Some Etymological Considerations on the Romanian mântui to redeem.

 

The religious understanding of the word ‘redeem’ is the act by which God through the sacrifice of His son forgive men’s sins and assures their entering into Heaven. The Romanian speakers understand by mântui the act through which Jesus will absolve men from hell and eternal death. In the Romanian hagiographic literature the word mântuire was used to translate the Greek soteria found in the New Testament with the meaning ‘salvation, liberation, hold, safety’. To express similar meanings the Romanian religious translators used loans from Slavonic hagiography: izbăvi and ispăși ‘to deliver, redeem’, used interchangeably with mântui ´redeem´. The translators, priest or deacons, some of whom did not always possess extensiveknowledge of Romanian language, used Bibles in Greek or Slavonic. Out of respect towards the sacredness of the religious texts the accuracy of the translations was ‘improved’ with Greek or Slavonic words particularly if they felt that the local language didn’t have certain religious terms.

Previous attempts to clarify the etymology of this word include suggestions offered by the Romanian theologians who offered a Latin solution for ‘mântuire’ from manes ‘the souls of dead’ and tueor, tueri ‘keep’, thus ´the keeping of the souls after death´. On the same direction is the solution through Latin manus ‘hand’ and teneō ‘to hold’.

Other theologians, among them Dumitru Staniloaie, consider ‘mântuire’ as related to the Latin mentes ´mind´ and tueor, tueri, expressing ´a change of mind, a renewal of consciousness´,  cognate with the Greek meta-noew  ’a change of mind, repent’, found in the following Biblical texts: Matthew 3:11  ὕδατι εἰς μετάνοιαν ὁ δὲ ´I baptize you with water for repentance…’               Luke 5:32 ἁμαρτωλοὺς εἰς μετάνοιαν ‘The sinners to have a change of mind-to repent´

Luke 24:47 ὀνόματι αὐτοῦ μετάνοιαν εἰς ἄφεσιν ´And the repent for forgiveness’

Corinthians 7:10 θεὸν λύπη μετάνοιαν εἰς σωτηρίαν ´brings repentance without regrets´…

The etymological solutions offered by the clergy seem based more on religious than linguistic considerations, according to which mântuirea ‘the redeeming´ is the extension of God’s hand to forgive all the sins.

The Romanian dictionaries consider ‘mântuirea loan word from the Hungarian menteni ‘to (get) free, to (self) save, to liberate from a deadlock’. Consulting the Hungarian Etymological Dictionary (1970) we find the verb ment ‘to free, guard, deliver, save, exit, run,’ but not a form menteni as such. This dictionary lists as the first attestation of ment dating around 1195 in the funerary song Halotti beszéd és könyörgés :

Scerelmes bratym uimagg(om)uc ez ſcegin ember lilki ert. kit vr ez nopun ez homuſ világ timnucebelevl mente.

The language of this text is archaic and difficult to decipher, with many translations and/or interpretations:

Szerelmes brátim! Vimádjomuk    Dear brother! Vimádjomuk (not in dict.)

ez szëgín embër lilkíért,                This szëgín (szegyen? shame?) people lilkíért,

kit Úr ez napon ez hamus világ     Who/To whom? God (to-day) the ash of this world

timnücë belől menté,                     timnücë (?) but I entered inside,

Or:

‘Friends love! They love the poor man’s life, which God today to exit from the false jail’,

Or:

‘Dear Bratt! Vimádjomuk (?) this szëgín (?) world lilkíért (?), which God’s day is the world ash inside I entered´.

In these examples the meaning of the Hungarian word ment(e) is ´enter, exit, remove´. According to this Hungarian dictionary the form is an old development from the root men-, menedek ‘refuge, shelter’, from where probably the later meaning of ‘enter, housing, escape’. This root claims two developments: ment1 ‘excuse, forgiveness, save’, and ment2  ‘enter’; other developments are  megmentett ‘saved’, megmenekült ‘escaped’, forms found in a text from 1508, and mened, menedikeny ‘escaped’; menthető ‘can save’; mentségre ‘excuse’; menekedik ‘will escape’ dated from 1666; in 1830 is found the form mentesiteni ‘exempt’, etc. With the meaning ‘freed’ there are the following examples: mentes ‘freed from’, mentés, menteto ‘which could be freed, escape’.

