“The Lord shepherds me”: Eusebius of Caesarea, Commentary on Psalm 22 LXX (23 MT)

October 7, 2020

Eusebius’s commentary on Psalm 22/23, extracted from the catenae, provides an interesting reading of the Psalm in terms of the sacramental life of the Church, and the typology of stages of believers and the manner of Christ’s relationship to believers at those stages–inasmuch as Christ becomes “all things to all people” for their salvation.

It is also interesting to “hear” the Psalm through the particular resonances of the Greek translation.

Vv. 1-2. Κύριος ποιμαίνει με, καὶ οὐδέν με ὑστερήσει· εἰς τόπον χλόης ἐκεῖ με κατεσκήνωσεν· ἐπὶ ὕδατος ἀναπαύσεως ἐξέθρεψέ με· τὴν ψυχήν μου ἐπέστρεψεν. Ὡδήγησέ με. Μέση τυγχάνει κατάστασις ἡ τῶν προβάτων τῆς τε τῶν τελείων προκοπῆς καὶ τῶν ἐν βυθῷ κακίας καλινδουμένων, καὶ διὰ τοῦτο ἑρπετοῖς καὶ θηρίοις ἀγρίοις παραβαλλομένων. Ὁ μὲν γὰρ τέλειος γένοιτ’ ἂν ὁ κατὰ τὴν εἰκόνα τοῦ Θεοῦ καὶ τὴν ὁμοίωσιν αὐτοῦ τὴν ψυχὴν τοῖς κατ’ ἀρετὴν τρόποις κεχαρακτηρισμένοις· ὁ καὶ βασιλέα τὸν Κύριον, ἀλλ’ οὐ ποιμένα ἐπιγραφόμενος· ὁ δὲ ἐκπεσὼν ταύτης, ἐξ αὐτοπροαιρέτου δὲ διαστροφῆς ἐπὶ τὴν θηριώδη μεταβεβληκὼς ἕξιν, ἵππος θηλυμανὴς χρηματίσοι ἂν, καὶ λύκος ἁρπακτικός. Ὄφεις δὲ, καὶ γεννήματα ἐχιδνῶν, καὶ χοίρους, καὶ κύνας, καὶ ἀλώπεκας τοὺς τοιούτους εἴωθεν ὀνομάζειν ἡ Γραφή. Οἱ δὲ ἐκ τῆς τοιαύτης καταπτώσεως μεταβάλλοντες ἐπὶ τὴν κρείττονα κατάστασιν, τέως μὲν ὥσπερ ἐν εἰσαγωγαῖς καὶ προθύροις γιγνόμενοι τῆς κατὰ Θεὸν γνώσεως, πρόβατα ἂν εἰκότως κληθεῖεν Θεοῦ· προκόψαντες δὲ ἐπὶ τὸ [23.217] τελειότερον, ἄνθρωποι χρηματίζουσιν. Ὅτε γε μὴν πρόβατα τυγχάνουσιν, ὑπὸ ποιμένι τῷ διὰ Ἰεζεκιὴλ δηλωθέντι Δαυῒδ, τουτέστι τῷ ἐκ σπέρματος Δαυῒδ Σωτῆρι ἡμῶν καὶ Χριστῷ, ἀγόμενοι, διδάσκονται λέγειν· Κύριος ποιμαίνει με, καὶ οὐδέν με ὑστερήσει. Οἱ δὲ αὐτοὶ τῆς νοερᾶς καὶ καινῆς τροφῆς καὶ πόας ἀντιλαμβανόμενοι τῆς ἐν τοῖς ἱεροῖς Εὐαγγελίοις ἐροῦσιν· Εἰς τόπον χλόης ἐκεῖ με κατεσκήνωσεν. Πίνων δὲ τοῦ ὕδατος ὁ εἰσαγόμενος ἐν Χριστῷ, οὔπω δὲ τοῦ οἴνου τοῦ τῆς ἀληθινῆς ἀμπέλου οἷός τε ὢν μεταλαμβάνειν, διὰ τὸ ἔτι πρόβατον εἶναι, τέως δὲ τῷ σωτηρίῳ τρεφόμενος ὕδατι, περὶ οὗ ἐβόα ὁ Σωτὴρ λέγων· Εἴ τις διψᾷ, ἐρχέσθω πρός με καὶ πινέτω· καὶ πάλιν· Ὁ πίνων ἐκ τοῦ ὕδατος οὗ ἐγὼ δώσω αὐτῷ, ποταμοὶ ἐκ τῆς κοιλίας αὐτοῦ ῥεύσουσιν ὕδατος ζῶντος· καὶ αὖθις· Ὁ πίνων ἐκ τοῦ ὕδατος οὗ ἐγὼ δώσω αὐτῷ, οὐ μὴ διψήσῃ εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα· εἴποι ἄν· Ἐπὶ ὕδατος ἀναπαύσεως ἐξέθρεψέ με. Ἀλλὰ καὶ πᾶν ἄχθος ἀποθέμενος τῶν παλαιῶν ἁμαρτημάτων διὰ λουτροῦ παλιγγενεσίας καὶ ἀνακαινώσεως Πνεύματος ἁγίου, εἴποι ἄν· Ἐπὶ ὕδατος ἀναπαύσεως ἐξέθρεψέ με. Ἀναπαύσεως γὰρ ὡς ἀληθῶς ἐκεῖνο τὸ ὕδωρ, δι’ οὗ τὸ βαρὺ καὶ ἐπίμοχθον φορτίον τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν τὸ πιεζοῦν τὴν ψυχὴν ἀποῤῥίψας τις, καὶ πάντα ῥύπον καὶ σπίλον καὶ κηλίδα σμηξάμενος, δεσμῶν τε ἀνεθεὶς πολυπλόκων, συνῃσθημένος τούτων ἁπάντων ἐρεῖ· Ἐπὶ ὕδατος ἀναπαύσεως ἐξέθρεψέ με. Εἶθ’ ὥσπερ ἐκλείπων πάλαι τὴν ψυχὴν, ἔπειτα διὰ τῆς ἀποδοθείσης χλόης καὶ τοῦ σωτηρίου ὕδατος ἀναλαβὼν ἑαυτὸν, καὶ ὥσπερ ἐκ θανάτου παλινδρομήσας, φήσει· Τὴν ψυχήν μου ἐπέστρεψε. Ταῦτα πάντα ὑπάρξει τῷ διὰ τοῦ δηλωθέντος Δαυῒδ ὑπὸ τοῦ Κυρίου ποιμαινομένῳ.
