I continue to plug away on a variety of fronts.  Juggling school, work, and church is not always easy, but such is life.  This post is mainly a collection of scattered thoughts and impressions about different things I’ve been working on.

Gregory of Nazianzus. On the Theophany.  I recently finished reading Gregory’s 38th oration, On the Theophany, and enjoyed it immensely.  Gregory’s Greek is not always easy (in fact it seldom is), but it’s immensely rewarding to work through.  His vision of God’s grandeur and beauty is breathtaking, and I look forward to reading more!  If I had time, I’d probably translate some more of the oration, just because I enjoyed it so much, but time pushes me onto other things.

Basil of Caesarea. On the Six Days of Creation.  Instead of reading more Gregory, I decided to read some from St. Basil, as I’ve not yet read anything by the great bishop of Caesarea.  Since I’ve also been thinking about Genesis recently, it seemed like a natural place to turn.  From what I’ve seen so far (admittedly not much), Basil’s Greek seems a bit easier on the whole than Gregory’s, but quite well done nonetheless.  

Plato. Protagoras.  I’m taking a class on Socrates this semester, and for my term paper I’ll be writing on the Protagoras.  It’s a fun dialog, and fun to read.  Watching Plato’s Socrates interact with one of the great intellectuals of the previous generation is quite fun.

Origen. On the 76th Psalm Homily 1.  I’ve picked up the Origen stuff again, after a long hiatus.  I’ve resumed transcribing his long first homily on psalm 76, and a few interesting bits have come up.  Origen attacks heretics at several points for neglecting the practical life (πραξεῖς or ἤθη), and instead proceeding directly to speculation on the nature of God.  He’s also brought in his knowledge of Hebrew, mentioning that Zechariah’s name means “remembrance of God.”  I don’t know Hebrew, but from what I can tell that’s pretty close even if it’s not precisely accurate.

I’ve also notice an interesting stylistic tic: he likes to mention several different possible interpretation for a given line of the psalm, and so he’ll say, “and I know another interpretation” or “I have a second interpretation.”  When I put these Greek phrases into the TLG (οἶδα καὶ ἄλλην διήγησιν and ἔχω δὲ καὶ δευτέραν διήγησιν), in first case, the only results are from Origen’s Commentary on Matthew.  The second doesn’t match exactly, but searching for “δευτέραν διήγησιν” brings up matches primarily in 3 authors: Galen, Celsus, and Origen, all working in the late second century or early third (there are a few matches from much later authors).  Stylistic evidence like this aren’t the only grounds on which one judges authorship, but features like this do argue strongly in favor of Origenic authenticity.  

Eusebius of Caesarea. Fragments on Luke.  I contacted Roger Pearse a few months ago and asked if there were any untranslated Greek texts that he was wanting to get into English.  He has graciously commissioned a translation of the fragments on Luke that appear in the PG under Eusebius’ name.  I’ve been working on these slowly, but with some consistency.  They seem to mostly be authentically Eusebian to me.  The author is fond of long, winding, pleonastic sentences, which makes the translator’s job difficult!  He knows Greek philosophy, and this is seen in the exegesis, though it doesn’t dominate.  His exegetical eye is sometimes quite keen: he rightly picks up (what I think is) the jew/gentile distinction in Mt 21:28-31.  Other times, the exegesis is more straightforward: he remarks that the miracles that the apostles performed were important witnesses to the authenticity of their message.  Other times he seems more foreign, like when he creates an elaborate hierarchy of Christians on the basis of the beatitudes.  All in all, useful material I think.  

ἐν αὐτῷ,

Origen: Ex Tempore Homilies Revisited

Several months ago, when the newly rediscovered Origen codex first came to light, I suggested that some of the homilies were impromptu lectures, possibly delivered in a school context rather than a church context.  That was mostly a guess based on the content of the homilies;  at that point I had not examined Eusebius very closely, or the work of Gregory Thaumatourgos (I still need to look at Epiphanius).  I still have plenty of primary source material to examine, but I’d like to revisit that suggestion now that I know a bit more.  I may just have made a lucky guess!

Steven Huller noted in a comment on that original post the Eusebius records that Origen only allowed tachygraphers to record his homilies near the end of his life (when he was past 60).  Here’s the passage in question:

