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  This doesn’t mean we can’t read them for historical content, or reconstruct what they would meant to their original audience (even if such a reconstruction is terribly fragile most of the time), but can we give these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!

Psalm 44

This a beautiful psalm, full of royal imagery and not a small bit of romance! In good early Christian fashion, I love the kingly husband and beautiful queen who so wonderfully typify Christ and His Church.

Of Christ:

Verse 8: ἠγάπησας δικαιοσύνην καὶ ἐμίσησας ἀνομίαν·
διὰ τοῦτο ἔχρισέν σε ὁ θεὸς ὁ θεός σου
ἔλαιον ἀγαλλιάσεως παρὰ τοὺς μετόχους σου.

You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness,

therefore God, your God, has anointed you,

with the oil of gladness and with those who share with you

Of His Church:

Verses 11-12: ἄκουσον, θύγατερ, καὶ ἰδὲ καὶ κλῖνον τὸ οὖς σου
καὶ ἐπιλάθου τοῦ λαοῦ σου καὶ τοῦ οἴκου τοῦ πατρός σου,
12) ὅτι ἐπεθύμησεν ὁ βασιλεὺς τοῦ κάλλους σου,
ὅτι αὐτός ἐστιν ὁ κύριός σου

Listen, O daughter. Look and incline your ear!

Forget your people and the household of your father,

12) Because the king has desired your beauty,

because your husband is he [who has desired you].

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:

ΕΥΣΕΒΙΟΥ ΕΙΣ ΤΟΥΣ ΨΑΛΜΟΥΣ

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.

Greek Verse(s) of the Day

Here’s a couple of verses from today’s psalm that I rather liked.

This verse rather vividly captures the helpless situations we often find ourselves in:


ὅτι περιέσχον με κακά, ὧν οὐκ ἔστιν ἀριθμός,
κατέλαβόν με αἱ ἀνομίαι μου, καὶ οὐκ ἠδυνήθην τοῦ βλέπειν·
ἐπληθύνθησαν ὑπὲρ τὰς τρίχας τῆς κεφαλῆς μου,
καὶ ἡ καρδία μου ἐγκατέλιπέν με.


Psalm 39:13 (LXX)

For evil people surround me; they can’t even be numbered!

My enemies pursue me, and I can’t even see.

They have multiplied beyond the number of hairs on my head,

And even my own heart has forsaken me.

This verse captures rather well the Lord’s love for his people:

ἐγὼ δὲ πτωχός εἰμι καὶ πένης· κύριος φροντιεῖ μου.
βοηθός μου καὶ ὑπερασπιστής μου σὺ εἶ· ὁ θεός μου, μὴ χρονίσῃς.


Psalm 39:18 (LXX)

Although I’m poor and needy, the Lord thinks about me.

You, my God, are my helper and protector, do not delay.

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.

ΥΠΟΘΕΣΙΣ ΕΥΣΕΒΙΟΥ ΤΟΥ ΠΑΜΦΙΛΟΥ.

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.

Greek Verse(s) of the Day

Here are two verses from the Psalm I’m reading this morning, a portion from the “my life is terrible” part, and a portion from the “God has delivered me!” part. Both are good :-).

Update: It looks like I misread the Psalm. I *think* that the whole Psalm is a complaint. The latter verse is then part of the Psalmist’s argument with God: “I’ve hoped on you, so am I still suffering?”

“ἡ καρδία μου ἐταράχθη, ἐγκατέλιπέν με ἡ ἰσχύς μου,
καὶ τὸ φῶς τῶν ὀφθαλμῶν μου καὶ αὐτὸ οὐκ ἔστιν μετ᾿ ἐμοῦ.”

“My heart is troubled, and my strength as forsaken me,

and the light of my own eyes is not with me”
Psalm 37:11 (LXX)

ὅτι ἐπὶ σοί, κύριε, ἤλπισα·
σὺ εἰσακούσῃ, κύριε ὁ θεός μου.

Because on you, Lord, I hoped;

You will hear me, Lord my God.
Psalm 37:16 (LXX)