For my Christian Latin course, we were given a random passage consisting of several pages of Latin from some Christian author. We are to translate it, identify it, provide a bibliography for it, etc. Because I never assume the text is wrong and that anything that doesn’t make sense is due to my poor Latin abilities, I spent hours (I wish I were kidding) stressing over this sentence:
illos scilicet, qui iam nunc conservam animae suae carnem castis pudicitiae frenis in oboedientiam Sancti Spiritus subiugaverint…
This “conservam” made no sense to me. “Conservam” means “a female slave” and I couldn’t figure out why Rufinus (this is part of his Commentary on the Apostle’s Creed) was suddenly talking about a female slave. And why are there two accusative nouns? So, I looked at it, I read it over and over. I tried to find tertiary meanings for every word in the phrase. No luck.
The thought occurred to me to check a different text. This one comes from Corpus Christianorum, so I checked Migne. Lo and behold, Migne reads
illos scilicet, qui jam nunc conservantes animae suae carnem in castis pudicitiae actibus, obedentiae Sancti Spiritus subjugaverunt.
There are a few differences, but the big one is “conservantes” which is a participle from “conservo” which here means “to preserve.” So now instead of some nonsense about a female slave, I have “those who even now are preserving the flesh of their soul by the pure harnesses of chastity…”
What I don’t understand about the Corpus Christianorum text is that it lists “conservant” (which would make sense) and “conservantes” in the textual apparatus. Why in the world would you publish an impossible reading when you have two much better choices in your textual apparatus?