Learn Biblical Latin by reading the Vulgata

Lesson 10

Let's continue with the story of the Creation. The last thing we read was God dividing the waters. Now, continuing with Genesis 1:7:

et fecit Deus firmamentum, divisitque aquas, quae erant sub firmamento, ab his, quae erant super firmamentum. et factum est ita.

New words:

  1. fecit - he has made, he has done
  2. sub - under
  3. ita - so, like that

This verse contains two forms of the perfect tense: "fecit" and "divisit". "fecit" is the irregular perfect tense of "facere" (to do, make). "divisit" is perfect tense of "dividere" (to divide), it's one of those verbs that use an S to mark the perfect. Now you should be able to translate up to "sub firmamento". Try it!

"And God made the firmament and he divided the waters, which were under the firmament..." - divide them from what? "ab his, quae erant super firmamentum". "his" is the feminine plural Ablative form of "hic" - it even has the same -is ending as other feminine plural Ablative words we've seen recently, like "aquis", so that's easy to remember. So "his" means "these", but as Ablative. "ab his" is "from these". Can you translate the rest now?

"(...he divided the waters, which were under the firmament,) from these, which were over the firmament. And it was done so". Next verse:

vocavitque Deus firmamentum, Caelum: et factum est vespere et mane, dies secundus.

New words:

  1. vocare - to call
  2. secundus - second

What is "vocavitque"? Whenever you're not sure, disassemble Latin words from right to left. -que is the linking word "and". -it is the 3rd person singular ending: "he/she/it". -v- marks this as perfect tense. So "vocavitque" can be translated as "and he has called" or simply "and he called". The rest is straightforward, go ahead and translate the entire verse!

"And God called the firmament Sky: there was evening and morning, second day". This time we're so fast, we even have time for a third verse in this lesson!

dixit vero Deus: congregentur aquae, quae sub caelo sunt, in locum unum: et appareat arida. et factum est ita.

New words:

  1. vero - however, truly
  2. congregare - to gather, collect
  3. locus - place
  4. apparere - to appear
  5. arida - dry land

"congregentur" is a new verb form. It ends in
-ntur, which is the 3rd person plural ("they" form) like -nt, but -nt is active and -ntur is passive. The difference between active and passive sentences is in who is doing the action. Let's use "to create" as an easier example for now. "God creates the earth" (Deus creat terram) is an active sentence. "The earth is created" is a passive sentence, because the earth isn't doing anything, the earth is only the passive recipient of God's action. In Latin, the active example sentence is "Deus creat terram" and the passive sentence is "terra creatur". So in English we change "creates" to "is created", but in Latin we only add -ur to the end of the verb.

By the same token, "congregant" is active and means "they collect/gather". "congregantur" is passive and means "they are collected / are gathered (by somebody else)". In this verse, we additionally notice a vowel change: it's not "congregantur" but "congregentur". We had this before though: the vowel change is simply an indication of the subjunctive, so the translation here is "they should be collected/gathered". Knowing this, can you translate up to "locum unum"?

"Truly God said: the waters, which are under the sky, should be gathered in one place". "appareat" is another subjunctive form: "apparet" would mean "it appears" and the subjunctive "appareat" therefore means "it shall appear". Now translate the rest of the verse.

"(the waters shall be gathered)... and the dry land shall appear. And it was done so". This is the end of lesson 10.