Psalm by David 22.
Vv. 1-2. The Lord shepherds me, and nothing will be lacking for me. In a place of verdure, there he makes me encamp. He nurtured me at the water of rest; he turned back my soul. He led me. The state of “sheep” is midway between those who have the advanced [state] of the perfect and those who are wallowing in the pit of vice, and because of this are compared to serpents and wild beasts. For the perfect person would be the one who is according to the image of God and His likeness with the tropoi according to virtue having imprinted the soul. The [perfect person] uses the title of “king” for the Lord, but not “shepherd;” while the other person who has fallen away from [the image], and because of a perversion of his own free will has become a partaker of a beastly state, may be named a “female-crazy horse” (cf. Jer 5.8) and a “ravenous wolf” (cf. Gen 49.27). The Scripture is in the habit of naming these people “snakes and offspring of vipers” (Matt 23.33), “pigs” (Matt 7.6), “dogs” (e.g., Ps 22.16), and “foxes” (e.g., Ezek 13.4). But those who change over from that calamitous fall unto the better state, coming hitherto unto the initiatory thresholds of the knowledge according to God, may fittingly be called sheep of God, but after they advance unto what [M23.217] is more perfect, they are named “men.” When they are “sheep,” being led by the shepherd who is indicated through Ezekiel [to be] David (Ezek 34.23), that is, our Savior and Christ who is from the seed of David, they are taught to say, The Lord shepherds me, and nothing will be lacking for me. But when they avail themselves of the noetic and new food and grass of what is in the sacred Gospels, they will say, In a place of verdure, there he makes me encamp. The person being initiated [ὁ εἰσαγόμενος][1] in Christ who drinks from the water, but is not yet of the sort to partake of the wine of the true Vine because he is still a sheep, being nourished hitherto by the salvific water—concerning which the Savior cried out, saying, If someone thirsts, let him come to me and drink; and again, He who drinks from the water that I will give him, rivers of living water will flow from his bosom; yet further, He who drinks from the water that I will give him, will never thirst forever (Jn 7.37-38, 4.13-14)—[this person] may say, He nurtured me at the water of rest. But also he who has put away every burden of the ancient transgressions through the “washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Tit 3.5), may say, He nurtured me at the water of rest. For this is truly the “water of rest,” through which someone throws away the heavy and toilsome burden of sins that weighs down the soul, and wipes clean every stain and spot and defilement, breaking free from tightly-bound chains, when he comes to a realization of all these things, he will say, He nurtured me at the water of rest. Accordingly, just as he who of old forsook the soul, then recovered himself[2] through the verdant [herbage] and salvific water given over [to him], and just as running back again from death, he will say, He turned back my soul. All these things relate to the one being shepherded by the Lord, through the David who has been indicated.
