Keepers of the faith: Irish exegetes and Psalter study in the eighth century

Carol Ann Scheppard, University of Pennsylvania


This project examines three eight-century Irish Psalm commentaries: the Old Irish glosses on the Milan Commentary, the Psalm section from the Reference Bible and the Eclogae Tractatorum in Psalterium, illuminating the uniqueness of the Irish approach to Psalter study. Eight-century Irish exegesis of the Psalms developed in a world concerned with preserving the teachings of scholars from an earlier era at the same time that it sought to address the needs of its own religious and academic community. Irish exegetes drew on patristic and classical resources from libraries in Britain, Spain and Northern Italy, and combined them with the grammatical, computistical and exegetical works of Irish authorities. Among these resources, the Psalm commentary by the Antiochene exegete, Theodore of Mopsuestia, was the most influential. Like Theodore, the Irish sought to establish an historical context for each Psalm and to ground all subsequent interpretation of the Psalms in that historical context. Nevertheless, they remained open to the teachings of those concerned with a messianic reading of the Psalter, and incorporated into their exegesis material from Cassiodorus, Jerome, Eucherius and Gregory. The resulting collage of quotations presented an approach to the Psalter which ultimately upheld concerns unlike those contained in any of the patristic sources. The Irish blended extensive grammatical and textual analysis with their historical and messianic interpretations in an attempt to identify the righteous behavior implied in the Psalms and to engender that behavior in the Psalter student. The Psalter thus acted as an aid to Christians in search of salvation, simultaneously standing as a record of God's relationship with God's people of ancient times, a model for righteous behavior in the present, and a prophecy of the glory to come.

Subject Area

Religious history|Bible|Middle Ages

Recommended Citation

Scheppard, Carol Ann, "Keepers of the faith: Irish exegetes and Psalter study in the eighth century" (1997). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9727292.