Odes and John: Introduction to the Odes of Solomon

This post is part of an ongoing series examining the relationship between the Odes of Solomon and Gospel of John.

Following J. Rendel Harris’ publication of the Odes in 1909,[1] scholars came to the consensus that they represented an early hymnbook which had quite possibly influenced the Gospel of John.[2] For example, Adolph von Harnack believed that the Odes predated the Fourth Gospel and influenced its author.[3] For much of the 20th century it was assumed that the Odes were a “Gnostic” text, though this perspective has become increasingly rejected.[4] As for who composed the Odes, little can be said with any degree of certainty—the attribution to Solomon is clearly pseudonymous and accurate authorial attribution seems lost to time.[5] The consensus for the dating of the Odes offers more solid conclusions, as most contemporary scholars place their composition firmly between 100 and 125 CE.[6]

As for the language of original composition, though some posit theories of a Hebrew or Armenian formation, the linguistic and stylistic features of the Odes indicate their composition in either Greek or Syriac. [7] Unfortunately, scholars remain divided on the original language of writing. On the one hand, James Charlesworth concludes that “the Greek hypothesis is no longer tenable” and that the Odes were clearly composed in Syriac.[8] On the other hand, Michael Lattke argues that the Odes were originally composed in Greek and very quickly translated into Syriac, writing that “no cogent argument” has been offered for a Syriac original.[9] Compounding this problematic is the obfuscating style of Biblical allusions, which are too imprecise to clearly attribute to either the Syriac Peshitta or Greek Bible.[10] This study takes the position that the Odes of Solomon were composed in Syriac for the following reasons: the shared milieu of the Odist and certain Jewish interpreters,[11] the textual variants which may be best explained by an original Syriac manuscript, and the literary characteristics and word plays of the Odes which are evident only in Syriac.[12]

Numerous geographical locations have been suggested for the origin of the Odes, Alexandria, Ephesus, Edessa, and Antioch being the most common.[13] The parallels between the Odes and John’s Gospel make Ephesus or Western Syria appear likely.[14] Syria—either Edessa or Antioch—seems probable given the argument that the Odes were composed in Syriac.[15] Furthermore, the rapid bi-lingual transmission again suggests Antioch or Edessa, both of which would have been sufficiently Syrian and Greek to account for both a Syriac original and Greek translation of the Odes.[16] While there are unquestionable connections between the Odes and the Jewish Scriptures—most notably the numerous Psalm-like qualities of these hymns[17]—the most striking references to written sources involve those writings often connected to early Antioch.[18] There are numerous parallels to Matthew’s Gospel,[19] the Apocalypse of John,[20] and Pauline literature,[21] which—while not specifically suggesting Antioch—do suggest the Odist’s situation within a center which had access to a profusion of Christian literature. Further suggestive of Antioch is James Brownson’s argument that the Odes represent a successionist community which has split from the “orthodox” community of Antioch, a split which Brownson finds indicated in both 1 John and the Odes’ numerous “co-options” of Johannine literature.[22] Most convincing are the connections between the Odes and non-canonical Antiochene literature, such as the Epistles of Ignatius,[23] the Ad Autolycum of Theophilus,[24] the Syrian Apostolic Constitutions,[25] and—though significantly later—the “Prayer for the Catechumens” found in John Chrysostom’s “Second Homily on Second Corinthians.”[26] The conclusion best fitting this evidence, therefore, is that the Odes were composed in or around Antioch in Western Syria and experienced significant circulation in that region during the early second century.

Having surveyed the general contours and background of the Odes of Solomon and found that they are an early Christian hymnbook of unknown authorship written in Syriac between 100-125 CE in or around Antioch, we now turn to the relationship between the Odes of Solomon and the Gospel of John.


[1] J. Rendel Harris, An Early Christian Psalter (London: James Nesbit, 1909). For a survey on the early reception of the Odes, see Charlesworth, Reflections, 21.

[2] Charlesworth, Reflections, 21: “Harris contended that they were a hymnbook of the first-century church. J. H. Bernard claimed they were written in the last half of the first century.”

[3] Adolph Harnack and John Flemming, Ein Jüdisch-Christliches Psalmbuch aus dem ersten Jahrhundert (Leipzig: J.C. Hinrichs, 1910).

[4] Michael Lattke, “The Apocryphal Odes of Solomon and New Testament Writings,” ZNW 73, 3 (1982): 296. James H Charlesworth and R. Alan Culpepper, “The Odes of Solomon and the Gospel of John,” CBQ 35, 3 (1973): 299 n4. Han J. W. Drijver, “The 19th Ode of Solomon: Its Interpretation and Place in Syrian Christianity,” JTS 31, 2 (1980): 337-8.

[5] Michael Lattke, “Die Oden Salomos: Einleitungsfragen und Forschungsgeschichte,” ZNW 98 (2007): 283-5. Han J. W. Drijvers, “The Peshitta of Sapientia Salomonis,” History and Religion in Late Antique Syria (Brookfield, V.T.: Variorum, 1994), VI.16-17. Michael Lattke, Odes of Solomon: A Commentary (ed. Harold W. Attridge; trans. Marianne Ehrhardt; Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2009), 5. W. R. Newbold’s argument that Bardaisan stands behind the Odes is intriguing, but ultimately speculative; see William R. Newbold, “Bardaisan and the Odes of Solomon,” JBL 30, 2 (1911): 161-204.

[6] Charlesworth and Culpepper, “Odes,” 314. Robert Murray, Symbols of Church and Kingdom: A Study in Early Syriac Tradition. (Piscataway, N.J.: Gorgias Press, 2004), 25. Grant, “Antioch”, 369. Lattke, Commentary, 10. Worth noting is Han Drijvers’ dating of the Odes to the “second half of the third century”; Hans J. W. Drijvers, “Apocryphal Literature in the Cultural Milieu of Osrhoene,” Apocrypha 1, 1 (1990): 245. For an excellent introduction to the history and textual tradition of the Odes of Solomon, see Lattke, Commentary, 1-26 and Lattke,“Die Oden Salomos”, 277-307.

[7] Murray, Symbols, 24. Charlesworth, Reflections, 133. J. A. Emerton, “Notes on Some Passages in the Odes of Solomon,” JTS 28 (1977): 512-9. The issue of bilingualism must at least be considered as a possibility for the author of the Odes, especially given the work’s rapid transmission in both Greek and Syriac. On the topic of bilingualism in the ancient world, see J.N. Adams, Mark Janse, and Simon Swain (eds.), Bilingualism in Ancient Society: Language Contact and the Written Word (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002).

[8] Charlesworth, Reflections, 133.

