Eusebius on the Psalms Pt. 1 (More Translation)

So I’m continuing to work through the Eusebius’ Commentary on the Psalms in small chunks. The next couple of translated bits will be the final part his general thoughts on the entire Psalter, minus his “theses.” He also has a portion that addresses the Psalms of Asaph that I may translate as well. The translations here aren’t very good, but I do them for two reasons. One, I’m not aware of any English translations of this work, minus the translation of Eusebius’ commentary on Psalm 51 here. So nearly any translation is better than no translation ;-). Second, they help me actually understand the work. My tendency is to breeze over things I don’t understand. Slowly working through the work helps me make sense of the text in a much deeper way, since I usually have to read over it many times before I figure out what’s going on.

Anyways, here’s some text and translation. This bit of writing contains some stuff which is said in the other sections of the work, but Eusebius goes into more detail here. My posts are probably quite confusing since they tend to follow the section titles which aren’t helpful for distinguishing different parts. At some point I’ll do a post detailing the layout of the stuff in Migne. But in the meantime here’s some translation:

Eusebius on the Psalms (From PG 23.72-73)

The word psalm is like the word psalterion, after which it is called. For it is said of the psalterion that it is a musical instrument which differs from the harp by shape. By it, the music of the song is named. But an ode comes begins entirely through the instrument of melodious voices. A “Psalm of the Ode” is called such because the singing part is preceded by the striking of the psalterion. But an “Ode of the Psalm” is the opposite.

Thus it is in the histories of the Kings and the Others, King David, who came after Saul’s end, brought the Ark to Jerusalem, which had been in the house of Abdodom for 20 years after its recovery from the Philistines. As as he was bringing it into Jerusalem, David appointed by lot from the tribe of Levi four psalmists to lead the singing, to sing and praise before the ark to the Lord, and to raise up a merry sound of praise and worship by their instruments. Asaph, Aiman, Aithan, and Jeduthun worshiped by songs, kinuras, nablas [a type of harp], tumpanas, cymbals, and the psalterion [a different kind of harp]. With these men the songs had been numbered. There were 288 songs, 72 by each. 32 from the race of Ham, 25 from the race of Shem, and 15 from race of Japheth.

These men, standing before the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord, sang and psalmed to the Lord. One with the kinara, one with the cymbals, one with the kithara [a kind of harp], and one with the psalterion [a different kind of harp]. In the middle of them stood the blessed David, himself the leader of the song-leaders, holding in his hands the psalterion [a kind of harp]. Each sang and psalmed together while praising God by the Holy Spirit. Then, at a certain time, the Spirit would blow on one of the song-leaders, and the rest would be led to silence. While standing and listening together to the singing, they sang “Hallelujah.”

And here’s the Greek:


Ὁ μὲν ψαλμὸς ἔοικεν ἀπὸ τοῦ ψαλτηρίου παρωνύμως ἐπικεκλῆσθαι· λέγεται δὲ ψαλτήριον ὄργανόν τι μουσικὸν παρὰ τὴν κιθάραν διαλλάττον τῷ σχήματι, ἐν ᾧ τὴν ἀνακρουομένην ᾠδὴν ψαλμὸν προσαγορεύεσθαι. Ὠδὴν δὲ εἶναι τὴν διὰ μέλους ἀναφωνουμένην ἄνευ ὀργάνου ῥῆσιν μουσικήν. Ψαλμὸν δὲ ᾠδῆς λέγεσθαι, ἐπειδὰν προηγησαμένης τὸ αὐτὸ τῆς ᾠδῆς μέλος διὰ τοῦ ψαλτηρίου κρουσθῇ· ᾠδὴν δὲ ψαλμοῦ τὸ ἀνάπαλιν.

