A Comparative Study of Three Manuscripts of The Rule of St. Benedict for Women

by John E. Crean, Jr.

University of Hawaii at Manoa

Honolulu HI

While the majority of vernacular renditions of the RB were cast in the original masculine mould, at least three mediaeval German versions were not. They are, in chronological order: The Oxford Rule2 from the fourteenth century; the Berlin Rule3 from the fifteenth; and the Altenburg Rule,4 precisely dated 1505. Each version was, to greater or lesser degree, adapted for women religious living under the RB. The present study5 concentrates on the extent of feminisation evidenced by each version, both intratextually and intertextually, with reference to the Latin original.6 Since Oxf omits certain RB chapters, this comparative study will limit itself to those relevant chapters common to all three versions. Since this study focuses on substantive feminisation, the Prologue and Chapter Two have been selected.

“Substantive feminisation” sets aside a consideration of the more mechanical aspects of regenderisation, e.g. substitutions of “sister” for “brother,” “abbess” for “abbot,” “she” for “he,” etc. The substantive issues in the Prologue and Chapter Two are: 1) the extent and consistency of feminisation; 2) the perceived and projected persona of the abbess; and 3) the innovative introduction of personae foreign to the RB.

The Substantive Issues

1. Extent and Consistency of Feminisation

The extent of feminisation, on the one hand, has to do with the adapter's venturesomeness in feminising terms which in the original are gender neutral. On the other hand, extent of feminisation also includes the adapter's willingness to risk feminising terms which in the original are definitively masculine. Within this context, one may likewise evaluate whether the adapter, on the whole, is averse to taking risks and chooses not to feminise material somehow considered tabu to regenderisation. Risk-averse editorship is evidenced by the omission of whole words or entire phrases, apparently absent by design rather than by oversight.

Consistency of feminisation is somewhat akin to the term durchkomponiert (“through-composed”) taken from musicology. “Through-composition”-a rather clumsy translation from the German, one must admit-judges how well a piece of music is put together in terms of its thematic consistency. Are major themes and motifs consistently followed through, or are some phrases introduced, perhaps occasionally echoed, but virtually left hanging? Are there notable gaps or lapses reminiscent of an earlier draft of the composition? Do long-since irrelevant themes recur unexpectedly and disturb the present equilibrium?

As we apply the concept of “through-composition” to a philological study, certain vernacular RB versions evidence perfect or nearly perfect consistency of feminisation. A thorough regenderisation has been accomplished and few, if any, “seams” are showing. The question is, mutatis mutandis, how consistently feminine is the RB revision, compared with its clearly consistent masculine model?

2. The Perceived and Projected Persona of the Abbess

The Prologue and Chapter Two of RB introduce the most basic, broad-stroke concepts before particular and functional details are discussed in later chapters. The philosophical underpinnings are laid out. And Benedict was careful to sketch the ontology of the abbot at the very outset, lest there be confusion or misinterpretation of his expected role. Benedict's vision here is fortified by frequent biblical references.

Potential conflicts therefore abound, when one tries to adapt these basic premises and “translate” an originally-conceived male persona into a female one. A two-fold challenge ensues: first, to avoid doing violence to Benedict's conceptualised persona of the abbot, both as to his ontology and his function; and second, in the process of adaptation, to avoid compromising the individuality and integrity of the abbess.

More often than not, the compelling raison d'être for such feminised versions of the RB was not to draft a philosophical treatise, but to produce a utilitarian guide suitable for instruction, reference, and occasional reproof. But in their attempts to word a feminine Rule in their local idiom, some editors crafted rather curious products. No doubt some followed earlier German versions, while others followed a Latin copy. But regardless of which copying method was employed, each editor had to face and deal with the pivotal persona of the abbess. The various lights in which she was cast may elucidate similar struggles today, as contemporary religious wrestle with suitable female ministerial role models, and an adequate verbal expression thereof.

3. The Introduction of Foreign Personae

Three instances of the deliberate introduction and innovative substitution of figures not accounted for in Benedict's text are found in the manuscripts examined here.

