צָבָא - tsaba'
Gesenius' Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon gives two primary uses:
- army, host, στρατός (primarily going forth to war), the host of heaven, the heavenly host
Thus a common understanding of YHVH tsaba' is God as Divine Warrior. For example the NET translation with translator's note has:
If the LORD of Heaven’s Armies25 had not left us a few survivors, we would have quickly been like Sodom, we would have become like Gomorrah. (Isaiah 1:9 NET)
25tn Traditionally, “the LORD of hosts.” The title pictures God as the sovereign king who has at his disposal a multitude of attendants, messengers, and warriors to do his bidding. In some contexts, like this one, the military dimension of his rulership is highlighted. In this case, the title pictures him as one who leads armies into battle against his enemies.
On the other hand, the word is also used to express God's power of creation and control over the natural world (e.g. Genesis 2:1, Amos 4:13, 5:8). As may be seen in the NET note giving emphasis to the warrior aspect "creates the false impression that God is the God of war, which is only a secondary, inadequate meaning of the phrase..."
2 The better alternative is "Almighty." Yet as an English translation it could be confused with the phrase El Shaddai.
3 Therefore, "the sovereign Lord of all" is more accurate, stronger, and more theologically meaningful than the literal translation "the Lord of hosts."
As noted in the question, the Latin liturgical, Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dóminus Deus Sábaoth... preserves the transliterated Greek word. This is not the tradition in the Orthodox church:
...the concept of "pantokratór" as God's second name plays a greater role in the liturgical tradition of Orthodox churches than of the Western churches.
The most common translation of Pantokratór is "Almighty" or "All-powerful". The Pantokratór, largely an Eastern Orthodox or Eastern Catholic theological conception, is less common by that name in Western (Roman) Catholicism and largely unknown to most Protestants.
In the OT portion of the LXX, the word as part of the phrase יְהֹוָה צְבָאֹות is transliterated as Σαβαώθ Sabaoth and translated either as δύναμις dynamis or παντοκράτωρ pantokratōr:
The Septuagint renders the formula in three ways: (1) It leaves it untranslated (cf. Luther); (2) It translates as "Kyrios pantokratór" (the sovereign Lord of all); (3) it translates as "Kyrios dynameon" (Lord of powers).
The decision to transliterate is most often made in Isaiah:
1 Samuel 5
2 Kings 1
The word, צָבָא is found 485 times (KJV). The most common form is צבאות of which there are 283 occurrences most of which are translated. For example, צבאות is used over 50 times in Zechariah where it is consistently translated as pantokratōr (almighty). Given how the phrase is found throughout the LXX, it is more accurate to say "κύριος σαβαωθ" was the preferred treatment by the translator(s) of Isaiah, with an occasional exception in the other books. So, if even one assumes John has patterned his vision after Isaiah's, it is more reasonable to conclude he translated the word, as is the more common treatment.
Within Isaiah the word is not always transliterated. When used without יְהֹוָה it is seen as an armed force, a typical meaning:
The sound of a tumult is on the mountains
as of a great multitude!
The sound of an uproar of kingdoms,
of nations gathering together!
The LORD of hosts is mustering
a host for battle.
(Isaiah 13:4) [ESV]
קֹול הָמֹון בֶּֽהָרִים דְּמוּת עַם־רָב קֹול שְׁאֹון מַמְלְכֹות גֹּויִם נֶֽאֱסָפִים יְהוָה צְבָאֹות מְפַקֵּד צְבָא מִלְחָמָֽה
A voice of many nations on the mountain like that of many nations! A voice of kings and of nations gathered together! The Lord Sabaoth has commanded a heavily armed nation NETS
φωνὴ ἐθνῶν πολλῶν ἐπὶ τῶν ὀρέων ὁμοία ἐθνῶν πολλῶν φωνὴ βασιλέων καὶ ἐθνῶν συνηγμένων κύριος σαβαωθ ἐντέταλται ἔθνει ὁπλομάχῳ
In the oracle against Assyria, the phrase is simply "holy God:"
For the LORD of hosts has purposed,
and who will annul it?
