Bede’s Abbreviated Psalm 41/42

In Bede’s Vulgate Psalter this was psalm 41:2, in modern psalters it is psalm 42:1.

Modern Roman Catholic Latin-English Bibles use:

{41:2} Quemadmodum desiderat cervus ad fontes aquarum: ita desiderat anima mea ad te Deus.
{41:2} As the deer longs for fountains of water, so my soul longs for you, O God.

As a hart panteth after the fountains of water, so my soul panteth after thee, O God. [King James]

This is the basically the same translation given for Cassiodorus’ Explanation of the Psalms and we know this is the correct translation because Cassiodorus goes into a long discussion of the symbolism surrounding deer (as previously discussed).

Bede’s text:

Sicut areola praeparata ad inrigationes aquarum, sic anima mea praeparata est ad te, Deus. [1]

Translated as:

Like a garden prepared for the irrigation of waters, so my soul is prepared for you, God. [2]

I have discovered that this Latin text matches Jerome’s translation from Greek and Hebrew Versio juxta Hebraicum of 405.

So, in my previous post, I detected a difference between Jerome’s Hebrew Psalter and apparently his other psalters and modern psalters. Browne didn’t point this out because he had already said that Bede used the Hebrew psalter and this line is true to Bede’s source. Modern psalters are new translations from Hebrew, but it is likely that the translators were influenced by Jerome’s first two psalters. For Ps 41:2/42.1, the modern psalter matches Jerome’s first two from the Old Latin and Greek text, but not his Hebrew translation. Cassiodorus used an older translation for his Exposition on the Psalms, just as Bede used did for his commentaries. The ‘Codex Grandior’ compiled at Cassiodorus’ Viviarium, acquired by Wearmouth-Jarrow in Bede’s time, used Jerome’s translation from the Greek for the Old Testament. Looking at Bede’s On Ezra-Nehemiah, he uses Jerome’s (Roman?) psalter 41:2 (with the deer) three times in commentary on the Water Gate in Jerusalem. This is particularly significant since the ‘Codex Amiatinus’ with its Ezra minature was created with Jerome’s Hebrew psalter. If Scott DeGregorio is correct, Ezra could be Bede’s last commentary. If so, then Bede did not change to the Hebrew Psalter for any of his commentaries, early or late.

So why does he use the Hebrew Psalter for his own Abbreviated Psalter? This version wasn’t used for liturgy in church or in his own commentaries, and it wasn’t used by any of the church fathers in his library that I know of. The use of this psalter though probably does strengthen the attribution to Bede (or at least Wearmouth-Jarrow) because this psalter was virtually unknown in Anglo-Saxon England outside of Wearmouth-Jarrow. Most of England apparently used Jerome’s first psalter, a revision of the Old Latin text. Both Bede and Stephan of Ripon take great pride that Northumbria’s monasteries sang the office in the same manner as Rome.

Works cited and further reading:

[1] Gerald M Browne, ed. (2001) Collectio Psalterii Bedae Venerabili Adscripta. Bibliotheca Scripotorum Graecorum et Romanorum Teubneriana. Munich and Leipzig.

[2] Gerald M Browne, trans. (2002) The Abbreviated Psalter of the Venerable Bede. Grand Rapids/Cambridge: Eerdmans.

P G Walsh, trans. (1990) Cassiodorus: Explanation of the Psalms. Volume 1 Psalms 1-50. Paulist Press.

Scott DeGregorio, ed and trans (2006) Bede: On Ezra and Nehemiah. Liverpool UP.

Latin Psalters at Wikipedia.


4 thoughts on “Bede’s Abbreviated Psalm 41/42

  1. Curiouser and curiouser…

    Sure enough, my printed Vulgate has the same as Bede for the Hebraica, and all I can wonder is what Jerome was looking at. Jerome had to have been looking at a corrupted Hebrew source because the Masoretic Text (the authoritative Hebrew preserved more or less intact from the beginning of the Era) does indeed have eyyal (deer) which looks nothing like gan or ginnah (garden). The LXX has elaphos (deer) as well and Rahlfs gives no textual variants. The last place to check–and I don’t have these at home–would be if the Psalms Scroll from Qumran shows any trace of this tradition. Ah, if only Origen’s Hexapla had survived…

  2. Jerome actually doesn’t have garden (gan/giannah). He uses the word areola, meaning ‘open space’. Modern English translators choose the word garden. Considering the Latin word for dry is similar to areola, I wonder if it specifically means ‘dry open space’, like parched ground or even desert. I suppose the ‘prepared’ part indicates a garden rather than naturally existing parched ground.

  3. Well, no, Jerome wouldn’t have written gan/ginnah because that’s the Hebrew word for garden… I was trying to determine if there was a Hebrew word with a similar triliteral root to “deer” to explain the difference.

    The way Hebrew work is that, broadly speaking, most words are based on a set of three consonants (the tri-literal root). Vowels are then added as points to distinguish between various states or to show if the root is functioning as a noun or verb, etc. Early written Hebrew (and modern Hebrew) are written *without* vowel points. Sometimes this can lead to ambiguities in translation. I was looking to see if this could have been one of those. That is, is there a triliteral root similar to both “garden” and “deer” and Jerome just slipped up in his translation work? I’m thinking not since the main words for each have no consonants in common at the right places and don’t have letters that can be mistaken for one another.

    The standard term for “open space” in biblical Hebrew is midbar (which also serves for desert/wilderness). Again–unlike any of the main Hebrew words for deer…

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