The Fathers on Psalm 116

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

Psalm 116

I kept faith, even when I said,
“I am greatly afflicted!”
I said in my alarm,
“All men are liars!”
How can I repay the Lord
for all the great good done for me?
I will raise the cup of salvation
and call on the name of the Lord.
I will pay my vows to the Lord
in the presence of all his people.
Dear in the eyes of the Lord
is the death of his devoted.
Lord, I am your servant,
your servant, the child of your maidservant;
you have loosed my bonds.
I will offer a sacrifice of praise
and call on the name of the Lord.
I will pay my vows to the Lord
in the presence of all his people,
In the courts of the house of the Lord,
in your midst, O Jerusalem.
Hallelujah!

Athanasius: “Do you have faith, as the Lord said, and do you believe the things you say while praying? Say Psalm 116:9-17.”[1]

When we read Lord, I am your servant, your servant, the child of your maidservant; you have loosed my bonds. I will offer a sacrifice of praise and call on the name of the Lord, we correctly understand that Solomon was a natural and genuine son, and do not consider him a servant just because we hear him so called. So also concerning the Savior, who is confessed in truth to be the Son and Word by nature, as the saints say, “Who was faithful to him that made him,” or if he says of himself, “The Lord created me,” and, “I am your servant and the son of your handmaid,” and similar claims. Let no one on this account deny that he is the true Son of the Father and from him. As in the case of Solomon and David, let them have a correct understanding of the Father and the Son.[2]

Pseudo-Athanasius: I kept faith, even when I said, “I am greatly afflicted!” I have believed, say the people who were summoned by Christ’s calling. And in addition, I spoke, saying: I shall please the God who saved me. I said in my alarm, “All men are liars!” But because I know that every man is false and not guiltless before God, I believe that he will strengthen and help me in my strivings on his behalf. So I may even meet death rejoicing because of his holy name. How can I repay the Lord for all the great good done for me? And by this I will compensate the true Lord like a servant, for by death I shall honor his death on my behalf. Dear in the eyes of the Lord is the death of his devoted. Lord, I am your servant, your servant, the child of your maidservant; you have loosed my bonds. I will offer a sacrifice of praise and call on the name of the Lord. By his death he loosed and cut me away from the bond of sin and death, so that now, not by sacrifices of blood, I will offer sacrifices of praise and confession to his holy name. I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people, In the courts of the house of the Lord, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Hallelujah! And I will render him spiritual vows, not as formerly in the temple in Jerusalem, but before all people in his holy churches—or rather, in the heavenly Jerusalem.[3]


[1] Benjamin Wayman. Make the Words Your Own: An Early Christian Guide to the Psalms (Brewster, M.A.: Paraclete Press: 2014), 214.

[2] Discourses Against the Arians 2.14.4. NPNF 2, 4:350. Ὥσπερ τοίνυν ἀναγινώσκοντες ταῦτα διανοούμεθα καλῶς καὶ ἀκούοντες δοῦλον τὸν Σολομῶνα οὐ νομίζομεν αὐτὸν εἶναι δοῦλον, ἀλλὰ φύσει καὶ γνήσιον υἱόν, οὕτως ἐὰν καὶ περὶ τοῦ σωτῆρος τοῦ ἀληθῶς ὁμολογουμένου υἱοῦ καὶ φύσει λόγου ὄντος λέγωσιν οἱ ἅγιοι· «πιστὸν ὄντα τῷ ποιήσαντι αὐτὸν» ἢ αὐτὸς περὶ ἑαυτοῦ ἐὰν λέγῃ· «κύριος ἔκτισέ με» καὶ «ἐγὼ δοῦλος σὸς καὶ υἱὸς τῆς παιδίσκης σου» καὶ ὅσα τοιαῦτα, μὴ διὰ τοῦτο ἀρνείσθωσάν τινες τὴν ἐκ τοῦ πατρὸς αὐτοῦ ἰδιότητα, ἀλλ’, ὡς ἐπὶ Σολομῶνος καὶ τοῦ Δαβίδ, διανοείσθωσαν ὀρθῶς περὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ καὶ τοῦ πατρός.

[3] Syriac. CSCO 387, SYRI 168V, pg.75-76. For Greek and Latin, cx. PG 27: 473-474.

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