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God of Hosts

posted Nov 5, 2011, 8:23 AM by Unknown user   [ updated Nov 5, 2011, 8:24 AM ]

As we begin singing some of the new translation of the Roman Missal, Third Edition, the only textual difference from our current version of the Sanctus is that “God of power and might” now becomes “God of hosts”.  This is almost exactly the same as it was in the 1960’s, prior to the last translation.

The word “hosts” refers to a great gathering or multitude, and speaks here of God’s command over the heavenly host of angelic armies.  This reference has a Biblical foundation in Isaiah 6:1-3, where the prophet writes,

“I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne… Seraphim were stationed above…
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts!’ they cried one to the other.  ‘All the earth is filled with his glory!’”

In Hebrew, this title Yahweh tseva’ot, or “Lord of hosts” appears 206 times in the Old Testament and is a short form of Yahweh elohê tseva’ot, or “Lord, God of hosts” which appears 36 additional times.  Its Greek translation, Kyrios Sabaoth, appears twice in the New Testament: in Romans 9:29 as a reference to Isaiah’s prediction and in 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.”

Additionally, in Luke 2:13 a “multitude of the heavenly host” announces the birth of Jesus to the shepherds.

“God of power and might” was not an accurate translation, or even a paraphrase.  The “heavenly host” refers to angelic armies, not a metaphor of such.  And any desire to “demilitarize” this phrase doesn’t entitle text to be altered under the guise of translation.  When a liturgical text makes a scriptural reference, as it does in this case, the translation should preserve that reference, as this new translation does.