The Commentary Tradition in the Middle Ages: An Introductory Bibliography

Biblical Commentary

This is obviously a huge field. Kaske, Medieval Christian Literary Imagery, 14-32 gives some basic first aid. The fundamental resource is:

F. Stegmüller et al., Repertorium Biblicum Medii Aevi (Madrid, 1950-). 11 vols. of a projected 12.

The standard introduction to the topic is Beryl Smalley, The Study of the Bible in the Middle Ages (Oxford, 1952).

Major Patristic Commentaries

The centrality of scriptural commentary in the patristic era does not need emphasizing. The list below merely indicates some of the most
significant and influential texts. It should be remembered also that commentary on a biblical passage may be found almost anywhere in
Christian writers--in letters, sermons, controversial writings etc.--and not simply in commentaries proper (e.g. Books XI-XIII of
Augustine's Confessions in effect constitute a fourth commentary on the beginning of Genesis; works of Ambrose like the Hexaemeron
were as influential on biblical interpretation as any of the commentaries listed below).



Job Psalms Song of Songs Jeremiah Ezekiel Minor Prophets. Matthew Revelations

Medieval Commentaries

Complete Bible

Glossa Ordinaria (final compilation 12th c.). A gradual accumulation by many hands, once ascribed to Walafrid Strabo. Incomplete edition
in PL 113-14. Cf. Smalley, Study of the Bible 46-66.

Hugh of St. Cher, Opera omnia in universum Vetus et Novum Testamentum

       "In my own experience ... the most valuable single exegetical work for the interpretation of late medieval literature."
       -Kaske, p. 20

Individual Books


Song of Songs. Luke. Acts. Revelations

Commentaries on Secular Authors

Late Antiquity



A late antique (c. 400 AD) commentary extant in two versions, a shorter one (S) and a longer one, the so-called Danielis Servius (DS) discovered by the humanist Pierre Daniel. The relationship between these two versions has been controversial, but it is now generally accepted that DS derives from a copy of S to which an early medieval reader added material from the now-lost commentary of Donatus, the teacher of Jerome, and probable source of Servius. The best explanation of this complicated situation is to be found in G.P. Goold, "Servius and the Helen Episode" HSCP 74 (1970), 101-68. [= S.J. Harrison, ed. Oxford Readings in Virgil's Aeneid (Oxford, 1990), 60-126]. See also Don Fowler "The Virgil Commentary of Servius." The Cambridge Companion to Virgil. Ed. Charles Martindale. (Cambridge: CUP, 1997), 73-78.

ed. G. Thilo and H. Hagen. Servii Grammatici qui feruntur in Vergilii carmina commentarii. 3 vols. (Leipzig, 1881-1902. Rpt. Hildesheim, 1986).

ed. E.K. Rand et al., Servianorum in Vergilii Carmina Commentariorum = the so-called "Harvard Servius"

Vols. II and II, covering Aeneid 1-5 [and thus replacing Thilo/Hagen vol. 1] are the only ones thus far published; for other portions, recourse must still be had to Thilo/Hagen. Cf. Eduard Fraenkel's snarly review of the first volume in JRS 38 (1948), 131-43 and 39 (1949): 145-54.
For additional secondary literature see David Wilson-Okamura's online bibliography.


Not a commentary, exactly, but an imaginary round-table discussion largely about Vergil, and probably incorporating a good deal of material from commentaries.

Saturnalia, ed. J. Willis (Leipzig, 1963)
Tiberius Claudius Donatus.

Exhaustive line-by-line reading of the Aeneid from a rhetorical standpoint.

Interpretationes Virgilianae. ed. H. Georges. 2 vols. (Leipzig, 1905-12).


Author of a brief essay in which the shade of Virgil appears to the author to expound on the Aeneid's allegorical meaning.

Expositio Virgilianae Continentiae, in Opera ed. R. Helm (Leipzig, 1898)
Other Commentaries (texts in Thilo/Hagen III.2)

Commentaries on Other Authors

Donatus (Terence). Commentum Terentii, ed. P. Wessner (Leipzig, 1902-5)

Calcidius (Plato). Timaeus, A Calcidio translatus commentarioque instructus, ed. J. Waszink (London, 1962) = R. Klibansky, ed. Plato
Latinus, vol. 4

Macrobius (Cicero). Commentarium in Somnium Scipionis, ed. J. Willis.

Lactantius Placidus (Ovid). Narrationes fabularum Ovidiarum, ed. H. Magnus, Metamorphoseon libri XV (Berlin 1914) and D.A. Slater,
Towards a Text of the Metamorphosis [sic] of Ovid (Oxford, 1927)


The term "scholia" refers to marginal comments transmitted along with a given text; the line separating scholia from a commentary proper
is thus not in principle a hard-and-fast one, and the material below has much in common with Servius on Vergil or Donatus on Terence.

Secondary Literature.

J.E.G. Zetzel, "On the History of Latin Scholia," HSCP 79 (1975), 335-354.

Medieval Commentaries


From their origins in line-by-line exegesis, medieval Martianus commentaries gradually expand until in the 12th century they offer little
more than a pretext to show off the commentator's knowledge about everything under (and above) the sun.

Ninth Century

Twelfth Century


Anon. Saecvli noni avctoris in Boetii Consolationem philosophiae commentarivs, ed. E.T. Silk (Rome, 1935).


[Bernardus Silvestris]. The Commentary on the First Six Books of the Aeneid of Vergil Commonly Attributed to Bernardus Silvestris, edd.
J.W. Jones and E.F. Jones (Lincoln, Nebraska and London, 1977)

       Expands on the allegorical interpretation found in Fulgentius.

Anon. "Medieval Notes on the Sixth Aeneid in Parisinus 7930," ed. J.J.H. Savage, Speculum 9 (1934), 204-212.

Secondary Literature.

Christopher Baswell, Virgil in Medieval England: Figuring the Aeneid from the Twelfth Century to Chaucer. Cambridge Studies in
Medieval Literature 24. (Cambridge: CUP, 1995).


The 'Vulgate' Commentary on Ovid's Metamorphoses. The Creation Myth and the Story of Orpheus, ed. F.T. Coulson. TMLT 20

Arnulf of Orléans, Allegoriae super Ovidii Metamorphosin. F. Ghisalberti, ed. "Arnolfo d'Orléans: Un cultore di Ovidio nel secolo XII,"
Memorie del R. Istituto lombardo di scienze e lettere: Classe di lettere, scienze morali e storiche 24.4 (1932), 157-234. [excerpts]

Secondary Literature.

E.H. Alton, "Ovid in the Mediaeval Schoolroom," Hermathena 95 (1961), 70-82

Ralph J. Hexter, Ovid and medieval schooling : studies in medieval school commentaries on Ovid's 'Ars Amatoria,' 'Epistulae ex Ponto' and
'Epistulae Heroidum' (Munich, 1986)