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Ecclesiastical Latin may be defined as the form which the Latin language assumed in the hands of the Fathers of the Western Church and of their successors up to the time of the revival of learning.
The book is divided into two parts: first, a summary of such syntactical rules as are necessary for the understanding of the works of these writers, with an explanation of the points in which Ecclesiastical Latin differs from Classical Latin: secondly, a selection of passages taken from the works of some of the principal authors of the period with notes drawing the attention of the student to the appropriate sections of the syntax.
The syntax has been treated on broad lines, and no attempt has been made to trace all the peculiarities of the countless writers of Ecclesiastical Latin who represent so many different countries and degrees of culture.
The examples are taken as far as possible from the Vulgate New Testament, because this is the most readily accessible book belonging to the period.
It must not be assumed from the fact that the examples are taken from this source that the Vulgate is to be regarded as typical of Ecclesiastical Latin.
It is a translation, and often a very literal translation, of a Hebrew or Greek original. The Vulgate is not a Latin Classic in the sense that the Authorised Version of the Bible is an English Classic.
It will however be found that most of the constructions that commonly occur in Ecclesiastical Latin are to be found in the Vulgate, and, generally speaking, examples have been given of these constructions only. A very slight attempt has been made to deal with the great variety of curious distortions of Latin which the translators made use of in the attempt to represent literally obscure passages in the Hebrew.