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I was reading Archbishop Fulton Sheen's Life of Christ and he always refers to Isaiah and Isaias and Elijah as Elias.

I know that's one of the traditional English spellings, but when did it change for Catholics at Mass (at least in Latin translated Missals) and in other liturgical use?

Not on topic here, but well appreciated would be an explanation of how one could come to pronounce -jah as -ias.

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The -ias was due to the Greeks. The Greeks would have heard the Hebrew names, which end in -yah(u) as Esaia and Elia. (Greek normally only had 'h' at the beginning of words.) In Greek grammar, though—as is also usual in English and Latin—a name ending in bare -a is considered feminine. But unlike English or Latin, which will leave a man's name in -a alone (English "Joshua", Latin "Dolabella") Greek grammar involves changes to the word which make it similar to more usual forms of men's names. In particular, the nominative has -s added to it. (Google 'Greek first declension' for more.) – Muke Tever Dec 28 '11 at 15:24
I can't answer the Catholic parts of the question but if Esaias/Isaias and Elias are used in Catholic contexts it's probably due to their being the names used in Latin (Latin having borrowed the -ias forms from Greek). See Esaias/Isaias and Elias in a Latin dictionary. – Muke Tever Dec 28 '11 at 15:36

1 Answer 1

I think you'll find the question is not how -jah came to be -ias as how -ias came to be -jah.

For example you could look at the Greek rendering of the name Isaiah as see that it is Ἠσαΐας (pronounced Ēsaïās) which is a pretty clear indication that at one significant point in history the name was pronounced closer to the old/alternate English rendering of Isaias.

In general you will find names mutilated morphing from language to language and in a language over time as it gets to some persons ears and doesn't sound quite right. It's quite possible that at some point an Englishman's ear told him that ending a name with -ias sounded foreign and so he adapted it, however...

Pushing farther back however you will find the Hebrew name was יְשַׁעְיָהוּ (Yəšạʻyā́hû) so it might be that the more modern English rendition is actually an attempt to render an English name closer to the original rather than following the long tail of languages in between.

A similar story can be told for Elijah who's Hewbrew name would be אליהו (Eliyahu) but in much more modern usage is rendered إلياس, in Arabic (Pronounced Ilyās).

As for WHEN the change happened, it would see that for Isaiah, Isias might actually be a trendy thing started by a couple of writers in the mid 1900's. However the majority usage dating back to at least the 1600's KJV text is undoubtedly "Isaiah".

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Very nice answer, and yeah I think I inverted the last sentence of my question now that I look at it. Is that chart book usage filtered by publication date or internet usage with a date associated? – Peter Turner Dec 28 '11 at 14:17
@PeterTurner: The chart shows usage distribution in published books by date published, not internet prolification. If you take this chart back to 1611 for example there is a crazy spike when the KJV came out. – Caleb Dec 28 '11 at 22:35

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