Monday, June 9, 2008

Pater, omnia possibilia tibi sunt

In English: Father, all things are possible for you. (Mark 14:36)

In the previous posts at this blog, I've been looking at the flexible options for Latin word order. What you see in this verse is a great example of how you need to identify the subject of the sentence correctly in order to see just what is going on here. The words omnia and possibilia COULD be a single noun phrase ("all possibilities"), but that is not what is going on in this verse. Instead, the word omnia stands as the subject, while the word possibilia is part of the predicate: "all things (omnia) are possible for you (possibilia tibi sunt)."

For English speakers, however, it is difficult to realize at first that there is a pause between omnia and possibilia - although those two words are sitting right next to each other, they belong to completely different parts of the sentence, the subject (omnia) and the predicate (possibilia). Notice that we use a little comma to offset the vocative Pater at the beginning of the sentence. How handy it would be if we had a punctuation mark, such as a virgule, to indicate the pause between subject and predicate, just as the comma is used to mark off a part of the sentence: Pater, omnia | possibilia tibi sunt.

In Greek, the word order follows the same pattern as the Latin, the only difference being that the verb is not expressed, and the Greek includes the Hebrew word Abba together with the Greek word for father: αββα ὁ πατήρ, πάντα δυνατά σοι. Just as in the Latin, the subject πάντα stands next to the predicate adjective, δυνατά, leaving it up to the reader to recognize that while the two words stand next to each other, they belong to different parts of the sentence.

In King James, the verse reads: "Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee." As you can see, the verb "are" marks a clear division between the subject, "all things" and the predicate adjective, "possible."

So, as you listen to the audio recording of the verse in Latin, see if you can feel what's going on in your brain as you experience the flow of the words, with the subject coming first, and the predicate coming after the subject... but without a verb to signal that division, as it does in English:

355. Pater, omnia possibilia tibi sunt.

The number here is the number for this proverb in Vulgate Verses: 4000 Sayings from the Bible for Teachers and Students of Latin.

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