Ecce Homo, Why not Ecce Hominem?

Puer Pedens

Member

Sup?, my Latin's a bit rusty and this has been bothering me for a little while. But why is this not "ecce hominem"? Was this a way of emphasizing/pseudo-capitalizing Christ? Thanks in advance.
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima

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Ecce can be followed by the nominative or by the accusative. The nominative is a bit more common, I think, except perhaps in archaic Latin (e.g. Plautus and Terence).
 

Anbrutal Russicus

Active Member

In my understanding ecce hominem can only mean "look, there's a man", directing attention at a particular man. ecce homo on the other hand can be used in less interactional and exclamatory, more universal and abstract ways, like "let's take a man [for example]" (used extensively to introduce examples in grammars) or "this is what I call a man" (I think the latter is what Nietzsche meant).
 

Clemens

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In the Vulgate, exit iterum Pilatus foras et dicit eis ecce adduco vobis eum foras ut cognoscatis quia in eo nullam causam invenio et purpureum vestimentum et dicit eis ecce homo.

In this case, it seems that it would mean "behold the man" rather than, "let's take a man, [for example]."
 

Etaoin Shrdlu

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I don't really get this. By saying that it's elliptic for 'behold the man', 'let's take a man' and the like, and then wondering why it doesn't take the accusative, surely we're looking at it the wrong way. If it's the nominative, the implied form is 'this is the man', 'here is the man' or some other phrase that actually does use the nominative.
 

Anbrutal Russicus

Active Member

In this case, it seems that it would mean "behold the man" rather than, "let's take a man, [for example]."
I'd like to invite you to re-read my message and notice that I only talk about the possibility of ecce homo, and the impossibility of ecce hominem, to be used in the abstracting meaning "let's take a man, [for example]". By mentioning this difference I didn't mean that the former couldn't be used in the concrete interactional meaning.
I don't really get this. By saying that it's elliptic for 'behold the man', 'let's take a man' and the like, and then wondering why it doesn't take the accusative, surely we're looking at it the wrong way. If it's the nominative, the implied form is 'this is the man', 'here is the man' or some other phrase that actually does use the nominative.
But nobody claimed that there was any ellipsis, and I would say there is none ...unless it's a disembodied, non-lexical verb that the speaker feels without having no particular verb in mind - a structural node in the generative tree without lexical content. Some researchers have analysed ecce as an imperative verb, and explained the accusative this way. But Latin already possesses the standalone exclamatory accusative, and it seems clear to me that that's what we're dealing with here regardless of the etymology of ecce. The standalone accusative in Latin is also used for enumeration & lists, and its use expands over time to become the default, unmarked case, replacing the nominative. The situation with ecce may be a graphic representation of this competition, with the choice of case depending on sentence type, for example (exclamatory vs. declarative). A generative explanation would probably be to say that the placeholder verbal node is underspecified for transitivity, but becomes specified as transitive in the course of time.
 
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