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St. Jerome on the Psalms

The Expositor 5th Series vol.5 (1895) 424-434

   up: Jerome receives from pope Damasus the order to translate the psalter, down: Jerome dictates his completed translation of the psalterDom Morin needs no introduction to readers of the Expositor. To liturgical students he is known as the editor of Liber Comicus; patristic students owe him a greater debt for the recovery of an early Latin version of the Epistle of St. Clement. His latest work, while dealing with another patristic text, contains materials of special importance for the student of the Old Testament. It is from that point of view that I propose to offer a few remarks upon it here.

The new part of the Anecdota Maredsolana<Note 1> is not, strictly speaking, an anecdoton: the greater part of Jerome's Notes on the Psalter has long been accessible in the Breviarium in Psalmos which appears among the printed works. From a table supplied by the editor of the Anecdota (3,1,p.12) it appears that not more than two-fifths of the Commentarioli are actually new. But the Hieronymian matter of the Breviarum is so interlarded with later comments, that hitherto it has been precarious to claim any part of the book as the genuine work of Jerome. Only in the case of a singe Psalm (138) has the Breviarum preserved the original text without adulteration. This fact may be taken as the measure of the gain which we derive from the present publication even in regard to those portions of the Notes which are not now printed for the first time. The comments upon some fifty psalms, chiefly in the second half of the Psalter, are absolutely new.

Cardinal Pitra (Analecta Sacra, 2,395) calls attention to a passage in which Jerome (epistle 112) furnishes a text of Greek /425/ and Latin expositors of the Psalms anterior to himself. Of Greek commentators, Jerome count up six – Origen, Eusebius, Theodore of Heraclea, Asterius, Apollinaris of Laodicea, Didymus; of Latins, three – Hilary of Poictiers, Eusebius of Vercellae, and Ambrose. Origen was not, however, as Pitra points out, the earliest of the Greek expositors; he was preceded by Hippolytus, whose name frequently occurs in the catenae. Yet if Origen was not first in the field, his works were certainly the source upon which the Greek expositors who followed him principally drew; and as for the Latins, Jerome admits their obligations to the great Alexandrian. Jerome's Noted plead guilty to the same indictment. He professes himself dissatisfied with the Enchiridion, but admits that his book is more or less a compilation from Origen's larger works upon the Psalms; “ex quae in tomis vel in homiliis ipse disseruit … in hunc angustum commentariolum referam.” It would be easy, however, to overestimate Jerome's indebtedness to Origen. Much in these Notes bears the stamp of the Latin Father's own mind; his learning shews itself in references to Josephus, Tertullian, Lactantius; more than he refers to his personal study of the Hexapla, and the criticisms passed upon the text of the ⅬⅩⅩ., the citations from the other Greek versions, the corrections of the Greek based upon the current Hebrew, are probably due, at least in great part, to Jerome himself.

As we might have expected, the Notes are largely occupied with allegoria and prophetica, and supporters of the historia who neglect the deeper sense are condemned (pp. Many of the Psalms are characterized as Messianic. Psalm 1 is to be interpreted, not in reference to Josiah, but as fulfilled in the adsumptus homo; a severe censure is passed upon expositors who regard Esther as the speaker in Psalm 21 (22); Psalms 58 (59) and 71 (72) are considered as exclusively /426/ applicable to Christ. Yet an effort is made to determine the occasion of each psalm from its title, and sometimes the historical interpretation is the only one allowed, even when in involves a quaintness which borders on absurdity (c.f. e.g. the explanation of Psalm 77(78),66 by a reference to 1 Sam. 5,6.9 (ⅬⅩⅩ.). In the same spirit the traditional interpretation of Psalm 98(99),5, proskunei/te tw/| u`popodi,w| tw/n podw/n auvtou/, is, notwithstanding the authority of Athanasias, rejected in favour of a more natural exegesis.

The Notes contain interesting remarks on various topics connected with the Psalter, such as the division of the Psalms into books (pp.46.59), and the existence of alphabetical and metrical Psalms (pp. Historical and geographical information is occasionally interspersed; there are references to the age of persecution (p.23), and to the ancient discipline of the Church (p.93); we learn (p.90) that Bethlehem still bore the name of Ephrata; Psalm 123(124),4 is explained by a Babylonian custom of fixing trophies over city gates; there is a liturgical note of some importance (p.76f.) on the Jewish and Christian use of Alleluia in the recitation of the Psalter. Lastly, several passages possess dogmatic interest, e.g. a condemnation of Traducianism (p.41); a statement that the wrath of God is purely corrective (pp.7.51); references to the doctrine of the “captivity of souls” (pp.58.93). Psalm 103(104),1 is defended against Arian misinterpretation.