[9] Lattke, Commentary, 10-1: “The quotations in the Pistis Sophia and in Lactantius’s magnum opus are without doubt translated from the Greek. That, however, has not decided the question whether the original language was Greek.”

[10] Murray, Symbols, 24. Sebastian Brock, The Bible in the Syriac Tradition, Second Revised Edition (Piscataway, N.J.: Gorgias Press, 2006), 3-35. See also Brock’s Syriac Perspectives on Late Antiquity, ii-iv (London, 1984) and Studies in Syriac Christianity, x (London: Variorum, 1992). For some discussion on the relationship between Syriac texts and their interaction with Greek manuscript traditions, see P. J. Williams, Early Syriac Translation Technique and the Textual Criticism of the Greek Gospels (Texts and Studies: Contributions to Biblical and Patristic Literatures Third Series; ed. D. C. Parker and D. G. K. Taylor; Piscataway, N.J.: Gorgias Press, 2004), 1-22.

[11] Charleworth, Reflections, 133.

[12] Lattke, Commentary, 79. For a particularly striking word play, see Ode 6.7.

[13] Lattke, Commentary 11. Murray, Symbols, 25.

[14] Lattke, Commentary, 11. Charlesworth, Reflections, 23. In arguing for the Odes connection with Antioch and the Fourth Gospel, I am not arguing that the Fourth Gospel was composed and/or completed in Antioch, only that the Antiochene church would have had access to the Fourth Gospel by the end of the first century.

[15] Charlesworth, Reflections, 23. Drijvers, “Apocryphal Literature”, 236-7, 244-7. Grant, “Antioch,” 375-7. Grant postulates thus: “the Odes of Solomon, composed in Syriac at Edessa, were known to the bi-lingual Ignatius either there or at Antioch. Perhaps he obtained them from the Docetists, as Serapion was to obtain the Gospel of Peter. The Fourth Evangelist, who was perhaps the teacher of Ignatius, did not know the Odes, but was influenced by the spiritual atmosphere of the city. Afterwards he made public his Gospel at Ephesus.”

[16] Murray, Symbols, 24. Charlesworth and Culpepper, “Odes,” 320. Charlesworth, Reflections, 23.

[17] James H. Charlesworth, The Odes of Solomon (SBLTT 13 and SBLPS 7; ed. Robert Kraft; Missoula, MT: Scholars, 1977), 20 n5. Jack T. Sanders, “Nag Hammadi, Odes of Solomon, and NT Christological Hymns,” in Gnosticism and the Early Christian World: In Honor of James M. Robinson (ed. James E. Goehring et al; Sonoma, CA: Polebridge Press, 1990), 60. J. A. Robinson, The Odes of Solomon (Texts and Studies: Contributions to Biblical and Patristic Literature, Third Series; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1912; repr. Nendeln/Liechtenstein: Kraus Reprint Limited, 1967), 26-7. Brian McNeil, “The Odes of Solomon and the Scriptures,” OrChr 67,1 (1983): 104. James Kugel has also noted possible connections with Apocryphal and Deuterocanonical literature such as Sirach, Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, Testament of Judah, and Testament of Issachar. James L. Kugel, Traditions of the Bible: A Guide to the Bible As It Was at the Start of the Common Era (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998), 49, 133-4, 211-2. Also suggesting a Western Syrian provenance are parallels between the Odes and the Dead Sea Scrolls.

[18] Susan Ashbrook Harvey,“Syria and Mesopotamia,” in The Cambridge History of Christianity: Volume 1: Origins to Constantine (ed. Margaret M. Mitchell and Frances M. Young; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 353-7.

[19] Ode 24.1 and Matthew 3.16; Ode 22.12 and Matthew 16.18; Ode 23.19 and Matthew 28.19. See Robinson, Odes, 27-8. McNeil, “Odes”, 116-7.

[20] Michael Anthony Novak, “The Odes of Solomon as Apocalyptic Literature,” VC 66:5 (2012): 527-550.

[21] Lattke, Apocryphal Odes, 299-300.

[22] James Brownson, “The Odes of Solomon and the Johannine Tradition,” JSP 2 (1988): 52. Brownson argues that the Odes represent the theological perspective of a group which has separated from the main Johannine community, as represented in 1 John. While this theory is fairly persuasive—providing a useful model for explaining the Johannine epistles, the extenuating circumstances of Ignatius of Antioch, and influence of Bardaisan—it is not my purpose here to investigate this claim, but only to note the connections of the Odes to the Antiochene community.

[23] Charlesworth, Reflections, 23. Grant, “Antioch,” 370-2. Prahlow, 80. Virginia Corwin, St. Ignatius and Christianity in Antioch (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1960), 69-72. Possible references include Ode 38 in Trallians 6:2 and Ode 11 in Romans 7:2. This connection would likely one of milieu, although if the Odes were written closer to 100 CE, it is possible Ignatius would have used them in the Antiochene liturgy.

[24] Grant, “Antioch,” 372; See also J. R. Harris and A. Mingana, The Odes and the Psalms of Solomon ii (1921).

[25] Robinson, Odes, 63-4.

[26] Ibid., 63-4. See also Ode 8.

Odes of Solomon and Gospel of John: Common Milieu or Literary Dependence?

The Odes of Solomon are a collection of hymns generally veiled and relatively neglected by those studying early Christianity. Yet this “Earliest Christian Hymnbook” [1] contains numerous insights into how first and second century followers of Jesus conceived of such important matters as worship, scripture, and interpretation. Here, I investigate one of the many facets of this ancient Christian text, namely, the relationship between the Odes of Solomon and Gospel of John.

Comparison of these two texts is not without precedent. As far back as J. Rendel Harris’s original publication of the Odes in 1909, scholars have consistently noted that, “The Odes and John share numerous, striking, and often unique expressions.”[2] No less a figure than Adolph von Harnack believed that the Odes predated the Fourth Gospel and influenced its author.[3] More recent scholarship, such as the works of James H. Charlesworth and Robert M. Grant,[4] has suggested a relationship of “common milieu” between the Odes and John’s Gospel. Unfortunately, this methodology of milieu largely neglects the insights garnered by those studying other Christian writings of the post-Apostolic period, especially those findings which are useful for understanding instances of literary dependence.[5] To address this lacuna, there are two major emphases of this project: an examination of the methodology used by those studying the Odes of Solomon and consideration of the direct relationship between the Odes and John’s Gospel.[6] In accordance with this dual focus, I argue that by reevaluating the contextual methodology surrounding literary citation, genre, linguistic difference, geography, and purpose in writing, we may discover the telltale signs of literary dependence which exist between the Odes and John’s Gospel.

