A stray quotation from Eusebius, “Commentary on the Psalms”

Quite by accident I came across some supposed quotations from the Commentary on the Psalms by Eusebius of Caesarea.   Since this work has never been critically edited, and never been translated into English, I thought it might be interesting to see what he has to say. This first link gives a reference:

” All things whatsoever that it was duty to do on the Sabbath, these {the Church} have transferred to the Lord’s day.”

Source: Eusebius, Commentary on the Psalms, in Migne, Patrologia Graeca, Vol. 23, cols. 1171,1172.

Like all these ‘quotes’ you never know how accurate it is.  But I have looked, and the sentence is indeed found in col. 1171A (the Latin) and 1172A (the Greek).

An expanded version from Johns D. Parker, “The Sabbath transferred”, 1902, pp. 93-94:

He says on the ninety-second Psalm :

“The Word by the new covenant translated and transferred the feast of the Sabbath to the morning light and gave us the true rest, viz., the saving Lord’s Day.”

“On this day, which is the first of light and of the true sun, we assemble, after an interval of six days, and celebrate holy and spiritual Sabbaths, even all nations redeemed by him throughout the world, and do those things according to the spiritual law which were decreed for the priests to do on the Sabbath.”

“And all things whatsoever that it was the duty to do on the Sabbath, these we have transferred to the Lord’s Day as more honorable than the Jewish Sabbath.”

Another link refers to Robert Cox, “The literature of the sabbath question”, Edinburgh (1865) vol. 1, p.360-1, which (blessed be Google) is online here, and I suspect is the source for most of the other material. But he is quoting a certain Moses Stuart:

In another work—his Commentary on the Psalms—there are several passages about the Lord’s Day which were brought to light by the late Moses Stuart, Professor of Sacred Literature in the Theological Seminary of Andover, Massachusetts. They are partly quoted in his work on the Apocalypse (vol. ii. p. 40), and are appended to the American and later English editions of Gurney’s Brief Remarks on the Sabbath (see below, ii. 386).

The Eusebius material is as follows (minus the excitable capitalisation and italicisation that moved even Cox to apologise):

In commenting on Psal. xxi. 30 (xxii. 29 in our English version), Eusebius applies the verse to the celebration of the Lord’s Supper every Sunday.

…on Psal. xlv. 6 (xlvi. 5), he says, “I think that the Psalmist describes the morning assemblies in which we are accustomed to convene throughout the world;”

… on Psal. lviii. 17 (lix. 16), he declares that “By this is prophetically signified the service which is performed very early and every morning of the resurrection-day throughout the whole world.” (Comm., in Montfaucon’s Collectio Nova Patrum, pp. 85, 195, 272.)

But then he discusses a large chunk of the commentary.  This I find is at Migne col. 1169/1170B:

… on Psalm xci. (xcii.), which is entitled, A psalm or song for the sabbath-day. He begins his commentary by stating that the patriarchs had not the legal Jewish sabbath; but still ‘given to the contemplation of divine things, and meditating day and night upon the divine word, they spent holy sabbaths which were acceptable to God.’

Then, observing that the Psalm before him has reference to a sabbath, he refers it to the Lord’s day, and says, that ‘it exhorts to those things which are to be done on resurrection-day.’

Then he says Eusebius quotes the commandment, that it was addressed to the Jews, and that they often violated it. Then Eusebius continues:

Wherefore as they rejected it [the sabbatical command] the Word [Christ], by the New Covenant, Translated and transferred the feast of the sabbath to the morning light, and gave us the symbol of true rest, viz. The Saving Lord’s Day, the first [day] of the light, in which the Saviour of the world, after all his labours among men, obtained the victory over death, and passed the portals of heaven, having achieved a work superior to the six-days’ creation on this day, which is the first [day] of light and of the true Sun, we assemble, after an interval of six days, and celebrate holy and spiritual sabbaths, even all nations redeemed by him throughout the world, And do those things according to the spiritual law, which were decreed for the priests to do on the sabbath; for we make spiritual offerings and sacrifices, which are called sacrifices of praise and rejoicing; we make incense of a good odour to ascend, as it is said, ‘Let my prayer come up before thee as incense.’ Yea, we also present the shewbread, reviving the remembrance of our salvation, the blood of sprinkling, which is of the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world, and which purifies our souls. . . . Moreover we are diligent to do zealously, on that day, the things enjoined in this Psalm; by word and work making confession to the Lord, and singing in the name of the Most High. In the morning, also, with the first rising of our light, we proclaim the mercy of God toward us; also his truth by night, exhibiting a sober and chaste demeanour; And all things whatsoever that it was duty to do on the sabbath [Jewish seventh day,] these we have transferred to the Lord’s day, as more appriately belonging to it, because it has a precedence and is first in rank and more honourable than the Jewish sabbath. For on that day, in making the world, God said, Let there be light, and there was light; and on the same day, the Sun of righteousness arose upon our souls. Wherefore it is delivered to us [paradodotai, it is handed down by tradition,] that we should meet together on this day ; and it is ordered that we should do those things announced in this Psalm.

