Hosanna: the meaning

Download PDF

Hosanna (/hˈzænə/) is a liturgical word in Judaism and Christianity. In Judaism, it is always used in its original Hebrew form, Hoshana.

Chapter 1. Etymology

The word hosanna (Latin osanna, Greek ὡσαννά, hōsanná) is from Hebrew הושיעה־נא, הושיעה נא hôshia-nā’ which is short for hôšî‘â-nā’ from Aramaic הושע נא meaning “save, rescue” (possibly “savior”).[1]

In the Hebrew Bible it is used only in verses such as “help” or “save, I pray” (Psalms 118:25

Psalms 118:25
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

25 Save now, I beseech thee, O LORD: O LORD, I beseech thee, send now prosperity.  

WP-Bible plugin
).

It is applied in numerous verses of the New Testament including “Hosanna; blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord” (Mark 11.9), “hosanna in the highest” (Mark 11.10); “hosanna to the Son of David” (Matt 21:9

Matt 21:9
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

9 And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.  

WP-Bible plugin
). The old interpretation “Save, now!”,[2] based on Psalm 118:25
Psalm 118:25
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

25 Save now, I beseech thee, O LORD: O LORD, I beseech thee, send now prosperity.  

WP-Bible plugin
, does not fully explain the occurrence of the word in the Gospels as a shout of jubilation, and this has given rise to complex discussions.

Chapter 2. Liturgical use in different traditions

In a liturgical context, it refers to a cry expressing an appeal for divine help.[4]

Section 1. Judaism

In Jewish liturgy, the word is applied specifically to the Hoshana Service, a cycle of prayers from which a selection is sung each morning during Sukkot, the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles. The complete cycle is sung on the seventh day of the festival, which is called Hoshana Rabbah (הושענא רבא, “Great Hosanna”).[5]

Section 2. Christianity

“Hosanna” was the shout of praise or adoration made in recognition of the Messiahship of Jesus on his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”[6] It is used in the same way in Christian praise, especially on Palm Sunday which commemorates that event.

Section 3. Hosanna (Ὡσαννά)

Mark 11:9

Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!

This word is derived from הושע נא. It is generally considered to be a quote from Psalms 118:25 “O LORD, save us”, but the original Biblical Hebrew form was הושיעה נא. The shortened form הושע could be either Aramaic or Hebrew.[

Chapter 3. Aramaic personal names in the New Testament

Personal names in the New Testament come from a number of languages; Hebrew and Greek are most common. However, there are a few Aramaic names as well. The most prominent feature in Aramaic names is bar (Greek transliteration βαρ, Aramaic bar), meaning ‘son of’, a common patronym prefix. Its Hebrew equivalent, ben, is conspicuous by its absence. Some examples are:


It is generally agreed that Jesus and his disciples primarily spoke Aramaic, the common language of Judea in the first century AD, most likely a Galilean dialect distinguishable from that of Jerusalem.[1] The towns of Nazareth and Capernaum in Galilee, where Jesus spent most of his time, were Aramaic-speaking communities.

Aramaic was the common language of the Eastern Mediterranean during and after the Neo-Assyrian, Neo-Babylonian, and Achaemenid Empires (722–330 BC) and remained a common language of the region in the first century AD. In spite of the increasing importance of Greek, the use of Aramaic was also expanding, and it would eventually be dominant among Jews both in the Holy Land and elsewhere in the Middle East around 200 AD[3] and would remain so until the Arab conquest in the seventh century.

According to Dead Sea Scrolls archaeologist, Yigael Yadin, Aramaic was the spoken language of Jews until Simon Bar Kokhba tried to revive Hebrew and make it the official language of Jews during the revolt that he led (132-135 AD). Yadin noticed the shift from Aramaic to Hebrew during the time of the Bar Kokhba revolt. In his book “Bar Kokhba: The rediscovery of the legendary hero of the last Jewish Revolt Against Imperial Rome” Yigael Yadin notes, “It is interesting that the earlier documents are written in Aramaic while the later ones are in Hebrew. Possibly the change was made by a special decree of Bar Kokhba who wanted to restore Hebrew as the official language of the state” (page 181).

In the book “A Roadmap to the Heavens: An Anthropological Study of Hegemony among Priests, Sages, and Laymen (Judaism and Jewish Life)” by Sigalit Ben-Zion (page 155), Yadin said: “it seems that this change came as a result of the order that was given by Bar Kokhba, who wanted to revive the Hebrew language and make it the official language of the state.”

According to Jewish historian Josephus, Greek wasn’t spoken in first century Israel. Josephus also points out the extreme rarity of a Jew knowing Greek.[4]

Josephus wrote:

I have also taken a great deal of pains to obtain the learning of the Greeks, and understand the elements of the Greek language, although I have so long accustomed myself to speak our own tongue, that I cannot pronounce Greek with sufficient exactness; for our nation does not encourage those that learn the languages of many nations, and so adorn their discourses with the smoothness of their periods; because they look upon this sort of accomplishment as common, not only to all sorts of free-men, but to as many of the servants as please to learn them. But they give him the testimony of being a wise man who is fully acquainted with our laws, and is able to interpret their meaning; on which account, as there have been many who have done their endeavors with great patience to obtain this learning, there have yet hardly been so many as two or three that have succeeded therein, who were immediately well rewarded for their pains.

—Antiquities of Jews XX, XI

.

In the first century AD, Aramaic was a widespread language. This is supported by the testimony of Josephus.

Josephus points out how people from what are now Iran, Iraq and remote parts of the Arabian Peninsula knew all about the war of the Jews against the Romans due to the books he wrote “in the language of our country”, books which he then translated into Greek for the benefit of the Greeks and Romans (see quote below).

Jewish Wars (Book 1, Preface, Paragraph 1)- “I have proposed to myself, for the sake of such as live under the government of the Romans, to translate those books into the Greek tongue, which I formerly composed in the language of our country, and sent to the Upper Barbarians. Joseph, the son of Matthias, by birth a Hebrew, a priest also, and one who at first fought against the Romans myself, and was forced to be present at what was done afterwards, [am the author of this work].”

Jewish Wars (Book 1 Preface, Paragraph 2) – “I thought it therefore an absurd thing to see the truth falsified in affairs of such great consequence, and to take no notice of it; but to suffer those Greeks and Romans that were not in the wars to be ignorant of these things, and to read either flatteries or fictions, while the Parthians, and the Babylonians, and the remotest Arabians, and those of our nation beyond Euphrates, with the Adiabeni, by my means, knew accurately both whence the war begun, what miseries it brought upon us, and after what manner it ended.”

[Not a valid template]

 

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: