Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Addressing Translation Issues in Lactantius


You write:

"(LACTANTIUS c. 240 to 320): ...Et quamvis alios postea innumerabiles per ipsum creavisset, quo angelos dicimus...' - (Latin Text of Divinae Institutiones Book 4, Chapter 6, Section 1. MGL.)

Does Latin ( alios ) mean 'another'?

Or does it mean 'other'?"

According to Lewis-Short Latin Dictionary and John C. Traupman's Latin-English Dictionary, the word can mean either "another" or "other" or "different" along with other denotations in determinate speech contexts.

"Is Latin ( alios ) the equivelant of Greek ( ἄλλος ) '...another (numerically) of the same kind and quality...'?

TRENCH says: '...( ἄλλος ) identical with the Latin 'alius' ... But ( ἔτέρος ) equivalent to the Latin 'alter'..." - (Page 357 SYNONYMS OF THE NT)

Is Latin ( alios ) a plural word?"

ALIOS is accusative masculine plural of ALIUS.

"Could it be (paraphrased): '...created innumerable others of the same kind, whom we call angels...'

Or would that be stretching it to far?"

I could be wrong, but I don't think "others of the same kind" would convey the notion behind the Latin ALIUS/ALIOS. IMO, the word usually stresses difference rather than sameness. See Lewis-Short at Perseus for many examples of how ALIUS is used.

You also write:

"The other two translations render it this way:

(LACTANTIUS c. 240 to 320): '...and though he later created countless (OTHERS), whom we call angels...' (Divinae institutiones 4.6.1)

(LACTANTIUS c. 240 to 320): '...And although He had afterwards created by Himself innumerable (OTHER-BEINGS), whom we call angels...' - (ANF Roberts & Donaldson)"

I like the second translation best since it preserves subtleties like the use of creavisset, etc.


Edgar Foster said...

ALLOS is cognate with ALIUS, but we need to avoid subtle distinctions between ALLOS and hETEROS that might not hold up when scrutinized closely.



Anonymous said...

Your absolutely right Edgar.

It would be pushing to far.

Thank you for your input.


Βασίλειος said...


Sorry to write this here, it's because you haven't published any email at your profile for communication.

In your post about Ignatius, you have mistakenly translated πρῶτον ἐποίησε as "first-made".

ἐποίησε is a verb in past simple tense, not a participle.

Of course, the idea that the Son of God, as a person, is co-eternal to the Father is a later christological conception, first found in Ireneaus (c. 200), but the specific case of Ignatius has nothing to do with that.

For the later dogma of eternal co-eternity of the Son see:

Harry Wolfson, The Philosophy of the Church Fathers, Harvard University Press, 1970, Vol. 1, pp. 198-204

Anonymous said...


Thank you for your observation.

I shall correct it.

But it still ignores the fact that other Ante-Nicenes clearly regard Jesus as "first-created" or at the very least "created" or "made" in regard to Col 1:15 and Prov 8:22.

Shepherd of Hermas, Clement of Alexandria, Justin Martyr (see blog), Origen, Irenaeus, Mileto of Sardis wrote a whole BOOK on the subject, Novation, Lactantius and others.

Not surprised my blog has stired a reaction.

Edgar, may I ask your opinion on this please?

Βασίλειος said: "...In your post about Ignatius, you have mistakenly translated πρῶτον ἐποίησε as "first-made". ἐποίησε is a verb in past simple tense, not a participle..."

Edgar Foster said...


He is right.ἐποίησε is a verb rather than a participle. See Genesis 1:1; 2 Cor 5:21.

However, I agree that the ANF generally view the LOGOS as "firstborn" or "first-created" in some sense of the word.

Best regards,