confused by medieval manuscripts

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marcushieronymus
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confused by medieval manuscripts

Post by marcushieronymus » Thu May 11, 2017 2:49 pm

I found the following from a website on Medieval Church music:

Non dico tibi petre dimittendi septies sed usque septuagies septies

Based on the context, the translation should be something like: I do not say to you, Peter, to forgive seven times, but seventy seven times. My question is how dimittendi, which looks like either a gerund or a gerundive in the genitive, could be grammatically correct. If it were only in one manuscript, I might argue that it's just a scribal error. But it's in a series of manuscripts.
Can anyone help me figure this out? Thanks.

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Re: confused by medieval manuscripts

Post by bedwere » Thu May 11, 2017 5:11 pm

It would be gerund (verbal noun), not gerundive (verbal adjective). A Google search indicates that it was a different reading of Mat. 18:22.
E.g., https://books.google.com/books?id=uCFiA ... es&f=false , https://books.google.com/books?id=2fVQA ... es&f=false , https://books.google.com/books?id=uCFiA ... es&f=false

In the Office and in the Mass there are many chants whose text does not correspond to St. Jerome's Vulgate. When the Vulgate became the official translation of the Latin Church, that applied only to the lessons and psalmody (but some places retained the older usages for centuries). The chants were left untouched.

Anyway, it doesn't look like Ciceronian Latin to me.

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Re: confused by medieval manuscripts

Post by Timothée » Thu May 11, 2017 5:54 pm

Gerundive would almost give a nice meaning: dimittendum [est] ‘it is to be forgiven’ (in Classical Latin this verb is not used in the sense ‘to forgive’). As it isn’t neuter singular nom-acc, it can’t be quite like this. Can a suitable word be added thereto? Not far off would be a substantivised dimittendus used in plural along with a numeral. It still isn’t quite satisfactory though.

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Re: confused by medieval manuscripts

Post by marcushieronymus » Thu May 11, 2017 6:44 pm

There actually was at least one manuscript that did read 'dimittendum,' as if to correct the prevailing tradition. And might not that make more sense? What if it were referring to the sinner in the previous sentence of Matt. 18? Couldn't you then read it as the accusative subject of an indirect statement, the verb esse being understood?

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Re: confused by medieval manuscripts

Post by Timothée » Thu May 11, 2017 7:10 pm

Dimittendum makes sense. [est]/[esse] can very easily be understood. ‘It has to be forgiven 77 times’, ‘One has to forgive 77 times’ or something like that. Acc.c.inf. is probably best (esse understood), though direct speech is not impossible (with a colon and est understood).

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Re: confused by medieval manuscripts

Post by bedwere » Thu May 11, 2017 7:34 pm

Maybe there was some kind of contamination with Mt. 9:6 (cfr. Mc. 2:10, Lc. 5:24)?

Ut autem sciatis, quia Filius hominis habet potestatem in terra dimittendi peccata, tunc ait paralytico : Surge, tolle lectum tuum, et vade in domum tuam.

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Re: confused by medieval manuscripts

Post by marcushieronymus » Thu May 11, 2017 9:32 pm

Bedwere and Timothée:
Even though it would have been nice to find some justification for the strange sentence, it's also nice to know that my confusion was, in this case, not due to my insufficient command of the language. It remains curious, however, that almost all of the manuscripts that I found contain the error. How could so many copyists be oblivious to it? Unless, being monks, they were just copying in the spirit of obedience!

At any rate, thank you so much for assisting me with this.

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Re: confused by medieval manuscripts

Post by Victor » Fri May 12, 2017 2:29 am

Placing the key parts in direct speech seems to me to resolve the difficulty:
Non dico tibi, Petre, "dimittendi septies" sed "usque septuagies septies".

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Re: confused by medieval manuscripts

Post by bedwere » Fri May 12, 2017 2:56 am

Victor wrote:Placing the key parts in direct speech seems to me to resolve the difficulty:
Non dico tibi, Petre, "dimittendi septies" sed "usque septuagies septies".
Very clever. However, shouldn't it be [peccata] dimittenda? Your interpretation seems to say that [peccatores] dimittendi, the sinners must be sent away.

