what is ‘a parte ante’

I am working away on Sunday’s sermon. I come across a line in Keil & Delitzsch… a parte ante. Alas, my classical education is severely lacking. What to do?

I search on the internet for a Latin-English dictionary. I find a nifty little program that (I think) gives me the correct translation.

a = from or by
parte = birth
ante = prior

I come up with this translation: “from prior birth” or “by prior birth”. Here is the quotation from K & D:

“[In the beginning] in itself is a relative notion, indicating the commencement of a series of things or events; but here the context gives it the meaning of the very first beginning, the commencement of the world, when time itself began. The statement, that in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth, not only precludes the idea of the eternity of the world a parte ante [by prior birth], it shows that the creation of the heaven and the earth was the actual beginning of all things.” [Keil and Delitzsch, Pentateuch, 1:46-47.]

Are any of you out there real Latin scholars? Am I close in my translation? It does seem to fit.

UPDATE: After thinking about this, perhaps “from before birth”, i.e., in this case K & D are talking about the beginning being the beginning, and there is no world before the beginning, so the phrase might mean ‘from before birth’, i.e., from before creation.

Here is the online version of the Latin/English program, and here is a place you can download it to run in a nifty modern looking Command Prompt window. Gotta love basic computing!



  1. stéphane says:

    If I remember correctly, eternity understood a parte ante is a term used in scholastic philosophy to refer to eternity which is past. It is the counterpart of eternity a parte post, which means eternity which is to come. If God created the heaven and the earth (and time is conditioned by the existence of heaven and the earth, which is here implicit, acting like a minor premise of a syllogism), then it indeed precludes the idea of eternity a parte ante. In the same way, the certain destruction of the world and time, under the same hypothesis, would preclude the idea of eternity a parte post. I think that’s what is meant here!

    • Thanks for your comment. I think I get it…

      You must have found my site from an interesting search, that’s an old post!

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  2. I found this phrase in Frederic Godet’s commentary on the Gospel of John. He is quoting Weiss on I John 1:1.
    “The absolute beginning at which our minds stop can therefore only be eternity a parte ante.”
    Thanks for the insight Don.

    Because of Him