Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Great Hallelujah vs Alleluia Controversy


I overheard a discussion among some of the band members about the difference between the words “Hallelujah” and “Alleluia.” So I wanted to share a bit of history about the words. “Hallelujah” is Hebrew and means simply “Praise Yahweh.” It comes from “Hillēl” which means “to praise” and “Yāh” which means Yahweh. Sometimes you will see it spelled “Halleluyah” Alleluia is the English translation and is derived from the Latin and the Greek. So either word can be used in place of the other. In fact, if you look up the word “Alleluia” it is defined as “Hallelujah” and both are used in music and liturgy (the words and actions that are used by the church to worship God) in praises to God.

Hallelujah is the most common form of the word. But Alleluia appears frequently in music. Since many pieces of church music throughout the ages were written in Latin, Alleluia would be a common choice for many traditional hymns and songs. And of course, contemporary Christian songs are generally written in English—thus Alleluia is used most often.

While the term Hallelujah comes from our Jewish worship roots, both Hallelujah and Alleluia are used most often in Christian worship in relationship to the resurrection of Jesus. And in many Christian churches, they are not said or sung during Lent. In fact, some churches have a ceremonial burying of the Alleluia at the beginning of Lent and then “resurrect” its use for Easter.

Probably more than you wanted to know, but in case you are on Jeopardy some day ;-D

16 comments:

Amy said...

Ahh!! It was us who pondered this. Thanks for answering. I have really wondered always.

Matt said...

Very interesting. I was wondering this while I was singing in church last Sunday. Now I can tell my friend who asked me the difference of the two words while we were in church. Thanks

Anonymous said...

Yes, but HalleluYah means something-praise Yahweh-the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob whereas Allelujah means nothing in any language and so singing or saying it is singing and saying nothing at best, babbling at worst...like singing (to the tune of Handel's Messiah Hallelujah Chorus)Gobbly-gook,gobbly gook, gobbly gook, gobbly gook.

Sherill said...

As I said in the post--Alleluia does mean something and it means the same thing as Hallelujah. So it isn't gobbleygook.

Anonymous said...

I think the above Anonymous writer was referring to the spelling of the word. But it's kind of silly to think how we spell a word has any implication on what we mean by it... after all the thought comes first, then the written word.

Anonymous said...

Thank you both for explaining.What church "buries" the word during Lent? and why?

Thank you

Sherill said...

Evangelical Lutheran and Roman Catholic but I think there may be other traditions that practice "burying" the alleluias.

Sherill said...

You can learn more at http://www.gbod.org/site/apps/nlnet/content3.aspx?c=nhLRJ2PMKsG&b=5721257&ct=3842653

Mario said...

Hi, do you know anything about the meaning of "Jah" or "Yah"?? history and when the people start to use it and then appear in the cristian Bibles?
what do you know about "Thot" (egyptian godness of the moon) and the relationship with Yah o Jah?
Allelu"YAH": that means "praise to "YAH"???
Thanks

Anonymous said...

In Greek, there is not really a letter H; it is represented by which way the hook-looking mark goes at the beginning of the word. So when the Hebrew "Hallelu-yah" was translated from Hebrew to Greek and then to Latin, it became "Allelu-ia". When German scholars translated directly from the Hebrew, they got "Hallelujah". The J in German is pronounced as the English Y and the Hebrew letter "Yod".

Anonymous said...

My Roman Catholic family used to have a scavenger hunt on Easter Sunday. The clues were in the form of Bible passages which we had to decipher to figure out the location of the next clue. The final clue led us to the location of the buried "Alleluia". It was much more fun and interesting than an Easter egg hunt!

Anonymous said...

Hi, I am Roman Catholic and we do indeed "bury" the Alleluia. It's supposed to represent our sorrow for Jesus' death and suffering; henceforth, when He is resurrected so is the alleluia.

Michelle said...

Anglicans/Episcopalians bury the Alleluia as well. Nice article. Very informative.

Anonymous said...

Do I need to capitalize Alleluia?

Rvb said...

Does Alleluia have to be capitalized (used at end of sentence to praise Jesus)

Sherill Clontz said...

According to the AP guide, "hallelujah" is not capitalized unless it is part of a title. I would assume the same rule applies to "alleluia."