The most striking substitution in these manuscripts is that of a feminine persona for God the Father. The reference is most probably to the Blessed Mother, though in certain sentences, it might possibly be that of the abbess herself. In one sentence of the RB, the substitution occurs within a direct quotation from Romans and, in another, St. Benedict himself is replaced with a female persona.

There are undoubtedly more such instances in feminine RB adaptations, enough to constitute a separate study. With the comparatively small data base we now have available,7 one can only speculate whether such improvisation is simply based on an over-zealous Marian piety. One wonders, nevertheless, at the reason for such bold flights of fancy, in which the seemingly untouchable are summarily removed from accustomed pedestals. Iconoclastic dethronement of such magnitude is daring, to say the very least.

None of the renditions studied in this paper, however, shows evidences of a “through-composed” mariological treatise. Such rewordings as do occur seem to be by-products, isolated and discreet, either of an individual editor's personal devotional fantasy, or they are the result of a simple misreading of the text. More manuscripts must be examined before it can be decided whether such editorial innovations are only isolated instances. Scholars must assess the degree to which such editorial prerogatives agree with RB in chapter and verse. Are these seemingly isolated attempts at regenderisation really a new and as yet unarticulated branch of theology? Only when the manuscripts are examined from a wider data base can a conclusion be drawn to this question and a virtual new catechism of agreement on some presently unclear issues might be pieced together. A proper, scholarly exegesis of feminised Rules may reveal that, rather than the bold serendipity of certain ecstatic scribes, we have in ovo a profoundly well-reasoned theology.

The Prologue

Bln shows a significant break with tradition in the rendering of the very first sentence of the Prologue:

Obsculta, o filii, praecepta magistri, et inclina aurem cordis tui, et admonitionem pii patris libenter excipe et efficaciter comple.

[Listen carefully, my son, to the master's instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart, This is the advice from a father who loves you; welcome it, and faithfully put it into practice.]

1 Oxf Vernemet liebe sustere die gebot des meisters neiget daz ore vers herzen zu der manungen des milden vaders. vn irwullit sie

1 Bln Hore, dochter, die geboide dyner mestern8 und neyge das ore dyns hertzen unde entfanck gerne die ermanynge der mylden mutter und erfulle sey dryfftlychen,

1Alb Hör o Tachter die gepot deines Mayesters. vnd nayg das oren deines hertzen, vnd die manumb des guettigen vatters geren enphach und volkömenleich verpring,

The Bln ms. refers to the “commands of your mistress” as well as to the “admonitions of the gentle mother.” While Oxf also uses “gentle” instead of “good,” it still retains masculine references to “master” and “father.” Which female(s) is/are intended in “mistress” and “Mother” proves as debatable as the corresponding Lat RB passage.9 The Bln editor may have intended from the outset to project the persona of the abbess both as teacher and mother or to introduce a persona foreign to the Rule, i.e. the Blessed Mother.10 Whatever the case, a clearly radical feminisation tone is established from the very beginning of the text.

Another aspect of the extent of feminisation is found in Prol. 5 where a gender-neutral term is feminised in Oxf, while Bln and Alb preserve the original neutrality of gender:

ut qui nos iam in filiorum dignatus est numero computare non debet aliquando de malis actibus nostris contristari.

[In his goodness, he has already counted us as his sons, and therefore we should never grieve him by our evil actions.]

5 Oxf der sich gewirdeget hat zu dune in die zale siner duchtere11 daz er an keinen ziten von vren vbeln werken geunfrauwet werde

5 Bln das der, der sych gewerdyget hayt tzu tzelen yn den tzael syner kynder, nycht etzwan bedroifft werde van vnsen boesen werck<en>.

5 Alb Also daß er der uns genädigkleich gezelt hat in seiner kinder czall. nicht zu ettleicher czeit wert betrübt von vnsern pösen werchen.

