I have a choral text set to music by Anton Bruckner. (I do not know Bruckner's source.) The text VIRGA JESSE reads as follows:


I have a question regarding the grammar of SUMMIS. If I see it correctly, this is dative or ablative plural of SUMMUM or SUMMUS (syntactically, it could also be coming from SUMMA, but this does not make sense semantically).

Why is this plural?

I read the last verse as In himself reconciling the lowest with the highest (the english language does not distinguish between plural and singular of the highest, so my problem is getting lost in translation into English). I do not understand why the highest is plural here? I would assume that it refers to God himself, who reconciles the temporal with the eternal when he becomes flesh, so I don't understand the use of plural.

Is there a sophisticated theological reason for the ocurrence of plural here? Or is SUMMIS just "wrong" grammar? Or (most probably) do I get something wrong?

  • I'm not sure I understand your difficulty. In your translation you have RECONSILIANS reconciling (nominative, like DEUS); IN SE within himself (in+Ablative position); IMA the lowest (the Object: Accusative neuter plural): SUMMIS to the highest / with the highest (Dative / Ablative neuter plural).
    – Hugh
    Commented Nov 29, 2019 at 1:48
  • Lewis and Short say it must be Dative.
    – Hugh
    Commented Nov 29, 2019 at 1:56

1 Answer 1


Both īma and summīs are neuter plural in this case: "the lowest things" and "the highest things".

The adjectives are being used in a sort of general sense here, rather than referring to any specific objects—God is reconciling everything that is lowly with everything that is exalted, without any particular lowly and exalted things in mind.

  • Thank you for the explanation. I agree with the grammatical analysis of ima possibly being plural as well - I didn't see that before. And I am fine with that explanation, hence I accepted your answer. I am just curious: How did you identify that IMA SUMMIS is short for IMA RES SUMMIS REBUS here? Is omitting forms of RES a common thing (like omitting forms of ESSE)? Do you know other examples of this phenomenon? Commented Nov 29, 2019 at 5:20
  • 1
    @jonathan.scholbach I know it as "substantive use" of the adjective, and it's quite common: compare English the good [people], the bad [people], and the ugly [people], or proverbs like the good [people] die young. In this particular case you can't actually supply res because that would be feminine—the "things" is implicit in the neuter-plural-ness of the expression.
    – Draconis
    Commented Nov 29, 2019 at 6:05
  • @jonathan.scholbach: „die Höchsten mit den Niedrigsten“
    – fdb
    Commented Dec 1, 2019 at 13:28
  • @fdb Ja, ich versteh schon. Mir war nur nicht klar, worauf sich das beziehen soll, also wer oder was mit "den Höchsten" gemeint sein soll. Commented Dec 1, 2019 at 14:39

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