Note the reference to “the Sun of righteousness”, Sol Iustitiae, as a title for Christ, doubtless in rivalry to Sol Invictus.

Somewhat later Eusebius mentions the title of the psalm and adds that it is not about the Jewish Sabbath but …

…it signifies the Lord’s Day and the resurrection day, as we have proved in other places.

His final quote is this:

This scripture teaches, [that we are to spend the Lord’s Day,] in leisure for religious exercises (twn theion askisiwn,) and in cessation and vacation from all bodily and mortal works, which the scripture calls sabbath and rest.

These are interesting comments, and go to show that this work must contain interesting sidelights on the practise and thinking of the early church, just as so many of Eusebius’ works do.  Surely it is time that this work was edited properly?


10 thoughts on “A stray quotation from Eusebius, “Commentary on the Psalms”

  1. Surely it is time that this work was edited properly?

    I wholeheartedly agree! It’s time for someone to properly edit the work at least, if not do a critical text and translation. That would, of course, be a massive labor though!

    I’m working on creating a PDF with a table of contents to facilitate some of my own reading of the work. It’s a fun project but tedious at times, since the base PDF I’m working from doesn’t always make it easy.

  2. I was most interested in your comment! Such a table of contents would be generally useful if you were to make it available online.

    What base PDF are you using? Migne is bad in the original, but some of the PDFs are worse.

    The chap who translated the Origen for me also did a small portion of Eusebius on the Psalms on spec. Perhaps I should buy that off him and make it available?

    The thing we all want to know is “where is the good stuff” in that vast mass? No-one could commission a translation of the lot, but portions of it would be another matter.

  3. One further thought. Is there anywhere in the text where Eusebius explains what sort of approach he takes to the text? Literal or allegorical, or whatever?

    I’ve emailed the translator about the chunk of Eusebius on Psalm 51, to get a bill for that and I will post it.

  4. I’m using this one: http://khazarzar.skeptik.net/pgm/PG_Migne/Eusebius%20Caesariensis_PG%2019-24/Commentaria%20in%20Psalmos.pdf. I also found one at the Catholic website that had been OCR’ed, though it was made available by TLG and I don’t know what the copyrights are on that one.

    For all the faults of the PDF, I’m amazed that they actually OCR’ed it, and since it was done in Greece it looks like it was done pretty well. The Greek numerals for 6 and 90 didn’t come through, but most everything else does. I’ll send you a link when I get done. The file’s copyright (I believe) says that one is free to use the PDF with reference to them.

    There are, in fact, areas where he talks about the Psalms generally. At the beginning we get his “hypotheses on the Psalms.” This includes a list of thesis/theme statements on 149 of the Psalms. There’s also a long bit in the middle of the work on the songs of Asaph. He also talks some about musical instruments which might be of interest. He likes to contrast “souless” musical instruments with human voices that have a soul.

    As for approach, he like his allegory. Or, maybe typology would be a better words. He likes to contrast old Jewish customs with new ones of the Church. Or he’ll says things like, “this verse applies only to the Church.” My comprehension is getting better as I read more thankfully. His is not easy Greek.

    I was thinking of translating the “hypotheses.” Since those are mostly just a few words, it would be something even I could manage without two much trouble, and it would be good translation practice. If that would to be useful for others, I’d be happy to send it your way too.

  5. Thank you for this, which is most interesting! I’d be happy to place the “hypotheses” online, if you do them into English.

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