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Re: confused by medieval manuscripts

Post by marcushieronymus » Fri May 12, 2017 1:31 pm

Actually, that may work. Stelton's Dictionary of Ecclesiastical Latin includes forgive among the possible meanings of dimittere. So the passage would translate:

Do not say, Peter, "He [the sinner] should be forgiven seven times," but " up to seventy seven times."

Ingenious.

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Re: confused by medieval manuscripts

Post by bedwere » Fri May 12, 2017 2:27 pm

marcushieronymus wrote:Actually, that may work. Stelton's Dictionary of Ecclesiastical Latin includes forgive among the possible meanings of dimittere. So the passage would translate:

Do not say, Peter, "He [the sinner] should be forgiven seven times," but " up to seventy seven times."

Ingenious.
Of course it means forgive. The problem is that it takes the dative of the person forgiven, not the accusative. E.g., dimitte nobis debita nostra.

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Re: confused by medieval manuscripts

Post by Timothée » Fri May 12, 2017 3:24 pm

The person forgiven isn’t mentioned, surely? If we now add the understood [sunt], doesn’t it work?

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Re: confused by medieval manuscripts

Post by bedwere » Fri May 12, 2017 4:03 pm

Timothée wrote:The person forgiven isn’t mentioned, surely? If we now add the understood [sunt], doesn’t it work?
I don't think so.
I can find plenty of evidence of "dimittenda peccata" in the sense of sins are to be forgiven.
I can find no evidence of "dimittendi peccatores" in the sense of sinners are to be forgiven
Dimittendi peccatores means that sinners are to be sent away, not forgiven.
E.g., https://books.google.com/books?id=v331W ... es&f=false
https://books.google.com/books?id=lGBnA ... es&f=false
https://books.google.com/books?id=G2FqZ ... es&f=false

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Re: confused by medieval manuscripts

Post by marcushieronymus » Fri May 12, 2017 7:05 pm

Oh, that's a good point. In fact, the Vulgate uses the dative with dimitto in the passage under consideration:
Domine, quotiens peccabit in me frater meus et dimittam ei?
But that brings up a question. What you do with verbs that take the dative, such as dimitto, in a periphrastic construction, which itself takes the dative of personal agency?

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Re: confused by medieval manuscripts

Post by bedwere » Fri May 12, 2017 7:28 pm

You would use a+ablative, which trumps the dative:

Peccatoribus peccata dimittenda sunt a nobis

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Re: confused by medieval manuscripts

Post by marcushieronymus » Fri May 12, 2017 8:58 pm

That makes sense. Thanks.

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Re: confused by medieval manuscripts

Post by Victor » Fri May 12, 2017 9:42 pm

It's good to have scruples about these sorts of things but, really, on this occasion they are dimittendi.

dimitto with a personal object regularly means not just to send someone away, but to discharge, acquit, absolve, or release him; its use in forensic contexts makes it obvious why.

Is such a sense not adequate for our present purposes? Previous commentators at any rate seemed ignorant of any inadequacy:

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=3Ew ... 22&f=false

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=uCF ... at&f=false

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=hap ... em&f=false

I did try to insert snippets of the relevant bits instead of links, but the forum software doesn't provide any obvious means of uploading picture files.

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Re: confused by medieval manuscripts

Post by bedwere » Sat May 13, 2017 4:52 am

If there is no other way to explain it, we'll have to accept it as an example of bad Latin (Latinitas ferrea/lutea). The fact that the antiphon was dropped from the liturgy shows that it came eventually to be considered as such.

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Re: confused by medieval manuscripts

Post by marcushieronymus » Sat May 13, 2017 1:46 pm

True. My problem is that I was hoping to resurrect the antiphon as a substitute for Serve nequam, which is a killer to sing. If I do use it, I'll have to decide between dimittendi, which is by far more frequently found in the manuscripts, and dimittendum, for which there is at least a precedent.

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Re: confused by medieval manuscripts

Post by Victor » Sat May 13, 2017 2:08 pm

bedwere wrote:we'll have to accept it as an example of bad Latin (Latinitas ferrea/lutea).
bedwere, far more commentators than the ones I have linked to cite this passage for one reason or another. Of all those I have seen, not one of them makes any suggestion that it is "bad Latin".
bedwere wrote:The fact that the antiphon was dropped from the liturgy shows that it came eventually to be considered as such.
Perhaps you could say what evidence you have that this was the reason it was dropped, i.e. that this use of dimittendi was felt to be "bad Latin". If you have such evidence then it would certainly bolster your claim that it is, and was felt to be, bad Latin. Without such evidence we can only take your claim that this is the reason it was dropped for what it's worth.