For Jesus the Redeemer, Savior, the Hungarian language uses two forms: occasionally Megmentő, but more often Megváltó. To clarify the suggested etymology of Romanian mântui from menteni a brief search in thein the Hungarian Old Testament  (Anonymous Hungarian Bible on-line) resulted in only a few findings of the form menteni, more often was used the form ment meaning ‘to enter, to exit, to come, to walk, to rescue’; here are some examples:

p. 10.  ugyanezen a napon ment vala be Noe  ‘the same day entered Noe…’

p. 13.  e foldrol ment aztan assiriaba es epite ninivet  ‘From this country came out Asur…’

p. 36.  mentem vala altal ezen a jordanon  ‘I went to the Jordan river’

p. 41.  ruben es megmente ot kezokbol   ‘Ruben saved him from their hands’

p. 69.  Az isten kuldott el engem ti elottetek, hogy miveljem a ti megmaradasotokat e foldon, es hogy megmenthesselek titeket nagy szabaditassal. ‘And God sent me in front of you to keep for you a piece of land and to save their life through a great redemption.’

  1. 1584.   masokat pedig mentsetek meg kiragadva oket a tuzbol   ‘(for) saving the others from fire…’.

And in the New Testament from the same edition ment(eni) is fund in a few fragments:

p. 858: Proverbe 19 A nagy haragu (ember) buntetest szenvedjen, mert ha menteni akarod, meg nőveled (haragjat) ‘The wealth can be inherited but the saving from a good woman…’.

p. 1126:14. Akkor a király, a mint hallotta ezt, igen restelkedék a miatt, és szíve szerint azon volt, hogy Dánielt megszabadítsa, és napnyugotíg tőrekedek ȏt megmenteni. ´Then the emperor upon hearing these words felt ashamed and his heart was like of Daniel’s to offer and the sun to save her´.

p. 1250: 4. Azoknak pedig monda: Szabad-é szombatnapon jót vagy rosszat tenni? Lelket menteni, vagy kioltani? ‘And they said: it is allowed in the day of Sabath to do good or bad? To save his life or to kill him?’

p. 1369: 22. Ha nem jȏttem volna és nem beszéltem volna nékik, nem volna bûnũuk de most nincs mivel menteniők az bûnőket  ‘If he would not have come and did not speak, would not be a sin; but now they have no exoneration for their sin’.

Noteworthy, the word menteni meaning ´redeem´ is found only once, in MÁTÉ EVANGÉLIUMA:

Mert aki meg akarja menteni életét, elveszíti azt, aki pedig elveszíti életét énértem, megtalálja azt.  ‘For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake shall find it.´

More often we encounter megmentett, megmentenias in: Másokat megmentett, magát meg nem tudja megmenteni. Izrael királya ő, szálljon le most a keresztről, és hiszünk neki!  ‘He saved others, he cannot save you. He is the King of Israel descending from the cross and we believe Him!’

From these examples we could observe that the main meaning of Hungarian ment is that of ´enter, exit, escape, get out of danger, (be) saved´. In most of the cases the root ment apears in compound formants as megmentett, megmenteni. Hungarian Megmentő, Megváltó – Romanian Mântuitor ´Savior´ and mântuire ´redeem´ as used in the context from the Romanian hagiographic documents are not to be found at the quick look in the Anonymous Hungarian Bible on-line. I could not find formula Jezus Megvalto – Romanian Isus Mântuitorul ´Jesus the Savior´ in this Bible. The same negative results turn out at a quick search in the Károli Gáspár Bible:

Keresés a [Károli Gáspár] Bibliában a következő kifejezésre: [Megmentő], találatok száma: [0]. (Search inBibliaKároli Gáspár [Savior] rezulted in [0]).

Yet, by searching MEGVÁLTÁS ‘saving, redeeming’ we get 4 citations:

Keresés a [Károli Gáspár] Bibliában a következő kifejezésre: [MEGVÁLTÁS], találatok száma: [4]. (search in Biblia Károli Gáspár [saving, redeeming] resulting in [4]):

Mózes III. könyve:25:26   Ha pedig nincs valakinek kiváltó rokona, de maga tesz szert annyira, hogy elege van annak megváltásához: ‘And if there’s someone causing a relative, but you do gain so that you are fed up to the redemption´.

Mózes IV. könyve:3:46   Ami pedig a kétszáz és hetvenháromnak megváltását illeti, akik felül vannak a lévitákon Izráel fiainak elsőszülöttei közül; ‘As for the redemption of the two hundred and seventy-three, who are top of the sons of the Levites from among the first-born of Israel´. Ruth könyve:4:7   Ez vala pedig a szokás régen Izráelben, a megváltás és cserélés alkalmával, minden dolognak megerősítésére: A férfi lehúzta az ő saruját és oda adta felebarátjának, és ez volt a bizonyság Izráelben; ‘It was he used to be the custom in Israel, redemption and exchange occasion, to confirm all things: He took off his shoe and gave it to his neighbor: and this was a testimony in Israel´.