After considering the background of the Odes and the various perspectives which scholars such as Charlesworth and Michael Lattke have taken on these hymns’ relationship to the Gospel of John, this study turns to consideration of some problems with the methodological assumptions of contemporary scholarship on the Odes, offering a reevaluation of several important principles for understanding and determining literary dependence in the ancient world. Next, this project analyzes the relationship between Odes of Solomon and John’s Gospel, paying special attention to Ode 3’s connections with the Upper Room Discourses of John’s Gospel. In the end, the application of reassessed methodological criteria indicates that minimalist perspectives regarding the literary relationship between the Odes of Solomon and Gospel of John are no longer preferable.


[1] Term taken from James H. Charlesworth, The Earliest Christian Hymnbook: The Odes of Solomon (Eugene, OR: Cascade Publishers, 2009).

[2] J. Rendel Harris, An Early Christian Psalter (London: James Nesbit, 1909). For a survey on the early reception of the Odes, see James H. Charlesworth, Critical Reflections on the Odes of Solomon: Volume One: Literary Setting, Textual Studies, Gnosticism, the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Gospel of John (JSPSup 22; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 1998), 21. James H. Charlesworth and R. Alan Culpepper, “The Odes of Solomon and the Gospel of John”, Catholic Biblical Quarterly 35, 3 (1973): 300.

[3] Adolph Harnack and John Flemming, Ein Jüdisch-Christliches Psalmbuch aus dem ersten Jahrhundert (Leipzig: J.C. Hinrichs, 1910).

[4] Charlesworth, Reflections, 255-7. Robert M. Grant, “The Odes of Solomon and the Church of Antioch,” JBL 63, 4 (1944): 368.

[5] For a discussion of such insights, see Andrew F. Gregory and Christopher Tuckett, “Reflections on Method: What constitutes the Use of the Writings that later formed the New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers?,” in The Reception of the New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers, (ed. Andrew F. Gregory and Christopher M. Tuckett; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 61-82, and Jacob J. Prahlow, Discerning Witnesses: First and Second Century Textual Studies in Early Christian Authority (Wake Forest University, 2014), 1-16.

[6] Of course, these emphases are closely connected, for without a contextualized methodology one cannot properly understand the relationship between the Odes and Fourth Gospel

The Fathers on Psalm 139

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

Psalm 139

Lord, you have probed me, you know me:
you know when I sit and stand;
you understand my thoughts from afar.
You sift through my travels and my rest;
with all my ways you are familiar.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
Lord, you know it all.
Behind and before you encircle me
and rest your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
far too lofty for me to reach.

Where can I go from your spirit?
From your presence, where can I flee?
If I ascend to the heavens, you are there;
if I lie down in Sheol, there you are.
If I take the wings of dawn
and dwell beyond the sea,
Even there your hand guides me,
your right hand holds me fast.
If I say, “Surely darkness shall hide me,
and night shall be my light”
Darkness is not dark for you,
and night shines as the day.
Darkness and light are but one.

You formed my inmost being;
you knit me in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, because I am wonderfully made;
wonderful are your works!
My very self you know.
My bones are not hidden from you,
When I was being made in secret,
fashioned in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw me unformed;
in your book all are written down;
my days were shaped, before one came to be.

How precious to me are your designs, O God;
how vast the sum of them!
Were I to count them, they would outnumber the sands;
when I complete them, still you are with me.
When you would destroy the wicked, O God,
the bloodthirsty depart from me!
Your foes who conspire a plot against you
are exalted in vain.

Do I not hate, Lord, those who hate you?
Those who rise against you, do I not loathe?
With fierce hatred I hate them,
enemies I count as my own.

Probe me, God, know my heart;
try me, know my thoughts.
See if there is a wicked path in me;
lead me along an ancient path.

Athanasius: “Considering temptations as your testing, if you want to give thanks after the temptations you have Psalm 139.”[1]

Hilary of Poitiers: Therefore, intent on the study of truth, my mind took delight in these most pious teachings about God. For it did not consider any other thing worthy of God than that he is so far beyond the power of comprehension that the more the infinite spirit would endeavor to encompass him to any degree (even though it be by an arbitrary assumption), the more the infinity of a measureless eternity would surpass the entire infinity of the nature that pursues it. Although we understood this teaching in a reverent manner, it was clearly confirmed by these words of the prophet: Where can I go from your spirit? From your presence, where can I flee? If I ascend to the heavens, you are there; if I lie down in Sheol, there you are. If I take the wings of dawn and dwell beyond the sea, Even there your hand guides me, your right hand holds me fast. There is no place without God, nor is there any place which is not in God. He is in heaven, in hell and beyond the seas. He is within all things; he comes forth and is outside all things. While he thus possessed and is possessed, he is not included in anything nor is he not in all things.[2]

Pseudo-Athanasius: In this psalm, the prophet David indicates the incomprehensible profoundness of God’s wisdom and the calling of the Gentiles. As he trusts that he has firm faith in Christ—not having any association with those who crucified him—he calls as his witness the fashioned of hearts, he who also knows the impulses and thoughts of the mind, and seeks out every measure of the path (that is, our activity). Lord, you have probed me, you know me: you know when I sit and stand; you understand my thoughts from afar. You sift through my travels and my rest; with all my ways you are familiar. Even before a word is on my tongue, Lord, you know it all. And because he knows that there is no deceit on my tongue, for this he made me worthy of the imposition of hands and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Behind and before you encircle me and rest your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, far too lofty for me to reach. Yet I wondered at your knowledge and I was no match for it. Where can I go from your spirit? From your presence, where can I flee? If I ascend to the heavens, you are there; if I lie down in Sheol, there you are. If I take the wings of dawn and dwell beyond the sea…. If I say, “Surely darkness shall hide me, and night shall be my light.” For no one can be concealed from you anywhere: neither if he ascends to the heavens, nor if he descends to Sheol; or is hidden in the extremity of the sea and in the darkness that comes from luxury. Darkness is not dark for you, and night shines as the day. Darkness and light are but one. You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. For all these are clear to you and evident, as to the one who also established our ordering, who are causes of fear of you. While I was still being carried in the womb, your providence was guarding me. I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works! My very self you know. Therefore, I will confess you, for your works are awe-inspiring. My bones are not hidden from you, When I was being made in secret, fashioned in the depths of the earth. Even my first forming and decay into dust are known by you before their coming into being. How precious to me are your designs, O God; how vast the sum of them! Therefore also, your friends have been honored by me, so that for their sake I may obtain the honor that comes from you. When you would destroy the wicked, O God, the bloodthirsty depart from me! Your foes who conspire a plot against you are exalted in vain. Those who hate you—the men of blood—I have hated because they are quarrelsome in their thoughts. For such actions are characteristic of heretics, those who are anxious to seize your holy cities in their erroneous vanity. Do I not hate, Lord, those who hate you? Those who rise against you, do I not loathe? For this reason they were also enemies to me. Probe me, God, know my heart; try me, know my thoughts. But search me and known my heart and my ordering. See if there is a wicked path in me; lead me along an ancient path. Straighten every impious path of mine and lead me to eternal life.[3]


[1] Benjamin Wayman. Make the Words Your Own: An Early Christian Guide to the Psalms (Brewster, M.A.: Paraclete Press: 2014), 98.