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Re: confused by medieval manuscripts

Post by bedwere » Sat May 13, 2017 4:29 pm

The standard use in Church Latin is dimittere peccata. There are few, minor references to dimittere creditorem.
http://lexica.linguax.com/forc.php?searchedLG=dimitto
On the other hands, dimittendi is absent from several manuscripts.
I think we had enough of this.

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Re: confused by medieval manuscripts

Post by Victor » Sun May 14, 2017 2:48 am

bedwere wrote:The standard use in Church Latin is dimittere peccata. There are few, minor references to dimittere creditorem.
I'm not quite sure what inference to draw from this.

If dimittendi can't, as you seem to be suggesting, mean "[they are] to be absolved/forgiven" in anything but bad Latin, what are we to make of Luke 6:37: dimittite et dimittemini? Is that bad Latin too?

Most English translations here have "Forgive and you will be forgiven". The Greek Testament employs the verb ἀπολύω. Can ἀπολύω not have the meaning I referred to earlier when discussing dimitto, namely "acquit/absolve"? Bauer/Danker adds "pardon".

I'm really at a loss to know what it was I said that was so controversial or objectionable as to cause you to lock the thread.

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Re: confused by medieval manuscripts

Post by mwh » Sun May 14, 2017 3:04 am

“dimittendi is absent from several manuscripts.” It was absent from the original in Matthew, too, replying to the question “Quotiens … dimittam ei?” (“How many times … shall I forgive him?”), but once the reply was isolated it’s no surprise the verb was supplied for clarity. But why in this form? I don’t think Victor’s valiant attempt to save the given text can be right: apart from the unorthodox use of dimittere (inconsistent with dimittam ei), there’s the plural to be accounted for. The original context will hardly have been lost sight of (as the addition of Petre shows).

I guess dimittendi started out as dimittend-ei, i.e. dimittend(um) ei, perhaps written in the margin or above the line and very slightly misread. “I don’t tell you <he’s to be forgiven> seven times, but up to seventy times seven times.”

But how did the corruption perpetuate itself? That’s easy. Enjoying the status of sacred text, it was not to be touched. — Cf. “Quod ore mumpsimus, Domine, …”! (If you don’t know the story, google it. It’s a good one.)

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Re: confused by medieval manuscripts

Post by jeidsath » Sun May 14, 2017 5:29 am

The original source for mwh's mumpsimus story is this section from Erasmus letter 456.

Image
Joel Eidsath -- jeidsath@gmail.com

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Re: confused by medieval manuscripts

Post by Victor » Sun May 14, 2017 12:54 pm

mwh wrote:Victor’s valiant attempt to save the given text
I appreciate the compliment, even if it's largely uncalled for given the fact that I have nowhere attempted any considered comparison of the merits and demerits of rival readings. I am more than happy in fact, and have been all along, to acknowledge that dimittendi may not be the true reading, and my reasons would be much the same as the ones you give.

What I have been and remain far from happy to acknowledge is the truth of what bedwere has been consistently and almost exclusively trying to assert throughout this discussion since I entered it, which is that dimittendi is not in itself permissible Latin at any period for "are to be absolved/pardoned". My remarks at the beginning of my second post and the links to the commentaries are not intended as positive advocacy for a certain reading, but merely as a rebuttal of bedwere's grounds for rejecting dimittendi out of hand, namely its allegedly spurious Latinity. Without marshalling any further evidence, Luke 6:37 is enough to show the deficiencies of such a claim.

My rebuttal of your interpretation was not out of hand but based on facts, namely the universal usage in Church Latin of dimittere peccata.

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Re: confused by medieval manuscripts

Post by Tertius Robertus » Sun May 14, 2017 11:15 pm

Would it be possible to construct, in medieval latin or in some other period, the verb dicere with a genitive gerund?

Perharps I am being totally anachronistic and rather off the mark: but a equivalent construction can be found in modern romance languages.

example: Il nous a dit de voyager. he told/ordered us to travel.