Instead of referring to the “number of his children,” the Oxf editor narrows the expression to her audience: the “number of his daughters.” The same holds true in the next sentence, showing Oxf, here at least, as “through-composed”:

Ita enim ei omni tempore de bonis suis in nobis parendum est ut non solum iratus pater suos non aliquando filios exheredet

[With his good gifts which are in us, we must obey him at all times that he may never become the angry father who disinherits his sons]

6 Oxf Want vns ist ime alle zyt von allen sinen guden also zu gehorsame daz er vns als ein irzurnet vader sine dochtere indirbe12

6 Bln Want also yst emme yn aller tzijt yn uns tzu gehorsammen, das er nycht alleyne alse eyn ertzornder vater enterbe die etzwan nycht kynder weren,

6 Alb Also ist Im in vns zw allen zeitten von seinen gutten werchen zu gehorsam sein. das er nicht etwan als ein czorniger vatter sein kind enterb.

While the Oxf editor fears that it is the Lord's “daughters” who may be disinherited, Bln and Alb refer to his “children,” a larger, inclusive group.

In Prol. 7, Oxf and Alb both narrow down gender-inclusive expressions to females only.13 Oxf, however, uses a different word from that found in the Lat RB, while Alb uses the precise feminine correlate:

sed nec, ut metuendus dominus irritatus a malis nostris, ut nequissimos servos perpetuam tradat ad poenam qui eum sequi noluerint ad gloriam.

[nor the dread lord, enraged by our sins, who punishes us forever as worthless servants for refusing to follow him to glory.]

7 Oxf noch als ein irzurniger herre sine bose dirnen uns in sende nit zu der ewigen pinen obe wir ime nit volgen inwollen zu der gnaden.

7 Bln und auch nycht alse eyn entfoichtende vertzornt herre, van unser boiszheit vererret, verdome die boisen knechte14 tzu der ewygen pyne, die em nycht flogen woilden tzu der glorien.

7 Alb auch nicht als ein varchtsamer herr wert geraitzt mit vnsern pössen werchen. vns als dye pöshaffitigisten dienerin geb zu den ewigen pein. dy Im nicht nachuoligen haben wellen zw der ewigen glori.

Unless the Oxf editor made a bad scribal error and wrote dirnen for dienerin(en), she was actually referring to “bad little girls” instead of “wicked handmaidens.” Alb also stands closer to Benedict in characterising them as ''most15 wicked.”

Prol. 12 reveals an interesting three-way split on how to approach venite, filii:

Et quid dicit? Venite, filii, audite me; timorem Domii docebo vos.

[And what does he say? Come and listen to me, sons; I will teach you the fear of the Lord (Ps 33[34]:12)].

12 Oxf waz sprichit er. kummet lieben kint horent mich gottes worte sal ich vch leren.

12 Bln Und was saget hey? [---] “Horet mych, den foichten des heren sal ych uch lern.

12 Alb Nun was spricht er. Chomt her Ir Tachter vnd hört mich. des herren varicht die lern ich ewch.

Oxf remains generic, Bln leaves the vocative out completely, while Alb feminises and personalises in rather direct Germanic idiom: “Come 'ere, you daughters!”

The Alb version of Prol. 14 shows such faithful, “through-composed” editing that the adapter was compelled to coin a radical new word:

Et quaerens Dominus in multitudine populi cui haec clamat operarium suum, iterum dicit

[Seeking his workman in a multitude of people, the Lord calls out to him and lifts his voice again]

14 Oxf vn vnse herre suchet vnder der menigen sinen wercman deme er iz zu spreche

14 Bln Und der herre yst suechende yn der vilheyt synes folcks synen werckman, dem hie dijsz tzurufft und sprycht:

14 Alb Vnd suecht der herr in der menig seines volks ain werchmanin.16 zu der er rueft vnd abersand spricht.

Latin operarius, rendered quite literally as “workman” in both Oxf and Bln, gives the Alb editor the impulse to neologise: she writes werchmanin, instead of something on the order of werchfraw as one might predict. The feminine -in suffix is rather mechanically affixed to man, and if literally translated, would be “work-man-ette.” Alb's passion for consistency is even carried through in the matching feminine relative pronoun phrase i “to whom.”

