The Fathers on Psalm 51

This post is part of an ongoing series offering translations of various early Church father’s commentaries on the Psalms.

Psalm 51

Have mercy on me, God, in accord with your merciful love;

in your abundant compassion blot out my transgressions.

Thoroughly wash away my guilt;

and from my sin cleanse me.

For I know my transgressions;

my sin is always before me.

Against you, you alone have I sinned;

I have done what is evil in your eyes

So that you are just in your word,

and without reproach in your judgment.

Behold, I was born in guilt,

in sin my mother conceived me.

Behold, you desire true sincerity;

and secretly you teach me wisdom.

Cleanse me with hyssop, that I may be pure;

wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

You will let me hear gladness and joy;

the bones you have crushed will rejoice.

Turn away your face from my sins;

blot out all my iniquities.

A clean heart create for me, God;

renew within me a steadfast spirit.

Do not drive me from before your face,

nor take from me your holy spirit.

Restore to me the gladness of your salvation;

uphold me with a willing spirit.

I will teach the wicked your ways,

that sinners may return to you.

Rescue me from violent bloodshed, God, my saving God,

and my tongue will sing joyfully of your justice.

Lord, you will open my lips;

and my mouth will proclaim your praise.

For you do not desire sacrifice or I would give it;

a burnt offering you would not accept.

My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit;

a contrite, humbled heart, O God, you will not scorn.

Treat Zion kindly according to your good will;

build up the walls of Jerusalem.

Then you will desire the sacrifices of the just,

burnt offering and whole offerings;

then they will offer up young bulls on your altar.

Athanasius: “You sinned and feeling guilty, you repent and ask to be shown mercy. You have words of confession and conversion in Psalm 51.”[1]

Diodore of Tarsus: Have mercy on me, God, in accord with your merciful love. The Israelites give the appearance of being very much improved by the misfortunes: while making a petition for great mercy, they confess to be requesting it for a serious failing. Now, nothing wins the Lord to mercy like confession of sin, and especially when the power of sin is admitted to an unusual degree. Hence they proceed, In your abundant compassion blot out my transgressions. Just as in the case of the mercy his request was for a great amount, so also in the case of compassion and loving-kindness. What follows makes this even clearer: Thoroughly wash away my guilt; and from my sin cleanse me. Here again he asked for a double dose of purification in the words from my sin cleanse me to bring out at all points the gravity of sin…. He then mentions also the reason why he is worthy of loving kindness, continuing, For I know my transgressions; my sin is always before me. If I did not acknowledge my sin or daily keep it before me so that in some fashion compunction for it and repentance is prompted more readily, I would still not be worthy to receive loving-kindness. If, however, I torture myself with acknowledgement of the wrong and the sight of the deed, let it be enough, Lord, for me to pay the penalty by myself, without your imposing it on your behalf. He next adduces another reasonable cause. What is it that he proceeds to mention? Against you, you alone have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your eyes: Lord, you have attest to the fact that I committed no wrong against the Babylonians, who are now wronging me, sinning only against you, the Lord. So it would be right for me to be freed from their ill-treatment, and to be the beneficiary of your approval and loving-kindness. He did well to combine the two reasonable claims to be accorded loving-kindness—firstly, that he acknowledged his sin, and secondly, that he did the Babylonians no wrong, instead sinning against God but in no way wronging the Babylonians…. Hence he goes on: So that you are just in your word, and without reproach in your judgment. For your part, Lord, if you judge in my favor, you prevail over me, having conferred many benefits and received no gratitude from us. The Babylonians, on the other hand, have no grounds for upbraiding us or citing to us any reasonable excuses for wronging us. Now, note should be taken also of the idiom of Scripture in the clause: So that you are just in your word, and without reproach in your judgment. The people did not sin against God so that God might be proven righteous in giving judgment; rather, since the people were ungrateful, as the object of their ingratitude he consequently had good reason to level a charge against the ingrates. So the conjunction so that occurs here not to express purpose (even if highlighting it); instead, it explains the actual consequence, namely, that after the people sinned, God was shown to be righteous in giving judgment against them. So much for the movement of thought…. He proceeds accordingly, Behold, I was born in guilt, in sin my mother conceived me. He employed remarkable thinking. First he said, I am worthy of receiving loving-kindness since I acknowledged my faults. Second he said, I did no wrong to the Babylonians, sinning only against you, and it is you that has the right to require a heavy penalty of me for my ingratitude. In addition to this, he continues, Behold, I was born in guilt, as if saying to God, So you wish to call me to account not only for my sins but also for my forefather’s: they did not prove grateful to you, and neither did I—rather, I inherited in some fashion the ancestor’s ingratitude, and from them I draw the habit of sinning against you. But you overlooked all these faults on our forefathers’ part, in fidelity to yourself and recalling your characteristic loving-kindness. What is the proof of this? Behold, you desire true sincerity; and secretly you teach me wisdom. You desire true sincerity was well put. Instead of fixing your eye on ancestors’ failings, he is saying, you were faithful to your own consistency and goodness. When the ancestors sinned to the extent even of sculpting and adoring a calf in place of God, you gave laws, vouchsafed to arrange for priesthood, and introduced a godly was of life characterized also by righteousness. These things refer to all the requirements of the law hidden by secret things in formerly being uncertain and hidden from human beings, but rather made clear through the gift of the law, as even the prophet Baruch says, “Blessed are we, Israel, because what is pleasing to God is known to us,”[2] just as before this time human beings had difficulties even with actually knowing what is pleasing to God….. Cleanse me with hyssop, that I may be pure; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Having said, You gave us divine laws an arrangements for priesthood, he says something more significant: Grant us also some purification by the law. Remember Blessed Moses, who also made arrangements in keeping with God’s instructions. Taking the blood of calves and hyssop, he sprinkled the people and the tent and everything else by way of purifying them and making them worthy of God’s holiness. He means to express, then, the extraordinary degree of God’s loving-kindness. Not only did you grant laws despite the ancestors’ sin, but you also purified those incapable of being purified themselves. Therefore, in keeping with your purpose Lord, in this case as well do not fix your eye on our faults, but on your loving-kindness from the beginning, and extend it likewise to us also. It is you who are God in the case of similar sinners. Hence he proceeds, You will let me hear gladness and joy; the bones you have crushed will rejoice. So now in our case grant joy and gladness, satisfied with our crushing and the humbling of our strength, and take pity (You will let me hear meaning, You will bring to our notice the working of your loving-kindness, and You will bring to our notice, meaning, You will provide). In other words, as we now have knowledge of what has come to our notice, so also he said that what has been provided has come to our notice. But how will this be? If you overlook our sins. Hence he goes on, Turn away your face from my sins; blot out all my iniquities. If you were to provide this in your grace, you would be faithful to yourself in regard to those similarly in need of loving-kindness. A clean heart create for me, God. Create, meaning, recreate. They are asking not for a new heart for themselves, but for their own heart to be renewed (by heart referring to their thinking). Therefore, he means to say, Amend our thinking, Lord. Renew within me a steadfast spirit, by a steadfast spirit meaning a sound free will. Impart one to us what is no longer at fault, for if you were to amend our thinking, you would consequently correct also our free will. So tell us openly what you require. Do not drive me from before your face, nor take from me your holy spirit. So do not make me stay too long in Babylon, but bring me back to Jerusalem. As it is, in fact, I seem to be outside your presence, not standing in the temple and offering the accustomed sacrifices. Bring me back to my own place, therefore, and once more grant me the former grace (the meaning of your holy spirit). Restore to me the gladness of your salvation. Restore to me the former things by which I was saved. Uphold me with a willing spirit: cause me to rule the neighboring and other nations as I reigned over them in the time of David and Solomon (willing spirit meaning, Make me leader and ruler of the neighboring peoples again). And what will be the result of this? If you are appointed ruler and leader of the neighbors and the nations, what will you do? He goes on, I will teach the wicked your ways, that sinners may return to you. I shall therefore convince them also to hold fast to godliness and ignore the idols. Rescue me from violent bloodshed, God, my saving God. Free me, then, Lord, from these bloodthirsty men (the meaning of from violent bloodshed). My tongue will sing joyfully of your justice. Lord, you will open my lips; and my mouth will proclaim your praise. He says the same thing in the three clauses: Allow me, Lord, to commend and sing your praises by mouth and lip, to proclaim all your gifts to me, and to do so with gladness. He next proceeds to mention in turn reasonable grounds for doing so. For you do not desire sacrifice or I would give it; a burnt offering you would not accept. If beyond these requests you had accepted sacrifice and wished to receive a sacrifice in another place—even in captivity—I would have performed it. But since the law forbids it, it is not possible for us to offer sacrifices outside Jerusalem—in fact, you are not pleased with such burnt offerings—what are we to offer you in place of sacrifice? He goes on, My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit; a contrite, humbled heart, O God, you will not scorn. In place of sacrifices we offer you an attitude (the meaning of spirit) that is humbled and a heart that has suffered. Do not ignore them, Lord, but accept them as sacrifices. And what do you ask be done for you? Treat Zion kindly according to your good will. Be pleased, Lord, to give evidence of your goodness even in the case of Zion. The result being? Build up the walls of Jerusalem, so that once more the walls may recover their former aspect. Then, in praying for the city, he mentions the reason why he prays for it. Then you will desire the sacrifices of the just, burnt offering and whole offerings; then they will offer up young bulls on your altar. I do not idly pray for the city, but in order that it become a place for us to be ready to practice religion and discharge the laws. Burnt offerings and whole offerings: to offer you what the law commands. Then they will offer up young bulls on your altar: so that there may also be a habitual opportunity for us to offer up on the temple altars young bulls for sin and salvation.[3]

Pseudo-Athanasius: Have mercy on me, God, in accord with your merciful love; in your abundant compassion blot out my transgressions. Thoroughly wash away my guilt; and from my sin cleanse me. He sings this psalm taking refuge in the great mercy of God and asking that he be washed in it and purified from his crime and lawlessness. For I know my transgressions; my sin is always before me. He confesses also his evil doing in adultery and murder. Behold, I was born in guilt, in sin my mother conceived me. And as the first cause of this, he posits the sin of Adam’s transgression, by which we are all surrounded. And we acquire original grace when we are buried and rise with Christ through the bath of baptism: Cleanse me with hyssop, that I may be pure; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. We are washed white like snow through purifying hyssop, which is the grace of the Spirit. Thence we receive the pledge of the resurrection from the dead, You will let me hear gladness and joy; the bones you have crushed will rejoice, in which our humbled bones which faded in death will rejoice again. A clean heart create for me, God; renew within me a steadfast spirit. He entreats God to render his heart pure and without spot through repentance—the spring of thoughts which first suffered in sin—to Restore to me the gladness of your salvation; uphold me with a willing spirit, and to renew and confirm in him the straight learning Spirit. I will teach the wicked your ways, that sinners may return to you, so that when the lawless learn your paths by me, they may turn to you in a contrite spirit and humble spirit. For you do not desire sacrifice or I would give it; a burnt offering you would not accept, because not by sacrifices through blood—My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit; a contrite, humbled heart, O God, you will not scorn…. Then you will desire the sacrifices of the just, burnt offering and whole offerings; then they will offer up young bulls on your altar—but by those of righteousness and spiritual ones do you renew your church Zion and strengthen the saints, who are the walls of the church.[4]


[1] Benjamin Wayman. Make the Words Your Own: An Early Christian Guide to the Psalms (Brewster, M.A.: Paraclete Press: 2014), 91.

