Monday, May 01, 2006

One Word to Bind Them All (podcast re-run)

(Hello! This has been a busy week and I'm running behind on this week's podcast. So I thought I'd share it this one - one of my favorites - till I can get this week's ready.)

naD joH'a'

Praise the LORD
Psalm 117:1a

click for podcast

Would you like to be a linguist, with a vocabulary that extends from Albanian to Xhosa? With one word I can assist you towards this goal.

The word I'm thinking of is at the heart of this Psalm, the shortest chapter of the Bible.


That short phrase, almost a contraction, ends this psalm, and is expressed in a longer version, hallelu et adonai - praise you the LORD - at the beginning. By bracketing this short chapter, this command directs believers to be about the serious, and delightful, work of praise.

From Hebrew to Greek to Latin, Hallelujah over the centuries was transliterated from language to language and has become an exclamation of praise, so universal that it has moved into the lexicons of many languages. Look for yourself at the Crosswire Bible Society's website, There you can compare Bibles in quite a few languages and see this Psalm containing "Hallelujah" or "Allelulia" : Afrikaans, Bulgarian, Croatian, Dutch, Esperanto, and Finnish to name a few, each transliterating this word for their tongue.

But. Not Klingon. If we were to present a Klingon version of Hallelujah, it might be 'alayluya. However, since the World English Bible, the source used for my Klingon Language Version, translates the Hebrew terms, the KLV does likewise, naD joH'a'. If we were to translate it more grammatically we'd say it as a command, joH'a' penaD, the-LORD you-all-praise.


I love this word, and especially like thinking about the path it has taken through the long years. It is now almost a password, if you will, for believers on every continent and with many different languages. A foreign word in almost every language, it is testifies to a faith language of the heart that is (or should be) a native language for everyone who follows the God of the Bible.

To me, the really important thing is that little syllable -lu-; it indicates the plural. YOU-ALL give praise, not "you" singular. (This is something we've lost in modern English; an ability to easily distinguish singular and plural. You can see it preserved in the King James and Douay translations, where the "you" and "ye" forms indicate plural, and "thou," "thee," and "thine" refer to the second person singular.)

That "lu," Halle-LU-jah, takes the command to praise and extends it not to you or me, but to all of us, together. God calls forth, across the ages, across the world (even to the stars?) and draws us together as we praise him.

Think of this word and all its forms as being links that bind us together when we - all of us - rejoice in any language: Afrikaans, Albanian, Bulgarian, Croatian, Dutch, Esperanto, Finnish, Greek, Hebrew, Klingon, Latin and Xhosa we'll together call out

Hallelujah, allelulia, Praise ye the LORD.

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