Τότε δῆτα, οἷα καὶ εἰκὸς ἦν, πληθυούσης τῆς πίστεως πεπαρρησιασμένου τε τοῦ καθ’ ἡμᾶς παρὰ πᾶσιν λόγου, ὑπὲρ τὰ ἑξήκοντά φασιν ἔτη τὸν Ὠριγένην γενόμενον, ἅτε δὴ μεγίστην ἤδη συλλεξάμενον ἐκ τῆς μακρᾶς παρασκευῆς ἕξιν, τὰς ἐπὶ τοῦ κοινοῦ λεγομένας αὐτῶι διαλέξεις ταχυγράφοις μεταλαβεῖν ἐπιτρέψαι, οὐ πρότερόν ποτε τοῦτο γενέσθαι συγκεχωρηκότα.  ἐν τούτωι καὶ τὰ πρὸς τὸν ἐπιγεγραμμένον καθ’ ἡμῶν Κέλσου τοῦ Ἐπικουρείου Ἀληθῆ λόγον ὀκτὼ τὸν ἀριθμὸν συγγράμματα συντάττει καὶ τοὺς εἰς τὸ κατὰ Ματθαῖον εὐαγγέλιον εἴκοσι πέντε τόμους τούς τε εἰς τοὺς δώδεκα προφήτας, ἀφ’ ὧν μόνους εὕρομεν πέντε καὶ εἴκοσι. (Hist. Eccl. 6.36)

My translation, with a little help from Williamson:

“Then at that time, while the faith was growing and our message had been boldly proclaimed in the presence of all, it was fitting for Origen, who was past 60 years of age and had gained great learning due to broad study, to allow tachygraphers to record his lectures spoken in public, which he had not consented to prior.  During this same time he wrote 8 books against the work True Doctrine of Celsus the Epicurean, along with 25 books on the Gospel of Matthew and 25 on the minor prophets, from which we have only 25.”

This is a puzzling passage for scholars.  What exactly are these public lectures?  Some argue that Eusebius is referring to debates like the Dialogue with Heraclides.  The majority opinion (at least Crouzel and Nautin, two very important of the recent Origen scholars) believe that Eusebius is referring to homilies spoken in the Church.  Since Nautin dates almost all of the homilies before 245, and he simply dismisses the account as a fiction.

But instead of dismissing the account, I’d suggest that we understand a different type of public lecture.  διαλέξις was a commonly used to describe philosophical lectures, and that is what I think we have here.  Origen was in charge of a philosophical school in Caesarea, and regularly gave lectures to his students.  Eusebius mentions this only obliquely in 6.30, but we get a vivid picture from Gregory Thaumaturgus’s Panegyric of Origen.

Within this passage, Eusebius mentions that the “our λόγος had been emboldened among all” and notes that these were spoken ἐπὶ τοῦ κοινοῦ, which might mean “before the church,” but could also mean “before the public.”  Finally, he mentions Origen’s Contra Celsum, which would explicitly confirm Origen’s abiding interest in Greek philosophy.  

We know that Origen gave many philosophical lectures in his school.  Likewise, Eusebius tells us that people came from all over to hear Origen lecture while he was in Caesarea (Hist. Eccl. 6.30).  Gregory also tells us that in addition to standard Greek philosophy, Origen lectured on biblical exegesis. (Orat. Paneg. 15).  

So why would Origen allow tachygraphers to record his homilies in the Church before his school lectures?  I think it’s mostly a matter of audience and subject matter.  School lectures would deal with topics on a much more sophisticated level, and involve much more philosophical speculation.  Origen would also have to be ready to answer questions from the audience, as there was plenty of interaction between students and teacher in a philosophical school.  Church homilies, on the other hand, would be targeted at a less sophisticated audience: thus he allowed tachygraphers to record these homilies earlier.  The subject matter was also lest controversial. 

Do we have any evidence for this in his writings? I think the new codex offers evidence for both types of discourse.  Homilies like the ones on Psalm 36 were probably spoken in the Church.  They deal with largely moral matters: Rufinus in his translator’s preface says that the explication in them is entirely moral (expositio tota moralis est.)  But others were probably spoken in the school.  The four on Psalm 76 are explicitly labelled in the heading as “Ex tempore Homilies on the 76th Psalm.” [εἰς τὸν οστ´ (sc. ψαλμὸν) ἐσχεδιασμέναι ὁμιλίαι].  (folio 170v.)  Here’s the snippet from the codex:


I haven’t done an exhaustive check, but I haven’t seen any other homilies in the codex that are explicitly labeled as “impromptu.”  Likewise, I have only read through one of the four homilies, but it strikes me as a very good candidate for a school lecture.  Homily 3 on Psalm 76 begins with a question, “Of what sort are these waters that see God?”  Origen dives into a discussion on many speculative question: does the sky and earth have a soul?  Do rivers and seas have souls? How do angelic administrators work? (See here for my text and translation).

Thus, I’d suggest that Eusebius is referring to school lectures rather than church homilies in this passage.  I haven’t come across this solution in the secondary literature, but if you’ve seen this suggestion do let me know.  Furthermore, I think the new material gives us a chance to compare both types: school lecture and church homily.  I certainly look forward to hearing Perrone’s thoughts once the critical edition is published.

