Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
On Christian Doctrine: Chapter 3
Chapter 3.—How Pronunciation Serves to Remove Ambiguity. Different Kinds of Interrogation.
6. And all the directions that I have given about ambiguous punctuations are to be observed likewise in the case of doubtful pronunciations. For these too, unless the fault lies in the carelessness of the reader, are corrected either by the rule of faith, or by a reference to the preceding or succeeding context; or if neither of these methods is applied with success, they will remain doubtful, but so that the reader will not be in fault in whatever way he may pronounce them. For example, if our faith that God will not bring any charges against His elect, and that Christ will not condemn His elect, did not stand in the way, this passage, “Who shall lay anything to the charge p. 558 of Gods elect?” might be pronounced in such a way as to make what follows an answer to this question, “God who justifieth,” and to make a second question, “Who is he that condemneth?” with the answer, “Christ Jesus who died.” 1843 But as it would be the height of madness to believe this, the passage will be pronounced in such a way as to make the first part a question of inquiry, 1844 and the second a rhetorical interrogative. 1845 Now the ancients said that the difference between an inquiry and an interrogative was this, that an inquiry admits of many answers, but to an interrogative the answer must be either “No” or “Yes.” 1846 The passage will be pronounced, then, in such a way that after the inquiry, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of Gods elect?” what follows will be put as an interrogative: “Shall God who justifieth?”—the answer “No” being understood. And in the same way we shall have the inquiry, “Who is he that condemneth?” and the answer here again in the form of an interrogative, “Is it Christ who died? yea, rather, who is risen again? who is even at the right hand of God? who also maketh intercession for us?”—the answer “No” being understood to every one of these questions. On the other hand, in that passage where the apostle says, “What shall we say then? That the Gentiles which followed not after righteousness have attained to righteousness;” 1847 unless after the inquiry, “What shall we say then?” what follows were given as the answer to this question: “That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness;” it would not be in harmony with the succeeding context. But with whatever tone of voice one may choose to pronounce that saying of Nathanaels, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” 1848 —whether with that of a man who gives an affirmative answer, so that “out of Nazareth” is the only part that belongs to the interrogation, or with that of a man who asks the whole question with doubt and hesitation,—I do not see how a difference can be made. But neither sense is opposed to faith.
7. There is, again, an ambiguity arising out of the doubtful sound of syllables; and this of course has relation to pronunciation. For example, in the passage, “My bone [os meum] was not hid from Thee, which Thou didst make in secret,” 1849 it is not clear to the reader whether he should take the word os as short or long. If he make it short, it is the singular of ossa [bones]; if he make it long, it is the singular of ora [mouths]. Now difficulties such as this are cleared up by looking into the original tongue, for in the Greek we find not στόμα [mouth], but ὁστέον [bone]. And for this reason the vulgar idiom is frequently more useful in conveying the sense than the pure speech of the educated. For I would rather have the barbarism, non est absconditum a te ossum meum, 1850 than have the passage in better Latin, but the sense less clear. But sometimes when the sound of a syllable is doubtful, it is decided by a word near it belonging to the same sentence. As, for example, that saying of the apostle, “Of the which I tell you before [prædico], as I have also told you in time past [prœdixi], that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” 1851 Now if he had only said, “Of the which I tell you before [quæ prædico vobis],” and had not added, “as I have also told you in time past [sicut prœdixi],” we could not know without going back to the original whether in the word prædico the middle syllable should be pronounced long or short. But as it is, it is clear that it should be pronounced long; for he does not say, sicut prœdicavi, but sicut prædixi.
Rom. 8:33, 34.558:1844
The English language has no two words expressing the shades of meaning assigned by Augustin to percontatio and interrogatio respectively.558:1847
Ps. 139.16. “My substance was not hid from Thee when I was made in secret” (A.V.).558:1850
My bone was not hid from Thee.558:1851
Next: Chapter 4
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