I'm a little confused about a verse in Matthew 2 of the Vulgate Bible.

Futurum est enim ut Herodes quærat puerum ad perdendum eum. (Matthew 2:13)

Douay-Rheims translates this as, "For it will come to pass that Herod will seek the child to destroy him."

But how would you classify the verb phrase "Futurum est"?

To me it looks like perfect passive indicative, but that wouldn't fit the translation.

Even though I know how Douay-Rheims translated it, I'm struggling to figure out the rules they used to arrive at their translation. I appreciate any help!


Futurum est is a future active periphrastic form. It is built from futurum, the future active participle of sum (here in the neuter), which by itself means "going to be, about to be". With the addition of est, it means "It is going to be", or in the translation you quote, "It will come to pass".

  • @C.M.Weimer: Hello! Why not? – Cerberus Apr 7 '16 at 0:52
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    @C.M.Weimer Semantically that's arguable, but morphologically futurum is an active form; the OP was parsing it as a perfect passive, so I thought it was important to correct. – TKR Apr 7 '16 at 2:49
  • @TKR Thank you for the concise and helpful answer. – ktm5124 Apr 9 '16 at 18:44
  • @Cerberus I suspect that what C.M. Weimer means is that esse is neither active nor passive but copulative. – Joel Derfner Apr 10 '16 at 16:57
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    @C.M.Weimer: It has no passive form, like several other intransitive verbs? Just as some other verbs have practically no active forms. – Cerberus Apr 12 '16 at 2:01

The Greek original has μέλλει γὰρ Ἡρῴδης ζητεῖν τὸ παιδίον τοῦ ἀπολέσαι αὐτό ("Herod is on the point of seeking the child in order to destroy him"). Jerome seems to have taken μέλλει as an impersonal verb ("it will come about that Herod..."), but this is not a possible interpretation of the Greek text as it stands. Maybe his manuscript had the accusative Ἡρῴδην?

  • Why is it not a possible interpretation? It's just a syntactic recasting: "Herod is going to..." --> "It is going to happen that Herod..." In Classical Greek μέλλει cannot, I believe, be used impersonally with an acc.+inf. construction, though I don't know about the Greek of the Septuagint. – TKR Apr 7 '16 at 17:27
  • @TKR. The subject of the infinitive ζητεῖν would need to be in the accusative, not the nominative, even in koine. – fdb Apr 7 '16 at 17:34
  • Right, but Ἡρῴδης is the subject of μέλλει, not of ζητεῖν. I'm not sure why you see a problem with Jerome's translation. – TKR Apr 7 '16 at 17:40
  • I do not see how μέλλει Ἡρῴδης can mean "futurum est ut Herodes..." – fdb Apr 7 '16 at 17:42
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    I can't find a reading with accusative Ἡρῴδην: I checked a few places where μέλλει occurs in the NT and most times μέλλει + infinitive is translated into Latin as fut. act. part. + est. "mellei paschein" = "passurus est". One possible reason for this translation is that quaesiturus sounds awkward, but maybe that's just my ear. – brianpck Apr 7 '16 at 18:11

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