cubitum

Erszebet

Member
Czech
Hi, I am struggling with the meaning of the word cubitus in the context of the following sentence:

Necesse erat, ut arca sanctae Ecclesiae, quae perfectissimae huius religionis titulo in superioribus suis angusta, unitatis cubitum perficiebat: dilatato charitatis sinu in inferioribus suis pusillanimes ... colligeret Omnipotentis Dei misericordia.

The further context is the history of monasticism in the context of the early Church. It is a history written by a Medieval author. The concept is that at the beginning there was a very strict discipline of sharing all the belongings, but then as the church began to have more members, there had to be also less radical solutions.
My problem is that this cubitus is usually translated as an elbow. But here it is difficult to understand.

Some translators go really for elbow as a measuring unit:

Il était nécéssaire que l'arche de sainte église qui avait réalisé dans son sommet (in superioribus angusta??) étroit la dimension d'une seule coudée (elbow, the Arc was measured in elbows, see Genesis) par ce genre de vie très parfaite (perfectissimae huius religionis titulo)

... The arc of the holy church having by the strict observance (angusta??) of its stronger members (in superioribus) achieved to within one cubit the reputation of being the mos perfect religion (perfectissimae huius religionis titulo).

Some do not:
... The arc of the holy church that is most severe (angusta) to her best members (in superioribus), has finished the task (cubitum) of unity (unitatis).

Well, actually as you see, the whole sentence is quite difficult to undertand...
At least for me.

Thanks a lot,
E.
 
  • exgerman

    Senior Member
    NYC
    English but my first language was German
    I've looked at three versions of this text on google books, 2 modern editions and the Patrologia Latina version. I don't have an answer, but there is a lot to say about the text.

    I see that the modern editions have a comma after angusta, in the middle of the relative clause extending from quae to perficiebat. Your French and first English version translate a text (like that in PL) lacking that comma (and replacing the colon after perficiebat with a comma). Your last version tries to make sense of a text with that comma and colon. I think it fails. Perficiebat is indicative and cannot be the verb for the ut-clause. That must be the subjunctive colligeret.

    Punctuated like PL, arca sanctae ecclesiae is the subject of the ut-clause, and colligeret is its verb. Everything from quae to perficiebat is part of a relative clause that comments on ecclesia. Quatenus (which you also omitted) Omnipotentis Dei misericordia introduces a new clause, so it's irrelevant to this sentence.

    The patrologia text has typo in place of titulo.

    I wonder if unitatis is the participle of unitare, not the genitive of unitas. I don't think unitatis cubitum go together. Cubitum occurs 6 times in this text. The other 5 times, it is the supine (cubitum ire or other verbs of motion) meaning go to bed.

    There is no such Latin form as pusillanimes. It must be an OCR error for pusillanimos. The text you omitted ( pusillanimes et ad perfectionis celsitudinem minus idoneos) makes that clear.

    The author sets up a parallelism between the church of former days (in superioribus suis) and later times (in inferioribus suis).
     
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    bearded

    Senior Member
    Necesse erat, ut arca sanctae Ecclesiae, quae perfectissimae huius religionis titulo in superioribus suis angusta, unitatis cubitum perficiebat: dilatato charitatis sinu in inferioribus suis pusillanimos ... colligeret Omnipotentis Dei misericordia.
    My attempt at translation (poor English - just for the sake of understanding):

    It was necessary that the ark of the holy Church - which at its beginning (being very narrow/severe in accordance with this most perfect religion) reached but the size of one elbow - would in later times by the Almighty God's mercy (the ''womb of charity'' having been widened) gather/receive even people that were vile/mean [and less fit for the excellence of perfection].

    I understand ''unitatis cubitum perficiebat'' as '' used to complete a unit's elbow (= measured one elbow as a whole)''.
    'Arca' should be ark, not arc.

    Everything of course quite debatable.
     