[2] Baruch 4:4

[3] TLG 6. Ἐλέησόν με, ὁ θεός, κατὰ τὸ μέγα ἔλεός σου. Σφόδρα φαίνονται ὠφεληθέντες ἀπὸ τῶν συμφορῶν οἱ Ἰσραηλῖται. Οἱ γὰρ μέγα ζητοῦντες ἔλεος ὁμολογοῦσιν ὑπὲρ μεγάλου πλημμελήματος τοῦτο αἰτεῖν. Οὐδὲν δὲ οὕτως εἰς ἔλεος ἐπισπᾶται τὸν δεσπότην ὡς ὁμολογία πλημμελήματος, καὶ μάλιστα ὅταν μετὰ ὑπερβολῆς ἡ τοῦ πλημμελήματος ὁμολογῆται δύναμις. Διὰ τοῦτο ἐπιφέρουσιν· Καὶ κατὰ τὸ πλῆθος τῶν οἰκτιρμῶν σου ἐξάλειψον τὸ ἀνόμημά μου. Ὡς ἐπὶ τοῦ ἐλέου τὸ μέγα ᾔτησε, καὶ ἐπὶ τῶν οἰκτιρμῶν τὸ πλῆθος ἐξεζήτησεν, ὡς οὐ δυναμένου τοῦ πλημμελήματος ἐξαλειφθῆναι ὄντος μεγάλου, μὴ τυχόντος ἀναλόγων οἰκτιρμῶν καὶ φιλανθρωπίας. Ἔτι καὶ τὸ ἑξῆς σαφέστερον αὐτὸ ποιεῖ. Ἐπάγει γάρ· Ἐπὶ πλεῖον πλῦνόν με ἀπὸ τῆς ἀνομίας μου καὶ ἀπὸ τῆς ἁμαρτίας μου καθάρισόν με. Πάλιν ἐνταῦθα τὸν πλεονασμὸν ᾔτησε τῆς καθάρσεως εἰπών· «Ἐπὶ πλεῖον πλῦνόν με» διὰ τὸ δεῖξαι πανταχοῦ τὸ πλημμέλημα μέγα. Εἶτα καὶ τὴν αἰτίαν λέγει δι’ ἣν ἄξιός ἐστι φιλανθρωπίας. Ἐπάγει γάρ· Ὅτι τὴν ἀνομίαν μου ἐγὼ γινώσκω καὶ ἡ ἁμαρτία μου ἐνώπιόν μού ἐστι διαπαντός. Εἰ μὲν γὰρ μὴ ἐπέγνων μου, φησί, τὸ πλημμέλημα μηδὲ κατὰ πρόσωπόν μου καθ’ ἑκάστην ἡμέραν ἦγον τοῦτο ὥστε τρόπον τινὰ ἐκ τούτου εἰς πλείονα ἄγεσθαι κατάνυξιν καὶ μετάνοιαν, οὔπω ἤμην ἄξιος τυχεῖν φιλανθρωπίας. Εἰ δὲ αὐτὸς ἐμαυτὸν βασανίζω τῇ ἐπιγνώσει τοῦ κακοῦ καὶ τῇ ὄψει τοῦ γεγονότος, ἀρκέσθητι, φησί, δέσποτα, τῷ ἐμὲ παρ’ ἐμαυτοῦ δίκας λαμβάνειν, αὐτὸς δὲ μὴ ἐπιθῇς τὰ παρὰ σαυτοῦ. Εἶτα καὶ ἄλλην τινὰ εὔλογον αἰτίαν λέγει. Ποίαν ταύτην ἐπιφέρει· Σοὶ μόνῳ ἥμαρτον καὶ τὸ πονηρὸν ἐνώπιόν σου ἐποίησα. Καὶ πρὸς τοῦτο, φησίν, ἀπόβλεψον, δέσποτα, ὅτι εἰς τοὺς Βαβυλωνίους, τοὺς νῦν ἀδικοῦντάς με οὐδὲν ἠδίκησα, εἰς δὲ σὲ τὸν δεσπότην μόνον ἐπλημμέλησα. Δίκαιος οὖν ἂν εἴην τῆς τούτων μὲν ἀπαλλαγῆναι κακοποιΐας, ὑπὸ δὲ τὴν σὴν εἶναι δοκιμασίαν καὶ φιλανθρωπίαν. Καλῶς τὰς δύο ἐπισυνῆψεν αἰτίας εὐλόγους πρὸς τὸ φιλανθρωπίας ἀξιωθῆναι, μίαν μὲν ὅτι ἐπέγνω τὸ πλημμέλημα, δευτέραν δὲ ὅτι οὐδὲν ἠδίκησε Βαβυλωνίους, ἀλλ’ ὅτι εἰς μὲν τὸν θεὸν ἥμαρτεν, εἰς δὲ τοὺς Βαβυλωνίους οὐδὲν ἠδίκησεν. Ὅθεν ἐπιφέρει· Ὅπως ἂν δικαιωθῇς ἐν τοῖς λόγοις σου καὶ νικήσῃς ἐν τῷ κρίνεσθαί σε. Σὺ μὲν γάρ, φησί, δέσποτα, ἐὰν κρίνῃς μοι, νικᾷς με· πολλὰ γὰρ εὐεργετήσας εὐγνωμοσύνης οὐκ ἔτυχες τῆς παρ’ ἡμῶν· Βαβυλώνιοι δὲ οὐκ ἔχουσιν οὐδεμίαν χώραν ἐγκαλεῖν ἡμῖν, ἀλλ’ οὐδὲ λέγειν πρὸς ἡμᾶς εὔλογα ὡς ἀδικοῦντες ἡμᾶς. Ἐπισημαντέον δὲ καὶ τῷ ἰδιώματι τῆς γραφῆς ὅτι εἶπεν· «Ὅπως ἂν δικαιωθῇς ἐν τοῖς λόγοις σου καὶ νικήσῃς ἐν τῷ κρίνεσθαί σε». Οὐδὲ γὰρ διὰ τοῦτο ὁ λαὸς ἥμαρτε τῷ θεῷ ἵνα ὁ θεὸς ἐν τῷ κρίνεσθαι δίκαιος ἀναφανῇ, ἀλλ’ ἐπειδὴ ἠγνωμόνησεν ὁ λαός, ἀναγκαίως ἀγνωμονηθεὶς δίκαια εἶχεν ἐγκαλεῖν πρὸς τοὺς ἀγνωμονοῦντας. Τὸ οὖν «Ὅπως» οὐ κεῖται ἐνταῦθα ἐπὶ αἰτίας—εἰ καὶ ἐμφαίνει τοῦτο—ἀλλ’ αὐτὴν τὴν ἀκολουθίαν ἐξηγεῖται ὅτι, τοῦ λαοῦ ἁμαρτήσαντος, ὁ θεὸς δίκαιος ἀναφανεῖται κρινόμενος πρὸς αὐτούς. Ἀλλ’ ἀρκτέον τῆς ἀκολουθίας· ἐπιφέρει οὖν· Ἰδοὺ γὰρ ἐν ἀνομίαις συνελήφθην, καὶ ἐν ἁμαρτίαις ἐκίσσησέ με μήτηρ μου. Θαυμαστοῖς κέχρηται τοῖς λογισμοῖς. Εἶπε πρῶτον ὅτι ἄξιός εἰμι τυχεῖν φιλανθρωπίας ἐπειδὴ ἐπέγνων μου τὸ πλημμέλημα, δεύτερον ὅτι οὐδὲν ἠδίκησα Βαβυλωνίους, ἀλλ’ ὅτι εἰς σὲ μόνον ἥμαρτον καὶ ὅτι αὐτὸς ἔχεις δίκαια πολλὰ πρὸς ἐμὲ τοῦ δίκας εἰσπράξασθαί με τῆς ἀγνωμοσύνης· πρὸς τούτοις ἐπιφέρει· «Ἰδοὺ ἐν ἀνομίαις συνελήφθην» ὡσανεὶ ἔλεγε πρὸς τὸν θεὸν ὅτι, εἰ οὖν δίκας με βούλει ἀπαιτῆσαι ὧν ἐπλημμέλησα εἰς σέ, ὥρα σοι μὴ μόνον τὰς ἐμὰς εἰσπράττεσθαι ἁμαρτίας ἀλλὰ καὶ τὰς τῶν προγόνων. Οὐδὲ γὰρ ἐκεῖνοι εὐγνώμονες ὤφθησαν περὶ σέ, ἀλλ’ οὐδὲ αὐτὸς ἐγώ, ἀλλὰ τρόπον τινὰ τὴν τῶν πατέρων ἀγνωμοσύνην ἐκληρονόμησα καὶ ἐξ ἐκείνων τὸ ἁμαρτάνειν εἰς σὲ ἐπισύρομαι. Ἀλλὰ παρεῖδες, φησί, ταῦτα πάντα τὰ πλημμελήματα ἐπὶ τῶν προγόνων, σαυτὸν μιμησάμενος καὶ τῆς οἰκείας ἀναμνησθεὶς φιλανθρωπίας. Τίς τούτου ἡ ἀπόδειξις; Ἰδοὺ γὰρ ἀλήθειαν ἠγάπησας, τὰ ἄδηλα καὶ τὰ κρύφια τῆς σοφίας σου ἐδήλωσάς μοι. Καλῶς «ἀλήθειαν ἠγάπησας». Οὐκ εἶδες, φησίν, εἰς τὰ τῶν προγόνων πλημμελήματα, ἀλλὰ τὴν σαυτοῦ βεβαιότητα ἐμιμήσω καὶ χρηστότητα· καὶ πλημμελησάντων τοιαῦτα τῶν προγόνων ὥστε καὶ μόσχον ἀντὶ θεοῦ καὶ γλύψαι καὶ προσκυνῆσαι, σαυτὸν μιμησάμενος αὐτὸς καὶ νόμους ἔδωκας καὶ ἱερωσύνης διάταξιν ἐχαρίσω καὶ πολιτείαν εἰσηγήσω εὐσεβείας καὶ δικαιοσύνης πεπληρωμένην. Πάντα γὰρ ταῦτα τὰ κατὰ τὸν νόμον «ἄδηλα καὶ κρύφια» καλεῖ ὡς πρότερον μὲν ὄντα τοῖς ἀνθρώποις ἄδηλα καὶ κεκρυμμένα, μετὰ ταῦτα δὲ δῆλα γενόμενα διὰ τῆς τοῦ νόμου δόσεως, ὡς καὶ ὁ προφήτης Βαρούχ· Μακάριοί ἐσμεν,Ἰσραήλ, ὅτι τὰ ἀρεστὰ τοῦ θεοῦ ἡμῖν ἐστι γνωστά, ὡς πρὸ τούτου τῶν ἀνθρώπων καμνόντων καὶ πρὸς αὐτὸ τὸ γνῶναι τί ἀρέσκει τὸν θεόν.  Ῥαντιεῖς με ὑσσώπῳ καὶ καθαρισθήσομαι· πλυνεῖς με καὶ ὑπὲρ χιόνα λευκανθήσομαι. Εἰπὼν ὅτι δέδωκας ἡμῖν νόμους θείους καὶ διατάξεις ἱερωσύνης, λέγει τὸ μεῖζον ὅτι καὶ καθαρισμούς τινας ἐν τῷ νόμῳ ἐχαρίσω. Οὕτω γὰρ καὶ Μωϋσῆς ὁ μακάριος ἐποίησε κατὰ τὴν τοῦ θεοῦ διάταξιν τὸ αἷμα τῶν μόσχων λαβὼν καὶ ὕσσωπον, ἐρράντισε τὸν λαὸν καὶ τὴν σκηνὴν καὶ τὰ ἄλλα πάντα ὡσανεὶ καθαίρων αὐτὰ καὶ ποιῶν ἄξια τῆς ἁγιότητος τοῦ θεοῦ. Βούλεται οὖν εἰπεῖν τὴν ὑπερβολὴν τῆς φιλανθρωπίας τοῦ θεοῦ, ὅτι πλημμελησάντων τῶν προγόνων οὐ μόνον νόμους ἐχαρίσω ἀλλὰ καὶ καθαρίσεις τοῖς οὐ δυναμένοις οἴκοθεν καθαρίζεσθαι. Κατὰ τοῦτον οὖν σου τὸν σκοπόν, δέσποτα, καὶ νῦν μὴ πρὸς τὰ πλημμελήματα ἴδῃς τὰ ἡμέτερα, ἀλλὰ πρὸς τὴν ἐξ ἀρχῆς σου φιλανθρωπίαν, καὶ παράσχου καὶ ἡμῖν τὰ ὅμοια. Ὁ γὰρ αὐτὸς εἶ θεὸς ἐπὶ τοῖς ὁμοίοις ἁμαρτωλοῖς. Ὅθεν ἐπιφέρει· Ἀκουτιεῖς με ἀγαλλίασιν καὶ εὐφροσύνην· ἀγαλλιάσονται ὀστέα τεταπεινωμένα. Καὶ νῦν οὖν, φησίν, ἐφ’ ἡμῶν χάρισαι ἀγαλλίασιν καὶ εὐφροσύνην, ἀρκεσθεὶς τῇ συντριβῇ ἡμῶν καὶ τῇ τῆς δυνάμεως ταπεινώσει, καὶ χάρισαι τοὺς οἰκτιρμούς. Τὸ γὰρ «Ἀκουτιεῖς» ἀντὶ τοῦ ἀκουστὰ ἡμῖν ποιήσεις τὰ τῆς φιλανθρωπίας σου· τὸ δὲ ἀκουστὰ ἡμῖν ποιήσεις ἀντὶ τοῦ παρέξεις λέγει. Ὡς γὰρ τὰ ἐλθόντα εἰς τὰς ἀκοὰς ἡμῶν ἔχομεν λοιπὸν εἰς γνῶσιν, οὕτω καὶ τὰ παρασχεθέντα ἀκουστὰ γενέσθαι εἶπεν. Πῶς δὲ ἔσται τοῦτο; Εἰ παρίδοις, φησί, τὰ πλημμελήματα ἡμῶν. Ὅθεν ἐπιφέρει·  Ἀπόστρεψον τὸ πρόσωπόν σου ἀπὸ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν μου καὶ πάσας τὰς ἀνομίας μου ἐξάλειψον. Εἰ ταῦτα, φησί, παράσχῃς τῇ σαυτοῦ χάριτι, ἐμιμήσω σαυτὸν περὶ τοὺς ὁμοίως δεομένους φιλανθρωπίας. Καρδίαν καθαρὰν κτίσον ἐν ἐμοί, θεός. Τὸ «κτίσον» ἀντὶ τοῦ ἀνάκτισον λέγει. Οὐδὲ γὰρ καινὴν αἰτοῦσι γενέσθαι καρδίαν αὐτοῖς, ἀλλὰ τὴν οὖσαν ἀνακαινοποιηθῆναι. «Καρδίαν» δὲ τοὺς λογισμοὺς καλεῖ. Βούλεται οὖν εἰπεῖν ὅτι διόρθωσαι ἡμῶν τοὺς λογισμούς, δέσποτα.  Καὶ πνεῦμα εὐθὲς ἐγκαίνισον ἐν τοῖς ἐγκάτοις μου.  «Πνεῦμα εὐθές», προαίρεσιν ἀγαθήν, φησί, καὶ οὐκέτι πλημμελοῦσαν ἔνθες ἡμῖν. Εἰ γάρ, φησί, τοὺς λογισμοὺς διορθώσαιο, διορθώσω ἐξ ἀνάγκης καὶ τὴν προαίρεσιν. Τί οὖν αἰτεῖς εἰπὲ φανερῶς. Μὴ ἀπορρίψῃς με ἀπὸ τοῦ προσώπου σου καὶ τὸ πνεῦμά σου τὸ ἅγιον μὴ ἀντανέλῃς ἀπἐμοῦ. Μὴ οὖν, φησίν, ἐπὶ πολὺ χρονίσαι με ποιήσῃς ἐπὶ τῆς Βαβυλωνίας, ἀλλ’ ἐπανάγαγέ με εἰς τὴν Ἱερουσαλήμ. Νῦν γὰρ ἔξω δοκῶ εἶναι τοῦ προσώπου τοῦ σοῦ, μὴ ἑστὼς ἐν τῷ ναῷ μήτε τὰς εἰθισμένας προσφέρων θυσίας. Ἐπανάγαγέ με οὖν, φησίν, εἰς τὰ οἰκεῖα καὶ τὴν χάριν ἀπόδος μοι  πάλιν τὴν ἀρχαίαν· τοῦτο γὰρ λέγει «τὸ πνεῦμά σου τὸ ἅγιον». Ὅθεν ἐπάγει· Ἀπόδος μοι τὴν ἀγαλλίασιν τοῦ σωτηρίου σου. Καὶ «Ἀπόδος μοι», φησί, τὰ ἀρχαῖα πάντα δι’ ὧν ἐσῳζόμην. Καὶ πνεύματι ἡγεμονικῷ στήριξόν με. Παρασκεύασον δέ, φησίν, ἄρχειν τῶν περιοίκων καὶ τῶν λοιπῶν ἐθνῶν ὡς ἦρχον ἐπὶ τοῦ Δαυεὶδ καὶ τοῦ Σολομῶντος. Τὸ γὰρ «πνεύματι ἡγεμονικῷ» ἀντὶ τοῦ ἡγεμόνα με πάλιν κατάστησον καὶ ἄρχοντα τῶν περιοίκων φησίν. Καὶ τί ἐκ τούτου; Ἐὰν καταστῇς τῶν περιοίκων καὶ τῶν ἐθνῶν ἄρχων καὶ ἡγεμών, τί ποιήσεις; Ἐπάγει· Διδάξω ἀνόμους τὰς ὁδούς σου, καὶ ἀσεβεῖς ἐπὶ σὲ ἐπιστρέψουσιν. Πείσω οὖν κἀκείνους εὐσεβείας ἀντέχεσθαι καὶ τῶν εἰδώλων ἀμελεῖν. Ῥῦσαί με ἐξ αἱμάτων, θεὸς θεὸς τῆς σωτηρίας μου. Ἀπάλλαξον οὖν φησί με, δέσποτα, τῶν φονίων τούτων ἀνδρῶν· τοῦτο γὰρ λέγει «ἐξ αἱμάτων». Ἀγαλλιάσεται ἡ γλῶσσά μου τὴν δικαιοσύνην σου. Κύριε, τὰ χείλη μου ἀνοίξεις, καὶ τὸ στόμα μου ἀναγγελεῖ τὴν αἴνεσίν σου. Τὸ αὐτὸ λέγει ἐν τοῖς τρισὶ στίχοις ὅτι παράσχου μοι, δέσποτα, τὸ εὐφημεῖν σε καὶ ἀνυμνεῖν διὰ γλώσσης καὶ διὰ χειλέων καὶ ἐξαγγέλλειν ὅσα μοι παρέσχες ἀγαθὰ ἐπὶ τῷ καὶ μετὰ εὐφροσύνης τοῦτο ποιεῖν. Εἶτα καὶ εὐλόγους αἰτίας πάλιν ἐπιφέρει· Ὅτι εἰ ἠθέλησας θυσίαν, ἔδωκα ἄν· ὁλοκαυτώματα οὐκ εὐδοκήσεις. Ὑπὲρ γὰρ τούτων τῶν αἰτήσεων, εἰ κατεδέχου θυσίαν καὶ ἐβούλου ἐν ἄλλῳ τόπῳ καὶ ἐν τῇ αἰχμαλωσίᾳ θυσίαν λαβεῖν, ἐποίησα ἄν· ἀλλ’ ἐπειδὴ ὁ νόμος κελεύει ἔξω τῆς Ἱερουσαλὴμ μὴ ἐξεῖναι ἡμῖν θυσίας προσφέρειν—οὐδὲ γὰρ εὐδοκεῖς τοῖς τοιούτοις ὁλοκαυτώμασιν—, ἀντὶ τῶν θυσιῶν σοι προσφέρομεν τί; Ἐπιφέρει· Θυσία τῷ θεῷ πνεῦμα συντετριμμένον, καρδίαν συντετριμμένην καὶ τεταπεινωμένην θεὸς οὐκ ἐξουδενώσει. Προσφέρομέν σοι, φησίν, ἀντὶ τῶν θυσιῶν γνώμην—τοῦτο γὰρ λέγει πνεῦμα—ταπεινωθεῖσαν καὶ καρδίαν ταλαιπωρηθεῖσαν, ἅτινα μὴ παρόψει, φησί, δέσποτα, ἀλλ’ ὡς θυσίας δέξαι ταῦτα. Καὶ τί αἰτεῖς γενέσθαι σοι; Ἀγάθυνον, κύριε, ἐν τῇ εὐδοκίᾳ σου τὴν Σιών. Εὐδόκησον οὖν, φησί, δέσποτα, ἐπιδείξασθαί σου τὴν ἀγαθότητα καὶ ἐπὶ τῇ Σιών· ὥστε τί γενέσθαι; Καὶ οἰκοδομηθήτω τὰ τείχη Ἱερουσαλήμ. Ὥστε πάλιν, φησίν, ἀπολαβεῖν τὰ τείχη τὸ ἀρχαῖον σχῆμα. Εἶτα, εὐξάμενος ὑπὲρ τῆς πόλεως, λέγει τὴν αἰτίαν δι’ ἣν εὔχεται ὑπὲρ αὐτῆς. Τότε εὐδοκήσεις θυσίαν δικαιοσύνης. Καὶ ὑπὲρ τῆς πόλεως εὔχομαι, φησίν, οὐχ ἁπλῶς, ἀλλ’ ὥστε εἶναι τόπον ἡμῖν ἐν ᾧ μέλλομεν εὐσεβεῖν καὶ τὰ νόμιμα πληροῦν. Ἀναφορὰν καὶ ὁλοκαυτώματα. Ἀναφέρειν σοι, φησίν, ἅπερ ὁ νόμος προστάττει. Τότε ἀνοίσουσιν ἐπὶ τὸ θυσιαστήριόν σου μόσχους. Ὥστε, φησί, καὶ χώραν ἡμῖν εἶναι συνήθως ἐπὶ τῶν θυσιαστηρίων τῶν νέων προσφέρειν μόσχους ὑπὲρ πλημμελήματος καὶ ὑπὲρ σωτηρίου.

