Translating "witch"

Charles Butler hannibal at
Mon Feb 23 07:13:01 EST 2004

> Was it definitely Jerome's Vulgate, not the later version?

All I can tell you for sure is that it claimed to be Jerome's - I got it off
the LDS Book of Abraham Project website, which has collected all kinds of
early church documents.

> Gulp.  I just looked in a dictionary of classical latin, and that word
> isn't there meaning "witch".  That throws the *whole* thing, because in
> 400-or-so AD when Jerome was around, he would have been using the
> meaning, surely.  Which seems not to be specifically "witch" at all, but
> more generally  "evil-doer" (malefactor, I suppose).

> The latin words this classical dictionary offers for "witch" are "saga"
> "venefica"; "saga" is translated back as "prophetess" or "soothsayer" in
> the L->E bit, "venefica" is translated back as "sorceress", "witch" and
> "poisoner", which may possibly explain your having heard that poisoner was
> what the word ought to be.
> Except that Gili says the Hebrew word used there means "witch".

Well, it's all very confusing, to be sure. I'd only say that from the
company it's keeping in the Deuteronomy quotation, it seems to mean
something more specifically supernatural than either poisoner or general

Isn't there a witch in the opening scenes of Apuleius's *Golden Ass*? He's
writing only a couple of hundred years before Jerome - I wonder what word he


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