Augustine. Exposition on the Book of Psalms. Schaff, Philip (editor). New York: Christian Literature Publishing Col, 1886. Nicene and Post-Nicene Church Fathers: Series 1: Volume VIII. Re-published 2014, Catholic Way Publishing. Kindle electronic edition, ISBN-13: 978-1-78379-372-3.
The ascription o Psalm 8 makes a reference that Augustine finds related to wine-presses. Because the body of the Psalm says nothing about a wine press, Augustine allegorizes the reference to speak of the Church. As with a threshing floor, in the wine press the harvest is collected and the bad is removed from the good. Likewise, in the Church, all are collected together and sorted by God’s word working through the ministers (Augustine Psalms, loc. 319389). Augustine further compares the work of God’s Word to a pressing of grapes. Anyone may hear God’s Word but it is applied and used only by some, as it is processed and put to work (Augustine Psalms, loc. 319405). A third application is that of martyrdom, as those called by Christ’s name are trampled by the world. The fruitfulness remains, as if released as the juice of the grapes.
From this point, Augustine moves into the Psalm itself. In verse one, God’s name is wonderful in all the earth. His praise is made perfect (v. 2) from the mouths of infants, which Augustine takes to be a reference to those who have the most basic understanding of Christ (Augustine Psalms, loc. 319420). These would be Christians who simply depend on their Lord and His promises. In opposition to the mouths of infants, we have “Thine enemies” in verse two. Augustine identifies the enemies as those who accept and follow the teaching of the Gentiles, denying the true God. Faith in Christ is built on the unseen Gospel, which is not received by our logic and wisdom, but by God’s grace (Augustine Psalms, loc. 319435).
In contrast to our earthly challenges, in verse three, the Psalmist looks to the heavens and sees God’s work (Augustine Psalms, loc. 319443). Augustine allegorizes the work of God’s fingers to be His ministers and the Scripture. He then makes the step that God’s glory is above that of the Scriptures, which have lowered God’s glory to a level where we can deal with it (Augustine Psalms, loc. 319451). Counter to God’s glory, those who would use God’s Word inappropriately cannot do it for the good of Christ’s people. This is to the destruction of the unbelievers (Augustine Psalms, loc. 319459).
Verse four goes on to wonder at the noble status of man. The intensification of “the son of man” turns Augustine’s attention to Christ as the heavenly Son of Man (Augustine Psalms, loc. 319475). It is through Christ that we find the love of God manifest, where we see God has cared for us (Augustine Psalms, loc. 319480). Augustine continues to distinguish between the carnal man and the spiritual man, illustrating God’s Word working in those who are receptive.
Augustine applies Psalm 8:5 directly and immediately to Christ and his humiliation and exaltation (Augustine Psalms, loc. 319495). The humility is seen clearly in his being born in humble circumstances, as well as in Jesus’ death. His glorification is seen in the ascension, which placed Jesus above even the angels. All things are now subject to the Christ, as the author of Hebrews observes. At the same time, Christ’s exaltation is, in a sense, indiscriminate, since verse seven mentions not only angels, but also the various living creatures of the arth being subject to Christ. Augustine further illustrates the care of Jesus for all creation by citing his illustrations of sheep and cattle having a dignity of their own (Augustine Psalms, loc. 319511). This idea extends also through Psalm 8:8, where Augustine draws the focus back from the animals of the field to his allegorical understanding of the Church, now as the place where God’s creatures (people) have their care and work (Augustine Psalms, loc. 319527).