Several of these incidental remarks are attractive, and deserve careful handling. But for the present I must be content merely to direct attention to them, limiting myself to the materials which the Notes supply to the student of the text of the Psalter. These will fall under two heads: /427/ (1) corrections or elucidations of the Greek Psalter from the current Hebrew; (2) contributions to our knowledge of the Hexapla.

(1) Corrections of the ⅬⅩⅩ. from the Hebrew.

2,12. δράξασθε παιδείας. ‘The Hebrew may be rendered adorate filium.’ Jerome does not refer to the alternative adorate pure, which he adopts in the ‘Hebrew’ Psalter.

4,3. Selah is either a musical note, or, as Aquila's ἀεί suggests, a sign of perpetuity. It is not a pause in the music, since in 9,17 we meet with ᾠδὴ διαψάλματος, which implies the opposite.

7,title. Χουσεὶ υἱοῦ Ἰεμενεί. Not= Χ. ὁ τοῦ Ἀραχει(2 Regn. 17,5), whose name, Jerome says, is spelt with a ס. Cush here = Αἰθίψ, i.e., Saul, who as a Benjamite was a υἱὸς υἱὸς Ἰεμενεί, and who is called an Ethiopian “propter sanguinaros et tetros et crudeles mores.”

7,10.11. The Hebrew punctuates after צַדִּיך, “The righteous God trieth the hearts and reins.” The ⅬⅩⅩ. wrongly transfers it to the beginning of the next verse (δικαία ἡ βοήθεία μου).

7,12(11). ⅬⅩⅩ. μὴ ὀργὴν ἐπάγων. Aquila's ἐμβριμώμενος is truer to the Hebrew (זֹעֵם). As interpreted by the ⅬⅩⅩ., the clause is read by Jerome interrogatively: numquid irascitur?

18,6(=19,5). ⅬⅩⅩ. ἐν τῷ ἡλίῳ ἔθετο τὸ σκήνωμα αὐτοῦ. The Hebrew suggests τῷ ἡλίῳ ἔθετο τὸ σκ. ἐν αὐτοῖς.

19(20),10. ⅬⅩⅩ. καὶ ἐπάκουσον ἡμῶν. Hebrew, “Who (i.e. the King) shall hear us.”

20(21),13. ⅬⅩⅩ. ἐν τοῖς περιλοίποις σου ἑτοιμάσεις τὸ πρόσωπον αὐτῶν. Jerome wishes to /428/ substitute ἐν τοῖς καλοῖς σου (“pro reliquiis in Hebraeo bonis habet”). He is probably thinking of Aquila's rendering, which Field prints ἐν τοῖς κάλοις ;; in the Syriac, however, it is given as ἐν τοῖς καλοῖς. Perhaps the two senses of יתר led to a confusion. In the “Hebrew” Psalter Jerome translates correctly: funes tuos firmabis.

21,2(22,1). There is nothing in the Hebrew to answer tπρόσχες μοι, and the Gospels justify the omission (ἐλωί ἐλωί λεμὰ σαβαχθανεί So Euseb. ad loc., ἀκρὶβῶς καὶ ὑπὸ τῆς φωνῆς τοῦ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν περιλέλειπται.

23(22),7.9. ⅬⅩⅩ. ἄρατε πύλας, οι ἄρχοντες ὑμῶν. Hebrew, “Lift up your heads, ye gates.”

36(37),38. ⅬⅩⅩ. τὰ ἐνκαταλίμματα τῶν ἀσεβῶν. Hebrew, “the latter end (אַחֲרִית, novissima) of the wicked.”

51(52),title. Jerome, who reads in his text of the ⅬⅩⅩ., εἰς τὸν ὄικον Ἀχιμέλεχ, remarks that in 1 Samuel 21 and in the Hebrew of this Psalm the name is spelt Abimelech; the confusion, he adds, arises from the interchange of ב and כ. Eusebius (cited by Morin) makes the same statement.