ἐν αὐτῷ,


On Allegory

One of the things you have to come to terms with when studying early Christianity is allegorical exegesis.  Most academics don’t care for it (or actively despise it), but most of the early Christians had no such inhibitions.  They saw Christ hiding behind every corner of the Old Testament.  Origen was known to embrace apparent contradictions on the surface level to find the eternal meaning of the text.  Of course, it wasn’t just Alexandrian flights of fancy where we find allegory.  Paul tells the Galatians, after doing some OT exposition on the Hagar and Sarah, that “these things may be understood allegorically.”  Likewise, he tells the Corinthians, “these things [the stories of the Israelites in the desert] happened as models for us, so that we wouldn’t desire evil, as they did.”  Hebrews is in many ways, one extended meditation on Psalm 110, Jesus being a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.  Jesus himself, of course, actively modeled his own work after those of the prophets, and employed parables (allegorical stories) in much of his teaching.

So how do we properly appropriate allegory?  There are all sorts of weird pitfalls.  I come from a movement where OT texts are regularly interpreted “prophetically” to say some strange things (ie, whatever the pastor wants the text to say at the moment).  Allegorical exegesis often is far more dependent on the ingenuity of the allegorist than the text as the author construed it.

On the other hand, we are invited, even commanded, to read the Old Testament in light of Jesus.  This doesn’t mean we can’t read them for historical content, or reconstruct what they would meant to their original audience (even if such a reconstruction is terribly fragile most of the time), but can we give these readings (valuable though they are) hermeneutical priority when “the reality, however, if found in Christ” ?  Epistemologically, do we not have to start with Christ and work back into the OT, especially as Gentile believers?

Honestly, I love reading the OT through the eyes of the early Church.  While I might be able to appreciate the history and language of early Christianity without a particularly strong faith, I don’t think I could ever appreciate the Old Testament without faith to spur me on.  The early Church has been my entry way into the Old Testament.  I never understood or enjoyed the Psalms until I started reading them in Greek, with John Chrysostom and Eusebius of Caesarea to guide me.  I know one day I’ll learn Hebrew and be able to appreciate the OT without necessarily reading it along with the early Church.  However, I’m quite content until then to read the OT in Greek, with some of the most brilliant saints of old to teach me.

So I suppose I’m a son in search of an answer.  How do we embrace allegory without going off the deep end?  How do affirm both the “original meaning” (insofar as it can be known), and what Christians down through the ages have seen it pointing to?  What is the relationship between the two, and which has primacy?

Thoughts are welcome!

Working More on Eusebius

I’m currently working through translating the abbreviated comments we have from Eusebius on Psalm 109 (our Ps 110). He has some pretty interesting things to say about it, and the extracts aren’t terribly long, so it’ll make a nice sampler from his commentary methinks.

I’ll have it posted when I’m done with it.

Translation: Eusebius on the Psalms Pt. 2

With the exception of the “hypotheses,” I believe this rounds out the introductory material in Eusebius’s Commentary on the Psalms. This is a continuation from this post. This particular text comes from Migne’s Patrologia Graeca 23.73-76. The extract here is interesting because Eusebius gives a theory of textual transmission of the Psalms, after noting some of the differences between the Hebrew texts and the Greek texts. He is careful to point out that the Psalms are not in chronological order, and then gives an explanation why. He ends with a note on the importance of the Psalms for the Church.

In characteristic fashion, here’s my translation followed by the Greek text. There are a few spots I’m not sure about, but I think I’ve rendered most of it sufficiently.

My Translation:

Eusebius on the Psalms (Continued)

In the Hebrew Book of Psalms, except for the addition of numbers, all of the Psalms are inscribed differently. There are some that stand together, and some that are split apart. Carelessly, the first and second ones stand together in the Hebrew. And again, the ninth psalm, united for us, is divided into two in the Hebrew. One must see, though, that the structure of the psalms does not follow chronological order. They were rearranged, just as the book of the Kings and the present arrangement shows. For the nation of the Jews was condemned of idolatry. As it says, they forgot to esteem the writings of their fathers, for they did not carry the book of the law of Moses, nor did they remember the reverence of their forefathers. For this reason the prophets spoke vehemently against their ungodliness.

Thus it is not amazing that at this lowest and most disheveled of times, some of the psalms would fall away, not being handed down for a long period. But after this, either Ezra or some other prophet, devoted himself to gathering the psalms together, which then became how the book of the psalms was arranged. They were not discovered all at once, but rather at different times. And in their binding, the first ones found were placed first. They were not arranged so that all of the Psalms of David went together. Rather, in between these psalms were those of the Sons of Korah, those of Asaph, those of Solomon and Moses, those of Aiman, and of Jedethum. And even after all of these, more psalms of David were place in the arrangement. Thus those that were written later may have been found and taken up first. And those that were written first were found later in the second group. And the same thing is found in the prophets. All were thus placed into a certain great and new storehouse, the Book of Psalms.

You must observe this, as the book of the Psalms offers us new teaching after the laws of Moses. And because it is second after the laws and writings of Moses, this book is fit for teaching. For just as Joshua came after Moses, and David came after the judges, in the same way the Father has considered worthy a new way of the Psalms, different than what had been given first to the Hebrews. It is the way of the Savior. The first way lifts up the things of Moses, and the sacrifices of the Law. But the Savior’s new way instructs us to sing and shout our worship of God, and that the law of Moses is transcended entirely through his work.