In Prol. 24, Bln neglects to render the direct address, “dear sisters.” Was this omission accidental or on purpose? Judging the Bln version intratextually, accidental omission is hardly plausible. This version renders ample evidence of a pattern of omissions - complete omissions - by words, phrases or clauses. The nature of the omissions leads one to suspect that the editor's timidity to over-feminise led her to worry lest she somehow exceed the bounds of tolerable adaptation. The Bln editor is also rather risk-averse: she does not feminise too thoroughly or too consistently and the extent of her “through-composition” is really minimal:

Post hanc interrogationem, fratres, audiamus Dominum respondentem et ostendentem nobis viam ipsius tabernaculi

[After this question, brothers, let us listen well to what the Lord says in reply, for he shows us the way to his tent]

24 Oxf Nu vernement wir liebe sustere vnsern herren antwortende vn uns zeuginde den weg sins geceldnis

24 Bln Nach dusser frage horen wijr [---]17den hern antworden und uns tzoigen den weich syns tabernackls

24 Alb Nach der selben frag. hör wir swestern vnseren herren der vns antwurdt. vnd auch zaig den weg zu seinem tabernacl

Prol. 25-28 reveals amazing congruity in all three versions. Absolutely no attempt is made to feminise within this section which is loaded with scriptural references.  If the editor of Alb was able to come up with werchmanin, we might have thought she would develop some grammatically acceptable ways to convey feminine rather than traditional common gender masculine forms for “whoever” and the like. She did not. No editor tried. The string, which would have proven a daunting exercise of gender revision, remains intact:

dicens: Qui ingreditur sine macula et operatur iustitiam

[One who walks without blemish, he says, and is just in all his dealings]

25 Oxf vn alsus sprechende wer18 da ingeit ane fleckke vn wirket daz recht

25 Bln und spreichende: “Wer dar yngeyt aen fleicken und weyrckt dye gerechtycheyt;

25 Alb und spricht. Wer der ist der Inget an mail. vnd wurcht dÿ gerechtigkait.

qui loquitur veritatem in corde suo, qui non egit dolum in lingua sua

[who speaks the truth from his heart and has not practised deceit with his tongue]

26 Oxf  der da sprichit die warheit in sime herczen der keine losheit in begeit mir siner zungen

26 Bln der da sprycht die warheyt yn synem hertzen und hayt nycht gethaen die droigen yn syner tzungen

26 Alb Der da redt dÿ warhait in seinem hertzen<n>. vnd nicht verpringt dÿ untrew in seiner zungen.

qui non fecit proximo suo malum, qui opprobrium non accepit adversus proximum suum

[who has not wronged a fellowman in any way, nor listened to slanders against his neighbour (Ps 14[15]: 2-3)].

27 Oxf der kein obil nit indut sime ebenkristin der kein idewiz me infint wieder sinen nesten 

27 Bln der keyn ubel hayt gethaen synem neysten noch keyn schande adir spoet wedder synen neysten angenommen hayt,

27 Alb Der seinem nagsten kain vbel thuet. Wer kain scheltwort nicht auff nÿmbt wider seinen nachsten.

qui malignum diabolum aliqua suadentem sibi, cum ipsa suasione sua a conspectibus cordis sui respuens, deduxit ad nihilum, et parvulos cogitatos eius tenuit et allisit ad Christum

[He has foiled the evil one, the devil, at every turn, flinging both him and his promptings far from the sight of his heart. While these temptations were still young, he caught hold of them and dashed them against Christ (Ps 14[15]:4; 136[137]:9)].

28 Oxf der den duuel mit aller siner obeler spanungen versmet vn verwirfet von der ansichte sins herzen

28 Bln wer den bosen tufel, so hie em etzwas reyt myt synem raed, yst verspyende van dem angesychte syns hertzen und brenget en tzu nychte und helt syne kleynen gedachten und tzuquetzschget [?] sey an Christum.