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Re: confused by medieval manuscripts

Post by bedwere » Mon May 15, 2017 12:14 am

Tertius Robertus wrote:Would it be possible to construct, in medieval latin or in some other period, the verb dicere with a genitive gerund?

Perharps I am being totally anachronistic and rather off the mark: but a equivalent construction can be found in modern romance languages.

example: Il nous a dit de voyager. he told/ordered us to travel.
For what is worth, I couldn't find such usage in F. A. Mantello, A. G. Rigg, Medieval Latin: An Introduction and Bibliographical Guide (ISBN-13: 978-0813208428).

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Re: confused by medieval manuscripts

Post by marcushieronymus » Mon May 15, 2017 12:30 am

Perhaps there is no precedent for the object of dimitto in the active voice to be the sinner forgiven, but doesn't the Vulgate's version of Luke 6:37 prove that there is a precedent for the subject of dimitto in the passive voice to be the sinner forgiven? Aren't there other Latin verbs that make adjustments of that sort between the active and passive voices?

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Re: confused by medieval manuscripts

Post by bedwere » Mon May 15, 2017 12:54 am

marcushieronymus wrote:Perhaps there is no precedent for the object of dimitto in the active voice to be the sinner forgiven, but doesn't the Vulgate's version of Luke 6:37 prove that there is a precedent for the subject of dimitto in the passive voice to be the sinner forgiven? Aren't there other Latin verbs that make adjustments of that sort between the active and passive voices?
Luc. 6:37 has dimittite, et dimittemini as a translation of ἀπολύετε, καὶ ἀπολυθήσεσθε. (see ἀπολύω in L&S). Indeed it is used here after other legal terms (κρίνετε, καταδικάζετε) to mean acquit and takes the accusative of the person. Hence, the passive poses no problem. It means: you will be acquitted. However, in Mat. 18:21 (and whoever, if ever, composed the antiphon had Mat. 18:21-22 in mind) dimittam is used to translate ἀφήσω. In Mat 18:21, both ἀφίημι and dimitto are constructed with the dative of the person: to remit (a charge) to somebody. So the passive of dimitto is here to be applied to the trespass, not to the trespasser.

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Re: confused by medieval manuscripts

Post by mwh » Mon May 15, 2017 3:25 am

Does no-one like my dimittendum ei? It seems to me exactly what’s wanted.

(Incidentally, septuagies septies is not 77 times but 490 times. At which point he can apparently stop forgiving. :) )

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Re: confused by medieval manuscripts

Post by bedwere » Mon May 15, 2017 3:33 am

mwh wrote:Does no-one like my dimittendum ei? It seems to me exactly what’s wanted.

(Incidentally, septuagies septies is not 77 times but 490 times. At which point he can apparently stop forgiving. :) )
I love it. Do you think that even a simple dimittendum without ei could be misread into dimittendi, if written in pesky medieval calligraphy (Fraktur?)?
There are a few examples.

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Re: confused by medieval manuscripts

Post by Timothée » Mon May 15, 2017 7:15 am

mwh wrote:Does no-one like my dimittendum ei? It seems to me exactly what’s wanted.
Yes, I do think it’s exactly or almost exactly right solution. But it’d now seem that thinking isn’t enough to convey my feelings to other commentators... :D
Tertius Robertus wrote:Would it be possible to construct, in medieval latin or in some other period, the verb dicere with a genitive gerund?

Perharps I am being totally anachronistic and rather off the mark: but a equivalent construction can be found in modern romance languages.
On general level I like the way you think, but remain very doubtful. For what it’s worth, I glanced through the dico entry in the Thesaurus linguae Latinae, and found nothing of the sort. It’s not a mediaeval dictionary, of course, but it does cover Isidore of Seville from the 7th century. One’d think there might be some kind of precedent.

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Re: confused by medieval manuscripts

Post by marcushieronymus » Mon May 15, 2017 1:34 pm

Dimittendum ei may work grammatically, but I initially presented this Latin conundrum to this forum as part of my research into a piece of medieval music. Dimittendum ei won't work musically, because of the two additional syllables -- unless you rewrite the music.