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    Sobakus

    Senior Member
    bearded's interpretation is close as far as cubitum, but superiōra/īnferiōra as nouns refer to space, not to time. It's an architectural metaphor, with the elbow standing for the summit:

    Inevitably the arch of the Holy Church, that most accomplished testament to our religion, was narrow at the top and coalesced into a single summit; at its bottom it spread its bosom of kindness to unite also the mean of spirit (= the lower classes) in the grace of the All-Mighty God.​
     

    Sobakus

    Senior Member
    That seems to work if you interpret arca as arc/arch.. , but in my understanding it means ark (a chest, like ''the Ark of the Covenant''). And concerning superioribus/inferioribus, ex-german's interpretation (see above) appears more plausible to me.
    It's conceivable that arca was confused for arcus; it less conceivable but possible that they had some "ark" in mind that had the shape of a vault; but I'm afraid it's totally inconceivable that they'd use in superioribus suis to mean anything other than "its highest parts", a sense for which if there could be any confusion, suis removes it completely. superior aetas does indeed "former times", but the nouns supera "the heavens", infera "the underworld", superiora, inferiora simply cannot.

    Also notice the expression unitatis cubitum - lit. "the elbow of singularity" - I don't believe there's two ways to interpret that either, certainly not "the size of an elbow".

    By the way, the titulo in this excerpt is given as typo everywhere I look, which works better IMO: "the most perfect image".
     
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    bearded

    Senior Member
    Hello Sobakus
    I admit that 'typo' may be better than 'titulo' (it's probably a typo :D ), but for the rest....
    Since we are talking about an ark, and not an arch, the ''architectural metaphor'' has gone - as far as I can see. You can of course continue to mention ''its highest parts'' and ''its bottom'', if you so like, but in my view it doesn't make as much sense as it would with an arch...

    if there could be any confusion, suis removes it completely.
    I don't see why. ''In its former times/in its later times'' (referring to the 'ark of the Church') have their possessives, just as the 'parts' would have.

    Last (but not least): I don't understand what ''the elbow of singularity'' should mean, frankly speaking.
    Several translators seem to interpret the Latin expression as la dimension d'une seule coudée / within one cubit... (see #1).
     

    Sobakus

    Senior Member
    Since we are talking about an ark, and not an arch, the ''architectural metaphor'' has gone - as far as I can see. You can of course continue to mention ''its highest parts'' and ''its bottom'', if you so like, but in my view it doesn't make as much sense as it would with an arch...
    Yes, hence my two suggestions: 1) arca has been mixed up with arcus, since in French arche is feminine, means both and goes back to Lat. arca. I think it's quite uncontroversial. I personally confused them right there just as I confuse the two English terms; 2) they meant some kind of a vault-shaped box - but this is obviously not how you would talk about the most bestest accomplishement of your faith, that it collects people in a box.
    I don't see why. ''In its former times/in its later times'' (referring to the 'ark of the Church') have their possessives, just as the 'parts' would have.
    Because time isn't referred to with these two neuter plural nouns - space is. See DMLBS, particularly where it says (as sb.). The sui refers back to arca as the whole clause is part of the extended metaphor. Under your interpretation that would be "the earlier times of the box". Boxes don't have times; arches and sometimes boxes do have higher and lower regions.
    Last (but not least): I don't understand what ''the elbow of singularity'' should mean, frankly speaking.
    Several translators seem to interpret the Latin expression as la dimension d'une seule coudée / within one cubit... (see #1).
    Look at your elbow in the mirror - it has two planes (arms) coalescing into a single point. Look at a gothic arch - this is precisely what's being described. la dimension d'une seule coudée could maybe be unitas cubiti except that ūnitās isn't used to refer to measurements or dimensions as far as I know - these translators don't understand what they're reading. cubitum unitatis most probably refers to the Pontifex Maximus, the Pope, who crowns the hierarchy of the Church. It's a justification of the existence of the Church hierarchy.
     
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    Erszebet

    Member
    Czech
    Well, knowing the Cistercian authors, who use a lot the metaphor of the church seeing it as the ark of Noe, I would follow this image of the boat.
    ARK3.jpg
     

    Erszebet

    Member
    Czech
    "I've looked at three versions of this text on google books, 2 modern editions and the Patrologia Latina version. I don't have an answer, but there is a lot to say about the text.

    I see that the modern editions have a comma after angusta, in the middle of the relative clause extending from quae to perficiebat."

    And the PL text hasn't got a coma anywhere?

    Can you give me links?
     