86(87),title. ⅬⅩⅩ. ὑπὲρ Ἰδιθούμ. The Hebrew (עַל־יְדיּתוּן), according to Jerome, means “by Idithun,” i.e., a Psalm of his composition. Jerome goes on to say that the words τῷ Ἀσὰφ ψαλμός are wanting in veris exemplaribus. They are present in nearly all our MSS. of the ⅬⅩⅩ, and neither Kennicott nor De Rossi notes their omission by any Hebrew MS.

86(87),4. The spelling of Rahab here is stated by Jerome to be identical with that of the name in Joshua 2. He seems to have been misled by the ⅬⅩⅩ, which has Ῥαάβ in both places. /429/

87(88),11. ⅬⅩⅩ. ἢ ἰατροὶ ἀναστήσουσιν ; Jerome notes that רְפָּאִים, “aut gigantas significat aut medicos.”

93(94) has no title in the Hebrew. The interesting liturgical note in the ⅬⅩⅩ. (ψαλμὸς . . τετράδι σαββάτων) is consequently dismissed without comment (“unde superfluum est de titulo disputare”).

99(100),3. ⅬⅩⅩ. καὶ οὐχ ἡμεις. Hebrew, “and we are His.” Jerome does not recognise the reading of the K'thib (וְלֹא).

114(116),9. Hebrew, “I will walk” (אֶתְלֵּךְ). ⅬⅩⅩ.,εὐαρεστήσω. Cf.Genesis 5,22 (Heb. 11,6).

115,2(116,11). ⅬⅩⅩ. πᾶς ἄνθρωπος ψεύστης. Hebrew, “falsehood.” Jerome follows Symmachus (? Aquila) in taking כזב as a noun, yet he represents it by Kiuzhb, which is nearer to כִּזֵב (as D. Morin suggests), or even to כֹּזֵב, than to כִּזֵב.

119(120),4. ⅬⅩⅩ. σὺν τοῖς ἄνθραξιν τοῖς ἐρημικοῖς. Jerome would correct after the Hebrew τοῖς ἀρκευθίνοις. The correction, which is given in Greek, is probably from Aquila. See Field ad loc.

123(124),5. ⅬⅩⅩ. τὸ ὕδωρ τὸ ἀνυπόστατον. The comment is: “Verbum ἀνυπ. apud Hebraeos ambiguum est et potest sonare ‘quod non subsistat’ et ‘quod intolerabile sit.’” Correct, from the Breviarium, “apud Graecos”; the Hebrew (הַזֵּידוֹנים) presents no such ambiguity.

126(127),4. ⅬⅩⅩ. οἱ υἱοὶ τῶν ἐκτετιναγμένον. Jerome compares 2 Esdr. 14,16 (=Neh. 4,10), where ἥμισυ τῶν ἐκτετιναμένων representsחֲצִי נְעָרַי. He might have added Nehemiah 5,15, οἱ ἐκτετιναγμε’νοπι αὐτῶν> (נַעֲרִיהֶם); in both places, however, there is a variant (4,10, ἐκτεταγμένων אa, 5,15 ἐκτεταγμένοι א*)./480/

136(137),8. Hebrew, “O daughter of Babylon” (“pro genetivo casu vocativum in Hebraeo habet”).

(2) Contributions to knowledge of the Hexapla

1,4. ἀπὸ προςώπου τῆς γῆς : “nec quidem in veteribus habetur exemplaribus,” i.e., in the Hexapla and in copies taken from it.

4,8. καὶ ἐλαίον αὐτῶν: “nec in Hebraeo nec in ceteris editionibus (Aq., Symm., Th., etc.) nec apud ipsos quoque ⅬⅩⅩ. interpretes (the Hexaplaric recension) repperi.”

7,title. “Aquila” pro ignoratione David, quod cecinit Domino pro verbis Aethiopis (=ὑπὲρ ἀγνοίας τῷ Δ. ὃν ᾖσεν τῷ κυρίῳ ὑπὲρ τῶν λόγων [τοῦ] Αἰθίοπος). Symmachus … pro ignoratione David q. c. D. p. v. Chusi filii Iemini (=ὑ. ἀ. Τῷ Δ. ὃν ᾖσεν τῷ κ. ὑ τ. Λ. Χουσεὶ υἱοῦ Ἰεμεινεί).

11(12),3. Symm. in corde aliud est et aliud loquitur (? = ἐν καρδίᾳ ἄλλο καὶ ἄλλο λαλεῖ). Field after Chrys. gives for Symm. ἐν κ. ἄλλῃ καὶ ἄλλῃ λ.

