The Fathers on Psalm 53

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

Psalm 53

The fool says in his heart,
“There is no God.”
They act corruptly and practice injustice;
there is none that does good.
God looks out from the heavens
upon the children of Adam,
To see if there is a discerning person
who is seeking God.
All have gone astray;
each one is altogether perverse.
There is not one who does what is good, not even one.

Do they not know better, those who do evil,
who feed upon my people as they feed upon bread?
Have they not called upon God?
They are going to fear his name with great fear,
though they had not feared it before.
For God will scatter the bones
of those encamped against you.
They will surely be put to shame,
for God has rejected them.

Who will bring forth from Zion
the salvation of Israel?
When God reverses the captivity of his people
Jacob will rejoice and Israel will be glad.

Athanasius: “Whenever you hear people speaking profanely against Providence, do not join them in their disregard for God, but intercede with God, saying Psalms 14 and 53.”[1]

Pseudo-Athanasius: This psalm is sung as by the chorus of the apostles, who also believed in Christ, and rejoice and delight in him. For mahaleth is explained as a chorus or exultation. The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They act corruptly and practice injustice; there is none that does good. God looks out from the heavens upon the children of Adam, to see if there is a discerning person who is seeking God. All have gone astray; each one is altogether perverse. There is not one who does what is good, not even one. Do they not know better, those who do evil, who feed upon my people as they feed upon bread? Have they not called upon God? He necessarily expounds the evils which were done by men before the bodily descent of the Lord, to show how great and wonderful was the advantage effected by his divine incarnation. For this reason is it entitled “of understanding”.[2]


[1] Benjamin Wayman. Make the Words Your Own: An Early Christian Guide to the Psalms (Brewster, M.A.: Paraclete Press: 2014), 90.

[2] Syriac CSCO 387, SYRI 168 V, pg 33. Cx. PG 27 for Latin and Greek.

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