Róma levél:8:23   Nemcsak ez pedig, hanem magok a Lélek zsengéjének birtokosai, mi magunk is fohászkodunk magunkban, várván a fiúságot, a mi testünknek megváltását; ‘Not only so, but seeds are first fruits of the Spirit holders, we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption as sons, the redemption of our body´.

From these results we can see the prevalence of megvalto in the Hungarian religious literature versus the sparse usage in these texts of menteni considered by the Romanian linguists as the source for the Romanian mântui.

For more clarification we go to the Dictionarium Ungaricum per Albertum Molnar published in 1574, where for the Latin Salvátor it is given the Hungarion “üdvőzitó ‘Savior, Redeemer’; and megtarto ‘keep, retain’, but we could not find the form menteni; the Latin salvus, a, um is translated in Hungarian by egesseges (?). If we consider that this Dictionarium Ungaricum was published in 1574, time when the first Romanian religious texts were already published in which the word mântuire is present, the Hungarian translations in the Dictionarium could show important proof for the etymology of the Romanian isogloss. One should take into account also that the Hungarian religion is of Catholic influence and thus the clergy use of the Latin Bible in their translations.

It is important to specify here that the Romanian hagiographic literature of this time, the XV – XVI Centuries, utilizes the word mântui with the same religious connotations as nowadays. The Deacon Coresi, publisher of first Romanian religious texts, writes in his foreword to the Catechism (1559): “… si credem că va fi cu blagoslovenie sfinției lu Is. Hs. Măntuitoriul nostru, amin.” (And we believe it will be with blessings to our Savior Jesus Christ, Amen). The importance of this fragment is special because it is written in Coresi’s own words, not a translation from another (Hungarian or Slavonic) religious text, the common Romanian language spoken around Brașov, a region in which the Hungarian influence was not as strong as in the North part of Transylvania.

Other examples from the Romanian religious texts: Întrebare Creștinească ‘Christian Questionaire’, Braşov, [1560] Şi închinăm cinste şi dăruim Sfinţiei tale, arhiereu i mitropolit Efrem, şi creadem că va fi cu blagoslovenie sfinţie<i> lu Isus Hristos,mântuitoriul nostru, amin. ´And we praise and offer your Holiness Efrem, and belive it will be with the blesses to Jesus Christ our Savior, Amen.´   

Psaltirea Scheiană, manuscript from 1573-1578 (possibly 1482-85):

Psalm II. II; III Căntecul lui David căndu fugiǐa de fața lui Avesalom fiǐul său,                                                                                                                                         3. Mulți grâirâ sufletului mieu/Nu e măntuiré dela Dumnedzăul lui… ´Many said to my soul/There is not salvation from God…[Hand written correction made by Coresi with the Slavonic form: Nu, ǐaste spaseniǐa lui ´No, it is his spaseniǐa – redemption]

9. A Domnului iaste măntuirǐa, și spre oamenii tăi blagoslovenie ta. ´It is God’s redemption, and towards you people your blessing´ [spăsește-mă] – again the corrections in straight parenthesis belong to Coresi, in Psalter published in 1577, showing the Slavonic form spasenie, retained in Russian language with the meaning mântuire ´redeem´.

Here are some examples from the Psalter where izbavire and mântuire are on the same paragraph:

III  In sfârșit căntăriei Căntecul [lui] David. 6 ‘Song of David’:

5. Întoarce Doamne, izbâvește sufletul mieu; [spăsește-mâ] măntuǐaște-mâ dereptu mila ta. ´Turn God, redeem my soul; redeem me by your pitty´;                                                                                     

or:

VII Slav. Căntecul lui Davidu ce el cănta Domnului. 7 ‘Song of David’:

2. Doamne Dumnedzăul mieu, spre tine nedejduescu, măntuǐaște-mâ de toți gonitorii miei, izbăvește-mâ. My Lord God, toward you I hope, redeem me of all my followers (?)

