Sunday, February 26, 2012

Johannes Bugenhagen on Psalm 1

During Lent I have begun to read Johannes Bugenhagen's Latin commentary on the Psalms, In librum Psalmorum interpretatio (Wittenberg, 1524). Although it is earlier than the age of Lutheran Orthodoxy, it was a commentary that remained popular throughout the 16th century and certainly influenced the Lutheran Orthodox. Martin Luther wrote a preface for this work (translated in LW 59, which will be available in June 2012 from, and in his preface he praised Bugenhagen as the first real commentator on the Psalms that the Christian Church has ever had--high praise, considering that Luther himself had lectured on the Psalms twice before, and considering Luther's high regard for St. Augustine, whose commentary on the Psalms had been the golden standard for a thousand years. Unfortunately Bugenhagen's commentary has never been translated into English.

When commenting on Ps. 1, Bugenhagen begins by saying that the "blessed man" is Christ, but then he quickly moves to describing the difference between the godly and ungodly on the basis of the Psalm.

He is comparing the Latin Vulgate text with not just the Hebrew, but also the Greek. He explains all the words of the first verse and deals with the "old man and new man" within each Christian, repentance, being "at the same time just and sinner," and a lot more. For example, Bugenhagen explains that "meditate" means not just to think about something, but "by thinking to speak and exercise something." Meditation on God's Word is like playing a flute, where one's whole mind, heart, breath, and body is concentrated on the music.

On p. 8 he refers to "our Philipp’s" translation of Ps. 1:5. What work or translation is this? He also speaks against those who suppose there are contradictions in Scripture, on the issue of Ps. 1:5, where the Vulgate says the ungodly "will not arise in the judgment." What this actually means, he says, is that the ungodly will not come to their senses, even though they hear the judgment of God's Word, which the congregation of the righteous speaks.

At the end of his comments on Ps. 1, he says, "Therefore in this Psalm you have the scope of all of Holy Scripture."

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