Study Tips

Latin Bible. You will find here some stories from the Latin Bible. You can find the complete text of the Latin Bible online at many websites. An English translation based on the Latin Bible, the Douay-Rheims version, is available in a very user-friendly format for browsing and reading at ScripTours. If you would like to view the text of the Latin Bible, side by side with English translation(s), use the "Power Search" option at the Unbound Bible website.

How hard is Biblical Latin? Biblical Latin is not hard to read! That is why these stories are great for beginning Latin students. After you have completed a basic Latin course, you should not have any trouble reading the Latin Bible. The Latin of the Bible is highly influenced by oral storyelling traditions, which makes it much easier to read than the highly literary style of most classical writers. Where there are important differences between the Latin of the Bible stories and the standards of classical Latin, you will find a note about that in the commentary.

If your Latin is kind of rusty...? If your Latin is rusty, you might want to get a good Latin textbook to use as a reference, so that when you come to a difficult grammatical point (for example, some scary subjunctive verb), then you can review that in the textbook. I strongly recommend against Wheelock. Instead, Moreland and Fleischer's Latin: An Intensive Course is your best bet for this purpose!

Latin dictionary. Having a good paperback Latin dictionary is very helpful. I strongly recommend the The Bantam New College Latin & English Dictionary. You should also become familiar with how to use the Latin Morphology Tool at Perseus. This allows you to quickly identify the possible dictionary form(s) of any Latin word - which can sometimes be kind of tricky - especially for verbs that look like nouns and vice versa!

Latin text. The Latin text is presented in two different versions. The Bible version follows the standard versification system found in the modern Bible. The segmented version is designed to help you find the natural pauses, and also to quickly identify the correct phrase and clause boundaries.

Reading out loud. The segmented text is designed to assist you in reading out loud. With practice, you will learn to recognize the important Latin words that help you mark the appropriate pauses and boundaries, but this can take some time, especially if you are not used to reading Latin out loud. Reading Latin out loud is the very best way to improve your reading skills in general! So please read out loud: don't worry if it drives your housemates crazy! It's worth it!

Suggested study guide. Go ahead and print out the four different pages for each reading: Vulgate, segmented version, commentary, and Douay-Rheims translation. After you have these versions ready to go, here's what to do:

  1. Segmented Latin with English. Start by reading the segmented text side by side with the English translation and the commentary. Read it very carefully! Are there any words you need to look up? If so, look up the words in a good Latin dictionary. Write down the dictionary form of the Latin word, along with a brief English definition, on the segmented text version - write the definitions way over in the right-hand margin of the page (so you can cover them up later).
    For help with the Latin, look at the way the text is displayed on the screen when you select different styles: direct speech in bold, verbs in bold, or verbs underlined with direct speech in bold.
  2. Segmented Latin with Commentary. Now, put the English translation aside. Try reading the segmented text version out loud. Read it out loud several times. You might consult the commentary if you want, and also look at the English definitions you wrote in the margin, but try not to look at the English translation - if you need to look at the English translation, go back to Step #1, and make good use of your dictionary!
    For help with the Latin, look at the way the text is displayed on the screen when you select different styles: direct speech in bold, verbs in bold, or verbs underlined with direct speech in bold.
  3. Segmented Latin only. Then, when you are feeling more confident, put aside the commentary and use a blank piece of paper to cover up the right-hand side of the Latin segmented version, covering up any Latin-English definitions that you wrote there. Read slowly, paying attention to the pauses. Do you understand what the Latin is saying?
    For help with the Latin, look at the way the text is displayed on the screen when you select different styles: direct speech in bold, verbs in bold, or verbs underlined with direct speech in bold.
  4. Vulgate Latin. Now you are ready to put aside the Latin segmented version and try the Latin Vulgate text, where the breaks are based on the versification, and with no other punctuation to help you pause. Read the Latin Bible version out loud, trying to pause at the natural boundaries inside the verses. Can you find the natural pauses inside the verses? Are you still able to understand the Latin? If there are some Latin words you don't recognize, go back to your Latin segmented version and circle the Latin-English words that you looked up which are still causing you trouble. You can use those circled words as a vocabulary review the next time you try reading the Latin Bible version.

Punctuation. You will quickly notice that the Latin text has no punctuation. This is because the text of the Latin Bible is traditionally printed without punctuation of any kind. And, of course, this is a very good thing: Latin itself did not have punctuation! Any punctuation in a text represents the intervention of a modern editor. If you learn to read Latin without punctuation, you will get used to recognizing the verbal punctuation which is so strongly marked in Latin, such as the postpositives that mark the beginning of a new sentence (enim, autem, and so on), and interrogative words that mark the beginning of a question (num, nonne, and so on).

Direct speech. Quotation marks are one kind of punctuation that English readers find it very hard to live without! So, if you want to quickly see where the direct speech start and stop in the Latin text, just click on the red checkmark where it says "bold speech." This will cause all the direct speech (the stuff that would normally be in quotation marks) to appear in bold.

Verbs. In general, every Latin sentence contains a verb. Verbs can be found anywhere in the sentence, because Latin word order is entirely free. You will often find verbs at the end of a sentence, but verbs come also come first, or in the middle. Being able to identity the verb is extremely important. Some verbs might at first look like nouns to you, and some nouns might look like verbs. For example, veniam can be a noun or a verb, facies can be a noun or a verb. You need to always be sure where your verbs are! In order to highlight the verbs, just click on the red checkmark where it says "bold verbs."

Direct speech AND verbs. If you would like a way to highlight both the direct speech AND the verbs in the Latin text, you can click on the red checkmark where it says "bold speech + underline verbs."

Latin commentary. You will find a brief commentary on the Latin text, verse by verse, which highlights some important grammatical points. This is not meant to be a commentary on the meaning of the text. You can find many Bible commentaries online, at sites like Blue Letter Bible or along with many others.

English translation. The English translation that is provided here is the Douay-Rheims, which is an English Bible translation based on the Latin Bible rather than on the Hebrew or Greek Bibles. If you are looking for an English text to "help" you read the Latin, this is the best translation to use. Sometimes there are some radical differences between the text of the Latin Bible and the Hebrew and Greek originals on which it is based. You can get a sense of those differences by comparing the Douay-Rheims translation to English translations which are instead based on the original languages. Again, you can use the "Power Search" option at the Unbound Bible website in order to compare the Douay-Rheims to different English translations.