Theodoret’s Commentary on Psalms: Recent Studies

Eva Tivelli
February 17, 2022

Theodoret of Cyrus’ Commentary on Psalms is the most important testimony to the so-called Lucianic Recension aka Antiochene Text of the Greek Psalms. It is also an important source of hexaplaric readings. According to an agreement with our Project partner, Die alexandrinische und antiochenische Bibelexegese in der Spätantike (Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities), led by Prof. Christoph Markschies, this commentary shall be edited as part of the Göttingen Psalter project. During my research stay at the Psalter Project (January to April 2022), I began with a preliminary evaluation of the material, based on a selection of the fifteen oldest manuscripts dating from the 9th to the 13th century (for a full list, see here). These are:


Number Location Shelf mark Date
9049 Paris Par. gr. 1051 9th
9078 Wien Vind. Theol. Gr. 294 10th (+15th)
9001 Athen EBE. 1 10th
9050 Paris Par. gr. 844 10th
9051 Paris Par. gr. 843 11th
9052 Paris Coisl. 80 11th
9053 Paris Coisl. 81 11th
9071 Sinai Sinait. Gr. 21 10th
9076 Venice Marc. Gr. Z. 19 11th
9077 Wien Vind. Theol. Gr. 159 10th(+16th)
9035 Moscow Syn. Gr. 213 10th
9044 Oxford Laud. gr. 42 12th
9017 Florence Laur. Plut. XI. 5 11th (+16th)
9058 Parma Palat. 16 12th [1131]
9046 Oxford Barocc. gr. 132 12th [1142-43]


Some of these manuscripts were already known to Rahlfs and listed in his Verzeichnis (1914), others were unknown to him (all Theodoret manuscripts were assigned with new Rahlfs numbers from 9001ff.). I personally took care of the new manuscripts and prepared descriptions of the following:

Ra 9049 (Codex Parisinus gr. 1051)
Ra 9078 (Codex Vindobonensis theol. gr. 294)
Ra 9052 (Codex Parisinus Coislinianus 80)
Ra 9071 (Codex Sinaiticus gr. 21)
Ra 9077 (Codex Vindobonensis theol. gr. 159)
Ra 9035 (Codex Mosquensis Syn. gr. 213)
Ra 9017 (Codex Laurentianus gr. Plut. XI.5)
Ra 9046 (Codex Oxoniensis Baroccianus gr. 132)


As Luciano Bossina notified in his presentation at the Göttingen Psalter Conference in 2021, it is possible to see here different phases of standardization of the biblical text: a first stage, which is internal to the Antiochene tradition, is the one of standardizations of the text in comparison with the commentaries by Theodore and Diodore. Then, a second stage, during which the standardization is massive and concerns the textual tradition of the Commentary on Psalms. I have described these manuscripts and collated them, in order to study the textual relation between these witnesses. By doing this, I found interesting clues about the Psalter text and its Antiochene dress, and about Theodoret’s commentary.

Theodoret, Eusebius and the Hexapla

According to the Antiochene tradition, Theodoret interpreted the divine scripture using a philological method. However, the interpretation is as good and reliable as the text is on which it is based. Therefore, Thedoret employed for his interpretation one of the most useful instruments of his time: Origen’s Hexapla. Theodoret probably used neither the Hexapla itself, nor the Eusebian Tetrapla, nor excerpts from them, but directly consulted by Eusebius’s Commentary on Psalms. In this Commentary, which is certainly a source of his exegesis, he found all the hexaplaric (or tetraplaric) variants that he employed. Guinot points out that Theodoret’s work was largely based on the preceding patristic tradition and that its links with Eusebius are evident.[i]

Based on Guinot’s research and his documentation of hexaplaric readings, I was able to prepare an overview in form of a table in which all the different readings are documented. Thanks to this survey, we can reconstruct much more precisely the lab of the author.

[i] J.-N. Guinot, L’exégèse de Théodoret de Cyr, Paris, Beauchesne, 1995 and also C.Curti, L’esegesi di Eusebio di Cesarea, in Le trasformazioni della cultura nella tarda antichità Atti del convegno tenuto a Catania Università degli Studi, 27 sett.-2 ott. 1982, vol. I, pp. 459-478 and id., Eusebiana I Commentarii in Psalmos, Catania, Centro di studi sull’antico cristianesimo, 1987.