The Law Preaches the Incarnation: Reading the Law in Hilary of Poitiers’ Commentary on Ps119

Rebecca Eaton Burgess
Lecturer, Bishopdale Theological College, Nelson, New Zealand
PhD Candidate, University of Otago

Abstract: Hilary of Poitiers (c.315-367/8), is known for his exegetical works: the first fully extant Latin Commentary on Matthew, Tractatus super Psalmos, and Tractatus mysteriorum. His main theological work was De Trinitate which shows striking theological similarity to many Eastern Fathers. He is even called the ‘Athanasius of the West’ for his public campaign against Arianism. This paper examines Hilary’s view of the law as God’s self-revelation in Psalm 119 based on the radical statement that the law preached the Incarnation. I endeavour to show how the law, according to Hilary’s thought, reveals God in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. In conclusion I discuss briefly the continuity of Hilary’s thought with two modern theologians, Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. These two theologians, both famous for their anti-Nazi stance during WWII, stand in stark contrast to most modern exegetes in their vision that the law reveals and proclaims Christ. I hope to challenge us to consider the contemporary necessity of a Trinitarian reading of Psalm 119.