An Excerpt from Cyril of Alexandria’s Interpretatio in psalmos

One of our new staff members at church recently came across mention of the word εὐαφής in a book that he’s reading.  The author noted that Cyril of Alexandria used the word, and cited this passage in Cyril’s Interpretatio in psalmos.  He then asked me if I knew of a translation.  To the best of my knowledge, the Interpretatio in psalmos remains untranslated, though I’d love to be corrected!  However, the passage was short, so I’ve decided to translate it and post it here.  I’ve indulged in one small emendation to the text, which I wasn’t able to make sense of otherwise (marked in the Greek). [Update: A gracious commenter has supplied a better suggestion that involved only a repunctuation of the text. I’ve incorporated his suggestions into the text and translation.]  

“The sacrifice for God is a contrite spirit” (Ps. 51:17)

The power of spiritual worship does not come simply through the mind alone, but continually take on in one way or another as a fellow runner in the race the fragrance of good works, which comes by a willingness to obey, if indeed we should attain it. For we say that obedience is the fruit of a pleasing and pliant heart, of a heart that has nothing rough within it.  The sort of heart that the obdurate Jews had was hard and difficult to lead.  Take as proof that one of the holy prophets took on on their role and said, “Why have you mislead us off your path, Lord? Have you hardened our hearts so that they do not fear you?” (Is. 63:17) Hard hearts are utterly unable to receive the word of God. We should expect, then, that a contrite spirit would be most fitting as a sacrifice for God and as an offering of spiritual fragrance.  By contrite spirit, of course, we mean a soul that delights in and yields to the divine scriptures.  

Θυσία τῷ Θεῷ πνεῦμα συντετριμμένον.
Τῆς πνευματικῆς λατρείας ἡ δύναμις οὐ διὰ ψιλῆς καὶ μόνης διανοίας ἔρχεται, συνδρομὴν δὲ ἀεί πως δέχεσθαι φιλεῖ καὶ τὴν ἐξ ἔργων ἀγαθῶν εὐοσμίαν, ἣν δὴ κατορθοῦντες,1 τὴν δι’ ὑπακοῆς καὶ εὐπειθείας. Τὴν δέ γε ὑπακοὴν καρπὸν εἶναί φαμεν τρυφερᾶς καὶ εὐαφοῦς καρδίας καὶ οὐδὲν ἐχούσης τὸ ἀπηνές· ὁποία τις ἦν ἡ τῶν ἀτέγκτων Ἰουδαίων σκληρὰ καὶ δυσάγωγος. Καὶ γοῦν τὸ αὐτῶν πρόσωπον ἀναλαβὼν ἔφη τις τῶν ἁγίων προφητῶν· «Τί ἐπλάνησας ἡμᾶς, Κύριε, τῆς ὁδοῦ σου; ἐσκλήρυνας ἡμῶν τὰς καρδίας τοῦ μὴ φοβεῖσθαί σε;» Σκληραῖς δὲ καρδίαις ἀπαράδεκτος παντελῶς ὁ τοῦ Θεοῦ λόγος. Οὐκοῦν εἴη ἂν καὶ μάλα εἰκότως εἰς θυσίαν τῷ Θεῷ καὶ εἰς ἀφιέρωσιν πνευματικῆς εὐοσμίας πνεῦμα συντετριμμένον, τουτέστι ψυχὴ τρυφερὰ καὶ τοῖς θείοις εἴκουσα λόγοις.

 1)  hic interpunxi sequens suggestum commentatoris Grigoris (v. infra) 

ἐν αὐτῷ,

Alex

2 thoughts on “An Excerpt from Cyril of Alexandria’s Interpretatio in psalmos

  1. Isn’t the real problem trying to explain κατορθοῦντες? In the nom. masc. pl., it can’t refer to anything preceding it (δύναμις, εὐοσμίαν, ἔργων, κτλ.). The Latin translation in Migne treats it as though the subjects of the participle are somehow ὑπακοή and εὐπείθεια: quem oboediantia docilitasque efficiunt. Unless the participle is corrupt, the only possible referent would be an elliptical “we,” perhaps supplied in φαμὲν in the following clause. In which case, the relative pronoun could be left in the accusative, especially if we think of it as interrupting τὴν ἐξ ἔργων ἀγαθῶν εὐοσμίαν and τὴν δι’ ὑπακοῆς καὶ εὐπειθείας, which clearly refers back to εὐοσμίαν. Ηence, ἣν κατορθοῦντες might be best set off by commas and translated in a different order: “… the fragrance that comes from good works, through willing obedience, if/when we accomplish it.” Or, more idiomatically, “which we accomplish through willing obedience.”

    1. Thanks for the suggestions! The κατορθοῦντες had me puzzled, both that it was a participle, and that it seemed to be taking two direct objects (the ἣν and the τὴν κτλ). I solved one problem, but not the other. It’s clear to me now that κατορθοῦντες, if right, must go with φαμέν. I like your suggestion of setting of ἣν δὴ κατορθοῦντες off on its own. The word order still strikes me as odd, but it makes more sense than my fix or the PG’s text. I’ll update the post and translation accordingly.

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