I'm helping translate some Renaissance Latin (Lawrence of Brindisi) and have come across a passage that I think I understand, but I want to double-check.

Hic autem dicitur: Caro mea uere est cibus, sanguis meus uere est potus, ita ut si clarioribus verbis exprimere mysterium hoc voluisset ad significandum se absque ulla figura, sed vere simpliciterque se locutum esse, vix scio quibus aliis uti potuisset, nec invenio in Sacris Litteris verba clariora, quibus cetera fidei et pietatis nostrae mysteria exprimantur.

It's the part in bold that's bothering me. Se is of course a reflexive pronoun, but is it correct to take se as the accusative logical subject in indirect discourse introduced by significare? I know that it's not quite right to say logical subject, because the subject of voluisset is the same as locutum esse, but the se could have an emphasizing/clarifying effect. Thus, literally, "he had wanted to express this mystery in order to signify that he—without any figure, but truly and simply—that he spoke." Or, more polished: "he had wanted to express this mystery with clearer words to signify that, without any figure, he truly and simply spoke."

Or is se somehow reflexive? I.e. "he spoke himself" or "spoke about himself"? Since this is heady religious stuff this slightly strange sense may well be possible, philosophically, but I can't quite figure out what the grammar dictates.


2 Answers 2


First of all, for the uninitiated, this is almost certainly a discussion of John 6:56, where Jesus says:

Caro enim mea vere est cibus: et sanguis meus, vere est potus

It follows that the subject of the whole sentence would most likely be Jesus.

Yes, se is the subject of the indirect-speech clause introduced by significandum. I would translate it as follows:

Here, however, it says: My flesh is meat indeed, my blood is drink indeed, so that if he had wanted to express this mystery in clearer words, so as to show he had talked without any figure of speech, but in a true and simple way, I know not what other words he could have used, nor do I find in the holy scriptures clearer words by which other mysteries of our faith and piety are expressed.

In other words, the simplified sentence is:

si exprimere voluisset ad significandum se absque ulla figura, sed vere se locutum esse

But wait, that's one se too many. In my opinion the author simply repeats the se immediately before locutum, but no, I do not believe it is to emphasize or insinuate anything. For one thing, I would not know what that would be.

  • 1
    Thanks so much, Sebastian. I think the first 'se' is just anticipatory—rhetorical. Commented Jun 25, 2021 at 9:12
  • 2
    Spot on. I would just change the hic to being adverbial ("here") and make "true and simple" adverbial in some way, e.g. "in a true and straightforward way."
    – brianpck
    Commented Jun 25, 2021 at 19:55
  • 1
    @brianpck Oops, I guess I read hoc for hic or something. I took the opportunity to turn that part into an impersonal construction. Commented Jun 26, 2021 at 7:12

Sic intelligo:

ita ut 
    voluisset exprimere
          clarioribus verbis
       se locutum esse mysterium hoc
          ad significandum se
          absque ulla figura
          sed vere simpliciterque
  vix scio 

This does require taking loquor as transitive, but that's not too uncommon in post-classical Latin.

Interestingly, ita ut does not seem to be triggering a subjunctive result clause with scio.

  • How are you taking the 'se' that comes after 'significandum'? Commented Jun 25, 2021 at 9:13
  • 1
    As the head of the gerundive phrase: to have spoken this mystery in order to signify himself Commented Jun 25, 2021 at 10:17

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