[4] Syriac CSCO 387, SYRI 168 V, pg 32. Cx. PG 27 for Latin and Greek.

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The Fathers on Psalm 46

This post is part of an ongoing series offering translations of various early Church father’s commentaries on the Psalms.

Psalm 46

Streams of the river gladden the city of God,

the holy dwelling of the Most High.

God is in its midst; it shall not be shaken;

God will help it at break of day.

Though nations rage and kingdoms totter,

he utters his voice and the earth melts.

The LORD of hosts is with us;

our stronghold is the God of Jacob.

Come and see the works of the LORD,

who has done fearsome deeds on earth;

Who stops wars to the ends of the earth,

breaks the bow, splinters the spear,

and burns the shields with fire;

“Be still and know that I am God!

I am exalted among the nations,

exalted on the earth.”

The LORD of hosts is with us;

our stronghold is the God of Jacob.

Athanasius: “Having run to God for refuge and having been protected from the trouble happening all around you, if you want to thank God and describe the details of his loving care for you, then you have Psalm 46.”[1]

Diodore of Tarsus: Streams of the river gladden the city of God, the Most High sanctified his tabernacle.[2] By city of God he refers to Jerusalem, and calls the good things now coming from God river currents. So he means, God’s goodness brings joy to the city, being greater than the troubles besetting us and bearing down on us like a flowing river. The Most High sanctified his tabernacle. Again by God’s tabernacle he refers to Jerusalem for the reason of God’s living and dwelling there. So he says he sanctified the tabernacle¸ that is, he kept it unscathed and free of all harm. God is in its midst; it shall not be shaken; God will help it at break of day. How, in fact, was the city which the Lord personally inhabits going to survive the tumult? God will help it at break of day. By break of day he refers to the speed and rapid support. For this reason, he is saying, he provides rapid help and speedy care. Though nations rage and kingdoms totter: at this point those warring against us were suddenly seized with shaking and alarm, and the kingdoms yielded to us and became subject. He utters his voice and the earth melts: so that like an excellent general he not only struck panic into them but also brought confusion upon the whole earth. The LORD of hosts is with us: it is God who accords us help. Our stronghold is the God of Jacob: the God of our forefather Jacob is the one who grants us support. Come and see the works of the LORD: so assemble together, everyone, and learn what God has done for us. Who has done fearsome deeds on earth: that is, in our land—Jerusalem—he gave evidence of miracles and fearsome deeds, repelling as ineffective such vast numbers of enemies. Who stops wars to the ends of the earth: it is he who routs all the enemy when he wishes and brings peace to the earth to the degree that he wants. He breaks the bow, splinters the spear, and burns the shields with fire: he is the God who does away with the enemy with their own weapons when he wishes. Be still and know that I am God! So consider that God will say to everyone, When you seen an end of the enemy and are at rest, you will have the opportunity to know the kind of God you have. I am exalted among the nations, exalted on the earth: give heed to learning this from him as well, I am exalted over all nations and the land of Jerusalem, and I arrange events as I wish. The LORD of hosts is with us; our stronghold is the God of Jacob: he is the God who is with us, who has authority over hosts, who is the supporter of our forefather and continues his kindness to us also.[3]

Pseudo-Athanasius: For they had as a helper the God of Jacob, who had strengthened him in his contest. Streams of the river gladden the city of God, the holy dwelling of the Most High. God is in its midst; it shall not be shaken; God will help it at break of day. He is continuously in the midst of the church, making it rejoice with the torrents of the river which flows from him and delights in him. Who stops wars to the ends of the earth, breaks the bow, splinters the spear, and burns the shields with fire. He removed wars from the ends of the earth. He even breaks the bow and burns the shield with the fire that consumes wicked deeds, and changes the hills into an abyss (that is, the evil spirits).[4]


[1] Benjamin Wayman. Make the Words Your Own: An Early Christian Guide to the Psalms (Brewster, M.A.: Paraclete Press: 2014), 114.

