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Sacred Speech

Michael P. Foley wrote in Friday’s Wall Street Journal about the language used in liturgies:

Contrary to widespread belief, there has never been a tradition of the vernacular in Christian liturgy, if by “vernacular” you mean the language we speak on the street. Many of the earliest Masses were offered in a language the congregation could understand, but not in the language that could be heard in the marketplace. Before a native language was used in divine worship, it was first “sacralized”—its syntax and diction were gingerly modified, archaisms were deliberately re-introduced and even new rhythmic meters and cadences were invented. All of this was done in order to produce a distinctive mode of communication, one that was separate from garden-variety vernacular speech and capable of relaying the unique mysteries of the Gospel.

Thus, if English is to convey sacred mysteries, there should be a “sacred English.” The very word we use for everyday speech, “profane,” comes from profane, “outside the temple.”

Translating a liturgy does not precisely correspond to translating the Bible, since you often read the Bible outside of public worship settings. Nevertheless, this historical context helps explain how tradition has shaped the translation of the Bible into English.

June 26, 2006 | Posted in: Uncategorized | Author: Crossway Staff @ 9:03 am | 1 Comment »

1 Comment

  1. Sacred speech

    Some churches with more formal liturgies (even Baptist and Pentecostal churches have a kind of “liturgy” with their own “sacred speech”) like the language of the ESV precisely because it has the sound of a Bible within the long Tyndale-KJV traditio…

    Trackback by Better Bibles Blog — June 27, 2006 @ 10:51 am

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