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Re: confused by medieval manuscripts

Post by bedwere » Mon May 15, 2017 2:25 pm

marcushieronymus wrote:Dimittendum ei may work grammatically, but I initially presented this Latin conundrum to this forum as part of my research into a piece of medieval music. Dimittendum ei won't work musically, because of the two additional syllables -- unless you rewrite the music.
You can use dimittendum, can't you? http://cantus.uwaterloo.ca/chant/544251

Breviarium Cisterciense
Feria Tertia infra Hebdomadam tertiam Quadragesimae
Ad Magnificat Ant. Non dici tibi, Patre, dimittendum septies, sed usque septuagies septies.

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Re: confused by medieval manuscripts

Post by Timothée » Mon May 15, 2017 3:28 pm

marcushieronymus wrote:Dimittendum ei may work grammatically, but I initially presented this Latin conundrum to this forum as part of my research into a piece of medieval music. Dimittendum ei won't work musically, because of the two additional syllables -- unless you rewrite the music.
But the peculiar (and apparently wrong) dimittendi fits, doesn’t it (as well as dimittendum)? mwh sought to explain the form dimittendi as arising from a phonetic corruption from dimittend’ ei, dimittend’ elided from dimittendu(m). > (diphthongal) > ī.

In a critical edition, if I have followed the discussion correctly, the editor would probably choose to print dimittendum.

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Re: confused by medieval manuscripts

Post by marcushieronymus » Mon May 15, 2017 4:29 pm

I absolutely can use dimittendum, and would have from the outset, except that the overwhelming majority of manuscripts contain dimittendi. I was torn between going with what appears to be the tradition versus what appears to be the exception, even though grammatically I could make sense only out of the exception. I came here because I couldn't imagine that the predominant usage was wrong.

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Re: confused by medieval manuscripts

Post by Timothée » Mon May 15, 2017 5:42 pm

Do you understand mwh’s suggestion for the explanation of how dimittendi arose? (You may obviously disagree with the explanation.) He also gave an explanation of how a probably corrupted word-form perpetuated to be used. It can happen, as holy texts can be considered too holy to be changed sometimes (cf. ketiv & qere of the Old Testament). Bedwere wondered if dimittendu could be corrupted into dimittendi.

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Re: confused by medieval manuscripts

Post by marcushieronymus » Tue May 16, 2017 12:55 am

Having looked over a number of medieval manuscripts, I can readily see how easily scribal errors could have occurred. I cannot as readily see, in the present case at least, how the error could have been perpetuated, or if it was perpetuated, I doubt that it was due to ignorance.

The medieval copyist was no dummy. First of all, if anyone was on his guard against the possibility of scribal error, it was a copyist. He caught enough of his own mistakes to be open to the possibility of mistakes in the work of others.

Besides, according to Leclercq in his The Love of Learning and the Desire for God, the medieval monk was learned in Latin, not just the corrupt Latin of the time, but the best of the classical tradition. He would have picked up on any grammatical error in any text he was copying. He and his colleagues also could have done what we have been doing here, and hashed out possible justifications for an oddly placed construction. And he was learned in the Scriptures, knowing the difference between an exact Biblical quote and a paraphrase. He would not have been overly protective of the latter, but would have been much more willing to correct it.

But he was respectful of the Biblical text, especially as he found it in Jerome’s Vulgate, and so would have looked with respect on Jerome’s use of dimitto in Luc. 6:37. Even if Jerome did take liberties with the verb there, the monk would not have thought so, but would have regarded his usage there as … well, Gospel. He still would have seen such usage as the exception, so we needn’t be surprised not to find extant examples of it in other medieval manuscripts. But when the copyist came upon dimittendi in the antiphon under consideration, he, either on his own or after consultation, could well have regarded Luc. 6:37 as a precedent, and let dimittendi stand.

After saying all that, I must admit that dimittendum is probably the wiser choice. First of all, it's the safer way to go grammatically. And while it doesn’t appear in most of the manuscripts, it does appear in at least two, so it wouldn’t be a total innovation. Besides, the plural of dimittendi goes against the Biblical context.

But perhaps more than anything else, dimittendum is the wiser choice for the practical reason that it’s easier to explain than dimittendi. The ideas that we have exchanged here over whether to justify the use of dimittendi in this text have been ingenious and enlightening, but I don’t know if I want to go over it all over again with every Latinist who questions that as my choice!

I am so glad to have discovered this message board. You have amazed me with your knowledge, your analysis, and your willingness to take the time to research and reply to a question from a complete stranger. Thank you all for helping me through this.

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