In the Vatican's Nova Vulgata, Ecclesiastes 7:16-17 reads as follows:

Noli esse nimis iustus
neque sapiens supra modum!
Cur te perdere vis?
Ne agas nimis impie
et noli esse stultus!
Cur mori debeas in tempore non tuo?

As soon as I saw this, the nolī esse in the first line felt jarring. But I don't know why; I certainly never learned that this particular construction was ungrammatical.

Is this one of the various Graecisms and Hebraisms scattered throughout the Vulgate? Or is it actually an attested phrase in Classical Latin?

1 Answer 1


The construction noli with infinitive is widely attested in classical Latin, and I have never seen anyone mention that esse or any other word would be ineligible. Here is an example from Cicero (Pro Murena 9–10):

Nam si tibi necesse putas etiam adversariis amicorum tuorum de iure consulentibus respondere, et si turpe existimas te advocato illum ipsum quem contra veneris causa cadere, noli tam esse iniustus ut, cum tui fontes vel inimicis tuis pateant, nostros etiam amicis putes clausos esse oportere.

I am less familiar with ecclesiastic Latin, but if it is classically valid, it should be valid in later Latin as well.

  • FWIW, Ecclesiastical Latin is full of examples (of both noli+esse and noli+infinitive in general). Anyway, being the basis of Latin Liturgy, if/when the Vulgate introduces a grammatical innovation, such innovation is understandable to be inherited.
    – Rafael
    Jun 27, 2018 at 12:38

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