[2] LXX reading.

[3] TLG 6. Τοῦ ποταμοῦ τὰ ὁρμήματα εὐφραίνουσι τὴν πόλιν τοῦ θεοῦ. «Πόλιν τοῦ θεοῦ» καλεῖ τὴν Ἱερουσαλήμ· «ὁρμήματα ποταμοῦ» νῦν τὰ παρὰ τοῦ θεοῦ ἀγαθὰ λέγει. Βούλεται οὖν εἰπεῖν ὅτι τῶν κακῶν τῶν ἐπελθόντων ἡμῖν μείζων οὖσα ἡ τοῦ θεοῦ ἀγαθότης καὶ δίκην ποταμοῦ ῥυζῶντος ἐφ’ ἡμᾶς φερομένη ἐν εὐφροσύνῃ καθίστησι τὴν πόλιν. Ἡγίασε τὸ σκήνωμα αὐτοῦ ὁ ὕψιστος. Πάλιν «σκήνωμα» τοῦ θεοῦ καλεῖ τὴν Ἱερουσαλὴμ ὡς τοῦ θεοῦ ἐκεῖ κατοικοῦντος καὶ κατασκηνοῦντος. «Ἡγίασεν» οὖν, φησίν, αὐτοῦ «τὸ σκήνωμα», τουτέστιν ἀνέπαφον ἐφύλαξε καὶ καθαρὸν πάσης βλάβης. Ὁ θεὸς ἐν μέσῳ αὐτῆς καὶ οὐ σαλευθήσεται. Πῶς γάρ, φησίν, ἔμελλε τάραχον ὑπομένειν πόλις ἣν αὐτὸς ὁ κύριος κατοικεῖ; Βοηθήσει αὐτῇ ὁ θεὸς τὸ πρὸς πρωῒ πρωΐ. «Πρωῒ» τὸ τάχος λέγει καὶ τὴν ὀξυτάτην ἀντίληψιν. Διὰ τοῦτο γὰρ αὐτῇ, φησί, καὶ ταχεῖαν παρέχει τὴν βοήθειαν καὶ ὀξυτάτην τὴν κηδεμονίαν. Ἐταράχθησαν ἔθνη, ἔκλιναν βασιλεῖαι. Ἐντεῦθεν, φησίν, οἱ πολεμοῦντες ἡμῖν ἐξαίφνης ἐν σάλῳ καὶ ταραχῇ κατέστησαν καὶ αἱ βασιλεῖαι ὑπεῖξαν ἡμῖν καὶ ὑπετάγησαν. Ἔδωκε φωνὴν αὐτοῦ ὁ ὕψιστος, ἐσαλεύθη ἡ γῆ. Ὡς γὰρ στρατηγός, φησίν, ἄριστος ἐκ τῆς πόλεως ἐμβοήσας εἰς τὰ ὦτα τῶν πολεμίων οὐ μόνον αὐτοὺς συνετάραξεν, ἀλλὰ καὶ πᾶσαν τὴν γῆν συνεκλόνησεν. Κύριος τῶν δυνάμεων μεθἡμῶν. Οὗτος, φησίν, ὁ θεός ἐστιν ὁ τὴν βοήθειαν ἡμῖν νέμων. Ἀντιλήπτωρ ἡμῶν ὁ θεὸς Ἰακώβ. Καὶ ὁ θεός, φησί, τοῦ προπάτορος Ἰακώβ, αὐτός ἐστιν ὁ τὴν ἀντίληψιν ἡμῖν χαριζόμενος. Δεῦτε καὶ ἴδετε τὰ ἔργα τοῦ θεοῦ. Συνάχθητε οὖν, φησίν, ἅπαντες καὶ καταμάθετε οἷα ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν εἰργάσατο ὁ θεός. Ἃ ἔθετο τέρατα ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς. Ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς τῆς ἡμετέρας, φησί, τουτέστι τῆς Ἱερουσαλήμ, ἐπεδείξατο, φησί, θαύματα καὶ τέρατα, τοσοῦτον πλῆθος πολεμίων ἀποστρέψας ἄπρακτον. Ἀνταναιρῶν πολέμους μέχρι τῶν περάτων τῆς γῆς. Οὗτός ἐστι, φησίν, ὁ πάντας τοὺς πολεμίους ὅτε βούλεται ἀνατρέπων καὶ ποιῶν εἰρηνεύειν τὴν γῆν ἐφ’ ὅσον ἂν ἐθέλῃ. Τόξον συντρίψει καὶ συνθλάσει ὅπλον καὶ θυρεοὺς κατακαύσει ἐν πυρί.  Οὗτός ἐστι, φησίν, ὁ θεὸς ὁ αὐτοῖς ὅπλοις τοὺς πολεμίους ὅτε βούλεται ἀναιρῶν. Σχολάσατε καὶ γνῶτε ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ θεός. Νομίσατε οὖν, φησίν, ἐρεῖν πρὸς ἅπαντας τὸν θεὸν ὅτι ἐπειδή, φησί, σχολάζετε τῶν πολεμίων πεπαυμένοι, εἰς τοῦτο ἀσχολήθητε, εἰς τὸ γνῶναι ποῖον ἔχετε θεόν. Ὑψωθήσομαι ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν, ὑψωθήσομαι ἐν τῇ γῇ.  Καὶ ταῦτα, φησί, νομίσατε ἀκούειν παρ’ αὐτοῦ ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ πάντων ὑψηλότατος τῶν τε ἐθνῶν καὶ τῆς γῆς κατὰ τὴν Ἱερουσαλὴμ καί, ὡς ἂν ἐθέλω, διατίθημι τὰ πράγματα. Κύριος τῶν δυνάμεων μεθ’ ἡμῶν, ἀντιλήπτωρ ἡμῶν ὁ θεὸς Ἰακώβ. Οὗτος, φησίν, ὁ θεὸς μεθ’ ἡμῶν, ὁ πασῶν τῶν δυνάμεων ἔχων τὴν ἐξουσίαν, ὁ τοῦ προπάτορος ἀντιλήπτωρ καὶ διαβιβάζων τὰς εὐεργεσίας ἄχρι καὶ ἡμῶν.

[4] Syriac CSCO 387, SYRI 168 V, pg 29. Cx. PG 27 for Latin and Greek.

The Fathers on Psalm 45

This post is part of an ongoing series offering translations of various early Church father’s commentaries on the Psalms.

Psalm 45

My heart is stirred by a noble theme,

as I sing my ode to the king.
My tongue is the pen of a nimble scribe.

You are the most handsome of men;

fair speech has graced your lips,

for God has blessed you forever.
Gird your sword upon your hip, mighty warrior!

In splendor and majesty ride on triumphant!
In the cause of truth, meekness, and justice

may your right hand show your wondrous deeds.
Your arrows are sharp;

peoples will cower at your feet;

the king’s enemies will lose heart.
Your throne, O God, stands forever;

your royal scepter is a scepter for justice.
You love justice and hate wrongdoing;

therefore God, your God, has anointed you
with the oil of gladness above your fellow kings.
With myrrh, aloes, and cassia
your robes are fragrant.
From ivory-paneled palaces
stringed instruments bring you joy.
Daughters of kings are your lovely wives;
a princess arrayed in Ophir’s gold
comes to stand at your right hand.

Listen, my daughter, and understand;
pay me careful heed.
Forget your people and your father’s house,
that the king might desire your beauty.
He is your lord;
honor him, daughter of Tyre.
Then the richest of the people
will seek your favor with gifts.
All glorious is the king’s daughter as she enters,
her raiment threaded with gold;
In embroidered apparel she is led to the king.
The maids of her train are presented to the king.
They are led in with glad and joyous acclaim;
they enter the palace of the king.

The throne of your fathers your sons will have;
you shall make them princes through all the land.
I will make your name renowned through all generations;
thus nations shall praise you forever.

Athanasius: “Understanding this same Word to be the Son of God, the Psalter sings Psalm 45 in the vice of the Father: ‘My heart has belched a good Word.’”[1]

Diodore of Tarsus: Blessed David, then, begins in this fashion: My heart belched a good word.[2] He means, I intend to give voice to this psalm from the depths of my mind as though belching, not as I utter the inspired works on other matters; instead, in this psalm I sing a special theme. Why? As I sing my ode to the king: since I intend to dedicate the psalm to the king of all (by ode referring to the actual composition of the psalm). My tongue is the pen of a nimble scribe. Because he had said, I utter the psalm from the depths of the mind, he also says, I bring to bear also my tongue to the extent possible so as to serve the thought of coming from grace in the way that a pen follows the lead of a writer’s thought…. Your arrows are sharp; peoples will cower at your feet; the king’s enemies will lose heart. The clause peoples will cower at your feet is inserted, the sequence being, Your arrows, O mighty one, in the heart of the king’s foes, and then the peoples will cower at your feet. As it is, His meaning is, Like arrows, direct well aimed words at the hearts of the listeners and as a result all peoples will be subjected to you as well (using a metaphor of men wounding with arrows and subjecting the wounded). He means, Your arrows are so effective that not only will they subject disciples but also fall upon enemies and bring them into subjection.[3]

Pseudo-Athanasius: David offers this psalm to the beloved, that is to Christ, who in the last times came to the world and effected a change from idolatry to piety. In the cause of truth, meekness, and justice may your right hand show your wondrous deeds. And he ruled for the sake of truth and meekness and justice over all those who believed in him and will keep commandments. He recalls, furthermore, the sons of Korah, introducing through them the person of the holy apostles, Your arrows are sharp; peoples will cower at your feet; the king’s enemies will lose heart, those who were for the king sharp arrows against spiritual enemies. And they brought and yoked under this royal scepter those who had been saved for the church, Listen, my daughter, and understand; pay me careful heed, which forgot her people and the house of her father. Daughters of kings are your lovely wives; a princess arrayed in Ophir’s gold comes to stand at your right hand…. Then the richest of the people will seek your favor with gifts. All glorious is the king’s daughter as she enters, her raiment threaded with gold. Then she was adorned with wonderful and varied gifts of the bridegroom, her betrothed.[4]


[1] Benjamin Wayman. Make the Words Your Own: An Early Christian Guide to the Psalms (Brewster, M.A.: Paraclete Press: 2014), 167.

[2] Particular translation needed.

