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Learning Latin for Bible Studies


Latin is a core skill to read not only ancient Bible texts, but also Reformation era commentaries. Of course, you can rely upon translations, but that is the point. Then your knowledge is limited by the excellence (or not) of the translation. And even if translated, the idiom of an earlier English translation may change, and thus you cannot assume it means the same thing the words convey today. Hence, knowing Latin is highly beneficial.

And most important of all, studying Latin is actually very enjoyable. 

Until you do it, you don't know how studying Latin can be so satisfying. But it is. You don't have to study it all your life. For once you know it, it influences your entire perspective on the English words you use every day. It increases your aptitude to understand foreign languages, like Spanish, French or Italian. It allows you to appreciate the fact that language evolves. You realize how meanings turn slightly in new directions from a similar word today which meant something related yet distinctly different in the past.

Then there is the meter of Roman Poetry -- Latin poetry to be precise. Yes, there is such a thing as Roman poetry. Poets writing from the perspective of the conquerors educating, cajoling, entertaining, etc., the masses conquered by Rome. Proud, patriotic, ridiculous, funny, sensual, etc., are various themes that the Roman poets handle.

And finally, there is the wit, wisdom and spirituality of a people who started great, continued for centuries, but then ended up debasing their currency, extorting taxes, oppressing everyone to the point of brutality to collect payments and then who finished off their culture by erecting a welfare state which in turn led to laziness, followed by moral collapse, failure and being conquered by the Vandals & Visigoths. The story of Rome is the story of good and evil -- how cultures rise to the greatest heights by great wisdom and principles which collapse once the society succumbs to debased values in spirit and money. When reading Latin maxims centuries before the collapse, one sees the brilliant and uplifting wit and wisdom that gave Rome a spiritual perspective which allowed it to conquer the world.


Latin Appreciation

The way to begin studying Latin is by reading famous quotes in Latin with the English translation. Get the feeling of the tempo, the vigor of mind, and the wit which Latin can convey. Then you will hopefully want to experience it first-hand -- taking up a Latin text will become less fearsome a thought, and instead will fully engage your interest.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

Aequam memento rebus in arduis servare mentem - Remember to keep the mind calm in difficult moments (Horace - Odes, II, 3.)

Aurea mediocritas - Golden mediocrity (Horace - Odes II, 5) - a witty way of describing someone who does not show too much heroism or cowardice, and avoids complications with anything or anyone. "It is a wily behavior, rather than engage with political ideologies, social, religious, sports, and so on." (link) Or think of someone applauded by the crowds who takes us nowhere important. 

Carpe diem quam minimum credula postero - Capture the day, put minimum trust on tomorrow (Horace - Odes I, 11 - Seize the day, don't let it go without taking advantage of it - Don't waste the opportunity). (link)

Eram quod es, eris quod sum - I was what you are, you will be what I am (Horace, Carmina XI - Engraved in Gravestones)

Non omnis moriam - I shall not completly die (Horace) - the poet anticipated that his works would survive him

Non, si male nunc, olim sic erit - No, but you're wrong now, and always will be (Horace)

Omne tulit punctum, qui miscuit utile dulci - He who mixes the sweet with the useful has gained every point. (Horace - Poetic Art - Verse 343)

Here are some spiritual remarks by Roman poets that are worthy of contemplation:

Coelum non animum mutant qui trans mare currunt - Those who cross the sea do not change the soul (Horace).

Decipimur specie recti - We are deceived by the righteous (Horace - Ars poetica)

Ibit, ibit eo quo vis qui zonam perdidit - Whoever has lost his moneybelt will go. (Horace - Epistulae II).  Horace referred to soldiers who lose their will to fight after they gain possessions that
they want to preserve, but once the lose them they are willing to fight again.

Dira necessitas - Cruel necessity (Horace) 

Nihil nimis - Nothing with excess (Horace) 

De duobus malis minus est semper eligendum - Between two evils, choose always the lesser one (Cicero - De Officiis)

Cuiusvis hominis est errare; nullius nisi insipientis, in errore perseverare - Any man can make a mistake; only a fool keeps making the same one (Cicero - Philippica XII)

In virtute sunt multi ascensus - In excellence there are many degrees (Cicero)

Mea mihi conscientia pluris est quam omnium sermo - My conscience is more important to me than any speech (Cicero)

Nihil utile nisi quod honestum - Nothing is good except honesty (Cicero)

Here is Roman sayings that are humorous and wise at the same time:

In silvam ne ligna feras - Don't carry logs into the forest (Horace)

Nescit vox missa reverti - The words can not return (Horace) -- Meaning "once spoken, words will leave their impression." People who post on Facebook should keep this saying in their mind at all times!

Esse oportet ut vivas, non vivere ut edas - Eat to Live, Do not live to eat (Cicero)

Omnes una manet nox - The same night awaits us all (Horace)

Pallida mors aequo pulsat pede pauperum tabernas regumque turres - The pale of death equally strikes  the huts of the poor and in the palaces of kings (Horace - Odes) -- quoted in Preface of "Don Quixote of the Mancha (1650) by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

Dum spiro, spero - While I breath, I hope (Cicero)  

O praeclarum custodem ovium lupum! - An excellent protector of sheep, a Wolf (Cicero)

Here are Roman sayings on justice:

Fundamentum iustitiae, primum est ne cui noceatur - The first foundation of justice is not to harm others (Legal term - Cicero - De Officiis I, 10, 31)

Iustitia est habitus animi, communi utilitate conservata, suam quique tribuens dignitatem - Justice is the habit of spirit for a common good, which gives each one's dignity (Legal term - Cicero - De Inventone 2, 53, 16.)

Iustitia praecipit suum cuique reddere - Justice hastens the return to each his own (Legal term - Marco Tulio Ciceron, De Republica.3,15,24).

Liberae sunt nostrae cogitationes - Our thoughts are free (Cicero Pro Milone oratio 79.)

Num negare audes? quid taces? Convincam, si negas - Why are you silent? I will prove it if you do deny it; (Cicero - First Catiline

Free Latin Teaching Books

Allen & Greenough, An Elementary Guide to Writing in Latin (Boston: 1877)