And for those interested, here’s the Greek text:


Ἐν τῇ Ἑβραϊκῇ βίβλῳ τῶν ψαλμῶν ἄνευ τῆς τοῦ ἀριθμοῦ προσθήκης ἀνεγράφησαν οἱ πάντες καὶ διαφόρως. Οἱ μέν εἰσι συνημμένοι, οἱ δὲ διῃρημένοι. Ἀμέλει ὁ μὲν πρῶτος καὶ δεύτερος συνημμένοι εἰσὶ κατὰ τὸ Ἑβραϊκόν· καὶ πάλιν ὁ ἔνατος, συνημμένος παρ’ ἡμῖν, ἐν τῷ Ἑβραϊκῷ διῄρηται εἰς δύο. Παρατηρητέον δὲ, ὅτι μὴ κατὰ ἀκολουθίαν τῶν τῆς ἱστορίας χρόνων ἡ τῶν ψαλμῶν σύγκειται τάξις· ἐνήλλακται δὲ παρὰ πολὺ, καθὼς ἡ βίβλος τῶν Βασιλειῶν, καὶ αὕτη ἡ τάξις δηλοῖ. Πολλῆς τοίνυν κατακρατησάσης εἰδωλολατρείας τοῦ Ἰουδαίων ἔθνους, λήθην αὐτούς φασι πεποιῆσθαι τῶν πατρίων γραφῶν, ὡς μηδὲ τοῦ Μωϋσέως νόμου βίβλον ἐπιφέρεσθαι, μηδὲ μνήμην τῆς τῶν πατέρων εὐσεβείας ἀποσώζειν. Οὕτω γοῦν τοὺς προφήτας ἀνῄρουν διελέγχοντας αὐτῶν τὰς δυσσεβείας.

Οὐδὲ νῦν θαυμαστὸν ἐν τοιαύτῃ καταστάσει καιρῶν καὶ τῶν ἐμφερομένων τινὰς τῇ βίβλῳ τῶν ψαλμῶν διαπεπτωκέναι, λήθῃ τε μακροῖς παραδεδόσθαι χρόνοις. Ὕστερον δὲ μετὰ ταῦτα, εἴτε Ἔσδραν, εἴτε τινὰς ἑτέρους προφήτας, περὶ τὴν συναγωγὴν αὐτῶν ἐσπουδακέναι, μεθ’ ὧν καὶ τὴν βίβλον τῶν ψαλμῶν ἡγιοχέναι, οὐκ ἀθρόως εὑρόντα τοὺς πάντας, ἀλλὰ κατὰ διαφόρους χρόνους. Καὶ τάττειν δὲ ἐν πρώτοις τοὺς πρώτους εὑρισκομένους· μηδὲ τοὺς τοῦ Δαυῒδ ἐφεξῆς κεῖσθαι πάντας· ἔν τε τῷ μεταξὺ καὶ τῶν υἱῶν Κορὲ, καὶ τοῦ Ἀσὰφ, καὶ Σολομῶντος, καὶ Μωϋσέως, Αἰμάν τε, καὶ Αἰθὰν, καὶ Ἰδιθοὺμ, καὶ πάλιν τοῦ Δαυῒδ εὑρίσκεσθαι ἀναμὶξ ἐν τῇ βίβλῳ κατατεταγμένους, οὐ καθ’ οὓς ἐλέχθησαν χρόνους, ἀλλὰ καθ’ οὓς εὕρηνται. Ἔνθεν τε συμβῆναι τοὺς τοῖς χρόνοις ὑστέρους πρώτους εὑρεθέντας, ἀναληφθῆναι προτέρους· τοὺς δὲ προτέρους μετὰ ταῦτα εὑρεθέντας ἐν δευτέρᾳ ταγῆναι χώρᾳ· τὸ δ’ αὐτὸ εὕροις γεγενημένον ἐν τοῖς προφήταις. Πάντα ὥσπερ ἐν μεγάλῳ τινὶ καὶ κοινῷ ταμείῳ τῇ βίβλῳ τῶν ψαλμῶν τεθησαύρισται.

