A Model for the Christian Life

A Model for the Christian Life: Hilary of Poitiers' Commentary on the Psalms

Paul C. Burns
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 272
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2850md
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  • Book Info
    A Model for the Christian Life
    Book Description:

    In this examination of Hilary's treatise, Paul C. Burns discusses the intended audience of Hilary's text and the use of the Psalms by Christians in the fourth century. He identifies Hilary's distinctive perspectives; his dependence on Origen; his Latin theological and exegetical tradition; and the creative directions of Hilary's thought.

    eISBN: 978-0-8132-1988-2
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-16)

    In his Tractatus super Psalmos, composed between AD 364 and 367, during the last three years of his life, Hilary of Poitiers designed a commentary on the Psalms into which he inserted a specific theme. From the time of its original publication, his text was read and understood as a commentary on a book of Scripture. For in the fourth century commentaries on Scripture were becoming very popular. In addition to Christian exegetical practices, some comment on Donatus’s commentaries on Vergil and Terence written about twenty years earlier will also illustrate some ways in which Hilary and members of his...

  6. 1 HILARY’S COMMENTARY AND THE PSALMS
    (pp. 17-59)

    In the Tractatus super Psalmos Hilary has produced an extensive commentary on a selection of fifty-eight Psalms. In three passages, Hilary states that each cluster of fifty Psalms deals with a stage in his model of the Christian life. How Hilary announces he intends to interpret this text, and what he actually does, may be two different things. Has he, as he claims, used the Psalms to work out principles for a three-stage model of the Christian life or has he simply offered a generic commentary on the biblical text? If he is actually addressing both objectives, then is Hilary’s...

  7. 2 HILARY’S PRINCIPLES OF EXEGESIS
    (pp. 60-100)

    To illustrate his approach to principles of interpretation, Hilary develops two extensive comparisons at Instructio 24 and on Psalm 13. By extension the same illustrations and principles will guide our understanding of his Tractatus. In the first passage, Instructio 24, he uses a plan of a generic city as an extended metaphor for the scriptural text. He uses this parallel “to find the appropriate key to open each individual door to buildings in a city” in order to demonstrate the challenge to interpret Scripture. This example can be extended to present the challenge that confronts us to identify integrating themes...

  8. 3 FIRST TRANSFORMATION: BAPTISMUM
    (pp. 101-135)

    In his first cluster of Psalms, Hilary deals with the progress from vir saecularis to the life of the baptized Christian. He presents the critical limitations for life prior to baptism with another aspect of his polyvalent city metaphor. This version describes the dire situation of a “city in plague.” He develops his analysis of this stage with two biblical themes, each with a hopeful possibility. He also selects specific elements of this initial stage with which to connect his Christian understanding of both ethics and belief in the Godhead.¹ In Latin literary culture Hilary finds a respect for the...

  9. 4 THE CHRISTOLOGICAL FOUNDATION FOR TRANSFORMATION
    (pp. 136-172)

    The power and dynamism that effects transformation in each stage of Hilary’s model for the Christian life is communicated by the divine operating in and through the body of Christ. Right from his early In Matthaeum, Hilary links this theme to his understanding of Church and develops that connection throughout the Tractatus. Hilary continues to characterize the divine as “spirit” and “eternal.” To safeguard the equality of the Father and Son, he employs some of the strategies of the earlier commentary and then refined in his disputes with the Homoians in his De Trinitate. Two recent studies, in particular, have...

  10. 5 THE LAST TRANSFORMATION: DEMUTATIO
    (pp. 173-224)

    Hilary’s treatment of the third and final transformation in the Christian life, which he terms demutatio, continues to depend on incorporation in the body of Christ. In exploring this theme we are brought back to Hilary’s proposal with which we began this study. He stated that he would develop three stages of the Christian life and assign each stage a cluster of fifty Psalms. Wild had claimed that Hilary never did apply that proposal throughout his commentary. Since Hilary did outline features of this final stage of demutatio as early as Psalm 2, it might appear that Wild was correct...

  11. CONCLUSION
    (pp. 225-232)

    In this book I have examined Hilary’s objectives, thesis, intended audience, cultural context, and literary resources in his expansive Tractatus super Psalmos. In his introduction and commentary on a selected fifty-eight Psalms, Hilary lays out principles for the interpretation of this biblical text. Moreover, at three critical passages at Instructio 11, 51.2, and 150.1, he describes his thesis, which he links to a threefold division of the book of Psalms in successive clusters of fifty. I have taken Hilary at his word when he proposed to present throughout his commentary a three-stage journey of the Christian from the condition of...

  12. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 233-244)
  13. INDEX OF SELECTED SCRIPTURAL PASSAGES
    (pp. 245-246)
  14. INDEX OF CLASSICAL AND PATRISTIC AUTHORS
    (pp. 247-252)
  15. INDEX OF MODERN SCHOLARS
    (pp. 253-254)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 255-255)