Archive Authors E.J. Hutchinson Nota Bene Reformed Irenicism Sacred Doctrine

Mistranslating Turretin? (2)

So, another sentence in Turretin’s Institutes of Elenctic Theology that struck me as odd in the published English translation (the translation itself is a little awkward and less clear than it might be, but I think that it is the punctuation in particular that was causing me difficulties).

It comes at the end of the 15th paragraph of the Twelfth Question (on the status of the “Sinaitic legal covenant”) of the Twelfth Topic (“The Covenant of Grace and Its Twofold Economy”).

Here are the last few sentences of the paragraph in George Musgrave Giger’s translation, with the troublesome sentence in bold:

“Nor does it help the matter to say that this worship [prescribed in the ceremonial law] belonged to external purity and immunity from temporal punishments in the court of earth. Although this was a use of ceremonies (inasmuch as they are considered absolutely and in themselves), they ought to have another (inasmuch as they were figures and images). For thus they were as moral instruments by which (perceived by faith) the believers of the Old Testament perceived the thing at the same time as the apostle ascribes to them (1 Cor. 10:2-4).

Here is Turretin’s Latin:

Nec iuvat dicere cultum hunc pertinuisse ad externam puritatem, et immunitatem a poenis temporalibus in foro soli. Quia licet hic usus fuerit caeremoniarum quatenus absolute et in se considerantur, alius debuit esse earum, quatenus se habebant, ut figurae et imagines; sic enim se habuerunt tanquam instrumenta moralia per quae fide percepta fideles Veteris Test. rem simul perciperent, ut illis tribuit Apostolus, 1 Cor. x.2, 3, 4.

So, here is another translation that I hope makes the sense clearer:

“Nor does it help to say that this worship pertained to external purity and immunity from temporal punishments in the court [or forum] of earth.1 Because, although this use did belong to the ceremonies, in so far as they are considered absolutely and in themselves, it was necessary that another [use] belong to them, in so far as they were constituted as figures and images; for they were so constituted as moral instruments [or tools/means/assistance], so that, when they [i.e., the outward, shadowy, mystical, typical ceremonies] had been perceived by faith [fide], the believers [fideles] of the Old Testament might perceive the reality [rem] at the same time [simul, i.e., together with the outward forms], as the Apostle attributes to them (1 Cor. 10:2-4).”

  1. The phrase in foro soli is often used in a pair with in foro poli, “in the court/forum of heaven.”

By E.J. Hutchinson

E.J. Hutchinson is Assistant Professor of Classics at Hillsdale College.

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