COMMENTARY ON THE PSALMS
spuriously ascribed to St. Albert the Great
of the Order of Preachers
The author of this commentary was a master of Scriptural studies in his day. His method, like that of St. Albert, to whom this work was ascribed, and Albert's his student Thomas Aquinas, was first to divide the text into parts, then comment on it line by line, exposing its literal meaning and, along with it, the background and theological implications, illustrated by Scriptural citations for every point made. This results in an exegetically and theologically rich commentary.
A problem in translating a work like this is that it was confined to the Vulgate Latin text, which very often misses nuances or even the main point of a word or line. Scriptural studies have gone far since medieval time, and simply to present the reading of the text found here would not do justice to contemporary readers who are interested in what the Scriptures have to say, not in antiquarian opinions.
Another problem is that the Lyon edition of 1641, which I am using, is not critical. The most frequent fault is that many of the Scriptural references are wrong, both as to the names of the books and to the chapters. Also, the author is quoting the Bible from memory, and frequently he uses vocabulary or forms that vary from the Vulgate. Fortunately, I have BibleWord, including the Vulgate, which enabled me to track down elusive texts, and also the verse numbers (which did not exist in the time of composition).
For the numbering of the Psalms, I follow the Hebrew numbering, which is followed in all modern translations; in most cases this is one ahead of the Vulgate numbering. I also supply a decimal numeration wihin the Commentary, so as to keep track of the commentator's sometimes complicated divisions.
For the Psalm text, I present first the Douay translation and then my own, which is much indebted to Mitchell Dahood. This is both to give a more accurate reading of the Psalm and to show its poetical structural format, with all its symetry and chiasms. Albert quotes many other Scriptural texts. For these, I use any convenient translation (e.g. JB, NRS, NAB or more frequently my own) for the majority of cases where the Vulgate more or less agrees with modern translations. But where the Latin text is seriously off point, I present what Albert says, but add "(Vul)", meaning that the Vulgate translation in this case cannot be accepted as the real meaning of the text.
In any use of this commentary for preaching or teaching, such quotations should be left out or substituted with others. Albert, to whom the commentary was ascribed, was a member of an Order whose motto is "Truth". Within his limitations, he always sought to get at the true meaning by looking at variants: "secundum aliam literam". He therefore would not approve of slavishly following his text where modern scholarship has shown the Vulgate to be faulty.
This commentary frequently quotes Cassiodorus, and a comparison of the two shows that it is heavily indebted to him. The Latin style of this commentary is far inferior to Cassiodorus', but it goes beyond Cassiodorus in theology and in the presentation of parallel Scriptural texts.
We may see in the use of parallel texts not only the defects of the Vulgate, but also a rather fanciful accommodative exegesis. This should not distract us from the author's quite healthy grasp of the "fuller sense" of the Psalms, and the Old Testament in general — the Christology and ecclesiology intended by the divine author, which has always informed the tradition of the praying Church.
Who is the author?
We are not sure, but internal evidence points strongly to the fact that the author was a Dominican. That is because of the constantly recurring theme of the role of the preacher, which is emphasized and extolled.
I thank Ruth Meyer, of the Albertus-Magnus Institut, Bonn, for the following communication:
Sehr geehrter P. Kenny,
Bernhard Geyer hat sich in einem 1958 publizierten Beitrag (Umstrittene Bibelkommentare unter dem Namen des Albertus Magnus, in: Scholastik 33 (1958), S. 558-566, bes. S. 565f.) aus inhaltlichen und formalen Gruenden dafuer ausgesprochen, den in der Editio Parisiensis abgedruckten Psalmen-Kommentar nicht zu den echten Werken des Albertus Magnus zu rechnen. Bereits in Friedrich Stegmuellers "Repertorium Biblicum Medii Aevi" (t.2: Auctores A - G, Madrid 1950), S. 43f., Nr. 1023), wird der Psalmenkommentar unter den Opera dubia verzeichnet. Dort (S. 44) gibt es auch eine aus einer Pariser Handschrift ermittelte, mutmassliche Zuschreibung der Autorschaft an Adenulfus de Agnani. Diese Zuschreibung an Adenulfus wird vom Autor der derzeit umfangreichsten Studie über die Schriftkommentare Alberts geteilt, vgl. Iacobus-M. Vosté O.P., Sacrae Paginae Magister t.2, Roma 1932, S. 79. Gegenwaertig wird der Kommentar nicht im Conspectus der Editio Coloniensis gefuehrt. Eine Edition der Opera dubia et spuria liegt noch in sehr weiter Ferne. Sie wird erst in Angriff genommen koennen, wenn die echten Werke ediert vorliegen. Und das wird noch einige Zeit beanspruchen. Ich hoffe, dass ich Ihnen mit diesen Auskuenften weiterhelfen konnte. Mit freundlichen Gruessen.