Monday, June 13, 2022



Jacob Wackernagel (1853-1938), Lectures on Syntax, ed. and tr. David Langslow (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), p. 18 (editor's footnotes omitted):
In the earliest period, Christian texts in Latin are almost exclusively translations from Greek texts, translations, moreover, which were made not by the intellectual elite but by simple people of limited education and learning, for whom the wording of the original was surrounded by a sacred halo. As a result, when they produced versions of holy texts, they committed gross infringements of the rules of their own language. For example, in an old translation of the New Testament, which is known in fragments—i.e., not in the Vulgate—we read at Mark 4:11 omnia dicitur, 'all things (pl.) is said (sg.)'. In Latin it is a glaring solecism to use a singular verb with a plural subject. This is explained by the fact that the Greek original has πάντα γίγνεται 'everything (pl.) comes to pass (sg.)', with the familiar Greek construction (neuter plural subject with singular verb; cf. I, 101–3 below). Similarly, in the so-called Clementina, Greek participles in the genitive absolute are rendered with genitives in the Latin, e.g. §43 contendentium tribuum, 'while the tribes were disputing'. Or again, in just the same way it can happen that in texts of the Bible even Hebraisms enter Latin. Several times in the Old Testament we have the expression ἀνὴρ αἱμάτων (lit. 'man of bloods (pl.)': 2 Kings 16:7, 8; Psalms 5:7, 25:9, etc.; Proverbs 29:10). From a Greek point of view the descriptive genitive is anomalous and so, too, is the plural, 'bloods' (αἵματα occurs only in poetry). Both features are conditioned by the Hebrew original, and accordingly the phrase used in the Latin text is uir sanguinum. This is particularly striking because sanguis in Latin has otherwise no plural at all; the grammarians, who take no notice of Christian Latin, make this an explicit rule (Servius on Aen. 4.687; Priscian 5.54 = GL II, 175).
Servius on Aen. 4.687:
nec sanguines dicimus numero plurali nec cruores.
See also Augustine, Enarrationes in Psalmos 50.16:
expressit latinus interpres verbo minus latino proprietatem tamen ex graeco. nam omnes novimus latine non dici sanguines, nec sanguina; tamen quia ita graecus posuit plurali numero, non sine causa, nisi quia hoc invenit in prima lingua hebraea, maluit pius interpres minus latine aliquid dicere, quam minus proprie.

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