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I'm studying Augustine's Sermon 46, "De Pastoribus," largely via translations into Spanish and English. There are a number of places where my English source and my Spanish source disagree, but perhaps none are more blatant than in section 11. The relevant passage in Latin reads:

et tu dic: "Si in Christo pie vixeris, abundabunt tibi omnia bona. Et si filios non habes, suscipies et enutries omnes, et nemo tibi morietur".

The English translation goes:

You say instead: “If you live a holy life in Christ, all good things will be yours in abundance. If you do not have children, you will embrace and nourish all men, and none of them shall die”. (source, ostensibly from the Liturgy of the Hours; cf. LotH 1010)

The Spanish translation makes much more sense to me in context:

di tú: «Si vives piadosamente en Cristo, abundarás en toda clase de bienes; y si no tienes hijos, los recibirás, los criarás a todos y ninguno se te morirá»

you say: "If you live piously in Christ, you will abound in every kind of good thing; and if you do not have children, you will receive them, you will raise them all, and none of them will die. [my translation]

Breaking up the Latin phrase in question on Latin-English.com, I see:

  • suscipies: undertake, support, receive
  • enutries: nurture, rear
  • omnes: all men, everything, all

It seems then that the difference in translation is due to a different understanding of omnes in context – in particular, the English translator seems to believe that it must apply to both suscipies and enutries (you will receive and nurture all), while the Spanish translator understands it as applying to only enutries (of those you receive, you will nurture all).

If I've analyzed the problem correctly, which translator is more accurately applying rules of Latin grammar? Or is this a truly ambiguous case where context reigns?

  • BTW, that whole section 11 is an amazing repudiation of the gospel of prosperity :) – brianpck Apr 28 '17 at 15:24
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    @brianpck I know, it's excellent! I was pleasantly surprised to find it when looking for material on prosperity theology in the early church, and it makes me wonder if there might be more. – Nathaniel is protesting Apr 28 '17 at 15:31
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That English translation is very good, in my opinion. For the sake of comparison, here's my rendering.

And you say: "if you live [literally "will have lived"] piously in Christ, all good things will abound for you. And if you do not have children, you will voluntarily take in and support and take care of all [people], and nobody will die with you.

Suscipiō is an excellent verb. It literally means to hold something up (from sub "underneath" + capiō "take"), but when applied to a person means to protect and take care of them. And it's specifically used when this support is given voluntarily, rather than out of duty or obligation—the latter would be rēcipiō instead.

Ēnūtriō is less common (never appearing in pre-Augustan Latin) and more straightforward. It's simply an intensive form of nūtriō, "to nourish, take care of".

Notably, both these verbs require a direct object. You need to support something, nourish something. And omnēs is the only noun in the right form and position for this.

So your analysis of the English is closer to the Latin: "all" is the direct object of both verbs.

  • The problem I have with this is that it doesn't fit the context, at least, the way I'm seeing it. Augustine is quoting false teachers who promise the moon. If you're poor now, you'll be rich if you obey God. Thus, "If you don't have children, you'll adopt some" sounds out of place compared to "If you don't have children, you'll have [give birth to] some." – Nathaniel is protesting Apr 28 '17 at 15:35
  • That's not to say you're wrong: just that I'd benefit from understanding how this interpretation fits into the general context of what he's saying (which I may be reading into incorrectly). – Nathaniel is protesting Apr 28 '17 at 16:00
  • I'll need to look up more context on this; I've never read the sermon in question so there's probably an alternative meaning. – Draconis Apr 28 '17 at 16:59
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    (Suscipiō can sometimes refer to having natural children, but I went with "adopt" because it seemed to fit the sentence. It sounds like "sire" might work better in surrounding context.) – Draconis Apr 28 '17 at 17:04

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