De titulis psalmorum

  • Latin
  • prose

A series of exegetical argumenta and explanationes for all 150 psalms, with prefatory and other additional material. Each argumentum typically consists of a historical and mystical explanation, and less frequently, also a moral one. In ninth-century manuscripts, the work is attributed to Bede, but this claim remains unproven.

First words (prose)
  • In primo libro Paralipomenon legitur [Preface] ... Dauid filius Iesse [Prologue] ... Omnes generaliter [Argumenta] ... Primus psalmus ideo non habet [Explanationes]
Ascribed to: Bede
(d. 735)
English monk at Monkwearmouth-Jarrow; author of the Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum and works on various religious and theological subjects.

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The work, or at least the explanationes, is attributed to Bede in manuscripts that have been dated to the 9th century (see below). Such an attribution seems to have encouraged Herwagen (1563) to include the text, as he found it in the Munich and Stuttgart MSS, among the collected works of Bede. A similarly attributed text was known to the author of the Old Irish treatise on the Psalter, since it names Bede as the source for its citation of an explanatio and argumentum to Psalm 1. Ramsay (1912) accepted the attribution to Bede as valid for the explanationes and argumenta. Fischer suggested that Bede probably authored the explanationes and that the argumenta are Irish in origin. Neither view has led to a consensus in subsequent scholarship. Gorman, who does not exclude the possibility, rejects it as unproven.
Ends on f. 94: Explicit Expositio Bedae xvi Kl. Augusti fer. iii. Amen.
Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS lat. 2384
ff. 98r–116v
Explicit Expositio Bedae xvi Kl. Augusti fer. iii. Amen feliciter.
Reims, Bibliothèque municipale, MS 118
Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS lat. 12273
  • Latin
c.8th century?
prose (primary)
Textual relationships
According to McNamara, the explanationes “depend almost entirely on the introductions which Cassiodorus prefixed to the psalms in his commentary”, while the argumenta are composite: the historical explanations derive from the Theodorean psalm headings a (Latin translation of psalm headings drawn from the commentary of Theodore of Mopsuestia), the mystical ones from the psalm headings associated with Columba, and the moral sections from Jerome or Arnobius.
(Possible) sources: Book of PsalmsBook of PsalmsExpositio psalmorumExpositio psalmorumCommentary on the psalms by (Flavius Magnus Aurelius) Cassiodorus, a Roman who served the Ostrogothic ruler Theodoric.Columba series of psalm headingsColumba series of psalm headingsView incoming dataTheodorean psalm headingsTheodorean psalm headingsView incoming data
Related: Old Irish treatise on the PsalterOld Irish treatise on the Psalter
Associated items
David filius Iesse cum esset in regno suoDavid filius Iesse cum esset in regno suoPsalter preface on the composition of the Psalms and the role of four musicians, Asaph, Eman, Ethan and Idithun (Jeduthun), who are said to have been appointed by King David.
Interpretationes nominum hebraicorum (‘Abessalon pater pacis’)Interpretationes nominum hebraicorum (‘Abessalon pater pacis’)A glossary of Hebrew proper names, which ultimately derives from Jerome‘s work on that subject and may possibly be associated with Bede. An Insular origin has been suggested for the transmission of this material.



Primary sources Text editions and/or modern translations – in whole or in part – along with publications containing additions and corrections, if known. Diplomatic editions, facsimiles and digital image reproductions of the manuscripts are not always listed here but may be found in entries for the relevant manuscripts. For historical purposes, early editions, transcriptions and translations are not excluded, even if their reliability does not meet modern standards.

[ed.] Migne, Jacques-Paul (ed.), Venerabilis Bedae: anglo-saxonis presbyteri, opera omnia, t. 4, Patrologia Latina, 93, Paris, 1862.
Internet Archive: <link>
477–1098 Reprint of Herwagen’s edition.
[ed.] Herwagen, Johann, and Johann Herwagen, Opera Bedae venerabilis presbyteri Anglosaxonis: viri in diuinis atque humanis literis exercitatissimi: omnia in octo tomos distincta, pout statim post praefationem suo elenco enumerantur, 8 vols, Basel: Johann Herwagen, 1563.  
The edition was begun Johann Herwagen the Elder, who died before he could complete it, and continued by his son, who published and printed the work in 1563. Reprints: Cologne (1612); Cologne (1688).
Biblioteca Digital Hispánica – vol. 1: <link> Google Books – vol. 2: <link> Google Books – vol. 7: <link> Internet Archive – vol. 7 (originally from Google Books): <link> Internet Archive – vol. 8 (originally from Google Books): <link> Google Books – vol. 8: <link>
Vol. 8, 419–1058 An unsatisfactory text based on the Munich and Stuttgart manuscripts. Herwagen printed the explanationes and argumenta, along with the commentarius from the Stuttgart MS, and re-arranged this material in such a way that items from each of these texts are grouped together on the basis of the particular psalm to which they refer.

Secondary sources (select)

Szerwiniack, Olivier, “Bède et les interprétations des noms hébreux”, Recherches augustiniennes et patristiques 33 (2003): 109–153.
Gorman, Michael M., “The argumenta and explanationes on the Psalms attributed to Bede”, Revue Bénédictine 108:3–4 (1998): 214–239.
McNamara, Martin, “Psalter text and Psalter study in the early Irish Church (A.D. 600-1200)”, in: Martin McNamara, The Psalms in the early Irish Church, 165, Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000. 19–142.  
Fischer, Bonifatius, “Bedae de titulis psalmorum liber”, in: Johanne Autenrieth, and Franz Brunhölzl (eds), Festschrift Bernhard Bischoff: zu seinem 65. Geburtstag dargebracht von Freunden, Kollegen und Schülern, Stuttgart: A. Hiersemann, 1971. 90–110.
Ramsay, R. L., “Theodore of Mopsuestia in England and Ireland”, Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie 8 (1912): 452–497.
Internet Archive: <link>
Dennis Groenewegen
Page created
September 2021, last updated: September 2023