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ligere, to understand ; for in all these words there is the meaning of legere, to gather, to choose, the same as in religiosus 1.
Let us first clear the ground of some statements which are repeated again and again, but which have really no foundation. It is often said that Varro 2 supports the etymology of Lactantius, but Varro simply treats of legere and lėgio, and thus supports indirectly the etymology of Cicero, rather than that of Lactantius.
Festus, again, if he is to be quoted at all as having given an etymology of religio, sides with Cicero, and not with Lactantius, for he says that people are called religiosi if they make a choice (delectus) of what has to be done or to be omitted in the worship of the gods, according to the custom of the state, and do not
Of later writers St. Augustin follows sometimes the one, sometimes the other derivation, as it suits his purpose; while among modern theologians it has actually been maintained that religio was descended from religare as well as from relegere, so as to combine the meanings of both 4.
From a purely philological point of view it cannot
1 Cicero, De Nat. Deor. ii. 28, “Qui autem omnia quae ad cultum deorum pertinerent diligenter retractarent et tamquam relegerent sunt dicti religiosi ex relegendo, ut elegantes ex eligendo, itemque ex diligendo diligentes, et intelligendo intelligentes. His enim in verbis omnibus inest vis legendi eadem quae in religioso.'
? Varro, De ling. lat. v. 68; ed. Egger. Legio, •quod leguntur milites in delectu ;' Nitzsch, Studien und Kritiken, i. p. 527.
3 Festus, p. 236, 'Religiosi dicuntur, qui faciendarum praetermittendarumque rerum divinarum secundum morem civitatis deTectum habent nec se superstitionibus implicant.'
4 •Relegendo se sentit religatum,' von Drey, as quoted by Nitzsch, 1. c.
DEFINITION OF RELIGION.
be denied that religio might have sprung from religare quite as well as from relegere. The ordinary objection that from religare we should have religatio, and not religio, has no real weight, for we find by the side of opinari such words as opinio, not opinatio, and necopinus ; and by the side of rebellare, rebellis and rebellio. In lictor also, if it meant originally a man who binds the criminal, we should have to admit a root ligere, by the side of ligare.
The real objection to our deriving religio from religare is the fact that in classical Latin religare is never used in the sense of binding or holding back. In that sense we should have expected obligatio, or possibly obligio, but not religio. Cicero's etymology is therefore decidedly preferable, as more in accordance with Latin idiom. Relegere would be the opposite of neglegere or negligere 1, and as neglegere meant not to care,' relegere would naturally have meant 'to care,' 'to regard,'' to revere'? From a verse quoted by Nigidius Figulus from an ancient writer, and preserved by Gellius (iv. 9), we learn that religens was actually used, as opposed to religiosus. He said: Religentem esse oportet, religiosus ne fuas, “it is right to be reverent, but do not be religious,' that is, superstitious 3.
1 The change of e into i is historical. We find neglego and negligo, intellego and intelligo. The spelling with e is the old spelling, but there are modern compounds also which have always e, such as perlego, praelēgo.
? M. M. Hibbert Lectures, p. 22.
3 Gellius, ed. Hertz, iv. 9. Adjectives in osus generally imply an excess, as vinosus, mulierosus. Thus Nigidius Figulus said: “Hoc inclinamentum semper hujuscemodi verborum, ut vinosus, mulierosus, religiosus significat copiam quandam immodicam rei super qua dicitur. Quocirca religiosus is appellabatur qui nimia et superstitiosa religione sese alligaverat, eaque res vitio assignabatur.' .Sed
The German word Andacht, literally thoughtfulness, then reverence, has sometimes been compared with religio, but there is a slight difference, for Andacht conveys the meaning of meditation rather than of regard and reverence.
There is one more etymological definition of religion which Gellius (iv. 9) ascribes to one Masurius Sabinus. He derived religiosum, in the sense of sacred, from relinquere, to leave or put aside, as something too sacred for ordinary purposes 1. As phonetic laws would not allow of this derivation, we need not discuss it further.
So much for the etymology of religio, which in its first conception can only have meant respect, care, reverence.
