The Vulgata, in Numbers 5:2-3, says:

[2] Praecipe filiis Israel, ut ejiciant de castris omnem leprosum, et qui semine fluit, pollutusque est super mortuo:
[3] tam masculum quam feminam ejicite de castris, ne contaminent ea cum habitaverint vobiscum.

The equivalent Douay-Rheims verses (in English) say:

[2] Command the children of Israel, that they cast out of the camp every leper, and whosoever hath an issue of seed, or is defiled by the dead:
[3] Whether it be man or woman, cast ye them out of the camp, lest they defile it when I shall dwell with you.

I highlighted the bit I am puzzled about. The two verbs used in the sentence are in third-person plural (-nt, contaminent, habitaverint). Thus, I am puzzled where the "I" comes in the to dwell verb. Wouldn't the "correct" Latin verb be the first person single? Also, the verb seems to be translated as subjunctive future, whereas habitaverint seems to be perfect, either indicative or subjunctive (perhaps depending on the missing accent).

The translation seems to be correct when one looks at the English versions of the verse, where all use first person, and most use present instead of (future) perfect. But I just cannot recognise the person and the tense in the Vulgate.

  • @ExpeditoBipes You are right! I have found other versions with habitaverim. There is still quite a few available online, including the Biblehub and the BibleGateway versions, that use the "wrong" form. I wonder what is the origin of the "error" and how many more are there! :o Any idea?
    – luchonacho
    Jun 14, 2018 at 9:55
  • I don't know. I'm reading the Vulgate also (the New Testament), and once in a while I come across things that simply appear to be inaccurate translations when compared with the Greek. Maybe someone who knows more about the Vulgate than I do can shed some light on the subject. Jun 14, 2018 at 10:00
  • @ExpeditoBipes, luchonacho, brianpck is your man. Apparently, St. Jerome did not translate himself every book of the VG, but compiled a bunch of separate translations from the Old Testament. He did his best to correct and standardize them, with the tools available at the time. I don't know, but probably there are Greek codices using 3rd plural and others using 1st singular. With centuries, teamwork, and a number of codices (not always matching) that were not available to St. Jerome, exegetes have sometimes agreed to a different original text
    – Rafael
    Jun 14, 2018 at 13:24
  • 1
    @ExpeditoBipes I'll try to write an answer at some point, but this seems to be a case where the text was updated by the Sixto-Clementine Vulgate. Jerome's work was very good, but not perfect, so some of his readings had to be corrected. (The Douay-Rheims itself has a revised edition based on the Clementine Vulgate--it's not just one translation.)
    – brianpck
    Jun 18, 2018 at 14:16
  • 1
    As for what Rafael was mentioning: a large part of Jerome's work was completely new translations. There were cases, though--particularly the Psalms, if I'm not mistaken--where the text was so ingrained in the popular mind that he only did minor revisions to the Vetus Latina
    – brianpck
    Jun 18, 2018 at 14:17

2 Answers 2


Looking at the BHS Hebrew, there's a definite first person singular pronoun, and then in the LXX as well. And even though I have the Clementine... apparently an older version of it, by 1588, [Google book textual commentary],1 there was already a change... which apparently was back to the original if the LXX and BHS are any indication.


All three of my Vulgates, the Clementine, the Nova, and the Stuttgart editions, have habitaverim rather than habitaverunt. Your translators are obviously using one of these three, or another just like them. I wonder which edition you are using?

Interestingly, my Stuttgart edition, in the apparatus, lists that habitaverim is attested only in the Clementine and in the Benedictine (which I do not own) editions. All of the Vulgate manuscripts use habitaverunt, which makes me wonder why the Stuttgart editors didn't use it. Curious.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.