21(22),2. “Quinta et sexta editio verba clamoris mei.” Field's note is Θ. Ε’. οἱ λόγοι τῆς βοήσεως μου.

21(22),3. “Aquila … et non tacebis (καὶ οὐ σιωπήσῃ” Field quotes from Montfaucon: Ἀ. καὶ οὐκ ἔστι σιγή, but Jerome's statement is confirmed by the margin of a Vatican MS. cited by Pitra, Analecta Sacra 3,558.

21(22),17. “Aq. et Th. venatores interpretati sunt.” Field, after Montfaucon, gives Ἀ. Σ. θηραταί, Θ. κύνες,” adding from the same source, “Drusius vero Ἀ. Θ. κυνηγέται.” He remarks: “Vereor ne utriusque lectiones pendeant a Pseudo-Hier.” For the present it must remain uncertain whether θηραται or κυνηγέται is the true representative of Jerome's venatores; possibly Ag. had. θ., and Th. κ.

73(74),4. “Symm. posuerunt signa sua manifeste in edito introitu portarum.” Field gives (from Eusebius) Σ. ἔθηκαν τὰ σημεῖα αὐτῶν ἐπιςήμως γνώριμα κατὰ τὴν εἴσοδον ἐπάνω (=γνώριμον εἰς τὴν εἰς. ὑπεράνω in Cord., Caten.2,531).

86(87),5. According to Jerome, the true reading of the ⅬⅩⅩ. is μὴ τῇ Σειών,, and ΜΗΤΗΡ is a scribe's error. Comp. Pitra, Anal. Sacr. 3,559, τὸ ῥῶ κατὰ προσθήκην ἔκειτο εἰς τὴν τῶν ο’ ἐν τῷ τετρασελίδῳ· ἐν δὲ τῲ ὀκτασελίδῳ ΜΗ ΤΗ Σ.

87(88),11. “Symmachus … transtulit aut Rafaim theomachi resurgentes confitebuntur tibi?” (=ἢ Ῥαφαεὶμ θεομάχοι ἀνιστάμενοι ἐξομολογήσονται σοι). Field, who gives the above rendering without Ῥαφ., suggests that Symm. may have had γίγαντες θεομάχοι.

88(89),11. “Aquila impetum (=ὅρημα; cf. Ps. 34,5; 86,4; Isa. 30,7; 60,9), Symmachus adrogantiam (=ἀλαζονείαν; cf. Job 9,13; 26,12; Isa. 60,9), Theodotion superbiam sexta tumultum (=? θόρυβον).”

89(90),9. ⅬⅩⅩ. τὰ ἔτη ἡμῶν ὡς ἀραχνη (ἀράχνην ... ἐμελέτων. “Melis Aquila … anni nostri similes loquenti” (=? τὰ ἔτη ἡμῶν ὅμοια φωνοῦντι).

107(108),10. ⅬⅩⅩ. ἐπὶ τὴν Ἰδουμαίαν ἐκτενῶ τὸ ὑπόδημά μου. “Aquila proiciam(= ῥίψω, cf. Aq. in Ps. 49,17).

115(116,10-19). “Hunc psalmum quinta et sexta editio cum superioribus copulant, Symmachus vero et ⅬⅩⅩ. interpretes dividunt.” Field quotes this but as from “Pseudo-Jerome.”

115,2(116,11). “Symmachus mendacium” /482/ διάψευστα). Field, following Theodoret, attributes διαψεύδεται to Aquila, and διαψεύδεται to Symmachus.

123(124),5. “Aq. et Symm. et Th. et omnes interpretes superbas aquas et adrogantes(= τὰ ὕδατα τὰ ὑπερήφανα).

131(132),15. “Pro vidua, χήρᾳ, et Hebraea volumina et ipsi ⅬⅩⅩ. θήραν habent … Symmachus et Aquila cibaria interpretata sunt.” Qh,man appears to have been the reading of the Hexaplaric Psalter. Theodoret (see Field) vouches for Σ. τὴν σίτησιν, si,thsin( but ἐπισισμόν was the general rendering in Genesis 45,21 (Jerome ad l.), and is attributed to Aquila here.