Κἀκεῖνο δὲ τηρή 23.76 σεις, ὡς ἡ βίβλος τῶν ψαλμῶν καινὴν διδασκαλίαν περιέχει μετὰ τὴν Μωϋσέως νομοθεσίαν, καὶ ὅτι δευτέρα μετὰ τὴν Μωϋσέως νομοθεσίαν γραφὴν διδασκαλικὴ βίβλος αὕτη τυγχάνει. Μετὰ γοῦν τὴν Μωϋσέως καὶ Ἰησοῦ τελευτὴν καὶ μετὰ τοὺς κριτὰς Δαυῒδ γενόμενος, ὡσανεὶ τοῦ Σωτῆρος αὐτὸς χρηματίσαι πατὴρ καταξιωθεὶς, καινὸν τρόπον τὸν τῆς ψαλμῳδίας πρῶτος Ἑβραίοις παρέδωκε· δι’ ἧς ἀναιρεῖ μὲν τὰ παρὰ Μωϋσῇ περὶ θυσιῶν νενομοθετημένα, καινὸν δὲ τὸν δι’ ὕμνων καὶ ἀλαλαγμῶν τρόπον τῆς τοῦ Θεοῦ λατρείας εἰσάγει· καὶ ἄλλα δὲ πλεῖστα τὸν Μωϋσέως νόμον ἐπαναβεβηκότα δι’ ὅλης αὐτοῦ τῆς πραγματείας διδάσκει.

Translation: A Hypothesis of Eusebius Pamphilli

This is a short bit of introduction, and it has been by far the easiest to translate. The first sentence is a bit difficult (I *think* I got the gist of it), but the rest was fairly straightforward. In this passage, Eusebius discusses authorship and the divisions in the Psalter. There are some interesting tidbits here, since the numbers don’t always exactly match what we find today. For instance there are 72 Davidic Psalms for Eusebius, not 73. This is probably due to some Psalms combining and splitting in the Greek versus the Hebrew, but I haven’t looked at it closely enough to figure out.

Anyways, here’s my translation followed by the Greek text. This text occurs in Migne’s Patrologia Graeca 23.66, if my memory serves.

A Hypothesis of Eusebius Pamphilli

There is a division on the book of the Psalms, as to the accuracy of our copies versus the ones the Hebrews offer. It is not as some might suppose that all the Psalms were written be David, but rather different prophets, in their singing, prophesied. Therefore, not the entire book of the Hebrews Psalms is ascribed to David, but the book of Psalms, in its entirety, is not ascribed to anyone. The Hebrews divide all of the Psalms into five parts. The first is from Psalm 1 to Psalm 40. The second is from Psalm 41 to Psalm 72. The third is from Psalm 73 to Psalm 88. The fourth is from Psalm 89 to Psalm 105. The fifth is from Psalm 106 until the end. There are 19 Psalms that are uninscribed, and 131 that have inscriptions. Those that have inscriptions have these divisions: There are 72 of David, 11 of the sons of Korah, 12 of Asaph, 1 of Aitham the Israelite, 2 of Solomon, 1 of Moses, and 17 are unnamed, of which 15 are “Hallelelujahs.” There are entirely anonymous inscriptions, which don’t reveal their author.


Τῆς βίβλου τῶν Ψαλμῶν ἥδε ἂν εἴη ἡ διαίρεσις, ὡς τὰ ἀκριβῆ τῶν ἀντιγράφων αὐτό τε τὸ Ἑβραϊκὸν περιέχει. Οὐχ ὡς ἄν τις ὑπολάβοι πάντες εἰσὶ τοῦ Δαυῒδ οἱ ψαλμοὶ, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἑτέρων προφητῶν ἐν τῷ ψάλλειν προφητευόντων. Διόπερ ἡ πᾶσα γραφὴ παρ’ Ἑβραίοις τῶν ψαλμῶν οὐ τοῦ Δαυῒδ ἐπιγράφει· ἀλλ’ ἀδιορίστως βίβλος ψαλμῶν ὀνομάζεται. Εἰς πέντε δὲ μέρη τὴν πᾶσαν τῶν Ψαλμῶν βίβλον παῖδες Ἑβραίων διαιροῦσι· πρῶτον εἰς τοὺς ἀπὸ αʹ μέχρι μʹ· δεύτερον εἰς τοὺς ἀπὸ μαʹ μέχρις οβʹ· τρίτον εἰς τοὺς ἀπὸ ογʹ μέχρις πηʹ· τέταρτον εἰς τοὺς ἀπὸ πθʹ μέχρις ρεʹ· πέμπτον εἰς τοὺς ἀπὸ ρςʹ μέχρι τέλους. Ἀνεπίγραφοι δέ εἰσι ψαλμοὶ ιθʹ, ἐπιγεγραμμένοι ρλαʹ. Τῶν ἐπι 23.68 γεγραμμένων δέ εἰσιν οὕτως αἱ διαιρέσεις· τοῦ μὲν Δαυῒδ οβʹ, τῶν υἱῶν Κορὲ ιαʹ, τοῦ Ἀσὰφ ιβʹ, Αἰθὰμ τοῦ Ἰσραηλίτου εἷς, Σολομῶντος βʹ, Μωϋσέως εἷς, ἀνώνυμοι ιζʹ, τῶν εἰς τὸ Ἀλληλούϊα ιεʹ. Εἰσὶ δὲ ἀνώνυμοι ὅσοι ἐπιγραφὰς μὲν ἔχουσιν, οὐ μὴν δηλοῦσι τίνος εἰσίν.