Historical Definition of Religio. We now come to what I called the historical definition, or what others might prefer to call an historical description of the fates of the word religio, while confined to its own native soil. Most words, particularly those which form the subject of controversies, have had a history of their own. Their meaning has changed from century to century, often from generation to generation; nay, like the expression of the human face, the expression of a word also may change from moment to moment. In one sense our historical definition may be called the biography of - a word, and if only it can be recovered with any approach to completeness, such a biography conveys to us more information than can be gathered from any logical or etymological definition.
praeter ista,' thus Gellius continues, quae Nigidius dicit, alio quodam diverticulo significationis, religiosus pro casto atque observanti cohibentique sese certis legibus finibusque dici coeptus.'
1. Masurius autem Sabinus in commentariis quos de indigenis composuit, religiosum, inquit, est quod propter sanctitatem aliquam remotum ac sepositum a nobis est, verbum a relinquendo dictum, tamquam caerimonia a carendo.' Gellius, ed. Hertz, iv. 9.
So long as the word religio remains on Roman soil, all changes of meaning seem perfectly intelligible, if only we take into account the influence of those forces which determine the growth of meaning in all words. Afterwards, when the word religio is transferred from a Roman to a Christian atmosphere, from classical to mediæval Latin and the modern Romanic dialects, from popular parlance to technical theology, the case becomes different. We then enter on purely dogmatic or self-willed definitions, the natural growth of language seems arrested, and all we can do is to register the various meanings which have been assigned to the word religion by philosophers and theologians of authority and influence.
Tracing the history of religio, we find it used in Latin in its original and wider sense of regard or respect, in such expressions as religio jurisjurandi, reverence for an oath, as distinguished from metus deorum, fear of the gods 1.
Religio and metus occur frequently together, for instance, Cic. ii. in Verr. 4, 45, 101, ut eam (cupiditatem) non metus, non religio contineret, where we can translate the two words metus and religio by fear and awe, fear expressing the fear of men or of consequences, awe the fear of the gods It is said in another place that when the moon was suddenly eclipsed on a
i Cic. Font. ix. 30, An vero istas nationes religione jurisjurandi ac metu deorum immortalium in testimoniis dicendis commoveri arbitramini, quae tantum a ceterarum gentium more ac natura dissentiunt.'
clear night, the whole army was perturbed religione et metu, by awe and fear. Such expressions also as religio est facere aliquid do not refer to religious scruples 1 only, but to any qualms of conscience.
After a time, however, religio became more and more defined as the feeling of awe inspired by thoughts of divine powers. Thus Cicero 2 states, religio est quae superioris cujusdam naturae quam divinam vocant curam caerimoniamque affert,
Religion is what brings with it the care and cult of some higher power which they call divine. As we find here religio and caerimonia placed side by side, we find likewise cultus and religio 3 joined, the former expressing the outward, the latter the inward worship of the gods.
A distinction is soon made also between religion and superstition, as Cicero says, nec vero superstitione tollenda 4 religio tollitur, though superstition should be removed, religion is not. .
Lastly, religio, and also the plural religiones 5, became the recognised names of outward religious acts, of cult and ceremony. Thus Cicero 6 distinctly explains religio by cultus deorum, and he declares 7 that the religion of the Romans is divided into sacra,
Liv. ii. 62, 'Ut numine aliquo defensa castra oppugnare iterum religio fuerit.
2 Invent. ii. 53, 161.
3 Cic. N. D. i. 43, 121, Quis aut cultu aut religione dignas judicare (imagines).'
+ De Div. ii. 72, 148.
5 Cic. ii. Verr. v. 13, 34, Contra fas, contra auspicia, contra omnes divinas atque humanas religiones.'
6 N. D. ii. 3, 8, Religione, id est cultu deorum, multo superiores.'
? De Nat. Deor. iii. 1, "Quumque omnis populi Romani religio in sacra et auspicia divisa sit, et tertium adjunctum sit, si quid praedictionis caussa ex portentis et monstris Sibyllae interpretes haruspicesve monuerunt.'