[3] TLG 6. Ἄρχεται οὖν οὕτως ὁ μακάριος Δαυείδ· Ἐξηρεύξατο καρδία μου λόγον ἀγαθόν. Βούλεται εἰπεῖν ὅτι τὸν ψαλμὸν τοῦτον ὃν μέλλω λέγειν ἐκ τοῦ βάθους τῆς διανοίας, οἷον ἐξερεύγομαι, οὐχ ὥσπερ ἐπὶ τῶν λοιπῶν πραγμάτων ποιοῦμαι τὰς προφητείας, κατ’ ἐξαίρετον δὲ λόγον τοῦτον ᾄδω τὸν ψαλμόν. Τίνος ἕνεκα; Λέγω ἐγὼ τὰ ἔργα μου τῷ βασιλεῖ. Ἐπειδὴ τῷ πάντων βασιλεῖ ἀνατίθεσθαι μέλλω τὸν ψαλμόν. «Ἔργον» γὰρ αὐτοῦ καλεῖ αὐτὸ τὸ ποίημα τοῦ ψαλμοῦ. γλῶσσά μου κάλαμος γραμματέως ὀξυγράφου. Ἐπειδὴ εἶπεν ὅτι ἐκ τοῦ βάθους τῆς διανοίας φθέγγομαι τὸν ψαλμόν, λέγει ὅτι καὶ τὴν γλῶσσάν μου ἐναρμόζω, ὅσον ἐστὶ δυνατόν, ὑπηρετῆσαι τῇ διανοίᾳ τῆς χάριτος ὡς ὑπηρετεῖ κάλαμος ὀξυγράφου λόγῳ προηγουμένῳ. Εἰπὼν ἄχρι τούτου τὸ προοίμιον καὶ σημάνας εἰς τίνα μέλλει λέγειν τὸν ψαλμόν, ἄρχεται λοιπὸν τῶν ἐγκωμίων ἐντεῦθεν…. Τὰ βέλη σου ἠκονημένα, δυνατέ· λαοὶ ὑποκάτω σου πεσοῦνται ἐν καρδίᾳ τῶν ἐχθρῶν τοῦ βασιλέως. Παρέγκειται ὁ στίχος τὸ «λαοὶ ὑποκάτω σου πεσοῦνται».Ἡ γὰρ ἀκολουθία ἐστί· τὰ βέλη σου, δυνατέ, ἐν καρδίᾳ τῶν ἐχθρῶν τοῦ βασιλέως, καὶ τότε λαοὶ ὑποκάτω σου πεσοῦνται· νῦν δέ, καθὼς εἶπον, παρέγκειται ὁ στίχος καὶ ποιεῖ τὴν ἀσάφειαν. Βούλεται δὲ εἰπεῖν ὅτι εὐστόχως τοὺς λόγους, ὡς βέλη, εἰς τὰς καρδίας τῶν ἀκουόντων ἐναποτίθει. Ἐντεῦθέν σοι καὶ λαοὶ ὑποταγήσονται πάντες. Ἐκ μεταφορᾶς γὰρ αὐτὸ λέγει τῶν τιτρωσκόντων διὰ βελῶν καὶ ὑποτασσόντων τοὺς τιτρωσκομένους. Λέγει δὲ ὅτι οὕτως ἐστὶ τὰ βέλη σου δυνατὰ ὥστε μὴ μόνον μαθητευομένους ὑποτάσσειν ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐχθρῶν καθάπτεσθαι καὶ αὐτοὺς ἄγειν εἰς ὑποταγήν.

[4] Syriac CSCO 387, SYRI 168 V, pg 28-29. Cx. PG 27 for Latin and Greek.

The Fathers on Psalm 42

This post is part of an ongoing series offering translations of various early Church father’s commentaries on the Psalms.

Psalm 42

As the deer longs for streams of water,

so my soul longs for you, O God.

My soul thirsts for God, the living God.

When can I enter and see the face of God?

My tears have been my bread day and night,

as they ask me every day, “Where is your God?”d

Those times I recall

as I pour out my soul,

When I would cross over to the shrine of the Mighty One,

to the house of God,

Amid loud cries of thanksgiving,

with the multitude keeping festival.

Why are you downcast, my soul;

why do you groan within me?

Wait for God, for I shall again praise him,

my savior and my God.

My soul is downcast within me;

therefore I remember you

From the land of the Jordan and Hermon,

from Mount Mizar,

Deep calls to deep

in the roar of your torrents,

and all your waves and breakers

sweep over me.

By day may the LORD send his mercy,

and by night may his righteousness be with me!

I will pray to the God of my life,

I will say to God, my rock:

“Why do you forget me?

Why must I go about mourning

with the enemy oppressing me?”

It shatters my bones, when my adversaries reproach me,

when they say to me every day: “Where is your God?”

Why are you downcast, my soul,

why do you groan within me?

Wait for God, for I shall again praise him,

my savior and my God.

 

 

Athanasius: “If you have a deep longing for God and you hear your enemies mocking you, do not be troubled. Understand that such longing brings eternal blessing and comfort you soul with hope in God. In this way, relieving and lightening your suffering in life, say Psalm 42.”[1]

Diodore of Tarsus: The title of the forty-second psalm indicates that the psalm was given by blessed David to the sons of Korah, who were singers or temple singers engaged in performing to the accompaniment of musical instruments. The psalm is composed from the viewpoint of the people longing to see their own place, pining for it and begging God to be freed from the captivity and slavery in Babylon and to return to their own place, the memory of which had the effect of arousing them to stronger desire of the places and the holy temple…. As the deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God. This creature is said to be thirsty and, on account of its natural dryness, not to stray far from water. So the meaning is, What this creature experiences by nature, I also suffer by choice, longing for the holy places from which I have been transported. Continuing the figure, he goes on, My soul thirsts for God, the living God. Then, to comment on the thirst and the excessive degree of longing, he goes on, When can I enter and see the face of God?—in other words, This I long for, to see the time when I return to Jerusalem, where the temple is located and God is worshiped, and I present myself in person to God (their impression being that God really dwelt only in Jerusalem). My tears have been my bread day and night: the longing in me for the return was great and the desire in me as pleasing as bread is pleasing to a hungry person. As they ask me every day, Where is your God? The enemies’ taunts inflamed me more, he is saying, and those claiming that God is not helping me aroused in me further desire to see help from you…. Those times I recall as I pour out my soul: I ruminated on the holy places—the temple, the liturgy, the festivals there—and the recollection inflamed my longing (I pour out meaning, I went to pieces, as Symmachus also said). When I would cross over to the shrine of the Mighty One, to the house of God: how I used to walk as far as God’s wonderful tabernacle (meaning the temple). Amid loud cries of thanksgiving, with the multitude keeping festival: I recalled also this fact, that in the temple I heard those voices raised in wonderful confession and thanksgiving, as well as those not celebrating the festival. Why are you downcast, my soul; why do you groan within me? Wait for God, for I shall again praise him: since the memory of those events caused me unbearable pangs, and I found no one to console me in the distress, the reasons of which I alone had a personal understanding, I urged myself to find comfort in hope in God’s help. The savior of my person and my God, [2] my person meaning my reputation, my dignity: I said to myself, I hoped in God, who always cared for my salvation and my dignity…. My soul is downcast within me: after these thoughts, however, I was again confused, the recollection of the places overcoming the consolation from the thought of them. Hence he goes on, For this reason I shall remember you from the land of Jordan and Hermon, from a small mountain:[3] being disturbed, I was not in a condition to remember that wonderful land (referring to it by the river Jordan and Mount Hermon). Small is used as a gloss to suggest again someone earnestly longing for the place, a metaphor from people fond of little children giving them nicknames. Deep calls on deep to the sound of your torrents: I remembered that while I was living there, vast numbers beyond my experience assembled and were combined with other enemies, and in this fashion they gave vent to your unspeakable wrath (by deep referring to the vast number, and by torrents to God’s wrath). So his meaning is, A vast number of enemies assembled against me and gave vent to your wrath as if borne along by waterfalls, as it were. And all your waves and breakers sweep over me: yet I was the butt of all your threats and bursts of rage, which were lifted up over me like breakers and encircled me. By day may the LORD send his mercy, and by night may his righteousness be with me! He means the rapidity of God’s help, as if to say, just as in your anger you inflicted waves of enemies on me, so in your wish to save me you brought rapid assistance, the result being that together with your commands you did not prevent my thanking you, nothing coming between your command and my enjoyment. I will pray to the God of my life: immediately thanksgiving directed to God who granted me life arises in me…. I will say to God, my rock: Why do you forget me? I promptly add that if you support me in this way, why do you allow me to suffer? It was not the mark of a friend to allow such awful punishments in this way. Why must I go about mourning with the enemy oppressing me? Why was I downcast for such a long time with foes besetting and distressing me? It shatters my bones, when my adversaries reproach me: the foes had the greatest pretext to taunt me on seeing the extent of the weakness to which I was reduced. When they say to me every day: Where is your God? They seemed even to have good grounds for taunting me in the fact that your loving-kindness for a long time passed me by…. Why are you downcast, my soul, why do you groan within me? Wait for God, for I shall again praise him, my savior and my God. Pondering all this within myself, then, I was again encouraged not to be alarmed, but to hope in God, who readily provides me with salvation and again makes me glorious. Turning their thoughts over and over, sometimes in despair, sometimes in hope, is typical of suffering people.[4]

Pseudo-Athanasius: The sons of Korah sing this, introducing the persons of Israel, which at the end of times will confess Christ. As the deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God. Like a stag longing for springs of water, My soul thirsts for God, the living God. When can I enter and see the face of God?, so he too longed to appear to the face of the Father—clearly through the Son—in order that when he deserves salvation in him Those times I recall as I pour out my soul, When I would cross over to the shrine of the Mighty One, to the house of God, Amid loud cries of thanksgiving, with the multitude keeping festival, and crosses over to the place of the wonderful tabernacle as far as the house of God, he may also deserve the banquet with the saints where is the sound of merrymaking and of confession of those who celebrate. Why are you downcast, my soul; why do you groan within me? Wait for God, for I shall again praise him, my savior and my God.  Hence they console the soul that is weary and troubled, recalling some of the miracles which were done for them in past: My soul is downcast within me; therefore I remember you From the land of the Jordan and Hermon, from Mount Mizar, that they passed through the Jordan by foot, and the hail which in the days of Samuel came down on the Philistines, and their crossing over the Red Sea, and the victory over the Assyrians in the days of Hezekiah; Why are you downcast, my soul, why do you groan within me? Wait for God, for I shall again praise him, my savior and my God, that through these the soul may be strengthened by hope in God and may confess him.[5]


[1] Benjamin Wayman. Make the Words Your Own: An Early Christian Guide to the Psalms (Brewster, M.A.: Paraclete Press: 2014), 9.

[2] Non-LXX verse.

[3] Non-LXX verse. ἀπὸ ὄρους μικροῦ translated as “from a small mountain” rather than “from Mount Mizar.”

[4] TLG 6. Εἰς τὸ τέλος· εἰς σύνεσιν τοῖς υἱοῖς Κορέ. Ἡ ἐπιγραφὴ τοῦ τεσσαρακοστοῦ πρώτου ψαλμοῦ σημαίνει ὅτι ἐδόθη ὁ ψαλμὸς τοῖς υἱοῖς Κορὲ παρὰ τοῦ μακαρίου Δαυείδ. ᾨδοὶ δὲ ὑπῆρχον οὗτοι ἤτοι ψαλτῳδοὶ εἰς τὴν μετὰ τῶν ὀργάνων. ἔνδειξιν. Ἔστι δὲ ὁ ψαλμὸς ἐκ προσώπου τοῦ λαοῦ ἐπιθυμοῦντος ἰδεῖν τὰ οἰκεῖα καὶ γλιχομένου καὶ παρακαλοῦντος τὸν θεὸν ἀπαλλαγῆναι μὲν τῆς ἐν Βαβυλῶνι αἰχμαλωσίας καὶ δουλείας, ἐπανελθεῖν δὲ εἰς τὰ οἰκεῖα, ὧν ἡ μνήμη μάλιστα αὐτοὺς ἐξέκαιεν καὶ εἰς πλείονα ἦγεν ἐπιθυμίαν τῶν τόπων καὶ τοῦ ναοῦ τοῦ ἁγίου. Ὃν τρόπον ἐπιποθεῖ ἔλαφος ἐπὶ τὰς πηγὰς τῶν ὑδάτων, οὕτως ἐπιποθεῖ ψυχή μου πρὸς σέ, θεός.  Διψῶδες λέγεται εἶναι τὸ ζῷον καί, διὰ τὸ φύσει ξηρόν, μὴ ἀναχωρεῖν τῶν ὑδάτων. Βούλεται οὖν εἰπεῖν ὅτι ὅπερ ὑπομένει τὸ ζῷον τοῦτο ἐκ φύσεως, τοῦτο κἀγὼ ἀπὸ προαιρέσεως πάσχω ἐπιθυμῶν τῶν τόπων τῶν ἁγίων ἐξ ὧν μετανάστης ἐγενόμην. Καί, ἐπιμένων τῇ τροπῇ, ἐπάγει· Ἐδίψησεν ψυχή μου πρὸς τὸν θεὸν τὸν ἰσχυρόν, τὸν ζῶντα. Εἶτα, ἑρμηνεύων τί τὸ δίψος καὶ τί τῆς ἐπιθυμίας τὸ ὑπερβάλλον, ἐπάγει· Πότε ἥξω καὶ ὀφθήσομαι τῷ προσώπῳ τοῦ θεοῦ;  Ἀντὶ τοῦ τοῦτο ἐπιθυμῶ, τὸν καιρὸν ἰδεῖν καθ’ ὃν ἐπανέρχομαι ἐπὶ τὰ Ἱεροσόλυμα, ἔνθα ὁ ναὸς καὶ ὁ θεὸς

