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There's a phrase from the Gospel that's used in the liturgy -- "sed tantum dic verbo" [et sanabitur anima mea], "but only say the word" [and my soul shall be healed]. Why verbo (dative or ablative) and not verbum (accusative)?

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    I am not able to answer this question for the moment, but, to help others, it can be noted that in Matt. 8,8 sed tantum dic verbo is a word for word rendering of αλλα μονον ειπε λογω, which also sounds like the wrong case.
    – fdb
    Commented Nov 1, 2019 at 20:05
  • @fdb: That is probably with an iota subscriptum? By the way, there also seems to be a version αλλα μονον ειπε λογον. greeknewtestament.com/B40C008.htm
    – Cerberus
    Commented Nov 1, 2019 at 20:27
  • @Cerberus. Yes, it is dative. αλλα μονον ειπε λογον is an inferior lectio in some late MSS. Jerome's verbo agrees with the older lectio difficilior.
    – fdb
    Commented Nov 1, 2019 at 21:02
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    I think it means something like "but say it with only one word".
    – fdb
    Commented Nov 1, 2019 at 21:04
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    @fdb: It couldn't be one of those semantically empty phrases, possibly even a Hebraism?
    – Cerberus
    Commented Nov 1, 2019 at 21:15

2 Answers 2

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Seems like a perfectly legitimate instrumental use of the ablative. (Presumably one could also ask someone "dic signo", for example, so it's not a completely empty modifier of dic.) If that's the case, though, then the usual English translation is a bit off (though it's hard to see how one would do better without producing very non-idiomatic English).

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    The English KJV follows Erasmus's Textus Receptus, which has the inferior reading λογον (accusative).
    – fdb
    Commented Nov 2, 2019 at 18:13
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    I was thinking of the Catholic Mass in English, which presumably doesn't reference either Erasmus or the KJV, but produces the same accusative in English.
    – C Monsour
    Commented Nov 2, 2019 at 18:17
  • @CMonsour, the translation of the mass came long after the KJV, and the KJV had an enormous influence on modern English.
    – Figulus
    Commented Oct 29, 2021 at 23:10
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"dic verbo" is in contrast to the way the centurion explains his own method of getting things done, i.e., by commanding subordinates to do his bidding.

The centurion recognizes the superior authority of Jesus. Not only is the centurion unworthy to have him enter his house, but the authority of Jesus is such that he need only speak "word-wise" (i.e., not via a representative), and the thing will be done. Hence, Jesus recognizes the extraordinary faith of the centurion who knows that Jesus' power is not limited by space and time.

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