Original Research - Special Collection: Historical Thought and Source Interpretation

Jerome and Augustine on wealth and poverty in Psalms 107–150

Pauline Allen, Jacobus P. K. Kritzinger
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 77, No 1 | a6805 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v77i1.6805 | © 2021 Pauline Allen, Jacobus P.K. Kritzinger | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 03 May 2021 | Published: 31 August 2021

About the author(s)

Pauline Allen, Department of Ancient and Modern Languages and Cultures, Faculty of Humanities, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Jacobus P. K. Kritzinger, Department of Ancient and Modern Languages and Cultures, Faculty of Humanities, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


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Abstract

The purpose of this article was to compare Jerome’s and Augustine’s sermons on the fifth book of the Psalms with regard to their views on the rich and the poor. After a brief consideration of the different audiences of Jerome and Augustine, we focused on their attitudes to wealth and poverty, and almsgiving and its relationship to eschatology. In both Jerome’s and Augustine’s commentaries we were confronted with problems regarding the nature of the collections, the composition of the audiences, and a lack of overlap between the two works, but it was possible to discern congruences and differences in their exegesis. In their preaching on poverty and riches, both homilists associated Judas with the devil and wealth. With regard to the identification of Christ and the poor, Jerome offers a somewhat uneasy exegesis in explaining that Christ stands at the right hand of the pauper, although the Lord himself is rich. Augustine mentioned the identification of Christ and the poor a few times in Enarrationes in Psalmos and framed the poverty of Christ within the body of the church, emphasising the common humanity of his congregation. In his sermons, mainly delivered to monks, Jerome advocated total renunciation. Augustine made more allowances for human frailty, advocating partial and gradual dispossession. The Songs of Ascent provided both our authors with the opportunity to consider the place of almsgiving in an eschatological context.

Contribution: We investigate the views of two prominent Latin fathers on wealth and poverty in their sermons on Psalms 109–150. The focus on wealth and poverty is evident. Judas is identified with the rich and Christ with the poor, placing Christ and riches against each other in an either/or position.


Keywords

Augustine; Jerome; wealth; poverty; almsgiving; Psalms

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