133(134),1. The words ἐν αὐλαῖς οἴκου θεοῦ ἡμῶν have no place, according to Jerome, in the true text of the ⅬⅩⅩ., or in any other Greek version, and have been interpolated from Psalm 134(=135)
2. In the chief existing MSS. of the ⅬⅩⅩ. we find two readings (a) οἱ ἑστῶτες ἐν αὐλαῖς οἴκου θεοῦ ἡμῶνא*); (b) οἱ ἑστ. ἐν οἴκῳ Κυρίου ἐν αὐλαῖς οἴκου θεοῦ ἡμῶν (א¹art). Origen, in the surviving fragment of his commentary on this Psalm, deals only with evn oi;kw| Kuri,ou( and Hilary writes “repperi quosdam ambiguos circa hoc in atriis domus Domini fuisse … dicentes hoc a translatoribus primis adicetam esse.” On the whole the facts suggest that the pre-Origenic text of the ⅬⅩⅩ. had the reading of Bא* and that Origen prefixed ἐν οἴκῳ Κυρίου obelizing the rest of the sentence. The reading of a¹art will thus represent the Hexaplaric text with the obelus omitted.

134(135),4. ⅬⅩⅩ. Ἰσραὴλ εἰς περιουσιασμὸν αὐτοῦ. Jerome renders Israel in substantiale sibi, adding that Aquila and the quinta translated “similarly.” Probably they had περιούσιον; cf. Aq. in Malachi 3,17. /433/

136(137),8. ⅬⅩⅩ ἡ ταλαίπωρος. “Symm. depopulata atque vastata (=? ἐκπεπορθωμένη). ” Field gives ἡ λῃστρίς, from Syrohex. (ܣܫ.ܠܣܜܫܬܐ).

138(139),11. “Symm. et nox lux circum me (= καὶ νὺξ φῶς περὶ ἐμέ). Field gives this as the Aquila's rendering, and, following Theodoret, represents Symmachus by ἀλλὰ καὶ νὺξ φωτεινὴ περὶ ἐμέ.

144(145),14. The words πιστὸς Κύριος ... τοῖς ἔγοις αὐτοῦ, according to Jerome, an addition made by the ⅬⅩⅩ. to the Hebrew text with the view of assigning a verse to the letter נ which the composer had overlooked in an otherwise alphabetical Psalm. The clause was obelized in the Hexapla; see the scholion cited by Field.

up; David the poet making his psalms,down:David performs his psalms with other musicians

The Latin version of the Psalms employed in the Commentarioli is on the whole that of the Roman Psalter. There are however a number of readings which belong to earlier versions, and some which seem to be direct renderings from the Hebrew; a few of the latter re-appear in the Psalterium Hebraicum. The impression left on the mind by a careful study is that Jerome had before him his earliest revision of the Latin Psalter, and was already feeling his way towards the second, and even the third; yet while he keeps his eye open to the Hebrew, his aim still is to translate from the ⅬⅩⅩ. – the Hexaplaric ⅬⅩⅩ., which he regards as the purest form of the orginal work. His citations from the rest of the Old Testament are also based on the ⅬⅩⅩ., or derived from the Old Latin; even in the Books of Samuel there is no trace of the influence of the new Vulgate, although in the passages which he quotes from the New Testament I have noticed tokens here and there that the revised Latin was in his mind.

These considerations enable us to fix approximately the date of the Notes on the Psalter. The learned editor points /434/ out that they must have been written before Jerome's change of feeling with regard to Origen, i.e. before 393. The facts just mentioned points to a date previous to the commencement of the Vulgate O.T. (391) and the publication of the Gallican Psalter (388), but later than the appearance of the Roman Psalter (383), later also than the revision of the New Testament which was begun at Rome in 384. In the interval Jerome had settled in Palestine, consulted the Hexapla at Caesarea, and begun his Hebrew studies at Betlehem. Don Morin's new Anecdoton belongs, we may feel fairly sure, to the first years of Jerome's otium Bethleemiticum; it will hardly be rash to assign it provisionally to a.d. 387-8.

Note 1 “Anecdota Maredsolana vol.3,p.1 … Sancti Hieronymi presbyteri qui deperditi hactenus putabantur commentarioli in Psalmos. Edidit, commentaria critica instruxit, prolegomena et indices adiecit D. Germanus Morin, Presbyter et monachus Ord. S. Benedicti Maredsolensis. Maredsoli … 1895.”

Images: The Carolingian ivories (ninth century) of the Dagulf-psalter.

First ivory, up, Jerome receives from pope Damasus the order to translate the psalter, down, Jerome dictates his completed translation of the psalter.

Second ivory, up, David the poet making his psalms, down, David performs his psalms with other musicians,