Ὡς ἐν ταῖς ἱστορίαις τῶν Βασιλειῶν καὶ τῶν Παραλειπομένων Δαυῒδ ὁ βασιλεὺς μετὰ τὴν τοῦ Σαοὺλ τελευτὴν, ἀναγαγὼν τὴν κιβωτὸν τῆς Διαθήκης Κυρίου, οὖσαν ἐν οἴκῳ Ἀβδοδὼμ ἔτεσιν εἴκοσιν ἐξότου ἐκ τῶν Ἀζωτίων μετενήνεκτο, καὶ κατα 23.73 στήσας αὐτὴν εἰς Ἰερουσαλὴμ, ἐπιλέγεται ἐκ τῆς φυλῆς Λευῒ κλήρῳ ψαλτῳδοὺς ἄρχοντας ᾠδῶν τέσσαρας, τοῦ ψάλλειν καὶ ᾄδειν ἐνώπιον τῆς κιβωτοῦ τῷ Κυρίῳ, καὶ ἀναφέρειν φωνὴν εὐφροσύνης εἰς ἐξομολόγησιν καὶ αἴνεσιν ἐν ὀργάνοις ἡρμοσμένοις, καὶ ᾠδαῖς, καὶ κινύραις, καὶ νάβλαις, καὶ τυμπάνοις, καὶ κυμβάλοις, καὶ ψαλτηρίῳ, καὶ 3 κερατίνῃ, τὸν Ἀσὰφ, Αἰμὰν, Αἰθὰν, Ἰδιθούμ· οἷς ἀριθμὸς ᾠδῶν ἐπετέτακτο, ᾀδόντων διακοσίων ὀγδοήκοντα ὀκτὼ, ἑκάστῳ ἑβδομήκοντα δύο, ἐκ τοῦ Χὰμ λβʹ, τοῦ Σὴμ κεʹ, τοῦ Ἰάφεθ ιεʹ.

Οἵτινες, ἑστῶτες ἔμπροσθεν τῆς κιβωτοῦ Διαθήκης Κυρίου, ἔψαλλον καὶ ᾖδον τῷ Κυρίῳ· ὃς μὲν ἐν κινύρᾳ, ὃς δὲ ἐν κυμβάλοις, ὃς δὲ ἐν κιθάρᾳ. ὃς δὲ ἐν ψαλτηρίῳ· ὧν μέσος ἵστατο ὁ μακάριος Δαυῒδ, αὐτὸς ἄρχων ἀρχόντων ᾠδῶν, κρατῶν ἐπὶ χεῖρας τὸ ψαλτήριον. Ἕκαστος δὲ ᾖδεν καὶ ἔψαλλεν ὑμνῶν τὸν Θεὸν ἁγίῳ Πνεύματι τεταγμένως. Ἡνίκα τοίνυν ἐσκίρτα τὸ Πνεῦμα ἐπί τινα τῶν ἀρχόντων τῶν ψαλτῳδῶν, οἱ λοιποὶ ἡσυχίαν ἦγον παρεστῶτες καὶ ὑπακούοντες συμφώνως τῷ ψάλλοντι, Ἀλληλούϊα.

6 thoughts on “Eusebius on the Psalms Pt. 1 (More Translation)

  1. This passage is also translated in James McKinnon, Music in Early Christian Literature (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987), p. 97. McKinnon says (p. 96) that the introductory material to Eusebius’ psalm commentary consists of several independent items, whose “overlapping subject matter makes it improbable that all–if indeed any–are authentic.” Any opinion on this?

    By the way, most of this passage is closely based on a homily by Hippolytus, In psalmos, which is edited in Pierre Nautin, Le dossier d’Hippolyte et de Meliton (Paris: Cerf, 1953), pp. 161-83 and translated by Alistair Stewart-Sykes as an appendix to Hippolytus, On the Apostolic Tradition (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2001), pp. 175-82.

    I am interested in this material because it was the primary source for the Origo psalmorum, a later Psalter preface that inspired the medieval iconography of David and his Musicians.

  2. Thanks for the reference! It’s good to know this material has been translated and examined.

    Any opinion on this [authenticity]?
    I wouldn’t be surprised either way, to be honest. From what I know of Eusebius, it seems like the kind of thing he’d write. He liked to display his erudition. On the other hand, establishing authenticity on any exegetical literature on the Psalms is challenging, given the number of commentators and the complexity of the textual transmission.

    The note on Hippolytus is interesting too. I recall a work published recently that detailed Jerome’s extensive, silent “borrowing” of material from Origen. I guess that phenomenon was not limited to Jerome.

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