28 Alb Der den pösen tewfel der im pösew ding rätt. mit sampt seinem schedleichem rat von den angesichten seines hertzen vertreibt. vnd sein nicht hat acht. vnd sein krannckh gedänckh hat gehalten. vnd hat dÿ czerprochen an christo

Chapter Two

RB 2:1 reveals interesting perspectives as to how all three editors project the persona of the abbess and each editor renders abbas and nomen maioris differently. A tendency in the Bln Rule is to amplify meaning by supplying synonyms, lest the intended audience miss one or the other term:

Abbas qui praeesse dignus est monasterio semper meminere debet quod dicitur et nomen maioris factis implere.

[To be worthy of the task of governing a monastery, the abbot must always remember what his title signifies and act as a superior should.]

1 Oxf Du ebisse di da wirdig ist in deme clostere der meisterschaffe sal ummer gehugen wie sie geherzen sij vn sal irwullin den namen19 mit den werken.

1 Bln Dey abatissa adir oberste, die werdygk yst dem cloister vor20 tzu sein, sal alletzijt bedencken, was sey gesproichen ysz, und sey sal den namen des obersten myt den wercken erfullen.

1 Alb Bie die Abttessin die wirdig ist zuuebes<ser>n das closter. sol albeg gedenckhen. was sÿ genandt wirt. vnd den namen ainer vorgeerin mit den werchen erfullen.

Oxf simply says “abbess;” Bln says “abbess” in almost correct Latin, amplifying “or superior;” and Alb says “abbess” in good German. Oxf omits maioris from nomen maioris, shortening it to “she shall fulfill the name.” Alb typically germanises as well as feminises the expression to “the name of a prioress” (the word also implies “forerunner, precursor”). Bln shows another lapse of “through-composition” by saying, via the superlative, literally “the name of the [male] highest.” Perhaps our Bln editor was still playing it safe and meant “The Highest Authority” or “The Ultimate Superior.”

RB 2:2 also proves pivotal in evaluating any feminine RB version. In question is the persona of the abbess as perceived by the editor. How congruent is she with her male counterpart? To what extent is she really the Vicar of Christ in the cloister? This sentence, therefore, is a kind of litmus test of how intimately the abbess may be understood to “hold the place of Christ in the monastery”:

Christi enim agere vices in monasterior creditur, quando ipsius vocatur pronomine,

[He is believed to hold the place of Christ in the monastery, since he is addressed by a title of Christ,]

2 Oxf wande sie ist gesatzit zu begane daz ambet21 des heiligen xpristes so lanc sie geherztin ist mit sime namen

2 Bln Want sey wert geloifft die stayt Christi yn dem cloister tzu vorwaren,22

2 Alb Wann als es wirt ge<g>laubt. sÿ verwest dÿ statt [122r] Christi in dem Closter. Wann sÿ nach seinem nam genant wirt.

Such a vicariate is seen somewhat differently in all three versions. Oxf sees the abbess as discharging the “office” of Christ, “as long as she is called by his name;” Bln says the “place of Christ” but predictably omits the whole ensuing phrase about being called by his name; Alb, more definitively even than Oxf, says not only “the place of Christ,” but adds “because she is called by his name,” not with the somewhat more “iffy” wording of Oxf: “as long as.” A similar choice is made in RB 2:30, regarding the “naming” of the abbess, “by whose name she is called”:

Meminere debet semper abbas quod est, meminere quod dicitur, et scire quia cui plus committitur, plus ab eo exigitur.

[The abbot must always remember what he is and remember what he is called, aware that more will be expected of a man to whom more has been entrusted.]

30 Oxf Dye ebdysse sal vmmer gehogen waz sie ist vn wie sie geherzit ist. vn sal wiszen deme do me beuolen wirt von deme wirt me geischet.

30 Bln Dey mutter sal alltzijt gedenckende syn (---)23 das dar geschreven steyt: “Dem vil befollen ysz, van dem wert auch viel geheysschen.”

30 Alb Die Abttessin soll albeg gedenckhen was sÿ seÿ vnd soll gedenckhen was sy genandt ist vnd sold wissen. das von dem. dem vil enpholhen wirt. vil eruodert wirt.

