Learn Biblical Latin by reading the Vulgata

Lesson 2

omnia per ipsum facta sunt et sine ipso factum est nihil quod factum est

New words :

  1. omnia - all things
  2. per - by
  3. ipsum - him. This literally means "himself", to stress that it was God personally who did this.
  4. factum - done, made
  5. esse - to be
  6. sine - without
  7. nihil - nothing
  8. quod - which, that. Not the kind of "which" that is used in questions, but the one in relative clauses, when you further describe something: e. g. "the book, which I often read, …"

Even though they look very different, "sunt" and "est" are both forms of "esse". "esse"(to be) is an irregular verb, it changes a lot - just like in English and many other languages. Maybe you recognised the -t ending in "est": just like "erat", it is the form used with "he", "she" or "it". This form is called the "3rd person singular". Here's a list of the different persons there are, and which English pronouns they correspond to:

2ndyou (tú, tu, du)you (vosotros, vous, ihr)
3rdhe / she / itthey

Back to "est": since it's the 3rd person singular (fitting to "he", "she" or "it") of the verb "esse" meaning "to be", the translation is "is". Either "he is" or "she is" or "it is", if we receive no other clue towards who exactly "is". Note that "erat" was also 3rd person singular and also based on the verb "esse", but past tense, talking about something that "was", whereas "est" is present tense, talking about something that "is".

"sunt is also a form of "esse". It is the 3rd person plural, that means it corresponds to "they". You can note for later that the ending -nt is used for any verb in the 3rd person plural. So what is the translation? "they be"? No, of course it is "they are", or simply "are".

So what does that give us for the verse? The first part is "omnia per ipsum facta sunt". The only word that might seem unknown to you is "facta". This is actually the same as "factum"(done, made), except that the word had to adjust to fit "omnia", because "omnia" is plural, more than one thing. Can you translate this part now? Literally, it is "All things by him made are", but if you don't want to sound like Yoda, you'd probably say "All things are made by him". You'll often have to re-arrange words when translating Latin to English.

One more thing: this combination "facta sunt" (are made) actually counts as a kind of past tense in Latin (called the "perfect tense"), so we'll translate "est" and "sunt" as "was" and "were" even though they're technically "is" and "are".

The rest of the verse is "et sine ipso factum est nihil quod factum est". "ipso" is a variation on "ipsum", precipitated by the preposition "sine"(without). It's basically the same deal as with "deum" / "deus" that we had in the last lesson, except that the case for "ipso" would be called "Ablative". For now, just accept that words constantly change their ending in Latin. Now you should be able to translate the rest of the verse. The word-by-word translation is: "and without him made is nothing which made is" and a good translation would be "and without him was made nothing that was made".

Congratulations, you've made it to the end of lesson 2!