[2] On the Trinity 1.6. FC 25:7-8. His igitur religiosissimis de Deo opinionibus veri studio detentus animus delectabatur. Neque enim aliud quid dignum esse Deo arbitrabatur, quam ita eum ultra intelligentias rerum esse, ut in quantum se ad aliquem praesumptae licet opinionis modum mens infinita protenderet, in tantum omnem persequentis se naturae infinitatem infinitas immoderatae aeternitatis excederet. Quod cum a nobis pie intelligeretur, tamen a propheta haec ita 6 dicente manifeste confirmabatur: Quo abibo a spiritu tuo, aut a facie tua quo fugiam? Si adscendero in coelum, tu illic es; si descendero in infernum, et ibi ades. Si sumpsero pennas meas ante lucem, et habitavero in postremis maris: etenim illuc manus tua deducet me, et tenebit me dextera tua. Nullus sine Deo, neque ullus non in Deo locus est. In coelis est, in inferno est, ultra maria est. Inest interior, excedit exterior. Ita cum habet, atque habetur; neque in aliquo ipse, neque non in omnibus est.

[3] Syriac. CSCO 387, SYRI 168V, page 87. For Greek and Latin, cx. PG 23: 529-536.

The Fathers on Psalm 119

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

Psalm 119

Athanasius: “In anyone is concerned for those who suffer, let him speak these words. In this way, he will show his true and firm faith and help them because when God sees this, he offers the perfect remedy to those in need. Knowing this, the holy one said in Psalm 119….”[1]

But that the providence and ordering power of the Word, over all and toward all, is also attested by all inspired Scripture, this passage suffices to confirm our argument, where people who speak of God say, Through all generations your truth endures; fixed to stand firm like the earth. By your judgments they stand firm to this day…[2]

Diodore of Tarsus: “In any approach to holy Scripture, the literal reading of the text requires some truths while the discovery of other truths requires the application of theoria. Now, given the vast difference between historia and theoria, allegory and figuration (tropologia) or parable (parabole), the interpreter must classify and determine each figurative expression with care and precision so that the reader can see what is history and what is theoria, and draw his conclusions accordingly…. Now if one understands Psalm [119] in this way, namely, as fitting (the circumstances) of those who first uttered it as well as those who come after them, one is entirely correct. But this is not a case of allegory; rather, it is a statement adaptable to many situations according to the grace of him who gives it power.”[3]

Hilary of Poitiers: “But the hope instilled by the Lord consoles him in these wars endured in his weakness, and he is lent life by the utterances of God. By these he knows that the glory of his weakness is outstanding in heaven. He knows that his soul, renewed by the utterances of God, contains within it, so to say, the nourishment of eternal life. He lives by God’s utterances and is untroubled by the empty fame of the proud, for he knows that his need is richer than their wealth. He knows that his fasting is abundantly fed by the blessing of heaven and the gospel, that his humility will be rewarded by the glorious prize of honor. So he added, Though the arrogant utterly scorn me, I do not turn from your law.”[4]

Pseudo-Athanasius: In this psalm, David delineates the entire way of life of the saints like a skilled painter: the struggles, the torments, the conflicts, the attacks of the demons, the victory over them by endurance and through support from above, the crowns, and the reward. Blessed those whose way is blameless, who walk by the law of the Lord. Blessed those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with all their heart…. May my ways be firm in the observance of your statutes…. I will praise you with sincere heart as I study your righteous judgments. And he says that blessed are those who are without spot, who travel in the way (that is, in Christ), who act according to his law (that is, the gospel), who ask in prayer that their paths be straightened to observe his decrees, and who offer him their right confession. How can the young keep his way without fault? Only by observing your words. And because youth is full of ramblings, he shows that he who is a child in knowledge thus straightens his path by keeping the words of God….

I know that your judgments are conducted in righteousness and instruct us for our benefit. May your mercy comfort me in accord with your promise to your servant…. Shame the proud for leading me astray with falsehood, that I may study your testimonies. But send also your mercy to console me, in order that the arrogant demons and those who wrong me may be put to shame. May I be wholehearted toward your statutes, that I may not be put to shame. But may me own heart be without blemish. My soul longs for your salvation; I put my hope in your word. My eyes long to see your promise. When will you comfort me? Furthermore, my soul was consumed in your salvation and my eyes in your word, as it is said, “When will you console us through your mercy, through our Lord Jesus Christ?” Indeed, he is our consolation and the atonement for our sins.[6] I am like a wineskin shriveled by smoke, but I have not forgotten your statutes. For his sake I even made myself like a wine-skin in hoar-frost, as through the toils of constancy I kill the old self in order that I may be suitable for the new teachings of the Gospel. The arrogant have dug pits for me; defying your law. As for those who told me nonsense—that is, the old Jewish wives’ tales, the teachings and commandments of men which are not in accordance with your law, O Lord—these also I despised with the wisdom of this world, for I know that your word eternally remains in heaven, your truth from generation to generation….

Your word gives understanding even to infants, but heretics do not comprehend them. And he urges: Free me from human oppression, that I may observe your precepts. Let your face shine upon your servant; teach me your statutes. Save me from their slander and make your face shine upon me (that is, your only-begotten Son). You are righteous, Lord, and just are your judgments. Because his judgments are righteous and very just, he imposes fitting compensation on every man. My eyes shed streams of tears because your law is not observed. Therefore, my eyes will shed rivers of tears for those who do not keep your law, who for that reason will be sent to eternal torments….

I cried out to you with all my heart, and even in the trails that surrounded me, I did not cease to seek your decrees. My eyes greet the night watches as I meditate on your promise. I shall rise early in the morning and meditate on your worlds. Though my persecutors and foes are many, I do not turn from your testimonies. And if those who persecute and torment me are many, yet I have not turned away from your testimony….[5]


[1] Benjamin Wayman. Make the Words Your Own: An Early Christian Guide to the Psalms (Brewster, M.A.: Paraclete Press: 2014), 21.