Vv. 3-4. Ὡδήγησέ με ἐπὶ τρίβους δικαιοσύνης ἕνεκεν τοῦ ὀνόματος αὐτοῦ. Ταῦτα, φησὶ, πράττει, ὡς ἂν μὴ βλασφημῆται αὐτοῦ τὸ ὄνομα, τῶν αὐτοῦ προβάτων ἀπολλυμένων, ἢ κακῶς ἀγομένων. Ἐὰν γὰρ καὶ πορευθῶ ἐν μέσῳ σκιᾶς θανάτου, οὐ φοβηθήσομαι κακὰ, ὅτι σὺ μετἐμοῦ εἶ. Μακρὰν γὰρ ἡ ἁμαρτία παντὸς συνόντος Θεῷ. Σκιὰν θανάτου τὸν κοινόν φησι θάνατον, καὶ τὴν τῆς ψυχῆς ἀπὸ τοῦ σώματος λύσιν, πρὸς ἀντιδιαστολὴν τοῦ θανάτου τῆς ψυχῆς, καθ’ ὃ εἴρηται· Ψυχὴ ἁμαρτάνουσα, αὕτη ἀποθανεῖται· καὶ, Ἔστιν ἁμαρτία πρὸς θάνατον. Οὐκ ἔστι γὰρ σκιὰ θανάτου· ἀλλ’ ἀληθινὸς θάνατος ἡ τῆς ψυχῆς ἀπώλεια τυγχάνει. Ἐπεὶ οὖν μεμαθήκασιν, ὡς ἄρα ὁ πιστεύων εἰς τὸν Υἱὸν τοῦ Θεοῦ οὐ μὴ ἀποθάνῃ εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα, μεταβέβηκε δὲ ἀπὸ τοῦ θανάτου εἰς τὴν ζωὴν, σφόδρα ἀκριβῶς οὐ φασὶ θάνατον ἐπιέναι αὐτοῖς ἀλλ’ ἢ ἄρα σκιὰν θανάτου· ταύτῃ δηλοῦντες τοὺς κατὰ ἄνθρωπον κινδύνους καὶ τὸν σωματικὸν θάνατον οὐδὲν ἕτερον ὄντα ἢ χωρισμὸν ψυχῆς ἀπὸ σώματος. Ἡ ῥάβδος σου καὶ ἡ βακτηρία σου, αὗταί με παρεκάλεσαν. Ταῦτα οὖν παρακαλεῖ τὸν τυπτόμενον καὶ τὸν κολαζόμενον, πεπεισμένον, ὅτι μαστιγοῖ ὁ Θεὸς πάντα υἱὸν ὃν παραδέχεται. [23.220]Vv. 3-4.     He led me by paths of righteousness for the sake of his name. He does these things, it says, so that his name might not be blasphemed, with his sheep being destroyed, or being led in wicked fashion. For even though I may walk in the midst of death’s shadow, I will not fear evil things, for you are with me. For sin is far away from everyone who is devoted to God. He calls the common death “death’s shadow,” that is, the separation of the soul from the body, in contradistinction to the death of the soul, concerning which it is said, A soul who sins, it will die (Ezek 18.4), and, There is a sin unto death (1 Jn 5.16). For this is not a “shadow of death,” but the destruction of the soul is true death. Since, therefore, they have learned how it is that “he who believes on the Son of God will not die forever, but has crossed over from death unto life” (cf. Jn 5.24; 11.25-26), they quite accurately do not say that death overtook them, but rather “death’s shadow,” indicating by this that dangers in the human realm and bodily death is nothing other than the separation of soul from body. Your rod and your staff, these comforted[3] me. These things comfort the person who is being beaten and punished, who trusts that God “scourges every son whom he receives” (Prov 3.12). [M23.220]
V. 5. Ἡτοίμασας ἐνώπιόν μου τράπεζαν ἐξεναντίας τῶν θλιβόντων με. Ἐλίπανας ἐν ἐλαίῳ τὴν κεφαλήν μου, καὶ τὸ ποτήριόν σου μεθύσκον ὡς κράτιστον! Ἴσασι γὰρ καὶ τὸ πνευματικὸν ἔλαιον, ὃ τὴν κεφαλὴν ἐπιάνθησαν, καὶ τὴν κρατύνουσαν, ἀλλ’ οὐ διαλύουσαν μέθην· καὶ τὴν μυστικὴν τροφὴν, ἣν προτίθησιν ἡμῖν ὁ πρὸς τὸ ποιμαίνειν καὶ νυμφίος γενόμενος. Τούτοις δὲ, φησὶν, ἐντρυφῶμεν τοῖς ἀγαθοῖς, τῶν δυσμενῶν ἀνιωμένων καὶ τρυχομένων· ὅτι οἱ πάλαι, φησὶ, δουλεύοντες τοσαύτης μεταβολῆς