προσκυνεῖται, κἀγὼ παρίσταμαι φαινόμενος τῷ θεῷ. Καὶ γὰρ ὑπόληψιν εἶχον ἐν τοῖς Ἱεροσολύμοις μόνοις γνησίως

οἰκεῖν τὸν θεόν. Ἐγενήθη τὰ δάκρυά μου ἐμοὶ ἄρτος ἡμέρας καὶ νυκτός. Καὶ τοσαύτη, φησίν, ἦν ἡ ἐπιθυμία ἐν ἐμοὶ ὑπὲρ τῆς ἐπανόδου, καὶ οὕτως ἦν ἡδύ μοι τὸ ἐπιθύμημα ὡς ἔστιν ὁ ἄρτος ἡδὺς τῷ πεινῶντι. Ἐν τῷ λέγεσθαί μοι καθ’ ἑκάστην ἡμέραν· Ποῦ ἐστιν ὁ θεός σου; Οἱ γὰρ ὀνειδισμοί, φησί, τῶν ἐχθρῶν πλέον μοι τὴν ἐπιθυμίαν ἐξέκαιον καὶ οἱ λέγοντες ὅτι οὐκ ἔστιν ὁ βοηθῶν μοι θεός, ἐκεῖνοί με πλέον εἰς ἐπιθυμίαν καθίστων τοῦ ἰδεῖν

τὴν παρὰ σοῦ βοήθειαν. Ταῦτα ἐμνήσθην καὶ ἐξέχεα ἐπ’ ἐμὲ τὴν ψυχήν μου. Ἀνεπόλουν γάρ, φησί, κατ’ ἐμαυτὸν τοὺς τόπους τοὺς ἁγίους, τὸν ναόν, τὴν λατρείαν, τὴν ἐκεῖ πανήγυριν, καὶ ἡ μνήμη τὴν ἐπιθυμίαν μοι ἐξῆπτε. Τὸ δὲ «ἐξέχεα» ἀντὶ τοῦ διέχεα λέγει, ὡς καὶ Σύμμαχος ἔφη. Ὅτι διελεύσομαι ἐν τόπῳ σκηνῆς θαυμαστῆς ἕως τοῦ (1n)

οἴκου τοῦ θεοῦ. Ὅπως, φησίν, ἐβάδιζον ἕως τῆς σκηνῆς τοῦ θεοῦ τῆς θαυμαστῆς· λέγει δὲ τὸν ναόν. Ἐν φωνῇ ἀγαλλιάσεως καὶ ἐξομολογήσεως ἤχους ἑορτάζοντος. Ὑπεμιμνησκόμην γάρ, φησί, καὶ τοῦτο ὅτι γινόμενος ἐν τῷ ναῷ ἤκουον τῶν φωνῶν ἐκείνων τῶν θαυμαστῶν ἐξομολογουμένων καὶ εὐχαριστούντων καὶ μὴ πανήγυριν ποιουμένων τὸ πρᾶγμα. Ἱνατί περίλυπος εἶ, ἡ ψυχή μου, καὶ ἱνατί συνταράσσεις με; Ἔλπισον ἐπὶ τὸν θεόν, ὅτι ἐξομολογήσομαι αὐτῷ. Καὶ ἐπειδή, φησίν, ἡ μνήμη τῶν ἐκεῖ ἀνίατόν μοι τὴν ὀδύνην ἐτίθει, καὶ τὸν παρακαλοῦντα οὐχ εὕρισκον, ἐν οἷς αὐτὸς ἐγὼ μόνος ἠπιστάμην τὰς αἰτίας τῆς λύπης, ἐμαυτῷ ἐνεκελευόμην λαβεῖν παραμυθίαν τὴν ἐλπίδα τῆς βοηθείας τοῦ θεοῦ. Σωτήριον τοῦ προσώπου μου καὶ ὁ θεός μου. «Τοῦ προσώπου μου» ἵνα εἴπῃ· τῆς δόξης μου, τῆς εὐπρεπείας μου. Ἔλεγον, φησίν, ἐν ἐμαυτῷ ὅτι ἔλπισον ἐπὶ τὸν θεὸν ὃς ἀεὶ ἐφρόντισε καὶ τῆς σωτηρίας σου καὶ τῆς εὐπρεπείας σου. Πρὸς ἐμαυτὸν ψυχή μου ἐταράχθη. Ἀλλὰ μετὰ τοὺς λογισμοὺς τούτους, φησί, πάλιν ἐταραττόμην. Ἐνίκα γὰρ ἡ μνήμη τῶν τόπων τὴν ἀπὸ τοῦ λογισμοῦ παραμυθίαν. Ὅθεν ἐπιφέρει· Διὰ τοῦτο μνησθήσομαί σου ἐκ γῆς Ἰορδάνου καὶ Ἑρμωνιείμ, ἀπὸ ὄρους μικροῦ. Ἐταραττόμην δέ, φησί, καὶ οὐκ ἤμην ἐν ἐμαυτῷ ὑπομιμνησκόμενος τῆς τε γῆς τῆς θαυμαστῆς ἐκείνης, Ἰορδάνου τοῦ ποταμοῦ, τοῦ ὄρους τοῦ Ἑρμωνιεὶμ οὕτως ἐπικαλουμένου. Τὸ δὲ εἰπεῖν «μικροῦ» ὑποκοριστικῶς διακειμένου ἦν καὶ σφόδρα ποθοῦντος τὸν τόπον, ἐκ μεταφορᾶς τῶν τὰ μικρὰ παιδία φιλούντων καὶ ὑποκοριζομένων τὰ ὀνόματα. Ἄβυσσος ἄβυσσον ἐπικαλεῖται εἰς φωνὴν τῶν καταρρακτῶν σου. Ὑπεμιμνησκόμην δέ, φησίν, ὅτι ἐκεῖ διατρίβοντός μου συνελθόντα πλήθη ἄπειρα καὶ συμμίξαντα πολεμίοις ἑτέροις οὕτως τὴν ὀργήν σου ἐπλήρουν τὴν ἄφατον. «Ἄβυσσον» γὰρ καλεῖ τὸ πλῆθος, «καταρράκτας» δὲ τοῦ θεοῦ τὴν ὀργήν. Βούλεται οὖν εἰπεῖν ὅτι πλῆθος πολεμίων συνηθροίσθησαν ἐπ’ ἐμὲ πληροῦντές σου τὴν ὀργὴν ὡσανεὶ ἀπὸ καταρρακτῶν τινων φερόμενοι. Πάντες οἱ μετεωρισμοί σου καὶ τὰ κύματά σου ἐπ’ ἐμὲ διῆλθον. Καὶ ὅμως, φησίν, ὑπεδεξάμην πάσας τὰς ἀπειλάς σου καὶ τὰς ὀργάς, αἵτινες, φησί, κυμάτων δίκην ὑψώθησαν ἐπ’ ἐμοὶ καὶ ἐπέκλυσάν με.  Ἡμέρας ἐντελεῖται κύριος τὸ ἔλεος αὐτοῦ, καὶ νυκτὸς ᾠδὴ αὐτοῦ παρ’ ἐμοί. Τὸ τάχος βούλεται εἰπεῖν τῆς τοῦ θεοῦ βοηθείας, ἀντὶ τοῦ ἀλλ’ ὥσπερ ὀργισθεὶς κύματα πολεμίων ἐπήγαγές μοι, οὕτω βουληθεὶς ἀπαλλάξαι με ὀξυτάτην νέμεις τὴν βοήθειαν, ὥστε ἅμα τῷ προστάξαι σε μηδὲν κωλῦσαι εὐχαριστῆσαί με, οὕτως οὐδὲν εὑρίσκεται μέσον τοῦ τε σοῦ προστάγματος καὶ τῆς ἐμῆς ἀπολαύσεως. Παρἐμοὶ προσευχὴ τῷ θεῷ τῆς ζωῆς μου. Ἀλλ’ εὐθύς, φησίν, εὑρίσκεται ἐν ἐμοὶ εὐχαριστία τῷ θετῷ ἀναπεμπομένη τῷ τὴν ζωὴν χαρισαμένῳ. Ἐρῶ τῷ θεῷ· Ἀντιλήπτωρ μου εἶ· διὰ τί μου ἐπελάθου; Καὶ τοῦτο, φησίν, εὐθέως ἐπάγω ὅτι εἰ οὖν οὕτως ἀντιλαμβάνῃ μου, τίνος ἕνεκα συνεχώρησάς μοι παθεῖν; Οὐ γὰρ ἦν τοῦ φιλοῦντος οὕτω τοιαῦτα συγχωρῆσαι πάθη. Καὶ ἱνατί σκυθρωπάζων πορεύομαι ἐν τῷ ἐκθλίβειν τὸν ἐχθρόν;  Τίνος δὲ ἕνεκα, φησί, τοσοῦτον χρόνον ἐσκυθρώπασα ἐχθρῶν ἐπικειμένων καὶ ὀδυνώντων με; Ἐν τῷ καταθλᾶσθαι τὰ ὀστᾶ μου ὠνείδιζόν με οἱ ἐχθροί μου. Καὶ γὰρ μεγίστην εἶχον ἀφορμὴν οἱ ἐχθροὶ τοῦ ὀνειδίζειν με ὁρῶντες εἰς ὅσην κατηνέχθην ἀσθένειαν. Ἐν τῷ λέγειν αὐτούς μοι καθ’ ἑκάστην ἡμέραν· Ποῦ ἐστιν ὁ θεός σου; Ἐδόκουν δέ μοι, φησί, καὶ εὔλογα ὀνειδίζειν, ὡς τῆς σῆς φιλανθρωπίας ἐπὶ πολὺν παρορώσης με τὸν χρόνον. Ἱνατί περίλυπος εἶ, ἡ ψυχή μου, καὶ ἱνατί συνταράσσεις με; Ἔλπισον ἐπὶ τὸν θεόν, ὅτι ἐξομολογήσομαι αὐτῷ· σωτήριον τοῦ προσώπου μου καὶ ὁ θεός μου. Ταῦτα οὖν, φησί, πάντα ἐν ἐμαυτῷ ἐνθυμούμενος πάλιν ἐνεκελευόμην ἐμαυτῷ μὴ ταράττεσθαι, ἀλλ’ ἐλπίζειν ἐπὶ τὸν θεὸν τὸν ἑτοίμως παρέχοντά μοι τὴν σωτηρίαν καὶ πάλιν ἔνδοξόν με ποιοῦντα. Ἴδιον δὲ τῶν πασχόντων τὸ συνεχεῖς λογισμοὺς ἐνστρέφειν ἐν ἑαυτοῖς, ποτὲ μὲν ἀπογνώσεως, ποτὲ δὲ ἐλπίδος.

[5] Syriac CSCO 387, SYRI 168 V, pg 27. Cx. PG 27:199-204 for Latin and Greek.

The Fathers on Psalm 39

This post is part of an ongoing series offering translations of various early Church father’s commentaries on the Psalms.

Psalm 39

And now, LORD, for what do I wait?

You are my only hope.

From all my sins deliver me;

let me not be the taunt of fools.

I am silent and do not open my mouth

because you are the one who did this.

Take your plague away from me;

I am ravaged by the touch of your hand.

You chastise man with rebukes for sin;

like a moth you consume his treasures.

Every man is but a breath.

Selah

Listen to my prayer, LORD, hear my cry;

do not be deaf to my weeping!

For I am with you like a foreigner,

a refugee, like my ancestors.

Turn your gaze from me, that I may smile

before I depart to be no more.