[2] Contra gentes 46:2 ὅτι δὲ καὶ ἡ διὰ πάντων καὶ ἡ εἰς πάντα τοῦ Λόγου πρόνοια καὶ διακόσμησις ἀπὸ πάσης θεοπνεύστου γραφῆς μαρτυρεῖται, ἀρκεῖ τὰ νῦν λεγόμενα δεῖξαι τοῦ λόγου τὴν πίστιν, ᾗ φασιν οἱ θεολόγοι ἄνδρες· Ἐθεμελίωσας τὴν γῆν, καὶ διαμένει· τῇ διατάξει σου διαμένει ἡ ἡμέρα·

[3] Copied from Karlfried Froehlich, Biblical Interpretation in the Early Church (Edited by William G. Rusch, Sources of Early Christian Though, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984), 87, 93.

[4] Homily on Psalm 118, MFC 17:184. Copied, not translated from Psalms 51-150 (IVP), 322.

[5] Syriac. CSCO 387, SYRI 168V. Page 77-80. For Greek and Latin, cx. PG 478-510.

[6] Cx. 1 John 2:2

The Fathers on Psalm 118

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

Psalm 118

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
his mercy endures forever.
Let Israel say:
his mercy endures forever.
Let the house of Aaron say,
his mercy endures forever.
Let those who fear the Lord say,
his mercy endures forever.

In danger I called on the Lord;
the Lord answered me and set me free.
The Lord is with me; I am not afraid;
what can mortals do against me?
The Lord is with me as my helper;
I shall look in triumph on my foes.
Better to take refuge in the Lord
than to put one’s trust in mortals.
Better to take refuge in the Lord
than to put one’s trust in princes.

All the nations surrounded me;
in the Lord’s name I cut them off.
They surrounded me on every side;
in the Lord’s name I cut them off.
They surrounded me like bees;
they burned up like fire among thorns;
in the Lord’s name I cut them off.
I was hard pressed and falling,
but the Lord came to my help.
The Lord, my strength and might,
has become my savior.

The joyful shout of deliverance
is heard in the tents of the righteous:
“The Lord’s right hand works valiantly;
the Lord’s right hand is raised;
the Lord’s right hand works valiantly.”
I shall not die but live
and declare the deeds of the Lord.
The Lord chastised me harshly,
but did not hand me over to death.

Open the gates of righteousness;
I will enter and thank the Lord.
This is the Lord’s own gate,
through it the righteous enter.
I thank you for you answered me;
you have been my savior.
The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
By the Lord has this been done;
it is wonderful in our eyes.
This is the day the Lord has made;
let us rejoice in it and be glad.
Lord, grant salvation!
Lord, grant good fortune!

Blessed is he
who comes in the name of the Lord.
We bless you from the house of the Lord.
The Lord is God and has enlightened us.
Join in procession with leafy branches
up to the horns of the altar.

You are my God, I give you thanks;
my God, I offer you praise.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
his mercy endures forever.

Athanasius: “When you feel the need to give thanks, sing Psalm…118.”[1]

But if the Gentiles are honoring the same God who gave the law to Moses and who made the promise to Abraham and whose words the Jews dishonored, why are the Jews ignorant (rather, why do they choose to ignore) that what the Lord foretold in the Scriptures has been revealed in the world and appeared as if in bodily form, as the Scripture said: The Lord is God and has enlightened us; and again, He sent his Word and healed them;[2] and again, Not a messenger, not an angel but the Lord himself saved them[3]? Their state may be compared to that of someone insane, who sees the earth illuminated by the sun but denies that the sun illuminates it.[4]

Pseudo-Athanasius: Through this psalm the new people that was established from the people and the Gentiles is instructed to confess Christ and to call him alone succor. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, his mercy endures forever. First of all, he commands the former—those who come from the people—to begin confession, since they were called first through the preaching of the Gospel. In danger I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free. The Lord is with me; I am not afraid; what can mortals do against me? And they learn in tribulations to rely on and call ‘refuge’ no one else but him. All the nations surrounded me; in the Lord’s name I cut them off. They surrounded me on every side; in the Lord’s name I cut them off. They surrounded me like bees; they burned up like fire among thorns; in the Lord’s name I cut them off. I was hard pressed and falling, but the Lord came to my help. The Lord, my strength and might, has become my savior. For not only does he bring great relief to those who are afflicted for his sake, but he also brings them into the tabernacles of the just, in which the voice of exultation and salvation is heard. The joyful shout of deliverance is heard in the tents of the righteous: “The Lord’s right hand works valiantly; the Lord’s right hand is raised; the Lord’s right hand works valiantly.” For he is the Father’s right hand, which he stretched out to us, that by it we might be raised from the gates of death and he might open for us the gates of righteousness, in order that when we enter through them we may confess the Lord. This is the Lord’s own gate, through it the righteous enter. But the Lord’s gate—through which the just enter—is wisdom, justice, purity, and spiritual valor. When the just are beautiful in these virtues and are purified—that is, contented—through torments, they will enter in and see God, whom only the pure see. I thank you for you answered me; you have been my savior. And they will confess him who heard and saved them. The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. For he was our chief cornerstone, through which he bound the people and the Gentles, spiritually fashioning both of them into one new man. By the Lord has this been done; it is wonderful in our eyes. This especially showed his wonder, by which he destroyed death and made life and incorruption shine. And on the glorious day of his resurrection, he made us rejoice and exult, saying: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. We bless you from the house of the Lord. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord—that is, in the glory that befits God and in the dominion and greatness which surpasses all, when he comes to call every man and make him rejoice. Thus the prophets foretold concerning him: The Lord is God and has enlightened us. Join in procession with leafy branches up to the horns of the altar. The Lord is God and he has appeared to us, and he has made his house for those who have believed in him. For those who will also arise he commands a festival, as they are gathered in love and spiritual concord, so that because of their multitude they will reach as far as the horns of the altar and the Cherubim, who with their wings were veiling the mercy seat. You are my God, I give you thanks; my God, I offer you praise. We are also commanded to confess and exalt him as the true God, Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, his mercy endures forever. We declare that he is good by nature and his mercy is forever.[5]


[1] Benjamin Wayman. Make the Words Your Own: An Early Christian Guide to the Psalms (Brewster, M.A.: Paraclete Press: 2014), 125.

