Friday, April 24, 2009

"[Truly/Indeed], He is risen!"

I got asked recently why I say "Truly, He is risen!" and not "Indeed, He is risen!" in response to "Christ is risen!" At our parish here in West Virginia, "Truly" is most often used, but there are a good number of "Indeeders" in the bunch. I don't rebuke any of them. (If only because I have heard a story of a first-time visitor at Pascha who once responded to the priest's "Christ is risen!" with "I KNOW. I KNOW. You haven't stopped saying it for the last three hours!") Mind you, I also don't rebuke the "He HAS risen" crowd, but I always feel a twinge every time I hear it. He IS risen. It's an ongoing reality, not an over-and-done-with one-time event.

Anyway, since someone asked last night why I say "Truly" and not "Indeed," I responded then and thought I would comment here, as well.

The original response comes from the Greek Alithos anesti! Alithos is the adverbial form of alitheia, which means, quite simply, "truth." The meaning is almost identical to the English word truth, both in the sense of universal truth and also in the sense of simple fact. It comes from a Greek word meaning "unconcealed," so a sense of being revelatory is also there.

So, it would seem clear that "truly" is truly and obviously better, because it includes the notion of truth in it. (For these reasons, I fall into the "truly" camp.) In most languages, the traditional translation of alithos is connected to that language's word for "truth." (Even voistinu and haqqan.)

Indeed, by contrast, would seem to many to be a synonym for truly, but it really isn't. Indeed in Modern English usage is primarily only ever an emphatic. It does not in itself make reference to the alitheia which truly does.

One thing Indeed has going for it is rhythm. It places the stress in the whole phrase on the second syllable. "Indeed, He is risen!" is a bit easier to say than "Truly, He is risen!" It's also a bit closer to the Greek meter. I will say, though, that the Truly formation makes the whole phrase trochaic (i.e., composed of two-syllable patterns with the stress on the first), which is a more authentically English thing to do. Anglo-Saxon poetry is a veritable smorgasbord of trochées, and English-speakers tend to experience trochées as "powerful." The initial greeting we all seem to agree upon ("Christ is risen!" or even the minority "Christ has risen!") is also entirely trochaic.

So, that's why I say "Truly." Christ is risen!


Erin Slusher said...

Truly Christ is risen, indeed! Emphatically, no doubt, we are redeemed.

I really like your site. Thanks,

Trevor-Peter said...

I really don't have much opinion one way or another. I guess I'm glad to hear that in the OCA diocese of the South they say it with the word order that seems more standard in Evangelical churches. (Now I don't have to feel as judgmental of my Evangelical friends.)

I do, however, have to quibble with calling "indeed" only emphatic. "Emphasis" tends to be an overgeneralized category, and in Hebrew linguistics classes we were always forced to explicate what we meant by "emphasis." I would think that "indeed" emphasizes the facticity of a statement, which is practically the same thing as emphasizing its truth. So although "truly" may have more going for it etymologically, I'm not convinced that "indeed" is at all inferior for the meaning it conveys (or doesn't).

Michael from Texas said...

I was at a Greek monastery this week, and after singing Christos Anesti (following meals and at the end of services), they would intone "Alithos Anesti O Kyrios" - Truly the Lord is Risen. Just an interesting point related to the discussion.

Fr. Andrew said...

Trevor-Peter: I wouldn't say indeed is "only emphatic." Indeed(!), one must be careful to note the careful rendering of text employed in the post.

Dixie said...

This is great to know! I was just complaining the other night with some Church folks about the multitude of translations we English speaking Orthodox have for things...all triggered by my Lutheran preconditioning which has me shout "Indeed, He is Risen" when someone greets me with "Christ is Risen" in English. Although I know our parish uses "Truly, He is Risen"...familiarity takes over before my brain can engage and what comes out of my mouth is almost always "Indeed, He is Risen". Now I have a reason to remember "Truly" is more accurate. I think this will help tremendously.

Thanks, Father!

Anonymous said...

And here I am in Indiana, where back in the 1980's as we explored Orthodoxy, (before I knew there was something called an Antiochian Archdiocese) we eventually learned to respond, "He is risen, indeed!"

Somehow, saying, "He is risen, truly!" just doesn't work... so I'm going to have to consider a complete revision of the response I've been relying on for over 30 years.

Having said all that... I'll close by saying that, above all, I'm so very, very glad that He is risen!

Truly, I am glad!

James said...

"Indeed" seems to be the more common translation from the Slavonic "voistinu," whereas those who translate from the Greek "alithos" prefer "truly."

I speculate the reason for the former is that both "voistinu" and "indeed" are compound words with prepositions. (vo + istinnu = in + truth).

The most fastidiously literal translation from the Slavonic would therefore be "In truth He is Risen!" Given the choice between the more commen English choices "indeed" and "truly," the former is selected (I suspect) because it is also a compound with a preposition.

Most languages I know the greeting in (en verdad, adevarat, bahake) also use compounds constructed with prepositions. I don't know as much about Greek morphology: is alithos a single root or a compound?

James said...

Whereas in contemporary street English "indeed" is little more than an emphatic, in liturgical/ Biblical English it has deeper meaning. Historically, "in" + "deed" means that a thing is real because it has been enacted. The Resurrection is not merely a fact; it is true in deed.

Interestingly, Slavonic has multiple roots for "truth." The root which implies that something is a verifiable fact is prav- (think "Pravda"), and the Russian equivalent of "truly" would be pravilno. To say in Russian that Christ is truly (pravilno) risen would be to state that the Resurrection is not historically false.

The root istina, translated sometimes as 'truth' and sometimes as 'deed,' means that a thing is essentially real in a deep and eternal way. Thus to say that Christ is risen voistinu ('indeed') is to say that the Resurrection is at the core of reality and is inextricably linked to our very existence.

This, I'd hazard, is why those who translate from the Slavonic prefer "indeed" (voistinu, fact) to "truly" (pravilno, reality). Perhaps, honestly, a more contemporarily accurate rephrasing would be "He really IS risen!"

Michael said...

We have a small "Truly" group at my parish but the majority of us say, 'He is risen indeed!' My personal preference is for 'Indeed He is risen', as being closer to the structure of the Greek and Russian acclamations that we also use but my fellow-parishioners were having none of it. :-)

For my part, I'm just grateful that the matter of the English translation of the paschal greeting has not yet formed the basis for a schism.