Christian Humanist Profiles 139: Honey of Souls

In the early 6th century, darkness was falling on the Rome’s Western Empire. Old Rome was waning, barbarians sat on the imperial throne, and smouldering tension with the Byzantine Eastern Empire threatened to explode at any moment. In this time of crisis, a man from an old Italian family, trained in orthodox Christianity and classical learning, rose to the highest political eminence—rose and fell, caught up in the political upheaval of his time. Yet through this catastrophe of fortune, this scholar of dying Rome came to write a book that profoundly shaped the Christian West for centuries to come: Cassiodorus’s Explanation of the Psalms. You thought I was talking about Boethius, didn’t you? Well, Cassiodorus may be one of the most influential thinkers you’ve never heard of. In fact, Derek Olsen calls his Explanation of the Psalms “the book that taught the Middle Ages how to read.” In this episode of Christian Humanist Profiles, David Grubbs interviews Dr. Derek Olsen, visiting Instructor in Church History and Scripture at the Ecumenical Institute of St. Mary’s Seminary and University, and author of The Honey of Souls: Cassiodorus and the Interpretation of the Psalms in the Early Medieval West (Liturgical Press, 2017).

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