Augustine: Expositions of the Psalms

“Augustine’s sermons on the Psalms are difficult for the modern reader, for in them the preacher’s love of allegory often leads him far from the literal sense. His understanding of the psalm titles had a tendency to encourage him to the wildest excesses of allegorical interpretation. The Latin translation he used was often so misleading that even the ingenuity of an Augustine was taxed to make some sort of spiritually edifying sense out of the text. Yet, nevertheless, this collection of sermons is a fascinating mural of theological and devotional insight. More even than a mural, perhaps it should be compared with a complete city, with its marketplaces, its fortresses, its courtyards, its tenements and sacred sanctuaries.

“Augustine’s cycle of sermons on the Psalms is a veritable theological Jerusalem of heavenly meditation and celestial praise. It has fortresses of moral instruction, luxurious palaces of rich doctrinal theology, brilliant vistas of typological insight, pious parks and playgrounds of allegory. For the theologian, yes, even for the modern theologian, reading these sermons is like a vacation in Venice. It is a marvelous fantasy, a very classical fantasy, which somehow points to a reality beyond the fantasy and which is so much more true than the more mundane type of reality; it is a reality everyday shopping-center reductionists will never understand.”

-Hughes Oliphant Old, The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Christian Church, Volume 2: The Patristic Age (Eerdmans, 1998 ) pp. 357-358.

3 thoughts on “Augustine: Expositions of the Psalms

  1. What? Augustinian theology is not the poison that is ruining Christianity? Amazing! Unheard of! Seriously though, thank you for this post.

  2. Excellent book series from Dr. Old; thank you for sharing an excerpt with us. I have two volumes, on the Biblical period (and early post-apostolic church period) and on the dawn of the Protestant Reformation. I really liked Old’s mention in “The Biblical Period” of the early church’s emphasis on the Sunday worship service as a means of evangelism and increase of new believers in Christ. I’ve kept that insight in mind for evangelism among my unchurched peers ever since.

  3. In my mind St. Augustine’s best insight comes in his comments on the fist verse of Ps. 1 writing of the blessed man, “This is to be understood of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord Man.”

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