Athanasius: “If you are in need and want to pray on your own behalf as you see your enemy closing in—for at that time one has good reason to be on guard against such people—and you want to arm yourself against him, sing Psalm 39.”[1]

Diodore of Tarsus: And now, LORD, for what do I wait? You are my only hope: for my part, I realize you are responsible both for my being and for my existing, and I await help from you, still not beaten black and blue by other people for such untoward desires. From all my sins deliver me: it is you who are able to do this and free me from the misfortunes besetting me. Let me not be the taunt of fools. He resumes what was being said by him in the introduction, by fools referring to the person boasting and uttering loud threats with a poor conception of human nature, and hinting at Saul and those of his company. While they taunted and threatened in this fashion, what of me? I am silent and do not open my mouth because you are the one who did this: for my part, I realized that this happens to me with your permission, and I waited longer in the knowledge that I would receive help from the same quarter from which came also the allowance of my suffering. Take your plague away from me; I am ravaged by the touch of your hand: for this reason, then, I beg of you also relief from the difficulties, since from you also comes the permission for me to suffer. You chastise man with rebukes for sin: admittedly, I realize that all your scourging proves to be for a person’s training and betterment; it is not as thought you were indifferent to human beings in allowing them to suffer, instead preferring to improve their souls, as it were. Hence he goes on, like a moth you consume his treasures: thus you winnow it and purity it of its sins with the scourging. Every man is but a breath: but all those failing to understand this are fools in not realizing the reason for the permission, and so are alarmed and worried. Listen to my prayer, LORD, hear my cry: for my part, on the contrary, aware as I am of the reason, I beseech you to apply correction commensurate with my ability in order that the excess of sufferings not prove my undoing and not a lesson for my betterment. Do not be deaf to my weeping! He then states the reason as well. A refugee, like my ancestors: I shall not live long enough to match such awful punishment; rather, I must accept punishment commensurate with the limits of my life. Hence he goes on, Turn your gaze from me, that I may smile before I depart to be no more: lighten my misfortunes, then, Lord, since death is at hand to snatch me away and bring me to my undoing, where corrections will make no impact on me.[2]

Pseudo-Athanasius: When he heard that his enemies were reviling him and he knew that he was being chastised by God—I am silent and do not open my mouth because you are the one who did this—he endured the insult with humility of mind. You chastise man with rebukes for sin; like a moth you consume his treasures. Every man is but a breath. Listen to my prayer, LORD, hear my cry; do not be deaf to my weeping! For I am with you like a foreigner, a refugee, like my ancestors. But he asks that he teach him if there exists for him a life of uselessness and exile according to the measure of the expiation of his sin. Take your plague away from me; I am ravaged by the touch of your hand. And at the same time he prays to God to remove from him the torments and Turn your gaze from me, that I may smile before I depart to be no more to give him rest, so that he may go down to death in confidence.[3]


[1] Benjamin Wayman. Make the Words Your Own: An Early Christian Guide to the Psalms (Brewster, M.A.: Paraclete Press: 2014), 73.

[2] TLG 6 Καὶ νῦν τίς ἡ ὑπομονή μου; Οὐχὶ κύριος; Καὶ ἡ ὑπόστασίς μου παρὰ σοῦ ἐστιν. Ἀλλ’ ἐγώ, φησίν, καὶ αὐτοῦ τοῦ εἶναι καὶ αὐτοῦ τοῦ ὑπάρχειν σε ἐπίσταμαι αἴτιον, καὶ ὑπομένω τὴν παρὰ σοῦ βοήθειαν, ἔτι οὐ συμφυρόμενος τοῖς λοιποῖς ἀνθρώποις κατὰ τὰς τοιαύτας ἀτόπους ἐπιθυμίας. Ἀπὸ πασῶν τῶν ἀνομιῶν μου ῥῦσαί με. Αὐτὸς γάρ, φησίν, δύνασαι καὶ τοῦτο ποιῆσαι καὶ ἀπαλλάξαι με τῶν ἐπικειμένων συμφορῶν. Ὄνειδος ἄφρονι ἔδωκάς με. Ἀναλαμβάνει τὰ ἐν τοῖς προοιμίοις αὐτῷ λεγόμενα. «Ἄφρονα» δὲ καλεῖ τὸν μεγαλαυχοῦντα καὶ μεγάλα ἀπειλοῦντα καὶ οὐ στοχαζόμενον τῆς ἀνθρωπείας φύσεως· αἰνίττεται δὲ τὸν Σαοὺλ καὶ τοὺς μετ’ αὐτοῦ. Ἀλλ’ ἐκεῖνοι μέν, φησίν, οὕτως ὠνείδιζον καὶ ἠπείλουν· ἐγὼ δὲ τί; Ἐκωφώθην καὶ οὐκ ἤνοιξα τὸ στόμα μου, ὅτι σὺ ἐποίησας. Ἐγὼ δέ, φησίν, ἐπιστάμενος ὅτι κατὰ συγχώρησιν σὴν ταῦτά μοι συμβαίνει, πλέον περιέμενον εἰδὼς ἐκεῖθεν ἥξειν μοι τὴν βοήθειαν ὅθεν καὶ τὸ ἐνδόσιμον τοῦ παθεῖν. Ἀπόστησον ἀπἐμοῦ τὰς μάστιγάς σου· ἀπὸ γὰρ τῆς ἰσχύος τῆς χειρός σου ἐγὼ ἐξέλιπον. Διὰ τοῦτο οὖν, φησίν, παρὰ σοῦ αἰτῶ καὶ τὴν ἀπαλλαγὴν τῶν χαλεπῶν, παρ’ οὗ καὶ τὸ πάσχειν ἐν συγχωρήσει μοί ἐστιν.  Ἐν ἐλεγμοῖς ὑπὲρ ἀνομίας ἐπαίδευσας ἄνθρωπον. Καίτοι γε, φησίν, ἐπίσταμαι ὅτι πᾶσά σου μάστιξ ἐπὶ παιδείᾳ καὶ βελτιώσει γίνεται ἀνθρώπου. Οὐ γὰρ ὡς ἀμελῶν τῶν ἀνθρώπων συγχωρεῖς αὐτοῖς πάσχειν, ἀλλ’ ὡς βελτιῶσαι τὰς ψυχὰς αὐτῶν προῃρημένος. Ὅθεν ἐπιφέρει· Καὶ ἐξέτηξας ὡς ἀράχνην τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ. Οὕτω γάρ, φησίν, αὐτὴν λεπτύνεις καὶ ἐκκαθαίρεις τῶν ἁμαρτημάτων διὰ τῶν μαστίγων. Πλὴν μάτην ταράσσεται ἄνθρωπος. Ἀλλ’ οἱ μὴ τοῦτο ἐπιστάμενοι, φησίν, ὅσοι τῶν ἀφρόνων εἰσίν, τὴν αἰτίαν τῆς συγχωρήσεως οὐκ εἰδότες, θορυβοῦνται καὶ ταράσσονται. Εἰσάκουσον τῆς προσευχῆς μου, κύριε, καὶ τῆς δεήσεώς μου ἐνώτισαι. Ἀλλ’ ἐγώ, φησίν, εἰδὼς τὴν αἰτίαν, σὲ παρακαλῶ σύμμετρον δοῦναι τὴν παιδείαν τῇ δυνάμει τῇ ἐμῇ ἵνα μὴ τὸ ὑπερβάλλον τῶν παθημάτων ἀναίρεσις τοῦ εἶναί μοι γένηται καὶ οὐ παίδευσις εἰς βελτίωσιν. Τῶν δακρύων μου μὴ παρασιωπήσῃς. Εἶτα καὶ τὴν αἰτίαν λέγει· Ὅτι πάροικος ἐγώ εἰμι παρὰ σοὶ καὶ παρεπίδημος καθὼς πάντες οἱ πατέρες μου.  Οὐ γὰρ διαιωνίζω, φησίν, εἰς τὸ ζῆν ἵν’ ἐξαρκέσω πρὸς τοσαύτην τιμωρίαν, ἀλλ’ ἐν μεμετρημένῳ τῷ βίῳ μεμετρημένην ὀφείλω καὶ τὴν παιδείαν ὑπομένειν. Διὰ τοῦτο ἐπάγει·   Ἄνες μοι ἵνα ἀναψύξω πρὸ τοῦ με ἀπελθεῖν καὶ οὐκέτι οὐ μὴ ὑπάρξω. Ἐπικούφισόν μοι οὖν, φησίν, τὰς συμφοράς, δέσποτα, ἐπειδὴ ὁ θάνατος ἕτοιμος ἐξαρπάσαι καὶ εἰς ἀναισθησίαν με καταστῆσαι, ἔνθα λοιπὸν ἡ παιδεία ἀνόνητός μοι.

[3] Syriac CSCO 387, SYRI 168 V, pg 25. Cx. PG 27:189-190 for Latin and Greek.

The Fathers on Psalm 27

This post is part of an ongoing series offering translations of various early Church father’s commentaries on the Psalms.

Psalm 27

The LORD is my light and my salvation;

whom should I fear?

The LORD is my life’s refuge;

of whom should I be afraid?

When evildoers come at me

to devour my flesh,

These my enemies and foes

themselves stumble and fall.

Though an army encamp against me,

my heart does not fear;

Though war be waged against me,

even then do I trust.

One thing I ask of the LORD;

this I seek:

To dwell in the LORD’s house

all the days of my life,

To gaze on the LORD’s beauty,

to visit his temple.

For God will hide me in his shelter

in time of trouble,

He will conceal me in the cover of his tent;

and set me high upon a rock.

Athanasius: “If your enemies violently attack you and become a crowd like soldiers camped against you, looking down on you as through you were not anointed—and for this reason they want to fight—do not cower in fear, but sing Psalm 27.”[1]

Diodore of Tarsus: The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? A cry befitting triumphant warriors, mentioning also the one responsible for the victory. Light and salvation was well put: tribulation caused the Israelites to live in darkness, as it were, whereas the Lord’s support proved a light and help to them. The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?  The phrase of whom shall I be afraid? is said by way of admiration: What will be found so powerful in intrigue, he is saying, as God is powerful in helping? When evildoers assail me, uttering slanders against me, my adversaries and foes, they shall stumble and fall. Having referred to the victory in the introduction, he states these two clauses by way of narrative. Lest he seem to be given thanks needlessly, he introduces as well the reason for thanksgiving in the words, When some enemies assembled against me who were so fierce and unrelenting as even to take a piece of me, as it were, then in particular I clearly sensed God’s help, with their fall and conquest. So what is the result now? If a fortress were constructed against me, my heart would not fear; if war broke out against me, I would still hope in it, by in it meaning in help, of which I already had experience, and on account of which I dread no other battle array. So I dread nothing with such help affording me shelter. One thing I have asked of the Lord, that I will seek after. One thing meaning grace and beneficence. What was it? That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. A pious soul, that of blessed Hezekiah, showed that he thanks God most of all for not severing connections with the temple and with piety. Now, this was his principle request; the one concerning his salvation was second. To behold the beauty of the Lord, and inquire in his temple. You granted me this further request, Lord: having saved me and made me superior to the enemy, you granted me also the place in which I might utter sentiments of thanksgiving. Because he hid me in his tabernacle on the day of my troubles: from his temple (the meaning of in his tabernacle) I had shelter and help. He kept me in hiding in his tabernacle. By in hiding he means as if in hiding: Though conducting many searches for me, he is saying, the enemy did not find me, thanks to Gods sheltering me. He set me high on a rock. Again he omits the phrase as if, his meaning being, You set me high as if on a rock. You see, since the multitude of the Assyrians advanced on him like waves, and a rock in particular naturally resists the waves, he used the example of the rock to imply, He made me superior to a huge multitude, his purpose being for the waves to suggest the uprisings of the enemy.[2]

Pseudo-Athanasius: This psalm contains a boast in the Lord against enemies and a request for blessings with confession. Before being anointed, he indicates that when by the Spirit of God he foresaw that he would be anointed as king and fall into temptation, he bound his loins with fortitude and stood powerfully firm against them despite the opposing powers, being encouraged by the enlightenment of God. When evildoers assail me, uttering slanders against me, my adversaries and foes, they shall stumble and fall. When they drew near to destroy, they received what they supposed they would inflict. One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple. But I, he says, made one request from the Lord: that I might see his splendor and visit his holy temple and ever dwell therein. By it I was made worthy of salvation and—For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent, he will set me high upon a rock—was exalted on the rock, Christ.[3]


[1] Benjamin Wayman. Make the Words Your Own: An Early Christian Guide to the Psalms (Brewster, M.A.: Paraclete Press: 2014), 37.

