Eusebius of Caesarea: Life and Works

The name of Eusebius of Caesarea (c. 260-340) is linked to works belonging to a great variety of literary genres: from the apologetic diptych of Evangelical Preparation and Evangelical Demonstration, to the historical work of Ecclesiastical History, from the erudite texts of Onomasticon and Chronicon to the celebratory biography of the first Christian emperor such as the Life of Constantine.

Commento ai salmi/1 – collana Testi patristici

The Exegetical Commentaries

In the later phase of his life, however, the bishop of Caesarea also devoted himself to the writing of two extensive exegetical commentaries on two important books of the Old Testament: the Commentary on Isaiah and the Commentary on the Psalms. The scarce interest of scholars in these two works is undoubtedly due, in the first place, to their state of preservation, which has made consultation difficult, at least until recent times. However, Joseph Ziegler published in 1975 a critical edition of the Commentary on Isaiah, almost entirely recovered in catenary form in the margins of a Laurentian manuscript, in the series “Die griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten Jahrhunderte”.

The Commentary on the Psalms

Regarding the Commentary on the Psalms (apart from critical editions of portions of the Commentary relating to individual psalms preserved in catenae manuscripts), the only text still available today is that reproduced in volumes twenty-three and twenty-four of the Patrologia Graeca, which are of unequal reliability. For Psalms 1-118 the edition follows the one published in 1707 by Bernard de Montfaucon, who edited, for Psalms 51-95,2a, a Parisian manuscript of direct tradition of the Commentary, and for the remaining sections the fragments ascribed to Eusebius in the catenary commentaries on the Psalter. The section Psalms 119-150 reproduces the edition of catenary fragments edited by Angelo Mai, who, however, also included fragments of non-Eusebian authorship. This text of the Commentary on the Psalms reproduced in the Patrologia was translated in its entirety and published by Maria Benedetta Artioli in 2004 in volumes 176-177 of the “Collana di testi patristici” of Città Nuova. Carmelo Curti dedicated himself for years to the study of the text of the Commentary to prepare a critical edition, which unfortunately never saw the light of day.

Eusebius of Caesarea’s Commentary on the Psalms online

Fortunately, in October 2020 the preliminary text of the new critical edition of the Commentary on the Psalms in preparation at the Berlin-Brandenburgischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, within the framework of the project “Die alexandrinische und antiochenische Bibelexegese in der Spätantike”, was made available at the link: Entrusted to the care of Barbara Villani (Ps 1-50), Cordula Bandt (Ps 51-100) and Franz-Xaver Risch (Ps 101-150), the future critical edition will prove to be of fundamental importance, both because it will fill a considerable gap in the history of the transmission of the texts of Eusebius, an author of capital importance for the understanding of the history of Christianity in the fourth century, and because, for the reconstruction of the history of patristic exegesis, the Commentary on the Psalms will make it possible to clarify how the Psalter, one of the most important Old Testament books for Christian communities, was understood and appreciated at the time. Finally, it will provide a valuable testimony of how the Origenian exegetical tradition on the Psalms was received in a changed historical period characterised by new needs compared to the one in which it was born.

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