When did Latin become the language of the Catholic Liturgy?


#1

I'm not sure whether this is the right forum for this question or not.
But at what point did Latin become the language of the celebration of the eucharist? I'm assuming the first celebrations were in Aramaic?


#2

The early Church worshipped in Greek, at the time the common language all around the Mediterranean. I think Latin started to gradually become part of the liturgy only in the late 4th century.


#3

The Church has been in Rome since the first century. St. Peter died in Rome and some of the oldest Catholic Churches, in which the liturgy would have been celebrated in Latin, are in Rome.

Judea, where Jesus lived, was a province in the Roman empire. When Churches started to appear in other areas, even in New Testament times, the easiest way to communicate with them was using Greek or Latin. Latin overtook Greek very early on because of the size and power of the Roman empire. It was the international language in those days, and so Latin was the logical choice.

We still use Latin because many of our most cherished documents are in Latin. We also need a “timeless” language which is not used for politics or commerce, so the words don’t change. This goes very far in preserving meaning and is essential for the Church.


#4

From the Catholic Encyclopedia:

The Leonine and Gelasian Sacramentaries show us what is practically our present Roman Mass. How did the service change from the one to the other? It is one of the chief difficulties in the history of liturgy. During the last few years, especially, all manner of solutions and combinations have been proposed. We will first note some points that are certain, that may serve as landmarks in an investigation…Justin gives us the fullest Liturgical description of any Father of the first three centuries (Apol. I, lxv, lxvi, quoted and discussed in LITURGY). He describes how the Holy Eucharist was celebrated at Rome in the middle of the second century; his account is the necessary point of departure, one end of a chain whose intermediate links are hidden. We have hardly any knowledge at all of what developments the Roman Rite went through during the third and fourth centuries. This is the mysterious time where conjecture may, and does, run riot. By the fifth century we come back to comparatively firm ground, after a radical change. At this time we have the fragment in Pseudo-Ambrose, “De sacramentis” (about 400. Cf. P.L., XVI, 443), and the letter of Pope Innocent I (401-17) to Decentius of Eugubium (P.L., XX, 553). In these documents we see that the Roman Liturgy is said in Latin and has already become in essence the rite we still use.

The rest of the article is really interesting and gives clues. Read more here: newadvent.org/cathen/09790b.htm


#5

The history of Latin in the liturgy is not neat and tidy.

The Roman Empire developed upon the foundations of the older Greek state and culture that was distributed across the Mediterranean basin, and Greek remained the common language of the region. Even at the peak of its power and reach, most of the Roman Empire spoke Greek, with Latin reserved as the official language of the state, and the language in common usage only in Rome and parts of Italy.

[INDENT]"The local church of Rome had begun as a Greek-speaking body; the majority of its members were Greek-speaking Levantines living in the foreign quarters of the city. But it began to use Latin in its liturgy, probably in the latter half of the second century, as the faith spread among the Latin-speaking inhabitants; though the use of Greek went on side by side with Latin down to the fourth-perhaps even the fifth century. Elsewhere in the West, for example in Africa, Latin had been used by the church from the second century.

In the fourth-fifth centuries, when Greek was ceasing to be spoken in the West but Latin was still a lingua franca…it was natural that all Christian rites should be in Latin in the West."—Gregory Dix, The Shape of the Liturgy

Source[/INDENT]


#6

No. Latin was never a prime language in the Roman Empire. Even in the early Christians in Rome, it was all Greek. The Apostles spoke Greek and Aramaic, not Latin. Latin wasn’t used commonly, its use stayed mainly around Rome. That scene in The Passion of the Christ where Pilate spoke to Jesus in Latin? Never happened. In Acts you will see that St. Paul talked to the Roman soliders in Greek. There was no evidence whatsoever that people communicated with the Romans in Latin. Most of the Romans were Greek speakers anyway. Latin was not used in the very early Church.


#7

Since Pope Victor, but just in Rome.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_Victor_I


#8

That sounds about right except that most of the early (1st century) worship probably would have been in Vulgar Latin. (St. Paul found a significant number of Christians there when he reached Rome.)

The Latin (and moral code) of Cicero was what the later (3rd century) Church adopted and Christianized.


#9

But most of the early Christians were Jews or Gentiles interested in Judaism. Most of St. Paul’s Gentile converts were those who attend synagogues. You will see this in Acts, especially at the point when he told the Jews that he will now take the Gospel to the Gentiles. All this went down inside a Synagogue. There were Gentiles then who observed the Jewish faith but weren’t considered converts because they haven’t had circumcision yet. But they attend the synagogue and observe the Law regardless. That is why the temple and the synagogues has the “court of the Gentiles”.

This all points to the fact that even those in Rome were migrants in Rome (Rome at this point would be like New York City today with a mix of cultures living in the area) and thus Greek speaking.