Both the earliest (Oxf) and the latest (Alb) versions agree on “what she is and what she is called,” while Bln predictably skirts the issue, omitting quod est and quod dicitur entirely. This simply provides more intratextual evidence that the Bln editor is most hesitant to deal with the way in which the abbess may authentically represent either Christ's ontology or his function.

Whether or not the abbess is identified and named as Christ's vicar in the cloister is one issue. Immediately following RB 2:2, the editors must cross yet another bridge when they must decide how to handle the content of Romans 8:15:

dicente apostolo: Acceptistis spiritum adoptionis filiorum, in quo calamaus: abba, pater.

[as the Apostle indicates: You have received the spirit of adoption of sons by which we exclaim, abba, father.]

3 Oxf also der apostolus sprichit. Jr hat infangen den geist der irwnsce der kinder in deme wir rufen abba vader.24 

3 Bln als der apostel sprycht: “Ir hayt entfangen den geyst der uszerkeysynge der kynder, yn dem wijr ruffen mutter.

3 Alb Als sand Paulus spricht. Ir habt enphangen den Geÿst der erbellung der kinder vnd der töchter gottes.25 in dem wir schreÿen fraw mueter.

This sentence presents two problems: 1) whether to leave filiorum gender-neutral or to feminise it; and 2) how to deal with abba pater. Oxf leaves the matter alone in both instances. Bln leaves “children,” but substitutes “mother” for abba pater. Alb predictably goes all the way or beyond. Filiorum is expanded to “children and the daughters of God,” of itself a fairly tame enhancement. But rufen, “cry out,” is escalated to schreien, “scream,” and abba pater is totally replaced by Frau Mutter, “lady Mother,” i.e. “[Our] Blessed Lady” or “[Our] Blessed Mother.” This unprecedented shift suggests that, persuaded of their chosen status as “children and daughters of God,” these women religious would ardently invoke Mary, rather than God the Father. Yet another plausible interpretation is that by Frau Mutter the editor was referring to the abbess herself, if by analogy she understood abba pater to refer to “Father Abbot” in male cloisters.26 In either interpretation, we come upon a radical and risky scriptural rewrite. In no sense can the Alb editor be classified “risk-averse,” either intratextually or intertextually. That the Alb version was composed some two hundred years after Oxf possibly indicates an evolution in how cloistered women perceived themselves, as well as how prayerfully creative they were becoming. This also is a fitting subject for further textual study and evaluation, based on a wider manuscript sample.

Each editor shows her individual point of view when it must be decided who is to blame for pastoral neglect and who will call these transgressions to account:

Sciatque abbas culpae pastoris incombere quicquid in ovibus paterfamilias utilitatis minus potuerit invenire.

[The abbot must, therefore, be aware that the shepherd will bear the blame wherever the father of the household finds that the sheep have yielded no profit.]

7 Oxf vn wisze auch daz. Daz iz alliz gezalt wirt an die scholt der hirdersen waz der husherre minre nvzzes finden mag an den schaffen

7 Bln Und sey sal weysszen, das er ansteyt die schult des herdes, was dey hymelsche vater mynner nutzs mach fynden yn synen schaeffen.

7 Alb Und soll auch wissen. das es Ir schuld27 ist. Was unnutz die hawswirtin28 an iren schefflein mag vinden.

Of the three, Bln continues to be typically risk-averse and leaves it “the fault of the (masculine) shepherd” and “the master of the house.” All corresponding pronouns and possessive adjectives also remain safely masculine. Both Oxf and Alb, refer to “the fault of the shepherdess” or “her fault” respectively. Yet Alb pushes the expression into overdrive, by saying “the mistress of the household” (die Hauswirtin) and fully “through-composes” in this way:

7 Alb And she should also know that it is her fault, whatever worthlessness the mistress of the household may find among her little sheep. 

Who but the Blessed Mother, their patroness, is this “lady of the house”? Such an understanding must be the logical analogue to paterfamilias, der husherre (Oxf) and dey hymelsche vater (Bln). When read with RB 2:3, this rendering constitutes a specialised and highly interesting approach to the feminine Austrian Benedictine spirituality of the year 1505.