His hand is stretched out,
and who will turn it back? (Isaiah 14:27)
כִּֽי־יְהוָה צְבָאֹות יָעָץ וּמִי יָפֵר וְיָדֹו הַנְּטוּיָה וּמִי יְשִׁיבֶֽנָּה
For what the holy God has planned, who will scatter it? And his hand that is raised up, who will turn it back? NETS
ἃ γὰρ ὁ θεὸς ὁ ἅγιος βεβούλευται τίς διασκεδάσει καὶ τὴν χεῗρα τὴν ὑψηλὴν τίς ἀποστρέψει
The change may be a result of manuscript differences, but it also follows a Biblical interpretation of history. The LORD of Hosts who commanded Assyria against the Northern Kingdom (Isaiah 8) and the Babylonians against the Southern Kingdom, led an armed nation (Babylon) to defeat Assyria. What a holy God has planned, who will scatter? That is to say, the LXX translator understands it was the LORD of Hosts who led the overthrow of the Assyrians. After this work was done the LXX must reflect the historical fact so the reader must be told, He is the Holy God.
The Heavenly Scenes
In addition to John's charge to write what he sees (Revelation 1:11,19) as validating a different vision than Isaiah's, the accompanying details are significantly different:
In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!” (Isaiah 6:1-3)
Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God, and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal. And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight. And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Revelation 4:4-8)
Isaiah's seraphim σεραφιν, are John's living creatures, ζῷα, who are also surrounded by 24 elders, absent in Isaiah's vision. The only thing in common is the phrase "ἅγιος ἅγιος ἅγιος" ("holy, holy, holy"). The text supports seeing these as similar, yet different scenes. Even if we consider John's living creatures to be the same as Isaiah's seraphim, we should understand a change in how the one being worshiped is identified.
After holy, holy, holy, the two scenes go in opposite directions. The problem in Isaiah is finding one to be sent (Isaiah 6:8); the problem in Revelation is finding one to open the scroll (Revelation 5:4). Isaiah's vision ends when the prophet leaves as one sent; John's vision continues when the Lamb, who was sent and been slaughtered, enters:
κύριος σαβαωθ κύριος ὁ θεὸς ὁ παντοκράτωρ
Lord Sabaoth Lord the God the Almighty
יְהוָה צְבָאֹות (or) יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים צְבָאֹות
Prophet leaves the scene The Lamb enters the scene
Demanding "Lord Sabaoth" after holy, holy, holy to arrive at the same proclamation as in Isaiah, is an attempt to force Revelation to conform to something which is obviously meant to be seen as different.
The New Testament
There are only two uses of sabaoth in the NT:
And as Isaiah said before: “Unless the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, We would have become like Sodom, And we would have been made like Gomorrah.” (Roman 9:29 NKJV)
Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. (James 5:4 NKJV)
The explanation for Paul's use in Romans is simple: he is quoting from Isaiah and has preserved the original treatment in the LXX. James too has been taken from the OT (Leviticus 19:13 and Deuteronomy 24:15), though the Hebrew lacks צָבָא and the LXX is likewise silent. Perhaps by placing the title where it was lacking, James is stressing the universal nature of the title to the OT.
Similarly, Paul's use of παντοκράτωρ, the only example outside of Revelation, follows the LXX:
and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”
(2 Corinthians 6:8)
...This is what the Lord Almighty says...I will be a father to him and will be a son to me...
(2 Samuel 7:8, 14) NETS
First, John's scene is significantly different from Isaiah's and coupled with his charge to write what he saw, I conclude John heard the one being worshiped addressed as "Lord (the) God (the) Almighty" and not as either יְהוָה צְבָאֹות or as "Lord Sabaoth."
