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Athanasius, the heroic bishop of Alexandria in the mid-fourth century—who was sent into exile five times—is best known for his defense of the creed of the Council of Nicaea (325 a.d.) against its Arian detractors. The three-volume treatise Against the Arians is his most substantive theological work. Less known is his little book on the psalms, the Letter to Marcellinus. During an illness, Marcellinus, a deacon in the church in Alexandria, had spent his days studying the Bible, especially the psalms, and he wished to know the meaning contained in each psalm. In his response, Athanasius writes that all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching (2 Tim. 3:16), “yet the Book of Psalms is like a garden which besides bearing fruit that is found elsewhere, exhibits things of its own in song along with the words.” Psalms draws on truths and images from other books of the Bible, but more than any other book, Psalms speaks the language of the heart.

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