Friday, February 2, 2018

Psalm 1 and the Early Fathers: Meditation and Singing

Image result for cambridge university botanic garden
Church Father Athanasius likened the Psalms to the variety within a botanical garden

Excerpts from Bruce K. Waltke, The Psalms as Christian Worship: An Historical Commentary

The early fathers thought the Psalms were uniquely the microcosm of the Bible. Athanasius (c. 296-373) likens them to the variety within a botanical garden, while Basil the Great (c. 329-79) describes them as a great storehouse.

Ever since Origen's first serious Biblical commentaries (beginning of the third century), Psalm 1 has been interpreted as the introduction to the whole Psalter. Jerome (342-420; see p. 46) describes Psalm 1 as Praefatio Spiritus Sancti, "the preface [to the psalms] as inspired by the Holy He likens the first psalm to the great door of a whole building, of which the Holy Spirit is the key to the great door, while other special keys are also needed for the different rooms of the other psalms. 

When entering into the Psalms, he challenges the reader to have the same spirit as expressed in Deuteronomy 30:15-20. One of his two favorite texts is, "But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in His law will he exercise himself day and night." This he found impossible to do in Rome, which he left in 385, to take refuge in a grotto in Bethlehem, where Christ was thought to have been born, in order to practice his daily meditation on the psalms.

Francesco Bassano the Younger (1549-1592), “Saint Jerome”
Francesco Bassano the Younger (1549-1592), “Saint Jerome”

Psalm 1 recitation in Hebrew

Psalm 1 in Hebrew


אַשְׁרֵי הָאִישׁ--    אֲשֶׁר לֹא הָלַךְ, בַּעֲצַת רְשָׁעִים
וּבְדֶרֶךְ חַטָּאִים, לֹא עָמָד,    וּבְמוֹשַׁב לֵצִים, לֹא יָשָׁב.

כִּי אִם בְּתוֹרַת יְהוָה, חֶפְצוֹ;    וּבְתוֹרָתוֹ יֶהְגֶּה, יוֹמָם וָלָיְלָה 
. וְהָיָה--    כְּעֵץ, שָׁתוּל עַל-פַּלְגֵי-מָיִם: 
אֲשֶׁר פִּרְיוֹ, יִתֵּן בְּעִתּוֹ--וְעָלֵהוּ לֹא-יִבּוֹל;    וְכֹל אֲשֶׁר-יַעֲשֶׂה יַצְלִיחַ.
 לֹא-כֵן הָרְשָׁעִים:    כִּי אִם-כַּמֹּץ, אֲשֶׁר-תִּדְּפֶנּוּ רוּחַ. 
עַל-כֵּן, לֹא-יָקֻמוּ רְשָׁעִים--בַּמִּשְׁפָּט;    וְחַטָּאִים, בַּעֲדַת צַדִּיקִים
כִּי-יוֹדֵעַ יְהוָה, דֶּרֶךְ צַדִּיקִים;    וְדֶרֶךְ רְשָׁעִים תֹּאבֵד.

Psalm 1 in Koine Greek

1 μακριος νρ ς οκ πορεθη ν βουλ σεβν κα ν δ μαρτωλν οκ στη κα π καθδραν λοιμν οκ κθισεν.
2 ἀλλ ν τ νμ κυρου τ θλημα ατο κα ν τ νμ ατο μελετσει μρας κα νυκτς.
3 κα σται ς τ ξλον τ πεφυτευμνον παρ τς διεξδους τν δτων τν καρπν ατο δσει ν καιρ ατο κα τ φλλον ατο οκ πορρυσεται κα πντα σα ν ποι κατευοδωθσεται.
4 οχ οτως ο σεβες οχ οτως λλ ς χνος ν κριπτε νεμος π προσπου τς γς.
5 δι τοτο οκ ναστσονται σεβες ν κρσει οδ μαρτωλο ν βουλ δικαων.
6 ὅτι γινσκει κριος δν δικαων κα δς σεβν πολεται.

Psalm 1 in English (Scottish Metrical Psalm 1650, Tune: Denfield)

click here to listen

1 That man hath perfect blessedness,
who walketh not astray
In counsel of ungodly men,
nor stands in sinners' way,

2 Nor sitteth in the scorner's chair:
But placeth his delight
Upon God's law, and meditates
on his law day and night.

3 He shall be like a tree that grows
near planted by a river,
Which in his season yields his fruit,
and his leaf fadeth never:

4 And all he doth shall prosper well
The wicked are not so;
But like they are unto the chaff,
which wind drives to and fro.

5 In judgment therefore shall not stand
such as ungodly are;
Nor in th' assembly of the just
shall wicked men appear.

6 For why? the way of godly men
unto the Lord is known:
Whereas the way of wicked men
shall quite be overthrown.

Psalm 1 sung in Russian

Blazhen muzh, izhe ne ide na sovet nechestivykh. Alliluya.
Yako vest Goospod put pravednykh, i put nechestivykh pogibnet. Alliluya.
Rabotaite Gospodevi so strakhom i raduitesya Emu s trepetom. Alliluya.
Balzheni vsi nadeyushchisya Nan. Alliluya.
Voskresni, Gospodi, spasi mya, Bozeheh moy. Alliluya.
Gospodne est spaseniye, i na lyudekh Tvoikh blagosloveniye Tvoe. Alliluya.
Slava Otsu i Synu i Svyatomu Dukhu,
i nyne i prisno i vo veki vekov. Amin.
Alliluya. Slava Tebe, Bozhe.

Psalm 1 - Genevan Psalter 1539