[2] TLG 6. Κύριος φωτισμός μου καὶ σωτήρ μου· τίνα φοβηθήσομαι; Ἐπινικίοις πρέπουσα φωνή, μηνύουσα καὶ τὸν αἴτιον τῆς νίκης. Καλῶς δὲ εἶπε καὶ «φωτισμὸς» καὶ «σωτήρ»· ἡ γὰρ θλίψις ὡς ἐν σκοτίᾳ διάγειν ἐποίει τοὺς Ἰσραηλίτας, ἡ δὲ ἀντίληψις τοῦ κυρίου φῶς αὐτοῖς ἐγένετο καὶ βοήθεια. Κύριος ὑπερασπιστὴς τῆς ζωῆς μου· ἀπὸ τίνος δειλιάσω; Θαυμαστῶς τὸ «ἀπὸ τίνος δειλιάσω;». Τί γάρ, φησίν, εὑρεθήσεται οὕτω δυνατὸν εἰς ἐπιβουλὴν ὡς ἔστι δυνατὸς εἰς βοήθειαν ὁ θεός; Ἐν τῷ ἐγγίζειν ἐπ’ ἐμὲ κακοῦντας τοῦ φαγεῖν τὰς σάρκας μου, οἱ θλίβοντές με καὶ οἱ ἐχθροί μου αὐτοὶ ἠσθένησαν καὶ ἔπεσον. Τὰ προοίμια εἰπὼν ἐπὶ τῇ νίκῃ, τούτους τοὺς δύο στίχους ὡς ἐν διηγήματι λέγει. Ἵνα γὰρ μὴ δόξῃ μάτην εὐχαριστεῖν, καὶ τὴν αἰτίαν παρατίθεται τῆς εὐχαριστίας καί φησιν· ὁπηνίκα συνῆλθον γὰρ ἐπ’ ἐμέ τινες ἐχθροὶ οὕτως ὠμοὶ καὶ ἀνήμεροι ὥστε μου, εἰ οἷόν τε, καὶ τῶν σαρκῶν ἀπογεύσασθαι, τότε μάλιστα τὴν τοῦ θεοῦ βοήθειαν εἶδον ἐναργῶς, ἐκείνων μὲν ἐκπεσόντων, ἡμῶν δὲ νενικηκότων. Τί οὖν ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν; Ἐὰν παρατάξηται ἐπἐμὲ παρεμβολή, οὐ φοβηθήσεται  καρδία μου· ἐὰν ἐπαναστῇ ἐπἐμὲ πόλεμος, ἐν ταύτῃ ἐγὼ ἐλπίζω.  «Ἐν ταύτῃ» ἵνα εἴπῃ· τῇ βοηθείᾳ, ἧς ἤδη πεῖραν ἔλαβον, δι’ ἣν οὐδὲ ἄλλην παράταξιν πλείονα δέδοικα. Σκεπαζούσης οὖν με τῆς τοιαύτης βοηθείας οὐδὲν δειλιάσω. Μίαν ᾐτησάμην παρὰ κυρίου, ταύτην ζητήσω.  «Μίαν ᾐτησάμην» ἀντὶ τοῦ χάριν καὶ εὐεργεσίαν. Ποίαν ταύτην; Τὸ κατοικεῖν με ἐν οἴκῳ κυρίου πάσας τὰς ἡμέρας τῆς ζωῆς μου. Εὐσεβὴς ψυχή, ἡ τοῦ μακαρίου Ἐζεκίου, ἔδειξεν ὅτι πλέον διὰ τοῦτο εὐχαριστεῖ τῷ θεῷ ὅτι τοῦ ναοῦ καὶ τῆς εὐσεβείας οὐκ ἐξέπεσεν. Οὗτος δὲ ἦν αὐτῷ ὁ πλέων λόγος, ὁ δὲ τῆς αὐτοῦ σωτηρίας δεύτερος. Τὸ θεωρεῖν με τὴν τερπνότητα κυρίου καὶ ἐπισκέπτεσθαι τὸν ναὸν τὸν ἅγιον αὐτοῦ. Τοῦτό μοι, φησί, πλέον ἐδωρήσω, δέσποτα, ὅτι σώσας καὶ τῶν πολεμίων ἀνώτερον ποιήσας ἐχαρίσω μοι καὶ τὸν τόπον ἐν ᾧ τὰς εὐχαριστηρίους ἀφήσω φωνάς. Ὅτι ἔκρυψέ με ἐν σκηνῇ αὐτοῦ ἐν ἡμέρᾳ κακῶν μου. Καὶ γὰρ ἐκ τοῦ ναοῦ αὐτοῦ, φησί—τοῦτο γὰρ λέγει «ἐν σκηνῇ αὐτοῦ»—, ἔσχον τὴν σκέπην καὶ τὴν βοήθειαν. Ἐσκέπασέ με ἐν ἀποκρύφῳ τῆς σκηνῆς αὐτοῦ. «Ἐν ἀποκρύφῳ» ἵνα εἴπῃ· ὡς ἐν ἀποκρύφῳ· οὕτω, φησί, πολλὰ ζητήσαντες περὶ ἐμοῦ οἱ πολέμιοι οὐχ εὗρόν με, τοῦ θεοῦ σκεπάζοντος. Ἐν πέτρᾳ ὕψωσέ με. Πάλιν λείπει τὸ ὡς· βούλεται γὰρ εἰπεῖν· ὡς ἐν πέτρᾳ ὕψωσάς με. Ἐπειδὴ γὰρ δίκην κυμάτων ἐπῆλθεν αὐτῷ τὸ πλῆθος τῶν Ἀσσυρίων, πέτρα δὲ μάλιστα πέφυκεν ἀντέχειν τοῖς κύμασιν, ἵνα εἴπῃ ὅτι πολλοῦ πλήθους ἀνώτερόν με πεποίηκεν, τὸ ὑπόδειγμα τῆς πέτρας εἶπεν, ἵνα καὶ τὰ κύματα ἤγουν τὰς ἐπαναστάσεις τῶν πολεμίων μηνύσῃ.

[3] Syriac, CSCO 387, SYRI 168 V, pg 17. Cx PG 27:147-150 for Latin and Greek.

The Fathers on Psalm 22

This post is part of an ongoing series offering translations of various early Church father’s commentaries on the Psalms.

Psalm 22

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?

Why so far from my call for help,

from my cries of anguish?

My God, I call by day, but you do not answer;

by night, but I have no relief.

Athanasius: “Psalm 22 describes the nature of the death from the lips of the Savior himself…. When he speaks of hands and feet being pierced, what else is meant than the cross? After presenting all these things, the Psalter adds that the Lord suffers these things not for himself, but for our sake.”[1]

Diodore of Tarsus: For a start, therefore, some commentators thought the opening and the rest apply to the Lord, since the verse in the text O God my God, attend to me: why have you abandoned me? was spoken by the Lord; but it is not possible that the rest is recited on the part of the Lord. In fact, it goes on: Why art thou so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? David’s meaning is this: Lord, be reconciled to me and do not abandon me any further; instead, attend to me, even if my faults put me far from being saved by you (the phrase the words of my groaning meaning the failings themselves). Nevertheless, be faithful to yourself, do not case an eye on the magnitude of the sin but on the magnitude of your loving-kindness. Then the following even still more clearly applies to David than to the Lord—namely—O my God, I cry by day, but thou dost not answer; and by night, but find no rest. Cast your eye on this, Lord, that both by day and by night I cry aloud to you, and when not heard I am led to entertain foolish thoughts—not that I claim you have no providence for human affairs, knowing the reason why I am not heard, the cause being sin. How does this or the rest of the psalm apply to Christ?[2]

Pseudo-Athanasius: My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Why art thou so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? The psalm is sung by Christ as in the person of all humanity. It narrates what he endured from the Jews when he bore the cross for our sake. O my God, I cry by day, but thou dost not answer; and by night, but find no rest. He asks that the Father turn his face to us, and remove from us sin and the curse and teach us to be humble-minded, just as he was humbled for our sake.[3]


[1] Benjamin Wayman. Make the Words Your Own: An Early Christian Guide to the Psalms (Brewster, M.A.: Paraclete Press: 2014), 3.

[2] TLG 6. Εὐθὺς οὖν τὸ προοίμιον, ἐπειδὴ κατὰ τὴν λέξιν αὐτὴν εἴρηται καὶ παρὰ τοῦ κυρίου τὸ Ὁ θεὸς ὁ θεός μου, πρόσχες μοι, ἱνατί ἐγκατέλιπές με  νομίζουσί τινες καὶ τὸ ἑξῆς ἁρμόζειν· οὐκέτι δὲ συγχωρεῖ λέγεσθαι ἐκ προσώπου τοῦ κυρίου τὸ ἑξῆς. Ἐπάγει γάρ· Μακρὰν ἀπὸ τῆς σωτηρίας μου οἱ λόγοι τῶν παραπτωμάτων μου. Ὃ γὰρ βούλεται εἰπεῖν ὁ Δαυεὶδ τοῦτό ἐστιν ὅτι δέσποτα, καταλλάγηθί μοι καὶ μὴ ἀποστρέφου με τοῦ λοιποῦ, ἀλλὰ πρόσχες μοι, εἰ καὶ μακράν με ποιεῖ τὰ πλημμελήματά μου τῆς παρὰ σοῦ σωτηρίας. Τὸ γὰρ «οἱ λόγοι τῶν παραπτωμάτων μου» ἀντὶ τοῦ αὐτὰ τὰ παραπτώματα λέγει. Ἀλλ’ ὅμως, φησί, σὺ σαυτὸν μίμησαι, μὴ πρὸς τὸ πλῆθος ἀποβλέψας τῆς ἁμαρτίας ἀλλὰ πρὸς τὸ πλῆθος τῆς σῆς φιλανθρωπίας. Εἶτα καὶ τὸ ἑξῆς ἔτι σαφέστερον ἁρμόζει τῷ Δαυεὶδ μᾶλλον ἢ τῷ κυρίῳ. Τί γάρ; θεός μου, κεκράξομαι ἡμέρας, καὶ οὐκ εἰσακούσῃ, καὶ νυκτός, καὶ οὐκ εἰς ἄνοιαν ἐμοί. Καὶ πρὸς τοῦτο γάρ, φησίν, ἀπόβλεψον, δέσποτα, ὅτι καὶ ἐν ἡμέρᾳ καὶ ἐν νυκτὶ ἐπιβοῶμαί σε καὶ μὴ ἀκουόμενος οὐκ εἰς ἀνοήτους ἐκφέρομαι λογισμούς, οὐδὲ λέγω μὴ προνοεῖν σε τῶν ἀνθρωπίνων, ἀλλ’ οἶδα τὴν αἰτίαν δι’ ἣν οὐκ ἀκούομαι, τὴν τῆς ἁμαρτίας ὑπόθεσιν. Τοῦτο δὲ ποῦ ἁρμόζει τῷ Χριστῷ ἢ τὸ ἑξῆς τοῦ ψαλμοῦ;

[3] Syriac CSCO 387, SYRI 168 V, pg 14-15. CX. PG 27: 131- for Latin and Greek.

Rules and Roles for Women

I’m excited to share that my article, “Rules and Roles for Women: Vocation and Order in the Apostolic Fathers,” was recently published in the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology. This research was originally undertaken as part of a doctoral seminar at St. Louis University led by Dr. Carolyn Osiek, and I presented my findings at the Evangelical Theological Society’s regional conference in 2017.

Click here to view a PDF of my article. And click here to view the contents of the entire journal.

Thanks to the SBJT for publishing the research!

Does Church Planting Overly Innovate?

This post is part of an ongoing series looking at church planting.

As commonly framed, Christianity often has problems with new things. Whether it’s new ways of thinking about Jesus (as during those pesky Christological controversies in the early Church), framing theology (like during the Reformation), using academic scholarship to inform faith (as in the modernist-fundamentalist debates), or thinking about human sexuality (like in many contemporary churches), Christianity and newness don’t always get along. Continue reading