11 May 2010

World without end. Amen.

In the Byzantine Rite, prayers often end eis tous aionas ton aionon (unto the ages of ages); and in the Roman Rite, per omnia saecula saeculorum (through all the ages of ages), although in saecula is not unknown. The Anglican Prayer Book idiom renders this by World without end. I wonder: is there a Hebrew background? Is Cranmer's phrase common in medieval English? I have found it in the translation of the Canon made for polemic purposes by the appalling Miles Coverdale, chaplain to the largely mercenary fforeign army which slaughtered the Catholic peasantry of Cornwall in 1549. Anglo-catholic liturgical books often made it Throughout all ages world without end. They did this because world without end doesn't have enough syllables to sustain the chant (in the Latin Missals) of per omnia saecula saeculorum. Where did the Anglo-catholics get this from? Where does it first appear?

12 comments:

BJA said...
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BJA said...

The only place I've seen "Throughout all ages, world without end" is in the Missale Anglicanum (Knott Missal, for those who may not be familiar).

Other missals I'm familiar with – such as the American Missal or the Anglican Missal in the American Edition – try to fit all of the notes into "World without end."

To me, the Knott solution sounds much better musically, but it's somewhat clumsy from a linguistic standpoint.

FWIW, someone once told me that "World without end" fits nicely with the Hebrew le'olam va'ed – literally, "from this world to the next."

I am also told that some English-speaking Orthodox churches in the UK use the Prayer Book idiom "World without end" as a translation of Eis tous aionas ton aionon!

Anonymous said...

"throughout all ages, world without end amen" appears in the AV translation (presumably picked up from the Bishops' Bible) of Ephesians, III.21
eis pasas tas geneas tou aionos ton aionon εις πασας τας γενεας του αιωνος των αιωνων αμην.
Almost every other transaltion has "generations" e.g. Tyndale: "thorow out all generations from time to time. Amen"

Sir Watkin said...

O.E.D. has various mediaeval examples of "world without end" (also "(a)buten end") as an adverbial phrase meaning "for ever". The earliest is from the thirteenth century.

Sir Watkin said...

"World" of course is the conventional translation of saeculum/aion, so there is a certain correspondence with the Latin/Greek phrase even though the idiom is different.

Patricius said...

I always took it to mean "unto the world which shall have no end" i.e: the New Jerusalem. But I may be wrong. At any rate, I prefer: unto the ages of ages...

Figulus said...

I think that Sir Watkin is right. The original, now archaic, meaning of "world" is lifetime, and it corresponds well enough to "saeculum". The "without end" part seems to be a rendering into idiomatic English of the plural genitive (e.g. King of Kings, Lord of Lords, ages of ages, etc.) so often used to make a superlative in biblical Latin, which was presumably picked up from a similar Hebrew idiom.

A pity the English prayer didn't keep to this practice. I rather like the science-fictiony feel that "into worlds of worlds" has in modern English.

David Gould said...

I much prefer "Now and ever and unto ages of ages" but confess to preferring it in Church Slavonic, which I had the opportunity to learn over a number of years in ROCOR - at least enough to read the Liturgy of St John C reasonably OK.

nicholas said...

Gesenius Hebrew Dictionary gives "olam" as eternity and world

Live for eternity is a greeting for kings 1K1.31
endless ages Is.51.9 Dan 9.24

Saecula saeculorum looks like a Hebrew superlative

Pedes Christi said...
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Pedes Christi said...

The Greek and Hebrew are both translations of the Hebrew phrase ve'olame-'olamim, which literally means "to ages of ages". One also sees ve 'olam, "to the age", presumably meaning to the end of an age, and usually translated "for ever". This phrase ve 'olame-'olamim and its equivalents was a source of patrisitc commentary. Athanasius (I will have to look up the reference) uses it in his argument against Arius, in which he defends the full divinity of Christ by noting that he exists not in time, nor in the eternal aeon (age) of the celestial powers (i.e., angels), which contains all temporal ages, but Christ surpasses all ages and ages of ages.

BillyD said...

A quibble with Pedes Christi: I believe that the Hebrew phrase would be "le'olame 'olamim," not "ve, etc."