Eusebius’ Commentary on the Psalms: A Structural Overview

Eusebius’ Commentary on the Psalms is a massive work: my single spaced PDF fills over 500 pages of Greek text. It contains commentary, abbreviated and full, for the first 118 Psalms. Apparently, we have the full commentary for Psalms 51-95.3. The work also has several chunks of text that deal with the Psalms in general. These occur in the beginning of Migne’s edition. There is also a section between the 81 and 82 Psalms which discusses the Psalms ascribed to Asaph.

So, an outline of the work, as we have it from Migne, might look like this: (Where I’ve translated, I’ll fill in hyperlinks)

    Overview. These are general bits.

  • Eusebius on the Inscriptions of the Psalms. Some Abbreviated Teaching. Here he talks about the different kinds of psalms, according to their inscriptions (A Psalm, a Psalm of the Ode, and Ode of the Psalm, etc.)
  • A Hypothesis of Eusebius Pamphilli. This section discusses the authorship and divisions of the Psalms.
  • The Hypotheses of Eusebius on the Psalms. This section contains short thematic statements for each of the Psalms. Part 1
  • Eusebius on the Psalms. This is a longer extract which covers much of the same material as the other sections in the overview, but it goes into more detail. It discusses the origin of the Psalms, the authors, and several other topics. Part 1, Part 2
  • Eusebius of Caesarea on the Interlude. This is the last introductory bit, and it gives Eusebius’ explanation of how the “interludes” came about in the Psalms. Interlude translates the Greek work διαψαλμα, which translates the Hebrew Selah.

  • Psalms 1-71
  • On The Inscriptions of the Psalms Ascribed to Asaph
  • Psalms 72-118

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.

Eusebius of Caesarea on the Interlude

Here’s another excerpt from the beginning of Eusebius’ Commentary on the Psalms. In it, he discusses the διάψαλμα, or musical interlude, which is used to translate the Hebrew Selah.

Here’s the Greek text and a translation:

Εὐσεβίου Καισαρείας περὶ τοῦ διαψάλματος.

Ἔγραψαν τὸ διάψαλμα οἱ ἑρμηνεύσαντες πέντε ἄρχοντες, οἳ ἐξελέγοντο ὑπὸ Δαυῒδ τοῦ βασιλέως ἐκ τῆς φυλῆς Λευΐ· ὧν τὰ ὀνόματά εἰσι ταῦτα, Ἀσὰφ, οἱ υἱοὶ Κορὲ, Αἰμὰν, Αἰθὰμ, Ἰδιθούμ· τούτοις ἀριθμὸς ᾠδῶν παρηκολούθει, ἑκάστῳ ἑβδομήκοντα δύο. Οὗτοι ἵσταντο ἐνώπιον τοῦ ἁγιάσματος Κυρίου, αἰνοῦντες τὸν πάντων δεσπότην, ὃς μὲν κύμβαλα, ὃς δὲ ψαλτήριον, ὃς δὲ κινύραν, ὃς δὲ κερατίνην, ὃς δὲ κιθάραν ἔχων, ὧν μέσος ἵστατο ὁ Δαυΐδ. Καὶ οὕτως ἤρχοντο τῶν ᾠδῶν κρατοῦντες ἐπὶ χεῖρα τὰ τοιαῦτα ὄργανα· καὶ ἕκαστος Πνεύματι ἁγίῳ κινούμενος ὕμνει 4 τὸν Θεὸν, καὶ πάντες ἐπεφώνουν τῷ ψάλλοντι τὸ Ἀλληλούϊα. Ὁπηνίκα δὲ ἡ τοῦ Πνεύματος τοῦ ἁγίου ἀπέστη χάρις πρὸς βραχὺ, τῶν ὀργάνων λοιπὸν μὴ κινουμένων, τὸ τηνικαῦτα εἰκὸς καὶ τὸ διάψαλμα ἔγραφον.

And here’s my translation:

Eusebius of Caesarea on the Interlude (From PG 23.76)

The diapsalma was written by the five leading proclaimers, who were chosen by King David from the tribe of Levi. Their names were Asaph, the Sons of Korah, Aiman, Aitham and Idithoum. The numbering of the songs follows these closely, each of the seventy two.[*] They stood before the holiness of the Lord, praising the Master of All, one with the cymbals, one with the psalteria, one with the kinuran, one with the keratinen, and one with the harp[**], and David stood in the middle of them. And this is how they began a song, holding in their hands these instruments. One at a time, each would be moved by the Holy Spirit to sing to the Lord, and all would respond to the singing by exclaiming “Hallelujah.” At that time, the grace of the Holy Spirit would abate for a short time, and the rest of the instruments would lay silent, and at a time like this the diapsalma would be written.

Some notes:

* I’m not sure what’s going on here. αριθμος means number, and I take it he’s addressing the numbering or inscriptions of the psalms. 72 refers to the 72 psalms of David.

** All of these are musical instruments. I believe the psalteria is also a type of harp, but I don’t know what exactly the others are.