[2] Psalm 107:20 (LXX)

[3] Isaiah 63:9 (LXX)

[4] On the Incarnation 40, LCC 4:94. Εἰ δὲ τὸν Μωϋσῇ δεδωκότα τὸν νόμον καὶ τῷ Ἀβραὰμ ἐπαγγειλάμενον Θεόν, καὶ οὗ τὸν λόγον ἠτίμασαν Ἰουδαῖοι, τοῦτον τὰ ἔθνη σέβουσι, διὰ τί μὴ γινώσκουσι, μᾶλλον δὲ διὰ τί ἑκόντες παρορῶσιν, ὅτι ὁ προφητευόμενος ὑπὸ τῶν γραφῶν Κύριος ἐπέλαμψε τῇ οἰκουμένῃ καὶ ἐπεφάνη σωματικῶς αὐτῇ, καθὼς εἶπεν ἡ γραφή· «Κύριος ὁ Θεὸς ἐπέφανεν ἡμῖν», καὶ πάλιν· «Ἐξαπέστειλε τὸν Λόγον αὐτοῦ καὶ ἰάσατο αὐτούς», καὶ πάλιν· «Οὐ πρέσβυς, οὐκ ἄγγελος, ἀλλ’ αὐτὸς ὁ Κύριος ἔσωσεν αὐτούς.» Ὅμοιον δὲ πάσχουσιν, ὡς εἴ τις παραπεπληγὼς τὴν διάνοιαν, τὴν μὲν γῆν φωτιζομένην ὑπὸ τοῦ ἡλίου βλέποι, τὸν δὲ ταύτην φωτίζοντα ἥλιον ἀρνεῖται.

[5] Syriac. CSCO 387, SYRI 168V. Page 76-77. For Greek and Latin, cx. PG 475-80.

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.

The Fathers on Psalm 110

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

Psalm 110

A psalm of David.

The Lord says to my lord:
“Sit at my right hand,
while I make your enemies your footstool.”
The scepter of your might:
the Lord extends your strong scepter from Zion.
Have dominion over your enemies!
Yours is princely power from the day of your birth.
In holy splendor before the daystar,
like dew I begot you.
The Lord has sworn and will not waver:
“You are a priest forever in the manner of Melchizedek.”
At your right hand is the Lord,
who crushes kings on the day of his wrath,
Who judges nations, heaps up corpses,
crushes heads across the wide earth,
Who drinks from the brook by the wayside
and thus holds high his head.

Athanasius: “When you want to sing something concerning the Savior, you find such references in nearly every psalm. But you have especially Psalms 45 and 110, which make known his actual generation from the Father and his coming in the flesh.”[1]

If then the Arians suppose that the Savior was not Lord and King, even before he became man and endured the cross, but then began to be Lord, let them know that they are openly reviving the statements of Paul of Samosata. But if—as we have quoted and declared—he is the everlasting Lord and King, seeing that Abraham worships him as Lord and Moses says, “Then the Lord rained on Sodom and on Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven”;[2] and David in the Psalms, The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit on my right hand”; and “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of your kingdom”;[3] and “Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom”;[4] it is plain that even before he became man, he was King and Lord everlasting, being Image and Word of the Father.[5]

Plainly, divine Scripture (which knows better than any the nature of everything) says through Moses, of the creatures, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”[6] But of the Son, the Scripture introduces not another, but the Father himself, saying I have begotten you from the womb before the morning star and again, “You are my Son, this day have I begotten you….”[7] If then he is a son, therefore he is not a creature; if a creature, he is not a son; for the difference between them is great, and son and creature cannot be the same, unless his essence is considered to be at once from God and external to God.[8]

Hilary of Poitiers

Meanwhile, I ask each one’s opinion about the interpretation of from him. Are we to understand these words in the sense of coming from another person (or from no one else) or are we to believe that he himself was the one to whom he was referring? They are not from another person, because they are from him, that is, in the sense that God does not come from anywhere else except from God. They are not from nothing, because they come from him, for a nature is revealed from which the birth is derived. He himself is not meant, because from him refers to the birth of the Son from the Father. Moreover, when it is pointed out that he is from the womb, I ask whether it is possible to believe that he was born from nothing, since the true nature of the birth is revealed by applying the terminology of bodily functions? God was not composed of bodily members when he spoke of the generation o the Son in these words: From the womb before the day star I begot you. He spoke in order to enlighten our understanding while he confirmed that ineffable birth of the only-begotten Son from himself with the true nature of the godhead, in order that he might impact to the faculties of our human nature the knowledge of the faith concerning his divine attributes in a manner adapted to our human nature, in order that he might teach us by the expression from the womb that the existence of his Only-Begotten was not a creation from nothing, but a natural birth from himself. Finally, has he left us any doubt whatsoever that his words I came forth from the Father and have come are to be understood in the sense that he is God, that his being does not come from anywhere else except the Father? When he came forth from the Father, he did not have a different nature or no nature, but he bears testimony to the fact that he is his author from whom, as he says, he has gone forth.[9]

Pseudo-Athanasius: Through this psalm David indicates the Lord’s ascension to heaven—The Lord says to my lord: “Sit at my right hand, while I make your enemies your footstool”—his sitting at the right hand of the Father, and the subjection of his enemies. The scepter of your might: the Lord extends your strong scepter from Zion. Have dominion over your enemies! Yours is princely power from the day of your birth. In holy splendor before the daystar, like dew I begot you. For even if he was sent as a rod of power, was revealed on earth in the flesh, was praised by the hosts and splendors of angels (in accordance with the birth which he has from the Father before all rational creation), and through the preaching of the gospel had dominion among his enemies (the Gentiles of the earth), yet the complete subjection of the enemies will take place in the end, when evil and death will cease and when life and God’s justice will reign. At your right hand is the Lord, who crushes kings on the day of his wrath:  when he will come, he will not offer himself and pardon our sins as before, but work vengeance in anger. Who judges nations, heaps up corpses, crushes heads across the wide earth. With eternal torments he will prostrate like foul corpses the demons who once ruled through deceit, for he came to our valley and to a life on earth, and he endured pains and the death of the cross. Who drinks from the brook by the wayside and thus holds high his head. He was again raised up to his glory befitting God, to be worshipped and praised by us.[10]


[1] Benjamin Wayman. Make the Words Your Own: An Early Christian Guide to the Psalms (Brewster, M.A.: Paraclete Press: 2014), 173.