OMILIA LA ÎNVIERE, Nordul Hunedoarei [1590-1602] ‘Easter Mass’: Nime să nu se teamă de moarte, că ne au mântuitu mântuitoriul de moarte… ´No one should be afraid that Redeemer will not redeem us´

TATĂL NOSTRU ‘Our Father’, Cracovia, 1594 (a text probably edited in Moldova, the prayer is transcribed by Luca Stroici at the request of Stanislaw Sarnicki): Şi nu aduce pre noi în ispită, ce nă mântuiaştede fitleanul…´And do not lead us into temptation/and deliver us from evil…´

All these examples from religious texts published at the end of the XVIth Century show almost an exclusive usage of mântuire, Mântuitor, ´forgiveness of sins, delivering of the soul from Hell, Savior´, with the same understanding familiar in today’s religious mass. The exclusive usage of this Romanian word in religious context of Savior, Redeemer, suggests that the form mântui, could not have its origin in a Hungarian religious text, where it was not in use with the same form and the same meaning. More so, it could have been difficult to achieve in such a short time frame the degree of specific religious semantism that the Romanian form mântuire displays, beginning from the Hungarian form menteni ‘escape, enter, exit, save,’ etc., and ending with the meaning Savior, redeeming, while it is not to be found in the Hungarian hagiographic literature, where this concept is conveyed by the compound form megváltás, megmenteni. Noteworthy, the form menteni with its laic semantism is not in use in the Romanian language as it is in the Hungarian language, nor is the form ment, leaving us only with the solution that the Rmanian religious texts borrowed a form that was not used in the Hungarian religious texts as such with the same understanding, and the general language did not accept the more common form ‘ment’ as a base for development.

To add to thes discussion we need to take a look at the phonetic development of the Hungarian verb mente-ni, (although this infinitive form is not in the Magyar-Angol Keziszotar, Magay Tamas, Laszlo Orszagh Akademiai Kiado 1990, nor is it listed in the Hungarian etymological dictionary listed above) into the Romanian verb mânt–ui. The renown Romanian linguist Al. Rosetti in his Istoria Limbii Române (1968) the chapter ‘he Situation of the Romanized Population in Contact with the Slavs’ around the Xth – XIth Centuries’, considers mântui as a loan into the Romanian not direct from the Hungarian language but through Slavic. Yet the author does not give examples from Slavic religious texts. At a brief search we find: Slovakian mentovat’ ‘to free, toforgive, to justify; Slovenian mentuvatito rob; Serbian mentovač ’to exit, to escape, to evade’; Croatian mentovatigratis’; all verbs compound of Hungarian ment + sufixul –ovat’, the same as banovat’, bantovat’, etc.; but the form menteni as such is not found in the Slavic languages. More so, in the south Slavic languages the word for Savior has no relation to the Hungarian menteni, showing close relations to the OCS: Bulgarian Cпасител Serbian Cпаситељ Slovak záchranca, Slovenian Odresenik, rešitelj, etc. As it was specified above, we can observe the developments in Slavic languages of the form ment in a laic context, but there is no such development in Romanian.

In the Romanian language the verbs ending in –ui present a linguistic phenomenon explained in the same Isoria limbii române (1968) by the Slavic sufix –ujǫ, infinitiv –ovati (pg. 290), such as bântui, cheltui, mântui, without further examples from Slavic or Hungarian languages; and at pg. 325, chapter on ‘Suffixes’ in the same book, the author lists the suffix –u- forming verbs of Slavic origin, examples: Rom. dărui Blg. daruvam; Rom. străjuiOCS. Strezati; Rom. Strădui, OCS stradati; verbs of Latin origin dar – dărui, cap – căpătui, jur – jurui, etc., yet in all these examples there is not a form ment from which, with the –u- suffix, the verb mântui could have been formed. Following this judgement it is difficult to accept that a 1st person present form from Slavic ‘ia ment-ujǫ > eu mântui, I redeem’ could end up having such a religious meaning of divine nature ‘redeem’ only in Romanian language. This argument that the Romanian mântui of supposedly Hungarian origin coming through a Slavonic language ignore the fact mere that this word was not retained in the OCS documents where the Slavic form spasenie is preferred,

n. salvation
v. to save
n. m. Savior/Redeemer ,

 

as the Deacon Coresi replaces măntuirǐa with spăsește, corrections that would not have been necessary if the Hungarian form would have been known in OCS since the Deacon was well versed in Slavonic. It should be noted that in all the Slavic languages the Hungarian loan is semantically very close to its original meanings ‘exit, save etc.’, except in the Romanian where it became specialized exclusively to a religious concept. These difficulties are probably the cause the Romanian dictionaries are not mentioning the Slavic route.