A rather clear-cut editorial choice to depart from the Lat RB is found in 2:29, where the identity of the recipient of monastic discipline stands in question:

et iterum: Percute filium tuum virga et liberabis animam eius a morte.

[and again, Strike your son with a rod and you will free his soul from death (Prov 23:14)].

29 Oxf vn aber Slag dinen son bit der ruden vn so salt du irlosen sine sele von dem dode.

29 Bln und29 anderweit steyt auch geschreven: “Slae dynen soen myt der ruden. so loisestu syn sele van dem dode.”

29 Alb Vnd aber so. Slach dein tachter30 mit der gerten. so erledigist Ir sel von dem todt.

Both Oxf and Bln agree that “your son” should remain, the person whom you “strike with the rod in order to liberate his soul from death.” Only Alb owns the reality that there are no sons to be struck at in this cloister, only daughters:

29 Alb And again: strike your daughter with the rod, that you may deliver her soul from death.”

In RB 2:24, however, we have a rare look at total editorial agreement to feminise and we may happily end our deliberations on a harmonic note of total agreement:

id est, miscens temporibus tempora, terroribus blandimenta, dirum magistri, poim patris ostandat affectum,

[This means that he must vary with circumstances, threatening and coaxing by turns, stern as a taskmaster, devoted and tender as only a father can be.]

24 Oxf das ist daz sie vndermengen sal die bittere wort den senften. Sie sal zeugen irn grimmen willen als du meisteren irn senftin willen also du muder 

24 Bln das yst, myssche dey tzijt myt der tzijt, dem erschreiken safftmodycheyt, die harttycheit der mestern31 sal ertzoigen dye gunst der mylden mutter:32

24 Alb das ist. Misschs ain zeÿt mit der andern. die lindigkayt mit der schreckhung. Erczaig ain horten willen ainer Maysterin vnd ain güettige begir ainer mueter.

The balance and moderation expected of the abbess is expressed unanimously:

24 Oxf That is to say, she should mingle the bitter words with the softer ones. She should show her stern will as the mistress as well as her softer will as the mother.”

24 Bln That is to say, mix from time to time terror with gentleness, the hardness of the mistress shall be manifest alongside the favour of the mild mother.”

24 Alb “That is to say, alternate one mood with the other. Softness with terror. Manifest the hard will of a mistress as well as the goodly solicitude of a mother.”

2 Codex laud misc. 237, Bodleian Library, Oxford: Carl Selmer, Middle High German Translations of the Regula Sancti Benedicti (Cambridge, MA: Mediaeval Academy of America, 1933) 245-278; hereafter cited as Oxf

3 Ms. germ. 0 810, Prussian State Library, Berlin: Konrad Schmidt, Vier deutsche Benediktinerregeln aus dem späten Mittelalter, diss, Berlin Technische Universität, 1969, 218-280; hereafter cited as Bln.

4 Codex Altenburgensis Ms. AB 15 E 6, fol. ll9r-156v, Abbey Library, Altenburg, Austria: John E. Crean, Jr., The Altenburg Rule of St. Benedict, RBS Supplementa Series, 9 (St. Ottilien, Germany: EOS Verlag, 1992); hereafter cited as Alb.

5 See also John E. Crean, Jr., “Embellishment in Feminine Versions of the Rule of St. Benedict in Middle High German,” Cistercian Studies 16 (1981): 66-75. This article covers RB Chapters 19-21 in detail, from the five-fold perspective of gender modification, verbal idiom, textual quotient, syntactic profile and stylistic achievement.

6 For Latin citations, we refer to Benedicti Regvla, ed.  Rudolphus Hanslik. 2nd ed. (Vienna: Hoelder-Pichler-Tempsky, 1977); hereafter cited as Lat RB. [Editor's note: quotations and translations  in the text are taken from RB 1980, ed. Timothy Fry, OSB (Collegeville MN: Liturgical Press, 1981); hereafter cited as RB 1980.]

7 And we must also here lament the non-standardised, oftentimes suspiciously faulty, most generally inaccessible format in which many such mss. are available to the wider profession!