τετυχήκασιν, ἐλίπανας ἐν ἐλαίῳ τὴν κεφαλήν μου.V. 5. You prepared before me a table opposite those who are afflicting me. You have anointed my head with oil, and your cup intoxicates as the best [wine]! For they know the spiritual oil, which they used to anoint [your] head,[4] and the strong drink which strengthens, but does not make lax; and the mystical food, which the bridegroom who came also to shepherd provides to us. Let us revel, he says, in these good things, of those hostiles being vexed and distressed. For those, he says, who of old were slaves have successfully obtained such a change, you have anointed my head with oil.
V. 6. Καὶ τὸ ἔλεός σου καταδιώξεταί με πάσας τὰς ἡμέρας τῆς ζωῆς μου, καὶ τὸ κατοικεῖν με ἐν οἴκῳ Κυρίου εἰς μακρότητα ἡμερῶν. Πεποιθὼς τῷ σῷ ἐλέει, καὶ τῇ σῇ χάριτι, οἶδ’ ὅτι οὐκ ἐκπεσοῦμαι τῆς παρὰ σοὶ ἐλπίδος παιδαγωγούμενος πάσας τὰς ἡμέρας τῆς ζωῆς μου ὑπὸ τοῦ σοῦ ἐλέους. Τοῦτο γοῦν τὸ σὸν ἔλεος καὶ αὐτή σου ἡ χάρις κατηξίωσέ με οἰκητήριον κτήσασθαι τὸν σὸν οἶκον καὶ τὴν σὴν Ἐκκλησίαν· ἔνθα τὰς διατριβὰς ποιούμενος ὡς ἐν οἴκῳ Θεοῦ, ἱερῷ καὶ ἁγίῳ ναῷ, μακρότητος τῶν παρὰ σοὶ ἡμερῶν καὶ ζωῆς αἰωνίου τεύξομαι. Τὸ γὰρ κατοικεῖν με ἐν τῷ σῷ οἴκῳ, καὶ μηδέποτε αὐτοῦ ἐξίστασθαι μηδὲ ἀπονεύειν, ἀεὶ δὲ εἴσω περιβόλων ἱερῶν τὰς διατριβὰς ποιεῖσθαι, ταῦτά μοι αἴτια γενήσεσθαι πιστεύω μακρότητος ἡμερῶν τῶν ἐκ τοῦ σοῦ φωτὸς ὑφισταμένων. Ἀντὶ δὲ τοῦ, εἰς μακρότητα ἡμερῶν, εἰς μῆκος χρόνου ὁ Σύμμαχος ἡρμήνευσε, τῆς κατὰ τὸν Θεὸν ζωῆς τὸ ἄπειρον καὶ ἀθάνατον σημήνας.V. 6. And your mercy will pursue me all the days of my life, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord unto length of days. Having trusted in your mercy and your grace, I know that I will not fall away from the hope before you, being taught and guided [παιδαγωγούμενος] all the days of my life by your mercy. It is your mercy, then, and your grace itself that deems me worthy to acquire your house and your Church as a dwelling place. Making [my] paths there as though in the house of God, the sacred and holy temple, I will attain length of days before you and eternal life. For I may dwell in your house, and never departing nor inclining away from it, but continually making [my] paths within its precincts, I believe that these things will cause for me a length of days which subsist from your light. Instead of unto length of days, Symmachus translated unto length of time, signifying the boundless and immortal qualities of life according to God.
Translation by Justin Gohl

[1] This, it seems, should be taken as a reference to a catechumen, as suggested by the subsequent comment involving one who undergoes baptism.

[2] An idiom connoting regaining strength.

[3] This is a possible rendering of the Gk verb, particularly as a translation of the Hebrew, but could also be rendered more “proactively” as encouraged, exhorted.

[4] This clause, ὃ τὴν κεφαλὴν ἐπιάνθησαν, is confusing, and the Latin translation reflects that (as it changes the verb from the plural to the singular, and adds the pronoun “your” in connection with “head”).

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