I get this all the time: “But why do you need to know Latin? It’s a dead language! No one needs to know Latin anymore!”
Lot’s of reasons to study Latin. One of the best I’ve read is this, regarding its educational virtue: “The study of Latin is an ongoing practice in linguistic puzzle-solving that generally helps students to become close and careful readers and writers. Many believe it also generally hones the mental faculties, cultivating careful analysis and attention. When one well-known cancer researcher, Dr. Charles Zubrod (who helped develop chemotherapy treatment for leukemia patients), was asked what had best prepared him for a life of medical research, he responded: “Studying Latin and Greek as a child.”
Ooh, here’s another great article on learning Latin – The Case for Studying Latin. (I could go on forever here.) I won’t be speaking in Latin anytime soon, or writing in it, or reading it with instant comprehension. But a little bit regularly adds up over time.
Me studying Latin often goes something like this below. It’s from the beginning of the Gospel of John, verses 1-14, translated sentence by sentence via the Catholic Bible online site, to see how the words in Latin correspond to the meaning in English. The Latin is from St. Jerome’s Vulgate edition of the Bible, which was commisioned by Pope Damasus in 382 to clean up the older Latin translations and have one, easy-to-access Bible in the common tongue – the vulgar tongue.
The fact that it was in the common language leads many to say we shouldn’t have it in Latin today, and don’t need to study Latin. Because the common tongue is English! And Spanish, and French, and German, and Polish, and Vietnamese, and Chinese. Fact is, the Vulgate is in a more stylized Latin than the “commoner’s” language.
The Vulgate is the first translation done directly from the Hebrew, not the Greek. And St. Jerome ensconced himself in a small chapel in the Holy Land working on it tirelessly until its end. He was said to be a crotchety grumpy man. But if I sat inside a small Chapel translating the Bible all day… Well never mind. I’d like to think that would make me less grumpy and crotchety.
He must have been preoccupied, and probably just got irritated when people barged in and asked if he had a few minutes while he, quill in hand, was meticulously pondering the meaning of potestatem Die fieri his, or some other notable phrase. You can easily imagine him looking up mid-thought and saying “Out! Out I tell you! Discedite a me, qui operamini iniquitatem”
I mean, I’m just like that when people walk into my office whilst I’m ensconced in paperwork, receipts, phone calls, emails, and piles of correspondence from the Archdiocese that I don’t have time to answer, let alone open. (I do open them of course, and I’m actually very polite in case anyone’s wondering. If I don’t clarify that someone will read it and the whole line of “Father is so grumpy when you walk in on him in his office!” will start out of the blue, for no reason other than I’m engaging in hyperbole on my fascinating little weblog.)
So. Here is the beginning of the Gospel of John, verse by verse, with the Latin, then the Duaoy-Rheims, then the Knox, all lined up in a row, followed by some words I needed to look up more directly. The Duaoy-Rheims Bible is the official English translation from about 1590, just prior to the King James Version. And the Knox version is the early 20th century, which used both the Hebrew and the Greek – along with the Latin – and is meant to be used in conjunction with the Douay-Rheims.
1 In principio erat Verbum, et Verbum erat apud Deum, et Deus erat Verbum.
1-In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
1 At the beginning of time the Word already was; and God had the Word abiding with him, and the Word was God.
2 Hoc erat in principio apud Deum.
2 The same was in the beginning with God.
2 He abode, at the beginning of time, with God.
3 Omnia per ipsum facta sunt: et sine ipso factum est nihil, quod factum est.
3 All things were made by him: and without him was made nothing that was made.
3 It was through him that all things came into being, and without him came nothing that has come to be.
4 In ipso vita erat, et vita erat lux hominum:
4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
4 In him there was life, and that life was the light of men.
5 et lux in tenebris lucet, et tenebræ eam non comprehenderunt.
5 And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
5 And the light shines in darkness, a darkness which was not able to master it.
6 Fuit homo missus a Deo, cui nomen erat Joannes.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
6 A man appeared, sent from God, whose name was John.
7 Hic venit in testimonium ut testimonium perhiberet de lumine, ut omnes crederent per illum.
7 This man came for a witness, to give testimony of the light, that all men might believe through him.
7 He came for a witness, to bear witness of the light, so that through him all men might learn to believe.
8 Non erat ille lux, sed ut testimonium perhiberet de lumine.
8 He was not the light, but was to give testimony of the light.
8 He was not the Light; he was sent to bear witness to the light.
9 Erat lux vera, quæ illuminat omnem hominem venientem in hunc mundum.
9 That was the true light, which enlighteneth every man that cometh into this world.
9 There is one who enlightens every soul born into the world; he was the true Light.
10 In mundo erat, et mundus per ipsum factus est, et mundus eum non cognovit.
10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.
10 He, through whom the world was made, was in the world, and the world treated him as a stranger.
11 In propria venit, et sui eum non receperunt.
11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
11 He came to what was his own, and they who were his own gave him no welcome.
12 Quotquot autem receperunt eum, dedit eis potestatem filios Dei fieri, his, qui credunt in nomine ejus:
12 But as many as received him, he gave them power to be made the sons of God, to them that believe in his name.
12 But all those who did welcome him, he empowered to become the children of God, all those who believe in his name;
13 qui non ex sanguinibus, neque ex voluntate carnis, neque ex voluntate viri, sed ex Deo nati sunt.
13 Who are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
13 their birth came, not from human stock, not from nature’s will or man’s, but from God.
14 Et Verbum caro factum est, et habitavit in nobis: et vidimus gloriam ejus, gloriam quasi unigeniti a Patri plenum gratiæ et veritatis.
14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we saw his glory, the glory as it were of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
14 And the Word was made flesh, and came to dwell among us; and we had sight of his glory, glory such as belongs to the Father’s only-begotten Son, full of grace and truth.
Quotquot autem = many however
receperunt eum = recieved him
dedit eis potestatem = gave them power
filios Dei = sons of God
fieri his = this happens (?)
quotquot = many
neque = or
voluntate = will
carne = flesh
viri = man
sed ex Deo = but/and from/by God
nati sunt = are born
Mental note to turn off auto spell-correct.
Blessings. Hodie, Magnificat animae tuum Dominum.
I hope that’s right.