I decided to read some of Augustine’s Enarrationes in Psalmos (Expositions on the Psalms) this summer as part of my project to keep up my Latin skills. His interpretation of Psalm 1 is fascinating, as he applies it all both to humans and then as a reference to Christ.
You can read the whole thing in Latin here. Here are his thoughts on verse three, translated by me:
And he will be as a tree which is planted along a stream of water, which will bear fruit in its own time, and its leaf will not fall, and whatever he shall do will be made prosperous.Psalm 1:3
And he will be as a tree* which is planted along a stream of waters — or, that is, planted along that very Wisdom, which was deemed worthy to become man for our salvation, that man might be a tree planted by a stream of waters; for we might understand the stream to be Wisdom, since it is said in another psalm, The river of God is full with water (Psalm 64:10). Or the stream might be the Holy Spirit, concerning which it is said, He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11) and He who thirsts, let him come and drink (John 7:37), and furthermore: If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who seeks water from you, you would seek after him, and he would give you living water, from which he who drinks will not thirst forever, but it shall be made in him a fount of water springing into eternal life (John 4:10, 13-14).
Or perhaps along a stream of waters means “along the sins of people,” because the waters are called people in Revelation (17:15), and a stream might be called a fall, which relates to sin. Therefore that wood which is our Lord, planted among the running waters, that is, the sins of the people, bearing them on his road into the roots of his teaching, will bear fruit: that is, he will establish churches, in his own time, after he has been glorified by his resurrection and ascension into heaven.
For then, when he had given the Holy Spirit to the apostles, confirming their faith and sending them to the peoples, he bore fruit: the churches. And his leaf will not fall: that is, his word will not be in vain, since All flesh is grass, and the glory of man as the flower of the grass; the grass withers, and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord remains into eternity (Isaiah 40:6-8). And whatever he shall do will be made prosperous: that is, whatever that tree shall bear will prosper. Its fruit and leaves must be understood as those things which Christ has done and said.
*This word, lignum, is generally used to refer to things made of wood. In 1 Peter 2:24, the Vulgate uses it to refer to the cross.
And there you have it! I’m really enjoying reading the Enarrationes so far (granted, I’m on the first one, but from what I know of them they’re just the kind of thing I’ll enjoy) and I highly recommend picking something fun in a foreign language if you want to keep it up! I’m also planning on reading Hobbitus Ille for some variety (:
If you’re interested in a full English translation, here’s a free version of the whole thing. I hope you enjoyed mine, at least, and ’twas fun to make.
One last thing before I go: I am still thinking of writing about my sophomore year of college. Do you have any specific questions about it (what I did, advice, etc.)? I can easily ramble for a bit and call it a post, but I would love to talk about things people actually want to hear. (Here’s what I wrote after freshman year.)
Until next time!
*my name from Greek class, meaning “sea”
1 thought on “Augustine on Psalm 1:3”
Awesome post! I wasn’t aware Augustine wrote a commentary on the Psalms but that’s really cool. As an aspiring Hillsdale student, I’d love to hear anything and everything you’d like to share. How’s the food? Do you like your roommate? Favorite class? Regrets & things you’ll never regret? Exactly how academically rigorous are your classes, and what was the biggest difference between sophomore and freshman year?
(Also, I’m registered for the early college American Government online class in the fall. Beyond excited for that – any advice?)
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