Academic journal article Cithara

Review Symposium: Reading the Hebrew Bible as Christian Scripture

Academic journal article Cithara

Review Symposium: Reading the Hebrew Bible as Christian Scripture

Article excerpt

Gerald P. Boersma, Augustine's Psalter as Vox Totius Christi

Bradford A. Anderson, review of Old Testament Theology (R.W.L. Moberly)

Bradley C. Gregory, review of A journey of Two Psalms (Susan Gillingham)

Jonathan Deane Parker, review of Biblical Prophecy (Ellen F. Davis)

Matthew Ramage, review of The Call of Abraham (Gary A. Anderson and Joel S. Kaminski, ed.)

William Wright, review of The Character of Christian Scripture (Christopher Seitz)

Augustine's Psalter as Vox Totius Christi

"Search the Scriptures," says Jesus, "they testify of me" (Jn 5:39). Jesus proceeds to assert that Moses "wrote of me" On 5:46). Much of the Christian exegetical tradition has been the attempt to envision how this might be so. The five review essays in this issue of Cithara approach this same challenge from different angles. How does one read the Hebrew Bible as Christian Scripture? What does it mean to say, as Augustine maintained, "The New Testament is hidden in the Old and the Old manifest in the New"?1 How does one find Christ in Jewish Scripture, as the treasure hidden in the field (to use one of Augustine's favorite Scriptural images)? We are given a lapidary account (with no illustrative examples) of the Resurrected Christ doing the exegesis of the Hebrew-Bible to the disciples on the road to Emmaus: "And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself" (Lk 24:27).

Augustine took this at face value: As Christ saw in "all the scriptures ... things concerning himself," so the Christian exegete is called to find Christ in all of Scripture: "Our whole purpose when we hear the Psalms, the Prophets, and the Law," writes Augustine, "is to see Christ there, to understand Christ there."2 For Augustine, the Incarnate Christ-particularly the Crucified-is the key that unlocks Scripture's meaning.3 Perhaps nowhere does this come alive as palpably as in the Enarrationes in Psalmos, Augustine's longest and probably least read major work. From approximately 392 to 418 Augustine methodically exposited all 150 psalms verse by verse. The Enarrationes are a sustained attempt to find the mystery of Christ in the Psalter and in finding Christ, Augustine also found his body. Together they constitute what Augustine called the "whole Christ" (totus Christus). The hermeneutic operative in the Enarrationes is a discovery of "Christ and his Church, that total mystery with which all the Scriptures are concerned."4 One of Augustine's great commentators expresses this interpretive principle remarkably well: "For Augustine the voice of the totus Christus is the radiating hermeneutical center of the Psalms."5

Augustine's hermeneutics finds its origin in the method of interpreting classical texts such as Homer or Virgil that he learned as a schoolboy, namely prosopological exegesis. This standard practice of grammatical and rhetorical training involved approaching a text with the question, "Who here is the speaker?" The answer is not always immediately apparent. Most ancient texts did not have punctuation marks or spacing between paragraphs, lines, or even words (scriptio continua). The first task of the exegete, then, was to disentangle reams of text and locate the identity of the person speaking. Hence the term "prosopological" (derived from the Greek word prosopon, meaning "face"). Discovering the "face" or persona (identity) of the speaker in any text is the critical first step to understand its meaning.6

Augustine brings this training to bear on his exposition on the Psalms. He repeatedly asks throughout the Enarrationes, "Who here is the speaker?" It was quite possible for Augustine that one individual Psalm might have multiple personas. For example, the persona of those who say, "Let us burst their chains asunder" in Psalm 2:3 is that of "Christ's persecutors."7 This is in contrast to the persona of the Incarnate Word who speaks in verse six of Psalm 2: "I have been established by him as king over Zion. …

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