Why the reverence for Latin?


Please do not take this as a troll post or anything, I am genuinely curious.

Why the reverence for Latin? Jesus did not speak Latin (he probably spoke Aramaic, understood Biblical Hebrew, probably some Greek, and if anything enough Latin to read legal documents). The Last Supper was probably spoken in Hebrew. Latin was the language of the Roman oppressors of Jesus’ time. Peter, Paul and James did not speak Latin as their primary or secondary languages, probably not even tertiary.

Thanks and let’s keep it civil.



Latin was the language of the empire, which after it adopted Christianity as the official religion was instrumental in spreading the gospel throughout its borders. It was a universal language of law and literature. People in Egypt could converse with people in northern Gaul via Latin and spread ideas.



In my own opinion: Latin is the language of the Holy Mother Church; a universal language that was spoken by educated Romans. ( Greek was the other one ) All Church documents are written in Latin and are translated into the local vernacular from there.

I personally feel a deeper connection to my ancestors in the Church by saying most of my prayers in Latin; as Latin is the traditional language of Western Catholics.

Think of Latin as a storehouse from which everything issues from.



Latin is a “dead” language, the meanings of the words and sentences stays stable over time. Liturgies in the vernacular languages need revamped on a regular basis.

Latin is revered for much the same reason that Hebrew is for Jews, or even Elizabethan style English for our KJV Only friends.



As an FYI, Jesus would have spoken any language necessary for the proclamation of the Kingdom. If a Roman approached Him to ask for forgiveness of sins, Christ would not only have understood it, but responded in kind.

His Human Nature in no way impeded His Divine Nature, but was complementary.



I’ve often wondered the same thing. For example why should saying a prayer in Latin be more powerful against the enemy than saying it in English, French or Portuguese? Ie exorcisms.

It seems to me that the Romans had an empire at the time, they adopted Christianity and then dictated aspects of it and naturally spoke Latin. As a tradition it survived for a very long time because people generally don’t like change and possibly thought that their prayers and sacraments would not be so powerful if said in another language.

That’s my guess.

1 Like


tradition mainly, of men.



The way I see it, Lee; is that ( As An Exorcist I read of said) prayer boils down to an expression of faith. All else is superstition in my opinion. If it helps your faith to say in Latin, or any other language; the better.



I think because it is the language of the church and at one point no matter where you were in the world you were connected to other Catholics because mass was always in the same language.

I wish mass was in the same language throughout the world today. There would be no need for 10 different mass times for each language at pilgrimage sites…



I’m a bit of a Traditionalist. I want to hear Mass and respond in Latin. An universal language simplifies things. As an American, try hearing Mass in Bisaya; my fiancé’s native language.

Lol Maybe I was born a decade or two too late :grinning:



Latin was the language of the Western Empire after Constantine moved East. (before that Greek was the imperial language) Educated people wrote in Latin so that they could communicate with other elites.

Latin served as the common language for a millenium, by the end of which Latin had become a language for elites while developing into French, Italian, Spanish, etc. on the local levels. As universities developed, the “dead” language became the language of the academic elites instead of running less universal universities in the living vernaculars

The Universities began dropping Latin in the 19th century as other languages became more important, especially mathematics. Latin as a requirement for higher studies simply became obsolete. The Church, based in Rome, was the last holdout, but even we came to see the value of communicating in the new vernaculars instead of the imperial Latin.

1 Like


Pilate also wrote a title and put it on the cross; it read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. (John 19:19-20)

Like the high priest Ciaphas who unintentionally prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation (John 11:49-51), the governor Pontius Pilate unintentionally prophesied in Latin, as well as Hebrew and Greek, when he wrote that Jesus of Nazareth was the King of the Jews. Thus, along with Hebrew and Greek, Latin was a language of prophecy and so deserving of reverence.



Dovekin, I think the study of Latin is still relevant as a Catholic. One thing I’ve learned about cultures is that you have to know and understand the language that culture speaks.

Language encapsulates the mindset of a culture; a weltanschauung. Look at the Latin of the original text and compare it to a translation. Translating from one language to another is an imprecise art than a science.



I do not disagree with you. I just wanted to post a history of Latin that did not treat it as a “holy” language. That was not ihow it was ever used, it was usually used as a vernacular. But vernaculars evolve and develop.

1 Like


Awesome and you raise a good point. Latin has evolved over time, though. Church Latin isn’t the same as Classical Latin.

1 Like


Or five …:wink:

1 Like


Lol… :grinning: Hahaha. As for the differences between Church and Classical Latin is that Church Latin has an Italianate feel and inflection to it.

1 Like


It’s easy to overthink these kinds of things, and ascribe to them more transcendent value than they really have.

Language is a practical matter. Language is communication.
Let’s be honest. Latin was the universal language of communication at one time, and this is the reason for it’s universal adoption. It’s a practical thing.
Yes, Latin is beautiful. Yes the Church has an esteemed place for it in Liturgy, passed down through tradition. Yes it should be respected in the Latin Rite Church.

But we should not make idols of our personal preferences. There is a difference between proper reverential respect and idolatry.



How do you mean, goout?



Most religions use for their liturgy, scripture, and all “weighty” writings an archaic language that is no longer used (or was never used) as a means of everyday communication. The Roman Catholics have Latin, the Eastern Orthodox have Slavonic, the muslims have classical Arabic, the Hindus have Sanskrit, the Buddhists have Pali and classical Tibetan, etc. etc.

Why? Because such a language affords a certain mental (and therefore practical) insulation and buffering from the prosaic thought that vernacular language is associated with. You see, a language corresponds to a certain way of thinking, as anyone who speaks multiple very different languages can confirm. (English and Spanish isn’t a strong example, because they’re still too similar. English and Japanese would be a good example.) When you switch to a (very) different language, you become a slightly different person, because the other language simply works differently, requires and enables different things, different kinds of thoughts, and is even associated with different memories.

Having a language dedicated entirely to religious writing (and reading) allows one to switch to one’s “religious mind” by switching to that language. (Of course there are other ways of switching to one’s religious mind; but a different language is definitely a helpful instrument.)


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.