I was struck by some verses in Chapter 21 of 3 Regum, Vulgata. This tells the story of Naboth, an Israelite who owned a vineyard which was adjacent to the palace of the Israeli King, Achab. Naboth didn't want to sell the land to Achab. In return, the wife of Achab wrote letters to the leaders of Israel, in order to conspire against Naboth. Thus, verses 9 and 10 say:

Litterarum autem haec erat sententia : Praedicate jejunium, et sedere facite Naboth inter primos populi, et submittite duos viros filios Belial contra eum, et falsum testimonium dicant : Benedixit Deum et regem : et educite eum, et lapidate, sicque moriatur.

And it happened as the letters suggested, as the leaders of Israel

praedicaverunt jejunium, et sedere fecerunt Naboth inter primos populi. Et adductis duobus viris filiis diaboli, fecerunt eos sedere contra eum : at illi, scilicet ut viri diabolici, dixerunt contra eum testimonium coram multitudine : Benedixit Naboth Deum et regem : quam ob rem eduxerunt eum extra civitatem, et lapidibus interfecerunt. [verses 12 and 13]

The English translation gives "blasphemed" for benedixit, as it is expected, given the context of the story. However, this is the first time I see such a counterintuitive meaning of benedicere. L&S does not attest such meaning. Did it ever had this meaning? Why would Jerome use such a word, which pretty much everywhere else (?) is used to mean "to bless"? Am I missing something here?

  • Just for the record: "Israeli" and "Israelite" are not interchangeable in English.
    – fdb
    Commented Feb 18, 2019 at 17:56

1 Answer 1


Benedixit is a perfectly literal translation of ηὐλόγησεν and of בֵּרַכְתָּ with the difference only that the Latin and the Greek use 3rd sing. where the Hebrew uses 2nd sing. in oratio obliqua. Apparently in Hebrew “bless” can be used as a euphemism for “curse”. In Greek and Latin this happens only in translations from Hebrew.

  • So mot likely Jerome tried to remain literal to the Hebrew, instead of adopting the "intended" meaning to Latin (perhaps the preferred translation)?
    – luchonacho
    Commented Feb 18, 2019 at 18:32
  • @luchonacho I believe Jerome tried to follow the Greek as much as possible, and the Greek followed the Hebrew quite literally; it's how we ended up with a whole bunch of Hebraisms in Biblical Latin
    – Draconis
    Commented Feb 18, 2019 at 18:38
  • @Draconis. Of course bene-dico is the exact equivalent of εὐ-λογέω. But it is also consistently used as the translation of b-r-k, literally "to bend the knee, bow down to". I do not see how we could decide which of the two the Vulgate is following.
    – fdb
    Commented Feb 18, 2019 at 18:48
  • @Draconis Not sure if I'm reading the Wikipedia article correctly, but it seems to suggest the use of Hebrew sources for parts of the OT, including Book of Kings.
    – luchonacho
    Commented Feb 18, 2019 at 18:54
  • 2
    @Draconis Jerome was actually a big advocate for the so-called "veritas hebraica." He was most certainly primarily using the Hebrew texts, though (of course) he would have been familiar with the LXX translation.
    – brianpck
    Commented Feb 18, 2019 at 19:32

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