[2] Genesis 19:24

[3] Psalm 45:6

[4] Psalm 145:13

[5] Discourse Against the Arians 2.15.13. NPNF 2 4:355. Εἰ μὲν οὖν νομίζουσιν ὅτι, καὶ πρὸ τοῦ γένηται ἄνθρωπος καὶ σταυρὸν ὑπομείνῃ, οὐκ ἦν κύριος καὶ βασιλεὺς ὁ σωτήρ, ἀλλὰ τότε ἀρχὴν εἶχε τοῦ εἶναι κύριος, γνώτωσαν, ὅτι τὰ τοῦ Σαμοσατέως ἐκ φανεροῦ πάλιν φθέγγονται ῥήματα· εἰ δέ, ὥσπερ ἀνέγνωμεν καὶ προείπομεν ἐν τοῖς προτέροις, κύριος καὶ βασιλεύς ἐστιν ἀίδιος τοῦ μὲν Ἀβραὰμ κύριον αὐτὸν προσκυνοῦντος, τοῦ δὲ Μωυσέως λέγοντος· «καὶ κύριος ἔβρεξεν ἐπὶ Σόδομα καὶ Γόμορρα θεῖον καὶ πῦρ παρὰ κυρίου ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ» καὶ τοῦ Δαβὶδ ψάλλοντος· «εἶπεν ὁ κύριος τῷ κυρίῳ μου· κάθου ἐκ δεξιῶν μου» καὶ «ὁ θρόνος σου, ὁ θεός, εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα τοῦ αἰῶνος· ῥάβδος εὐθύτητος ἡ ῥάβδος τῆς βασιλείας σου»· καὶ «ἡ βασιλεία σου βασιλεία πάντων τῶν αἰώνων», δῆλόν ἐστιν ὡς, καὶ πρὸ τοῦ γένηται ἄνθρωπος, βασιλεὺς καὶ κύριος ἦν ἀίδιος εἰκὼν καὶ λόγος τοῦ πατρὸς ὑπάρχων.

[6] Genesis 1:1

[7] Psalm 2:7

[8] Defense of the Nicene Definition 3.13. NPNF 2 4:158. ἀμέλει πάντων μᾶλλον ἡ θεία γραφὴ γινώσκουσα τὴν ἑκάστου φύσιν περὶ μὲν τῶν κτιζομένων διὰ Μωυσέος φησίν· «ἐν ἀρχῇ ἐποίησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν»· περὶ δὲ τοῦ υἱοῦ οὐχ ἕτερον, ἀλλ’ αὐτὸν τὸν πατέρα σημαίνει λέγοντα· «ἐκ γαστρὸς πρὸ ἑωσφόρου ἐγέννησά σε»· καὶ πάλιν· «υἱός μου εἶ σύ, ἐγὼ σήμερον γεγέννηκά σε»· αὐτός τε περὶ ἑαυτοῦ ὁ κύριος ἐν Παροιμίαις λέγει· «πρὸ δὲ πάντων βουνῶν γεννᾷ με»· καὶ περὶ μὲν τῶν γενητῶν καὶ κτιστῶν ὁ Ἰωάννης φησί· «πάντα δι’ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο»· περὶ δὲ τοῦ κυρίου εὐαγγελιζόμενος λέγει· «ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός, ὁ ὢν εἰς τὸν κόλπον τοῦ πατρός, ἐκεῖνος ἐξηγήσατο». εἰ τοίνυν υἱός, οὐ κτίσμα, εἰ δὲ κτίσμα, οὐχ υἱός· πολλὴ γὰρ ἐν αὐτοῖς ἡ διαφορά. καὶ οὐκ ἂν εἴη αὐτὸς υἱὸς καὶ κτίσμα, ἵνα μὴ καὶ ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ ἔξωθεν τοῦ θεοῦ ἡ οὐσία αὐτοῦ νομίζηται.

[9] On the Trinity 6.16. FC 25:184-85. Interim tamen uniuscujusque intelligentiam consulo, quid existimet in eo, cum dictum sit ex ipso: utrumne ex altero intelligendum sit, an ne ex nullo, an vero ipse ille credendus sit? Ex altero non est: quia ex ipso est, id est (ita ut non), ne aliunde, praeter quam ex Deo Deus sit. Ex nihilo non est: quia ex ipso est; demonstratur enim natura unde nativitas est. Ipse non est: quia ubi ex ipso est, nativitas filii refertur ex patre. Deinde cum significatur ex utero, interrogo an credi possit esse natus ex nihilo, cum nativitatis veritas per corporalium efficientiarum nomina reveletur? Non enim membris corporalibus consistens Deus, cum generationem. Filii commemoraret, ait: Ex utero ante luciferum genui te (Ps. CIX, 3); sed inenarrabilem illam unigeniti ex se filii nativitatem ex divinitatis suae veritate confirmans, ad intelligentiae, fidem locutus est; ut de divinis suis rebus, secundum humanam naturam, humanae naturae sensum ad fidei scientiam erudiret: ut cum ait ex utero, non ex nihilo creatio substitisse, sed ex se Unigeniti sui naturalis nativitas doceretur. Postremo quod dixit: Ex Patre exivi, et veni (Job. XVI, 27), utrum ambiguitatem reliquerit, quin intelligeretur non aliunde quam ex Patre esse quod Deus est? Ex Patre enim exiens, neque aliam nativitatis habuit naturam, neque nullam: sed eum sibi testatur auctorem, ex quo se profitetur exisse. De his autem demonstrandis atque intelligendis posterior mihi sermo est.

[10] Syriac. CSCO 387, SYRi 168V, pg.73. For Greek and Latin, cx. PG 27: 461-464.

The Fathers on Psalm 91

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

Psalm 91

You who dwell in the shelter of the Most High,
who abide in the shade of the Almighty,
Say to the Lord, “My refuge and fortress,
my God in whom I trust.”
He will rescue you from the fowler’s snare,
from the destroying plague,
He will shelter you with his pinions,
and under his wings you may take refuge;
his faithfulness is a protecting shield.
You shall not fear the terror of the night
nor the arrow that flies by day,
Nor the pestilence that roams in darkness,
nor the plague that ravages at noon.
Though a thousand fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
near you it shall not come.
You need simply watch;
the punishment of the wicked you will see.
Because you have the Lord for your refuge
and have made the Most High your stronghold,
No evil shall befall you,
no affliction come near your tent.
For he commands his angels with regard to you,
to guard you wherever you go.
With their hands they shall support you,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
You can tread upon the asp and the viper,
trample the lion and the dragon.

Because he clings to me I will deliver him;
because he knows my name I will set him on high.
He will call upon me and I will answer;
I will be with him in distress;
I will deliver him and give him honor.
With length of days I will satisfy him,
and fill him with my saving power.