8 Prol. 1 Bln. ModStG deiner Meisterin.

9 See RB 1980, 157: “Although some commentators have thought the 'master' here to be Christ or the Holy Spirit rather than the author of the RB, there seems to be no compelling reason to interpret it this way. Elsewhere … the term is applied to the abbot or superiors generally. It is also possible, though not provable, that the word contains an allusion to RM, from which so much of this portion is derived.”

10 The choice of adjective myld in connection with “mother” recalls the frequent reference to Mary at the birth of Jesus as “mother mild.”

11 Prol. 5 Oxf. Feminisation of filiorum to duchtere (ModStG Töchter), only in Oxf.

12 Prol. 6 Oxf. Lat  RB suos non aliquando filios exheredet variously rendered. Only Oxf. feminises filios to duchtere (ModStG Töchter); only Bln and Alb account for aliquando as etzwan and etwan respectively.

13 It depends, of course, whether Lat accusative plural masculine servos is read as common gender or as a strictly masculine reference. In one sense, servos covers both genders, although Benedict obviously only meant “male servants.” It might be noted that the forms serva and servola are attested in Classical Latin.

14 Prol. 7 Bln. First person identification, uns, only in Oxf. and Alb.

15 nequissimos.

16 Prol.14 Alb. Feminine suffixation werchmanin, neutralisation to indefinite article ain, and follow through to feminine relative pronoun zu der only in Alb.

17 Prol. 24 Bln. No equivalent feminised vocative for Lat RSB fratres. The same feature of omission and its distribution among the three mss. may be seen in 2:39.

18 Prol. 25-28. In all versions, remarkably consistent retention of generic masculine referents (ModStG wer, der, sein, etc.) with no apparent attempt to feminise.

19 2:1 Oxf. Equivalent for nomen maioris left unstated.

20 2:1 Bln. Printed transcription not totally legible.

21 2:2 Oxf. Significant departure from both Bln and Alb, which both render uices as “the place” or “the stead” (cognate), not the “office” of Christ. Lat RSB also shows no ms. variant for officium or the like.

22 2:2 Bln. Equivalent for quando ipsius uocatur pronomine left unstated.

23 2:30 Bln. A glaring omission of quod est and quod dicitur, which neither Oxf nor Alb hesitate to include and feminise. This obvious lacuna may well be by conscious omission. This sentence and others may suggest the Bln editor's unwillingness to deal with the feminine personhood of the abbess vis-à-vis her representational role of the masculine persona of Christ in the cloister.

24 2:3 Oxf. Only the earliest of the three versions retains the literal equivalent of abba pater. Bln moves one step by substituting Mutter, while Alb escalates from rufen to schreien and adds Frau to Mutter. Both Bln and Alb venture to adapt scripture.

25  2:3 Alb. This editor also dares to expand filiorum to become gender-inclusive and gender-specific: “of children and of the daughters of God.”

26 See RB 1980, 157 as quoted above.

27 2:7. Who bears the guilt here is expressed quite individually by each editor.

28 2:7. Lat RSB pater fami1ias, “father of the family,” is variously rendered. Oxf sees this leadership role vested in the “master of the house.” Bln renders it as “the heavenly father;” while Alb is quite clear that it is the mater familias. The absolute identification of this mother remains an open question but, I believe, it must be seen in connection with the Alb rendition of 2:3.

29 2:29 Bln. Printed transcription not totally legible.

30 2:29 Alb. dein is correct form as in Alb ms. See RSB 9, p. 13, showing sein in error. Only Alb feminises here.

31  2:24. Lat RSB dirum magistri is rendered feminine in all three versions, (ModStG der Meisterin “of the mistress”) with the aspect of “hardness” variously interpreted.

32 2:24. Lat RSB pium patris affectum rendered in Oxf as “her soft will as the mother” and in Alb as “a goodly solicitude of a mother.” Bln gives a striking rendition: “the grace of the mother mild.” This is a rather clear analogical reference to the Blessed Mother, especially when compared to 2:1 which uses the identical terminology.