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The Latin Vulgate


The Latin Vulgate

  • Course ID:LATIN 545
  • Semesters:1
  • Department:Classics
  • Course Rank:Honors
  • Teachers:Lionel Yaceczko

Description and Objectives

Lat. vulgaris, vulgare, adj., of or belonging to the great mass or multitude, general, usual, ordinary, everyday, common, commonplace, vulgar.

The Latin Vulgate, or simply the Vulgate, is the Latin version of the Scriptures that was produced ca. AD 400 by St Jerome. Although the Scriptures had been translated before, Jerome was the first to produce a translation of both the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament that everyone in the Latin West would embrace for all the centuries that have followed. He thus came to stand next to Cicero, the Roman statesman, and Vergil, the author of the Aeneid, as one of the three most influential writers in the whole history of the Latin language.

Goals for Student Learning: In this course we will see how Vulgar Latin differs from Classical Latin, and also how they are essentially the same language. Students will find the Vulgate easier than most classical texts, although we will read more, at a faster pace than we would a classical author. The primary goal, therefore, for the student, will be to learn to read without translating: to read for comprehension and speed.

Objectives: We will survey several books of both the Old and New Testaments, translating passages from the Pentateuch, Historical Books, Wisdom Literature, Gospels, and Epistles.


Required: The instructor will provide a packet of readings and “notes pages” (on which see below).

Recommended: Latin students at the advanced level are always strongly urged to acquire their own copy of a good Latin dictionary and reference grammar.

The school provides copies of the Elementary Latin Dictionary of C. T. Lewis for students to borrow for the semester. Students are urged, however, to acquire their own copy of this dictionary; it is the last dictionary they will ever need to purchase (even if going on to major in classics or earn an advanced degree!). Students are encouraged to develop a close relationship with their dictionary, as they would with a guardian angel, spouse, dog, or cat.

Course Requirements

• The course grade will be based on the following, although the rubric may be changed during the semester owing to unforeseeable circumstances:

  1. six (6) translation exams, three per quarter, 100 points each. ≥600 points.
  2. at least ten (10) daily notes checks, 10 points each. ≥100 points.
  3. at least one (1) memorization and recitation of a passage of Latin. ≥100 points.

• Students will be expected to follow the syllabus provided at the beginning of the semester. This syllabus will include the daily reading assignments and the six translation exams.

• Students will be expected to do the inevitable grunt work of looking up words in a dictionary and building their vocabulary.

• Students will be expected to come to class prepared to translate the day’s reading assignment.

It bears repeating: this rubric is provided to assist the students in planning their use of time. It is not to be understood as a contract between instructor and student.

Successful Students

• Successful students will spend at least “fifteen solid” every day reading Latin. “Fifteen solid” means focus on one task without interruption from 0–15. Many students will find that this bare minimum is not sufficient to earn higher than a C (70–79) on translation exams.

• Successful students will ask their peers for help! We often find in life—as Benjamin Franklin recounts in his Autobiography*—that asking someone for help is an even better way to make a friend than offering someone help. Additionally, those who have by the expense of great love and work earned a modicum of expertise find delight in sharing it with others, especially those who ask!

* The passage is worth meditating on with regularity:

I therefore did not like the opposition of this new member, who was a gentleman of fortune and education, with talents that were likely to give him, in time, great influence in the House, which, indeed, afterwards happened. I did not, however, aim at gaining his favour by paying any servile respect to him, but, after some time, took this other method. Having heard that he had in his library a certain very scarce and curious book, I wrote a note to him, expressing my desire of perusing that book, and requesting he would do me the favour of lending it to me for a few days. He sent it immediately, and I return’d it in about a week with another note, expressing strongly my sense of the favour. When we next met in the House, he spoke to me (which he had never done before), and with great civility; and he ever after manifested a readiness to serve me on all occasions, so that we became great friends, and our friendship continued to his death. This is another instance of the truth of an old maxim I had learned, which says, “He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another, than he whom you yourself have obliged.” And it shows how much more profitable it is prudently to remove, than to resent, return, and continue inimical proceedings.

• Successful students will seek out the instructor during office hours. We get into this line of work because we love to talk about the ancient world. If the last bullet point was true, then a fortiori this one must be!

• In the Vulgate class in particular, successful students will read a chapter of Scripture every day out loud, slowly, and with attention. I repeat: 1.) out loud; 2.) slowly; 3.) with attention. It does not matter if this be in English or Latin: it is more important that it be every day no matter what. Ideally—in the end—one will cease to read translations of the Scriptures (or translations of anything, for that matter). The length of the text read is less important than that it be a solid 5–10 minutes.

Additional Resources

• The best Greek and Latin dictionaries have been digitized and may be accessed for free at Logeion, a website hosted by the University of Chicago. Students are encouraged to use Logeion the way they would use a pocket knife.

• A parallel Greek—English—Latin version of the Scriptures may be found at NewAdvent. Students are encouraged to use NewAdvent the way they would break the glass on a fire alarm.

• Download the Syllabus here after the first day of class.

Summer Assignment

Turn in two Latin DANs and two Latin Verb Synopses per month, on the last day of each month, for a total of six (6) DANs and six (6) Verb Synopses over the entire summer.

The two completed DANs and two completed Verb Synopses should be submitted as .pdf attachments to an email sent on or before each due date (June 30th, July 31st and August 31st) to the instructor, Dr. Yaceczko, at

• DANs must have a noun and adjective from different declensions. Do the six phrases below:

due June 30th:

this republic: haec res publica

hic, haec, hoc; res, rei, f.; publicus, -a, -um

that first charge: ille primus impetus

ille, illa, illud; primus, -a, -um; impetus, -us, m.

due July 31st:

the pardoning queen herself: ipsa regina parcens

ipse, ipsa, ipsum; regina, -ae, f.; parcens, parcentis

a certain king about to return: quidam rex rediturus

due August 31st:

quidam, quaedam, quoddam; rex, regis, m.; rediturus, -a, -um

the same oath having to be sworn: idem ius iurandum

idem, eadem, idem; ius, iuris, n.; iurandus, -a, -um

that stronger castle: istud castellum validius

iste, ista, istud; castellum, -i, n.; validior, validius


• Synopses must have a regular transitive verb (not an intransitive or a deponent verb). Do the six verbs below in the person, number and gender indicated:

due June 30th:

puto, putare, putavi, putatus, think  (1st person singular feminine)

lego, legere, legi, lectus, read  (3rd person plural neuter)

due July 31st:

doceo, docere, docui, doctus, teach  (2nd person singular neuter)

capio, capere, cepi, captus, take  (1st person plural masculine)

due August 31st:

aperio, aperire, aperui, apertus, open  (2nd person plural feminine)

traho, trahere, traxi, tractus, pull  (3rd person singular masculine)

These assignments represent the minimum required, will be graded and will be included in your first-quarter grade.

Any DANs and Verb Synopses done with sufficient correctness over the summer beyond the minimum will count as extra credit toward your first-quarter grade. You will have to choose your own words to make these additional DANs and Verb Synopses.  It is recommended that you choose words from the Dickinson College Latin Vocabulary List.