Learn Biblical Latin by reading the Vulgata

Lesson 5

hic venit in testimonium ut testimonium perhiberet de lumine ut omnes crederent per illum

New words:

  1. hic - this (man), referring to the last masculine word mentioned, in this case "Iohannes"
  2. venire - to come
  3. testimonium - proof, evidence, witness (testimony) (uses the same endings as "Verbum" and "Deus")
  4. ut - so that, in order to
  5. perhibere - to give
  6. de - of, about
  7. lumine - light, light of day, clearness, understanding (Ablative of a declension you don't know yet)
  8. omnes - all people (compare to "omnia" -> all things)
  9. credere - to believe
  10. per - through
  11. illum - him, that one (Accusative, compare to "Deum"!)

In this lesson, I would like to introduce you to the infinitive form of verbs. That is the form that doesn't give you any information about what person is involved. It's also the one that you'd usually look up in a dictionary - for example you wouldn't look for "(you) are" or "(he) was" in a dictionary but "(to) be". This form typically ends in -re in Latin. You have already seen that the verb "esse"(to be) is an exception though. But in this lesson's vocabulary list, I put all new verbs in their infinitive form.

Now, how to get from the infinitive form to the one that actually appears in the text and vice versa?

Two ways:

  1. if the form is a simple one (called "Indicative"), you take off the -re ending and then add one of the verb endings you already know, -t or -nt to go to the conjugated (finite, not in-finite) form. For example take "laudare"(to praise). If you want the form "he praises", you first take off the -re, which leaves "lauda". Then add the -t which indicates that the person is "he / she / it". The result: "laudat".
  2. if the verb conveys a wish or a goal, particularly if it follows the word "ut", it requires a "Subjunctive" form. This form is even easier to make: don't touch the -re and add the verb ending to the end of it. Example: "laudare"(to praise) with the added -t becomes "laudaret", which would maybe be translated as "so that he praises" or "he should praise" or "he was to praise".

That's not too hard, is it? And if you encounter such a form in the text and you want to find out what the infinitive is, just take off the ending and then see whether the word still ends in -re. If it doesn't end in -re, it must be a Indicative form and you need to add -re to get the infinitive.

Try to translate the verse now: hic venit in testimonium ut testimonium perhiberet de lumine ut omnes crederent per illum
It is: This man came for a witness, to give testimony of the light, that all men might believe through him.

The next verse (John 1,18) is so easy that you can probably translate it right away if I just tell you two words:

  1. sed - but, however
  2. ille - he (note the relation ille - illum, ille actually works just like words of the O-Declension (like "Deus" and "Verbum") most of the time.)

Now, can you translate non erat ille lux sed ut testimonium perhiberet de lumine?

Of course you can. It is: "He was not the light, but was to give testimony of the light". Since "erat" alone would have sufficed to say "he was", the added "ille" emphasizes the "he" in the sense of "it was not he who was the light".
You are making tremendous progress! This is the end of lesson 5.