Translation: Eusebius on the Inscriptions of the Psalms

So I’ve been studying this bit of text for the past few days, trying my best to make sense of it. It comes right at the beginning of Eusebius’ Commentary on the Psalms. I’ll give my translation with some notes, and then the Greek text and the Latin translation that appears in Migne’s Patrologia Graeca vol 23.

This bit appears in PG 23.66

Eusebius on the Inscriptions of the Psalms. Some Abbreviated Teaching.

There are 150 psalms, and the number 50 is holy. For Pentecost has 50 days, and there are 50 years for a Hebrew Jubilee [1]. Nabla is what the Hebrews call their harp, and it is the only true musical instrument. It is not played from the lower parts, but its supporting metal is on top. The “Psalms” [2] then are only struck up with this instrument, not with a voice. But an “Ode” begins with a harmonious voice. An “Ode of the Psalm” begins by the instrument of a harmonious voice. A “Psalm of the Ode,” on the other hand, leads in with the sound of the striking of strings. By way of allegory, a psalm is like the harmonious movement of the body, moving to good works, [3] although some do not follow such contemplation. Singing without praxis is like the mind’s direct perception of truth, where one’s soul is enlightened about God and his oracles. But an “Ode of the Psalm” leads us to the practice of knowledge, as it is written, “if you desire wisdom, keep the commandments, and the Lord will supply it to you.”[4] For a “Psalm of the Ode” leads us to praxis accompanied by knowledge. It instructs us how and when things must be done. Therefore they are the first among the inscriptions.[5] For the holy one does not begin from theory, but always faithfully runs to praxis. Many of the odes are “To the End.” Whenever there is “Steps,” in the inscription, there is never the word “Psalm,” nor does it stand alone or mixed with others. It always stands with “Ode.” For the “ascent”[6] only perceives the abstract. Selah[7] is not found in Aquila or the Hebrew, but apart from him it is always found.

Specific Notes:

[1] I have no idea how to get this from the Greek, but the Latin translator interpreted it thus.

[2] That is, Psalms which have the word “psalm” in their inscription (which is not everyone, some have “ode”, some have nothing, etc.).

[3] Greek: εἰς ἐργασίαν ἀγαθὴν. ἐργαίαν can also have the meaning “artistic production,” and Eusebius may have that in mind, though I think “good works” fits better with the following context.

[4] Sirach 1:26

[5] I don’t know what he means by “Therefore they are the first among the inscriptions.” The Greek here is: διὸ καὶ πρῶται τῶν ψαλμῶν αἱ ἐπιγραφαί. I have left it vague in English, but if I had to I would perhaps make it “Therefore they are the finest of the inscriptions.”

[6] Greek: ἡ ἀνάβασις, which as far as I can tell is a Greek philosophical term describing the soul’s ascent to God. Here, it stands in contrast to the Greek ἁναβαθμοὶ, which means “steps” or “stairs.” Perhaps ἁναβαθμοὶ is conceived as a Christianized ἀνάβασις, which includes both the abstract (θεωρία) and the practical (πραξις.

[7] Greek: διάψαλμα which translates the Hebrew word Selah.

General Notes:

– I have placed in quotation marks what I believe to be technical terms relating to inscriptions.

– I’ve used “praxis” or “practice” to translate the Greek word πραξις. Without being able to peg down a more specific meaning for it, I think our English word captures enough of the vague antithesis between “theory” and “praxis” (which is definitely present in this passage) to service here. I’m usually leery of doing such a 1-1 translation, but I’ll keep it for now.

– Eusebius seems to make a broad contrasts between “Psalms” and “Odes.” Odes are introduced by singing, while Psalms are introduced by a harp. This can be confusing since all of them are psalms in the looser since (they’re in the Psalter), but he appears to make a technical distinction between the two based on their usage in the inscriptions. “Ode” can also mean “singing” in Greek, and I think that’s in view too. In one place I have translated ᾠδὴ as “singing” (“Singing without knowledge…), otherwise I have left it as a technical term “ode.”

– Eusebius does like allegory and contemplation (in good Platonic and Origenic fashion), but he seems here to be in favor of a healthy mix of “theory” and “practice.” His affinity for philosophy and the abstract doesn’t negate the importance of practical things.