The LXX's translator(s) treatment of Isaiah 13:4 & 14:27 suggest a reason for the changes:
Isaiah 13:4--->14:27 Isaiah 6:3--->Revelation 4
1 - 13:4 "Lord Sabaoth" 1 - Isaiah 6:3 "Lord Sabaoth"
2 - Assyrians defeated 2 - Lamb was slaughtered
3 - 14:27 "The Holy God" 3 - Revelation 4:8 "Lord God Almighty"
The "victory" won by the death of the Lamb means those in heaven no longer call Him יְהוָה צְבָאֹות or κύριος Σαβαώθ ("Lord Sabaōth"). They call Him as κύριος ὁ θεὸς ὁ παντοκράτωρ, "Lord God Almighty." History is the impetus behind the changes to the prophet Isaiah's words:
- Isaiah (13-14): the יְהוָה צְבָאֹות, Lord Sabaoth, led the armies to victory and He must now be recognized as יְהוָה צְבָאֹות, The Holy God. Both aspects are inherent to the Hebrew, but the translator felt compelled to acknowledge the fulfilled prophecy: because Lord Sabaoth did lead the army to victory, He is The Holy God. The dual aspect inherent to the Hebrew lexicon is not resolved by the literary context, rather by the fulfilled prophecy. יְהוָה צְבָאֹות is The Holy God historically regardless of the flawed linguistics.
- Revelation: in the past the seraphim did constantly cry, "Holy, holy, holy is יְהוָה צְבָאֹות, (Lord Sabaoth)" as the prophet saw. Now the four living creatures cry, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty" because all creation knows the Lamb who was slaughtered has returned victorious.
Addendum - Why Saboath?
Affirming John's vision and showing that צְבָאֹות is translated accordingly in the OT doesn't explain why it would ever be transliterated. That is to say, if, as Ellingworth observes "the sovereign Lord of all" is the best translation into English, the same should hold true in the Greek. So not only is Pantokratór (Almighty) the better choice, Σαβαώθ (Sabaoth), is just a title devoid of meaning beyond that of the context.
Nor does the nearly exclusive treatment in Isaiah (see above) adequately explain the transliteration, as צָבָא is used 70 times in 66 verses (KJV) and transliterated 53 times. Some of the difference may be due to manuscript variations, but as 14:27 shows, the LXX did not rigidly transliterate; the rendering of יְהוָה צְבָאֹות as "Holy God" is obviously an interpretation.
When comparing those decisions to transliterate rather than translate, there are 13 occasions where Lord Sabaoth was not employed:
Verse Hebrew Greek
3:15 אֲדֹנָי יְהוִה צְבָאֹֽות Omitted
8:13 אֶת־יְהוָה צְבָאֹות κύριον αὐτὸν
9:13 יְהוָה צְבָאֹות κύριον
9:19 יְהוָה צְבָאֹות κυρίου
10:23 יְהוִה צְבָאֹות θεὸς
10:26 יְהוָה צְבָאֹות θεὸς
14:23 יְהוָה צְבָאֹֽות Omitted
14:27 יְהוָה צְבָאֹות θεὸς ὁ ἅγιος
19:17 יְהוָה צְבָאֹות κύριος
19:18 לַיהוָה צְבָאֹות κυρίου
19:20 לַֽיהוָה צְבָאֹות κυρίῳ
24:23 יְהוָה צְבָאֹות κύριος
31:5 יְהוָה צְבָאֹות κύριος
The most common type of exception is simply to shorten the phrase to "Lord." Although it is clear the translator understands "Lord Sabaoth" as "God" (10:23,26 and 14:27).
My guess is since the title is given by the seraphim in heaven, that is to say, spoken by other heavenly agents to God which was heard by the prophet, the translator(s) saw additional significance for the title. In other words, since those literal words came from the seraphim in heaven and not simply as prophecy from God, it is necessary to preserve the title as unique from the heavenly vision. Thus Lord Sabaoth is the personal witness of Isaiah, not a word which should normally be translated.
1. NET Bible
2. Paul Ellingworth, The Bible Translator, "The Lord of Hosts" or "The Sovereign Lord of All?" Vol. 26, No. 1, January 1975, p 103
4. Ibid. 105 [Note: the underlying issue in translation is historical, not linguistic. See conclusion]
6. Christ Pantocrator
7. Ellingworth, pp. 103-104 ["Luther realized the difficulty and tried to get over it by leaving the Hebrew formula untranslated ('der Herr Zeboath')." In other words, he followed the LXX by transliterating.]