Bible Review 4:2, April 1988


What it really means

By Marvin H. Pope

On Palm Sunday, millions of Christians will again welcome Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem with the familiar words of Matthew 21:9:1

“Hosanna to the Son of David!a

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!

Hosanna in the highest!”

Almost all of the worshippers will suppose, if they think about it at all, that “hosanna” means “praise,” or “glory,” or something like that.

Almost all English translations of the Gospels (such as the Revised Standard Version quoted, above) simply transliterate the word “hosanna,” without even attempting to translate it. An exception is the smooth paraphrase of Today’s English Version, the Good News Bible, which renders the passage this way:

“Praise to David’s Son!

God bless him who comes in the name of the Lord!

Praise be to God.”

Translating “hosanna” as “praise” is wrong, as we shall see. It would have been better simply to transliterate it, rather than to translate it incorrectly.

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