Here’s the Greek for reference:


Ἑκατὸν πεντήκοντα τυγχάνουσιν οἱ ψαλμοὶ, ἱεροῦ τοῦ νʹ τυγχάνοντος ἀριθμοῦ·
ἐν μὲν ἡμέραις ποιῶν τὴν Πεντηκοστὴν, ἐν δὲ ἐνιαυτοῖς τὸν παρ’ Ἑβραίοις καλούμενον
Ἰωήλ. Νάβλα δὲ παρ’ Ἑβραίοις λέγεται τὸ ψαλτήριον, ὃ δὴ μόνον τῶν μουσικῶν
ὀργάνων ὀρθότατον, καὶ μὴ συνεργούμενον εἰς ἦχον ἐκ τῶν κατωτάτω μερῶν, ἀλλ’
ἄνωθεν ἔχειν τὸν ὑπηχοῦντα χαλκόν. Ψαλμοὶ μὲν οὖν οἱ διὰ μόνου τοῦ ὀργάνου χωρὶς
φωνῆς ἀνακρουόμενοι· ᾠδὴ δὲ οἱ διὰ φωνῆς ἐμμελοῦς· ᾠδὴ δὲ ψαλμοῦ τὸ τῷ ὀργάνῳ
σύμφωνον ἐπάγειν φωνήν· ψαλμὸς δὲ ᾠδῆς ἀνάπαλιν, προηγουμένης τῆς τῶν
κρουσμάτων φωνῆς. Ἀλληγορίας δὲ νόμῳ, ψαλμὸς μὲν σώματος κίνησις ἐναρμόνιος εἰς
ἐργασίαν ἀγαθὴν, κἂν μὴ πάνυ τις ἐπακολουθῇ θεωρία· ᾠδὴ δὲ χωρὶς πράξεως ἀληθείας
κατάληψις, φωτιζομένης ψυχῆς περὶ Θεοῦ καὶ τῶν λογίων αὐτοῦ. Ὠδὴ δὲ ψαλμοῦ,
προαγούσης πράξεως γνώσεως· κατὰ τό· Ἐπιθυμήσας σοφίας διατήρησον ἐντολὰς, καὶ
Κύριος χορηγήσει σοι αὐτήν. Ψαλμὸς δὲ ᾠδῆς πρᾶξις ὑπὸ γνώσεως ὁδηγουμένη, περὶ
τοῦ πῶς καὶ πότε πρακτέον· διὸ καὶ πρῶται τῶν ψαλμῶν αἱ ἐπιγραφαί· οὐ γὰρ ἀπὸ
θεωρίας ὁ ἅγιος ἄρχεται, ἀλλ’ ἅπαν πίστει ταῖς πράξεσιν ἐπιτρέχει. Ἐπὶ δὲ τῷ τέλει
πολλαὶ αἱ ᾠδαί· καὶ ὅπου ἀναβαθμοὶ, οὐδαμοῦ ψαλμὸς, οὔτε καθ’ ἑαυτὸν, οὔτε μετ’
ἐπιπλοκῆς. Ὠδαὶ δὲ πάντα καθ’ ἑαυτάς· ἡ γὰρ ἀνάβασις πρὸς μόνην ὁρᾷ θεωρίαν.
∆ιάψαλμα δὲ παρὰ μὲν Ἀκύλᾳ καὶ τῷ Ἑβραϊκῷ οὐ κεῖται· ἀντὶ δὲ αὐτοῦ τὸ ἀεί.

And for the Latinists, here’s the Latin translation that appears in Migne’s Patrologia Graeca vol 23. I typed this myself from an image scan, and haven’t done thorough checking, so there are probably several mistakes. It doesn’t help that my Latin’s not that great! There are several scans available. You can find several on google books here.


Centum et quinquaginta psalmi sunt : et sane sacer est quiquagenarius numerus, illo siquidem dierum curriculo instituitur Pentecoste, ac totidem annorum numero Jubilaeus, ut vocant Hebraei, celebratur. Nabla apud Hebraeos vocatur psalterium ; quod ex musicis instrunienties solum rectissimum est, neque ab infirmis partibus ad sonum adhibetur, sed a supernis sonanti aere instruitur. Psalmi itaque vocantur quot sola instrunientorum pulsatione, nullis admistis vocibus, persolvuntur. Canticum dicitur quod sauvi aequabilique voce conitur ; canticum psalmi, quod una cum instrumentis consonas admittit voces ; psalmus cantici rursum, cum instrumentorum musicorum sonus vocibus preit. Si allegorice res accipiatur, psalmus est concinnus corporis motus ad opus bonum exsequendum, etiamsi contemplatio parva subsequatur. Canticum nullo opere admistum est veritatis comprehensio, mente ad De ejusque sermonum contemplationem illustrata. Canticum psalmi dicitur cum cognitio actum praecedit, juxta illud : Concupiscens sapientiam, serva maudaia, et Dominus praebit illam tibit. Psalmos cantici est actus ducente cognitione admissus, docente scilicet quo pacio quove tempore sit agendum : quapropter in inscriptione psalmorum vox canticis praeit ; non enim a contemplatione vir sanctus orditur , sed fide omnino ad opera exsequenda currit. Sub finem multa cantica sunt. Ubi autem gradus habentur nusquam psalmus , neque per solus, neque alia adjuncta voce inscribitur : sed ibi cantica solum apponuntur ; nam ubi ascensus graduum est, ibi sola contemplatio spectatur. Diapsalma porru apud Quilam et in Hebraico non estat : sed ejus loco, semper ascribitur.