There is absolutely no evidence in the Bible that the Apostles spoke in Latin. But there is evidence that Jesus spoke to Paul in Aramaic, and Paul spoke to centurions in Greek.


#10

Actually, Latin WAS a primary language. But Greek was more widely spoken in the Eastern Half of the Empire. Latin was the common language from Britian to Romainia.

If what you claimed was true, the modern Romance languages would have be Greek derived, not a derivitive of Latin.

That scene in The Passion of the Christ where Pilate spoke to Jesus in Latin

Personally, I am of the mindset that was portrayed in “The Passion of the Christ”, Pilate spoke to Christ in Aramaic, Christ responed in Latin, which would have been the native language of Pilate.


#11

Sorry, what I meant as “primary” is in use, not in honor. Latin was the language of the Romans but the Roman Empire as a whole is predominantly Greek in language and culture.

Greek is widely used because or the earlier conquest of the Greeks. Also it was the international language. In places like Israel where people didn’t speak Greek as a first language, they speak Greek anyway when dealing with foreigners. Even the Jewish Scripture was translated into Greek. It has that wide usage that Jews who have moved outside of Israel were Greek speakers.

The Romance languages spread out much later. Also it was able to evolve because Greek was essentially suppressed by Islam and the Arabic language. The native speakers of Greek weren’t able to spread out and evolve the language unlike the Latins.

It would have never happened like that at all. And we don’t know if Pilate was a native Latin speaker. He would have known Latin because of his job, but he could have been a native Greek speaker. There was a reason he was assigned to such post, and it is perhaps he can even speak the local language.

[BIBLEDRB]Acts 21:37[/BIBLEDRB]

Clearly the Romans in Jerusalem spoke Greek.


#12

[quote="ConstantineTG, post:11, topic:309028"]
Sorry, what I meant as "primary" is in use, not in honor. Latin was the language of the Romans but the Roman Empire as a whole is predominantly Greek in language and culture.

[/quote]

Exactly.

It's important to remember that the Romans overtook the previous Greek Empire of Alexander and such. The whole Mediterranean basin and going into the Near East and Northern Africa already spoke Greek. The Greek empires were very adamant about everyone learning Greek language and culture and religion (leading to conflicts with the Jews who resisted Greek religion, and thus... Chanukah!).

The Romans weren't interested in enforcing their language or culture (what little there was compared to the Greek culture), just their law and military and taxes. And this is why the Jews could practice their religion under the Romans when they were oppressed by the Greeks. The Romans allowed Greek to continue to be the common tongue, using it themselves when speaking with non-Romans.

And that's why Jesus could have Greek-speaking disciples with Greek names (Philip, Andrew) and move among Greek-speaking towns in Galilee, and why the entire New Testament was written in Greek and why Christianity spread so fast because of Greek-speaking Jewish Christian talking to the rest of the Greek-speaking empire. A good case can be made for Jesus being somewhat tri-lingual (Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek). There is zero evidence and highly unlikely he knew any Latin (Mel Gibson was no archeological linguist and is most certainly no authority on the issue).


#13

I agree that the Greeks were conqured earlier and that the Eastern Mediterranian was very Greek influenced and that Greek was the common language in the East

The Romance languages spread out much later. Also it was able to evolve because Greek was essentially suppressed by Islam and the Arabic language. The native speakers of Greek weren’t able to spread out and evolve the language unlike the Latins.

This is where we disagree. The Roman conquest of Western Europe was already accomplished by the time of Augustus. The influence of Latin had already spread there. There is a tremendous body of archeological evidence on the use of the Latin language as far away as Londinium, but little of Greek.

A derivative language can only evolve when there is a large body of native speakers to draw from. If it was only the honorific language in Gaul, for example, French could never have evolved out of the Gaulish Gaelic with such a strong Latin influence.

It would have never happened like that at all. And we don’t know if Pilate was a native Latin speaker. .

Historians generally place his birth in central Italy, which was clearly a Latin area.


#14

[quote="O_Moriah, post:12, topic:309028"]

(Mel Gibson was no archeological linguist and is most certainly no authority on the issue).

[/quote]

:D


#15

But the lands west of Rome were mostly barbaric and non-Christian anyway. So why would there be Christian Liturgies in Latin when most of the Latins in the time of the early Church weren’t even Christians? Besides, evidence shows that Latin was used in Liturgy only in the 400s


#16

The Romance languages spread out much later. Also it was able to evolve because Greek was essentially suppressed by Islam and the Arabic language. The native speakers of Greek weren’t able to spread out and evolve the language unlike the Latins.

Greek language, culture, philosophy, mythology, science, geometry, art, etc. were NOT suppressed. In fact, much of it was adopted by the Romans. Cicero himself was a Greek scholar who happened to become Roman consul. His writings were heavily influenced by the Greek culture, though he wrote in and codified the Latin language, vocabulary, and grammar.

I don’t see any conflict between Greek and Latin. They worked side by side for many hundreds of years.


#17

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.