Does the occurrence of “in” before “hominibus”, which seems to be found in some but not all renderings of this verse, follow usual Latin usage? A plain dative seems like it would work to me (pax hominibus “peace to men”, like gloria deo “glory to god”), so the version with “in” + ablative seems unnecessary, and it is harder for me to understand its grammar.

Is it idiomatic to use “in” here in Latin (possibly with a different shade of meaning such as “peace among men”?) or is it an unidiomatic wording that occurs for some reason like influence from the “ἐν” in the Greek version? Which is more common, the version with “in” before “hominibus” or the one without?


1 Answer 1


This isn't far-fetched. From Lewis and Short for in § I.A.2:

  1. In indicating a multitude or number, of, in, or among which a person or thing is, in, among (= gen. part.): “in his poëta hic nomen profitetur suum,” Ter. Eun. prol. 3: “Thales, qui sapientissimus in septem fuit,” Cic. Leg. 2, 11, 26...

The examples above tend to be more partitive (among X is Y). A closer example though is from Caesar:

“Caesaris in barbaris erat nomen obscurius,” among, Caes. B. C. 1, 61

"The name of Caesar among the barbarians was rather obscure."

There is a diffusive aspect to it. You also see this when talking about customs of nations, which is probably what Caesar is echoing.

So for pax in hominibus, it would be rendered something along the lines of "peace among men of good will." If a verb is to be specified, you could imagine demus gloriam deo (may we give glory to god) and intersit pax in hominibus (may there be peace among men). I think the confusion may have arisen because 'peace' is not typically given; rather, it's something obtained. It still makes sense as a dative, but I can see why in would be added as well.

  • Your spell checker changed gloriam to gloria
    – Figulus
    Dec 19, 2021 at 1:56
  • 1
    @Figulus Fixed, thanks, but it's more likely that my fingers are to blame!
    – cmw
    Dec 19, 2021 at 2:05

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