03 November 2011

"Discoveries" in the Vulgate

It was preschool mom's night out last night, so the obvious thing for me to do was spend some quality time with online versions of the Vulgate Bible. It was shocking and thought-provoking to see the word "holocaust" (and its Latin equivalents) used all over Vayikra (Leviticus). Part of me now wants to start using "Shoah" instead, at least in contexts where people would know what I'm talking about. Or maybe "Nazi genocide"?

On a lighter note (well, almost anything would be lighter than that), I really enjoyed the Vulgate (well, Duoay-Rheims) translation of Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) 1:15:
The perverse are hard to be corrected, and the number of fools is infinite.
As opposed to, for example, the King James:
That which is crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting cannot be numbered.


  1. cf. Italian for 'burnt offering': http://translate.google.com/#en|it|burnt%20offering

  2. Thanks Jared for your comment. I did perhaps err in not mentioning what most English translations use instead of "holocaust", which is indeed "burnt offering" or similar.

    But, I'm not sure what you're getting at in citing the Italian.

    I think the use of the English work "holocaust" in Duoay-Rheims comes from the Latin word "holocaustum" in the Vulgate Bible which in turn comes from the Greek work "holocaustos" ("ὁλόκαυστος") in the Septuagint.

    As a disclaimer, on such issues of translation which I have just been bold enough to speculate, there's about a thousand years of scholarship that I'm ignorant of and I'm gonna guess about 10 million people more knowledgeable than me.

  3. I just noticed that above I seem to suggest that the Vulgate was translated from the Greek (Septuagint), whereas apparently it was quite notable that it was translated from the Hebrew.

    In other words, my speculation is that holocaustum comes from ὁλόκαυστος by virtue of the general relationship between the Latin and Greek languages, not because the Vulgate is a translation of the Septuagint, which it is not.