pharisees came up. 'Go ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 30th, 2014 Image

St. Alphonsus Rodriguez
October 30: Confessor and Jay brother, also called Alonso. He was born in ... 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