In the Vulgate (Acts 26:22-23), I came across the following:

...nihil extra dicens quam ea quæ prophetæ locuti sunt futura esse, et Moyses, si passibilis Christus, si primus ex resurrectione mortuorum, lumen annuntiaturus est populo et gentibus.

Both instances of the word si are translations of the Greek εἰ:

...οὐδὲν ἐκτὸς λέγων ὧν τε οἱ προφῆται ἐλάλησαν μελλόντων γίνεσθαι καὶ μωϊσῆς, εἰ παθητὸς ὁ χριστός, εἰ πρῶτος ἐξ ἀναστάσεως νεκρῶν φῶς μέλλει καταγγέλλειν τῶ τε λαῶ καὶ τοῖς ἔθνεσιν.

Although I would normally expect the translation for si and εἰ to be "if", in almost every translation into English I found for this verse, it is translated as "that" (and I agree that it makes the most sense for the context).

For example, the King James Version has:

...saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come: That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.

Can someone please elaborate on this usage of si (and perhaps of εἰ as well)?

  • Interestingly enough, εἰ does come from the PIE for "that", though not in the same sense: it's cognate with is ea id!
    – Draconis
    Commented May 22, 2018 at 15:59

2 Answers 2


Although it could be read as whether, translations are almost1 consistent in translating these particular instances of si as that.

There are a couple of meanings of si that are equivalent to quod (that) according to L&S. The one I find more applicable here is I.B.2:

In particular, in substantive clauses, to denote a doubtful assumption or future event (cf. quod)

I think one of the examples cited clarifies it:

Laelius Fulviusque adiecerunt et Scipionem in eo positam habuisse spem pacis, si Hannibal et Mago ex Italia non revocarentur / Laelius and Fulvius supported this proposal and stated that Scipio thought that the only hope of peace lay in Mago and Hannibal not being recalled (Liv. 30, 23, 6)

In a more literal (but less idiomatic) translation, "Laelius and Fulvius added that Scipio had put his hope for peace in [the fact] that Hannibal and Mago were not recalled from Italy".

In your example, the event of Christ suffering and being the first to raise from the dead, is future to the prophets, as confirmed by the future active participle annuntiaturus.

Another meaning of si that could fit the bill is I.a.α, except that it seems to require very specific verbs:

especially after mirum est or miror, as expressing reality (= quod or cum; cf. Gr. εἰ)

An example being:

noli mirari, si hoc a me non impetras / Do not marvel, that you do not obtain this from me (Cic. Verr. 2.2.29, translation by Yonge, 1903)

(1): I used biblegateway.com to check some fifteen English and Spanish translations, maybe more, and only one added Spanish si (whether) as a note.

  • I am sorry to have to say that this answer is totally wrong. In this passage si is simply a calque on εἰ. The real issue here is why εἰ is used here to mean “that”. I will get back to that one if I have time.
    – fdb
    Commented May 22, 2018 at 21:43
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    @fdb Glad to know. I admit I answered out of speculation, and I suspected there could be some influence from Greek or Hebrew, but I thought these meanings i) fit (somewhat) the translation and ii) answered the question 'when does si mean that?' which in fact happens in Latin: one of the meanings accepts the calque of εἰ as idiomatic Latin. I'd be even more glad to know why there is no ambiguity: I still think this answer could be a valid explanation despite there being another, Greek-based, possible one. I'll be happy to delete this answer if it is proven wrong.
    – Rafael
    Commented May 22, 2018 at 21:54
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    @Rafael. I think you're right since L&S gives two examples from Livy, so if I had been reading Livy instead of the Vulgate, I might have asked the same thing as to why he used si in that way, in which case, the question of the Greek would have never come up. Commented May 23, 2018 at 12:29
  • @ExpeditoBipes, I sincerely think fdb has something important to say, and suggest you to wait for him before accepting an answer. He's a linguist, I'm just an amateur. I'm likely missing a reason why these definitions don't apply to this verse of the Acts.
    – Rafael
    Commented May 23, 2018 at 12:41
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    @Rafael. OK. I'll unaccept if for now even though I believe it addresses the question well. Commented May 23, 2018 at 13:17

The easy part of your question is the part about Latin. “si” is simply a literal translation of εἰ.

The difficult part is why the Greek original uses εἰ (“if”) when it clearly intends “that”. There are situations where classical Greek uses εἰ is this way. Liddell and Scott write:

after Verbs denoting wonder, delight, indignation, disappointment, contentment, and similar emotions, εἰ c. ind. is used instead of ὅτι, to express the object of the feeling in a hypothetical form

with examples like:

θαυμάζω εἰ μηδεὶς ὑμῶν μήτ' ἐνθυμεῖται μήτ' ὀργίζεται, ὁρῶν . . I wonder that (literally: “if”) no one of you is either concerned or angry when he sees . .

It looks as though the author of Acts has expanded this usage to a context that does not express “wonder, delight, indignation” etc. This seems to be the only passage in the NT to use εἰ in this way.

  • 1
    I recall a frequent comment that the Vulgate is full of Graecisms, but L&S seem to accept some uses of si as that as proper Latin
    – Rafael
    Commented May 23, 2018 at 14:09
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    I think this is right, but it is still strange. BDAG (see, for example, footnote 67 here) almost exclusively mentions "wondering" words with "εἰ," except for this verse.
    – brianpck
    Commented May 23, 2018 at 14:21
  • @brianpck. I agree. It is strange.
    – fdb
    Commented May 23, 2018 at 14:26
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    @Rafael. I do understand your point. But I think all the Latin references for si = "that" have a conditional component, which is lacking here.
    – fdb
    Commented May 23, 2018 at 14:37
  • @fdb I want to better understand. My Latin professor spoke of conditionality as a form of futurity (in Spanish, so maybe there are false friends involved). Paul seems to be speaking from the time of the Prophets, ... prophetæ locuti sunt futura esse ... lumen annuntiaturus.... Doesn't that involve some form of irreality?
    – Rafael
    Commented May 23, 2018 at 14:59

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