In Matthew 27, why does the Vulgate call the graves of people who were resurrected along with Jesus "monumentum", but Jesus's grave "sepulchrum"?

Matthew 27:53 says, in Vulgate:

Et exeuntes de monumentis post resurrectionem ejus, venerunt in sanctam civitatem, et apparuerunt multis.

In the New International Version:

They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

However, Matthew 27:61 says, in Vulgate:

Erant autem ibi Maria Magdalene, et altera Maria, sedentes contra sepulchrum.

In the New International Version:

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.

So, was there some difference between monumentum and sepulchrum?

  • Just to confuse things, the French and Spanish translations use "sépulcres" and "sepulcros" for Matthew 27:53. Jun 25, 2023 at 0:46
  • @RayButterworth I suppose the translators to French and Spanish were translating a lot less literally than Jerome was. Jun 25, 2023 at 15:05

1 Answer 1


The two words in the Vulgate are very literal translations of the words in the Greek original, which has ἐκ τῶν μνημείων [ek tōn mnēmeiōn] in 27:53 and ἀπέναντι τοῦ τάφου [apenanti tou tafou] in 27:61. Since μνημεῖον [mnēmeion] is etymologically related to μνήμη [mnēmē, "memory"], it is translated monumentum ["tomb, memorial", from moneo], whereas τάφος [tafos] is etymologically related to θάπτω [thaptō, "to bury"] and is translated sepulchrum ["tomb, burial place", from sepelio].

  • 3
    Is there a difference in meaning?
    – Ben Kovitz
    Apr 29, 2021 at 10:07
  • Sorry, I do not understand your answer, as I do not speak a word of Greek, and I am not even sure about the alphabet. Apr 29, 2021 at 10:08
  • 2
    I've added transliterations and further explanations of the words.
    – gmvh
    Apr 29, 2021 at 11:05
  • 4
    In the aorist, there are form of θάπτω that have the stemp ταφ-, so it ought to be a real etymology.
    – gmvh
    Apr 29, 2021 at 12:05
  • 8
    @FlatAssembler That could honestly be a good question in its own right, but the short answer is, there's a rule in Ancient Greek called Grassmann's Law: if you have two H's too close to each other, the first one disappears. The underlying root here is thaph-, which appears as taph- before a vowel (first one disappears) but as thap- if it comes before a consonant that suppresses the second h (first one doesn't disappear). Compare also hekh- "have" which appears as ekh- before a vowel and hek- before a consonant.
    – Draconis
    Apr 29, 2021 at 14:26

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