    Erszebet

    Member
    Czech
    If I get it right, the possibilities for cubitum perficiebat are:

    1. "the elbow of singularity" meaning the form of the elbow, the point of the boat.
    2. Something with going to bed, as in the other part of the text it is used as cubitum ire, go to bed. But what can it mean?
    3. size of one elbow

    I don´t know how to quote another member, as you do. Anybody can explain to me, please?
     

    Sobakus

    Senior Member
    To quote, just click "Reply" at the bottom right of the message you want to quote, then edit down the text between the tags [⁣QUOTE=""]text[⁣/QUOTE]

    So that Noah's Ark thing could be the right explanation after all: here I've found Athanasius Kircher productively using his time by exploring the possible dimensions of said Ark: Arca Noe, in tres libros digesta (p28+). He seems to be referring to a well-established use of the word "cubitum" in the geometrical sense to describe its dimensions, which must go back to Genesis 6:14-16 (Latin available in the drop-down menu); he reaches the conclusion that it couldn't have been his contemporary "cubit = 6 feet", but that it was 1.5 feet (bottom right of page 29). Still, this doesn't make much sense in the abstract in the metaphor in question; perhaps it's a conflation of the "arch" and the "ark" meanings, also via the similarity in shape (the Ark in the picture has a summit like that of an arch, or indeed, that of a church).

    In any case he must have reused the same expression that Kircher is talking about, and the metaphor of the Church as the Ark that shelters its faithful seems to work very well. unitatis cubitum thus probably means something like "the single and absolute measure (of perfection) that the entirety of the Church was based on (like the Ark) and must be measured up to", cubitum standing for "measure". I'm not absolutely sure if said measure is the Pope, but it seems to be.
     
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    bearded

    Senior Member
    The interpretation of the Latin passage is indeed difficult and controversial, and of course I cannot state that my interpretation is the only correct one.
    ''Arca sanctae Ecclesiae'' may very well make reference to Noah's ark: in any case it's just a metaphor for ''the Church'', and

    Boxes don't have times
    well, churches do have times.

    cubitum unitatis most probably refers to the Pontifex Maximus, the Pope, who crowns the hierarchy of the Church. It's a justification of the existence of the Church hierarchy.
    I find that really far-fetched.

    I hope that real Latin experts - no offense given to the others! - (e.g. Scholiast) will let us know their opinions.
     
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    Erszebet

    Member
    Czech
    I've looked at three versions of this text on google books, 2 modern editions and the Patrologia Latina version. I don't have an answer, but there is a lot to say about the text. (...) Punctuated like PL, arca sanctae ecclesiae is the subject of the ut-clause, and colligeret is its verb.

    I have difficulty finding it in PL. Could you give me your links? Thanks!
     

    exgerman

    Senior Member
    NYC
    English but my first language was German
    I have difficulty finding it in PL. Could you give me your links? Thanks!
    Sorry I've been away. I hope this is not too late for you.

    The PL is here at archive.org books. You will have to enlarge the text via the icon at the bottom right to make the text large enough to read.

    There is also a version of what purports to be a 1660 edition here.

    The two modern editions can only be consulted with snippet view, but once you know the text from the PL, you can adjust your search terms to bring up the relevant snippets.

    I found a translation in this book on the topic:

    It was inevitable that the ark of holy Church, having by the strict observance of its stronger members achieved to within one cubit [Gen 6:15]7 the reputation of being the most perfect religion, now needed to expand its heart in charity to the weaker and more fainthearted and carry the less fit to the heights of perfection.

    The authors of the book say that Konrad's Latin is so ambitious that it sometimes obscured what he means. I guess that they are taking cubitum as genitive plural (a form that sometimes occurs with measure words instead of -orum), and interpret "of the unity of cubits" to mean "of one cubit in size".
     
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    Sobakus

    Senior Member
    I had to laugh out loud at that translation, because it perfectly exemplifies the deplorable state of Latin teaching today. Konrad's Latin has nothing to do with authors' confusion; being just another victims of the grammar-translation method, they didn't see a sentence, but an unconnected jumbling of English words that they looked up in a dictionary and then tried to put in some order that vaguely made sense with no relation to the Latin whatsoever. It's absolutely comical, and I bet there's much more of the same in that book if the following sentence with "polluted by the dust of their earthly goods" is any indication.
     
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