Most of the Romanian verbs with the infinitive ending in –ui,wheather of Latin or Slavic origin, are based on a noun: v. ciurui < ciur; v. dăinui < SCr danovati, danujem;v. dăltui < n. daltă; v. dărui < n. dar, v. dezlănțui, înlănțui < n. lanț; v. prețui, disprețui < n. preț; v. făptui < n. fapt; v. gâtui < n. gât; v. infaptui < n. fapt; v. intui < Fr intuition; v. invălui < n. văl; v. mitui < n. mită; v. păcătui < n. păcat; v. rostui < n. rost; v. secătui < n. secat (Lat siccus, siccare), v. sfătui < n. sfat; v. țintui < n. țintă; v. viețui < n. viață, etc. Therefore, we should have similar situations with Hungarian loans, to have some nouns established in regular vocabulary from which a verbal form would develop. Instead, what we encounter with the Hungarian loans are only verbal forms:v. ment1‘excuze, forgive, save’, and ment2 ‘enter’was not retained into Romanian language as such, but it is considered the base form for Rom mântui; other examples are: Hun v. kőlt ‘spend’ > cheltui ‘spend’; v. bánt ‘hurt, vex’ > bântui ‘run around, spread like a disease, haunt’; v. bán ‘to regret’ > bănui ‘suspect’, etc. But in Romanian language as well as in the Slavic ones none of these verbs ment, kolt, bant, ban, were borrowed as such.

Based on these facts: the time proximity between the Hungarian and Romanian Bible translations, the fact that the Hungarian translators used primarily copies in Volgata, while the Romanians were using Greek and Slavic copies, (note to be made of the Catholic and Orthodox differences), the fact that we do not have the base form ment or menteni in either Romanian or Slavic languages, not to mention the semantic differences, should lead the investigation to other possibilities for explaining the Romanian mântui.

A first investigation sends us to Greek, in Homer, mantiV, -ewV ; in Ionic  -ioV   masc. fem. prophet, to predict the future, to consult an oracle; also found in names, Mantí-deos. (Pierre Chantraine Dictionaire Etymologique de la langue greque, 1977) In this case the semantic relation between Prophet and Savior is obvious. This well represented and productive form comes from the Proto-Indo-European *men-, ’think, consider’, nominal forms mentu, mṇtu ‘mind, thought’, Alb mëntoj ‘to think’, mëndje ‘mind, intellect’, as the IE *mentis resulted in many reflexes: Lat mēns ‘think’, NE mind, Lith mintis ‘thought’, OCS pa-mȩtǐ ‘thought’, Av –maiti- ‘thought’, Skt mati ‘thought’; Rom minte ‘mind’; or, IE *mnéhati  Grk mnêma ‘memory’, Luv m(a)nā ‘look, see’; perfect: *memónh2e  ‘thought, remembered’, Lat meminĭ ‘remember’; Grk mémona ‘desire, wish’; Skt mamné ‘think’; with two presents in IE *mṇyétor found in Old Irish do-moinethar ‘believe’; Lith miniù ‘remember’; OCS mǐnjno ‘think’; Grk mainomai ‘rage, mad’; Indo-Iranian, Avestan mainyeite ‘think’, Skt mányate ‘think’. (J.P. Mallory and D.Q. Adams The Oxford Introduction to Proto-Indo-European and Proto-Indo-European World, 2006)

The verb ‘to learn’ in IE is a compound of *men(s)- + dh(e)h1 ‘mind+set, sat’, NWels mynnu ‘desire’, OHG mendōn ‘enjoy’,  and munter ‘lively, alert’, Lith mandras ‘lively, awake’, OCS mǫdro, ‘wise’, Alb mund ‘skillful, handy’, Grk manthánȏ ‘learn’, av. ma,z-dā ‘memorized’, mazdā ‘wisdom’, Skt medhā ‘wisdom’. (Mallory-Adams 2006)

The semantic associations offered by this solution through the Greek mantiV, -ewV ‘prophet, foreseer of the future’, the IE *mṇyétor with the reflexes from Old Irsihdo-moinethar ‘to believe’, and the IE *men(s)- + dh(e)h1 ‘mind+set, learn’, OCS mǫdro, ‘wise’, Avestan mazdā ‘wisdom’, and the Albanian mëntoj ‘to think’, could give indication of the existence of a form *mendh, manth in the language spoken on the Dacian territory meaning ‘wise man, wisdom, teacher, to learn’.

This analysis tried to offer new perspectives on the etymology of Romanian mântui, a complex problem which necessitates in depth application of the comparative method in a larger spectrum of investigation, particularly in the light of the more recent studies in the Indo-European languages.