Athanasius: “When you want to encourage yourself and others in Christian living, since hope in God brings no regret but makes the soul fearless, praise God by saying the words in Psalm 91.”[1]

Pseudo-Athanasius: Through this psalm David introduces the person of the man who trusts the Lord. Say to the Lord, “My refuge and fortress, my God in whom I trust.” He is his helper, place of refuge, and Savior. And he encourages him not to be afraid of the spiritual enemies’ evil workings. He will rescue you from the fowler’s snare, from the destroying plague, He will shelter you with his pinions, and under his wings you may take refuge; his faithfulness is a protecting shield. You shall not fear the terror of the night nor the arrow that flies by day, Nor the pestilence that roams in darkness, nor the plague that ravages at noon: not even if as in the darkness of night they bury snares in entrapments of great skill, nor if as at noon (that is, in daytime) they openly dare to work harm. They are especially unable to injure the one who is righteous in virtue—Though a thousand fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, near you it shall not come—whereas he sees them compensated by God with a complete fall. For he commands his angels with regard to you, to guard you wherever you go. With their hands they shall support you, lest you strike your foot against a stone. You can tread upon the asp and the viper, trample the lion and the dragon. He also commands the holy angels concerning him, to guard him in every word and action so that he not only be saved from evil stumblings, but also shatter beneath his feet the rebellious dragon and his princes, while receiving nothing of their evil. And he introduces the person of God who promises to give the one who hopes in him the reward of his faith—With length of days I will satisfy him, and fill him with my saving power—salvation and eternal life. It is the salvation of those who fear God, our Lord Jesus Christ, who will indeed bring them into the new world, and has promised them that they will reign with him.[2]


[1] Benjamin Wayman. Make the Words Your Own: An Early Christian Guide to the Psalms (Brewster, M.A.: Paraclete Press: 2014), 17.

[2] Syriac. CSCO 387, SYRI 168V, pg. 61. For Greek and Latin, cx. PG 27 399-404.

The Fathers on Psalm 72

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

Psalm 72

O God, give your judgment to the king;
your justice to the king’s son;
That he may govern your people with justice,
your oppressed with right judgment,
That the mountains may yield their bounty for the people,
and the hills great abundance,
That he may defend the oppressed among the people,
save the children of the poor and crush the oppressor.

May they fear you with the sun,
and before the moon, through all generations.
May he be like rain coming down upon the fields,
like showers watering the earth,
That abundance may flourish in his days,
great bounty, till the moon be no more.

May he rule from sea to sea,
from the river to the ends of the earth.
May his foes kneel before him,
his enemies lick the dust.
May the kings of Tarshish and the islands bring tribute,
the kings of Sheba and Seba offer gifts.
May all kings bow before him,
all nations serve him.
For he rescues the poor when they cry out,
the oppressed who have no one to help.
He shows pity to the needy and the poor
and saves the lives of the poor.
From extortion and violence he redeems them,
for precious is their blood in his sight.

Long may he live, receiving gold from Sheba,
prayed for without cease, blessed day by day.
May wheat abound in the land,
flourish even on the mountain heights.
May his fruit be like that of Lebanon,
and flourish in the city like the grasses of the land.
May his name be forever;
as long as the sun, may his name endure.
May the tribes of the earth give blessings with his name;
may all the nations regard him as favored.
Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel,
who alone does wonderful deeds.
Blessed be his glorious name forever;
may he fill all the earth with his glory.
Amen and amen.

Athanasius: “Psalms 21, 50, and 72 make known the Savior’s kingship and just rule, and in turn, his coming in the flesh to us and the calling of the Gentiles.”[1]

Pseudo-Athanasius: This psalm is ascribed to Solomon since it introduces the person of Christ, the true Solomon, who made peace through his blood and—May he rule from sea to sea, from the river to the ends of the earth—held sway over the whole habitable world. May they fear you with the sun, and before the moon, through all generations. His name existed before the sun and moon. O God, give your judgment to the king; your justice to the king’s son; that he may govern your people with justice, your oppressed with right judgment. As he is king, the king’s son, and the Father’s righteousness, he said that judgment and righteousness would be given him at the time of his divine incarnation—that he may defend the oppressed among the people, save the children of the poor and crush the oppressor—because he will judge and save the needy people from the oppression of Satan, the ruler of this world who was expelled. That the mountains may yield their bounty for the people, and the hills great abundance, that he may defend the oppressed among the people, save the children of the poor and crush the oppressor. For thenceforth even the mountains and hills preached peace on earth, because he had saved the sons of the poor and had humbled the false accuser. May they fear you with the sun, and before the moon, through all generations. May he be like rain coming down upon the fields, like showers watering the earth, that abundance may flourish in his days, great bounty, till the moon be no more. Although he existed before the sun and the moon as God and creator, he came silently to earth like rain on the fleece in order that righteousness might flourish here instead of evil, and so that for many years—in all generations—he may reign over it instead of war. May all kings bow before him, all nations serve him. For he rescues the poor when they cry out, the oppressed who have no one to help. For all the Gentiles will render him service, because he saved and liberated them, not only from the tyrant’s evil servitude—from extortion and violence he redeems them, for precious is their blood in his sight—but also form usury and evil in that he tore up the contracts of their sins, he who owed five hundred and he who owed fifty. Therefore his name is honored before them. Long may he live, receiving gold from Sheba, prayed for without cease, blessed day by day and they will offer him the gold of Arabia and pray in his name and bless him all the time, asking the Father that through him he may give them good gifts. May wheat abound in the land, flourish even on the mountain heights. May his fruit be like that of Lebanon, and flourish in the city like the grasses of the land. For he was a support on earth for his church, which was founded on the mountains—the prophets and apostles—so that he might indicate that the spiritual service of the gospel is superior to the fruits of Lebanon, the Jerusalem below which served the types and shadows. Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, who alone does wonderful deeds. Blessed be his glorious name forever; may he fill all the earth with his glory. Amen and amen. For he also calls it a city of which wonderful things are spoken, by the God if Israel who alone created wonders and whose glorious name is blessed in the whole earth forever and ever.[2]


[1] Benjamin Wayman. Make the Words Your Own: An Early Christian Guide to the Psalms (Brewster, M.A.: Paraclete Press: 2014), 149.

[2] Syriac. CSCO 387, SYRI 168 V, pg 45-46. Cx. PG 27 for Greek and Latin.

A Lament (Psalm 48)

I am depressed, O God.

I see no end to this cycle of sadness.

People tell me: “Everything will be all right,”

but it isn’t and it won’t be.

The quote Paul to me:

“All things work together for good for those who love God.”

Don’t I love you?

Wasn’t I brought up in your holy house,

O God?

Didn’t I remember your words and sing hymns to you?

Don’t I bow down to you?

Isn’t that what I’m doing now?

No one can tell me any good can come from this moment!

Let them have their say if it makes them feel better!

But I don’t want to hear it!

I know what I’ve been through.

I know that it is to have death walk the halls of my home.

What has happened cannot be prettied up.

But you, O God, can stop the aftershocks.

O God, tear through the night

to rescue the one you have left too long.

Help me, O Holy God,

out of this tomb of pain.

 

–Ann Weems