Acts of the Apostles A Greek, Latin and English Parallel Text:
An Aid for Adults to the Easier Learning of the Classical Languages
with an Introduction
by Sean Gabb
Centre for Ancient Studies, 2018
This trilingual text of the Acts of the Apostles gives the original Greek, plus the Latin translation revised by St Jerome and the English of the Authorised Version. They are placed side by side, so that any passage in one language can be directly compared with one or both of the other two.
The book is intended in part to assist students of The Bible. It is mainly intended, though, to help students who wish to learn Latin or Greek or both.
If you want to learn Latin, you should first get hold of the shortest Latin grammar you can find. You must read through this, to get an overview. Do not try memorise the declensions and conjugations. The most you need is a vague awareness of how things like accusative cases and present participles look, and enough of an overview to know where to look if the English is not clear enough as a key to the grammar of the Latin. It is only when you start looking up particular issues that you should pay attention to things like ablative absolutes and subjunctives. Do not try in advance to learn the grammar. It is to be consulted not committed to memory.
You now begin with 1:1—“primum quidem sermonem feci de omnibus o Theophile quae coepit Iesus facere et docere.”
Read it aloud so that you can familiarise yourself with the sound of the language. You then turn to the English—“The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach.”
You puzzle out the Latin. “Primum” and “sermonem” you can guess from their English derivatives mean “former treatise.” You may recall from your skimming of the grammar that nouns ending in m are likely to be direct objects. “Feci” seems to correspond with “have I made.” “Omnibus” is used in English to mean the whole of something, and so probably means “all.” “O Theophile” explains itself, though you may look in your grammar to confirm that it is a vocative case—that is, a form showing that someone is being spoken to. And so you continue, corresponding Latin to English by guesswork or by looking for English derivatives.
Once you have finished with the first three verses, you commit them in both Latin and English to memory. This is not as hard as it sounds. What you have here is a text with an overall meaning. It is easier to memorise than the meanings of individual words. You could look up “doceo” (I teach), and try to remember its various forms. You will do better to recognise “docere” (present infinitive) as a word in its context that means “to teach.” Equally, you should avoid digging round to find that “feci” is the perfect form of “facio,” and keep reciting “facio, feci, facere, factum.” Trying to remember the meanings of words is harder than remembering the sentences in which they occur.
Long before you get to Chapter 28, you will have become moderately competent in Latin.
If you want to learn Greek, and already know some Latin, you will use the Latin text as your key to the Greek. Also, you will benefit from a more comprehensive grammar. Again, you should skim this, not trying to memorise what you read. The purpose is to know where to look for the answers to specific questions that may arise. You will see at once, that while it is a more complex language, with more exceptions to its general rules, Greek is structurally similar to Latin. There is no dead easy way to learn any language. But this is easier than most, and is the method used before the 17th century. Try it for yourself!