Thursday, July 30, 2009

John Chrysostom: Not So Good at Hebrew

Let us listen also to the words themselves and this beautiful supplication. "She wept and lamented, and directed her prayer to the Lord in the words, Adonai Kyrie Elohi Sabaoth." Fearsome words, fit to terrify. The historian was right not to translate them into our language: his ability did not suffice to turn them into the Greek tongue.

- John Chrysostom (around A.D. 347 to around A.D. 407), Homilies on Hannah, Homily 1, in St. John Chrysostom, Old Testament Homilies, Volume 1, p. 77 (2003), Robert C. Hill translator.

N.B. Contrary to Chrysostom's comments, Kyrie is the Greek word "Lord" which is the translation of "Adonai," and the expression "Elohi Sabaoth" means "God of Hosts," (taken together, "Lord God of Hosts") as it is also found in 1 Samuel 17:45, where only the word "Sabaoth" (of hosts) is transliterated. Elsewhere in the LXX (for example, in 2 Samuel 5:10 and 7:8, 25, and 27) the word Sabaoth is translated by the Greek word παντοκράτωρ ("mighty" or "omnipotent").