The Sunday Magazine

The strange, joyful history of 'Hallelujah!' from the Old Testament to today

Although the Messiah is often associated with Christmas, Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus originally was conceived as a work for Easter. Our documentary, “Hallelujah People!” traces the origins and the mysteries of this wondrous word, from ancient Israel to today.
'Alleluia' by Thomas Cooper Gotch (1854–1931) (Wikimedia Commons)

The next time you holler "Hallelujah!" because you lost weight or nabbed the last cab in the pouring rain, consider this: you're shouting out a word that echoed in the hills of ancient Israel. 

After almost three thousand years, "Hallelujah!" is still a great way to express joy and exuberance. 

The word hallelujah first appeared in the book of Psalms in the Old Testament, a combination of two Hebrew words, "hallel" meaning praise and "jah" meaning God. But it's in Christianity that hallelujah or the Latinized "alleluia"  became best known as a word of great emotional energy.

The word is enthroned in all its glory in Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus." The Messiah has long been associated with Christmas, but it was conceived as a work for Easter. It premiered in Dublin in April 1742, during Lent.

Frank Faulk's 2012 documentary "Hallelujah People!" looks at the strength and mystery of this wonderful word. 

Click 'listen' above to hear the documentary.