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PSALMS, BOOK OF, or PSALTER

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Originally appearing in Volume V22, Page 535 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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PSALMS, BOOK OF, or PSALTER, the first book of the Hagiographa in the Hebrew Bible. Title and Traditional Authorship.—The Hebrew 'title of the book is ^' Vin, tishillim, or o'Sn " the book of hymns," or rather " songs of praise."' The singular n1,?nn is properly the infinitive or nomen verbi of 59n, a verb employed in the technical language of the Temple service for the execution of a jubilant song of praise to the accompaniment of music and the blare of the priestly trumpets (1 Chron. xvi. 4 seq., xxv. 3; 2 Chron. v. 12 seq.). The name is not therefore equally applicable to all psalms, and in the later Jewish ritual the synonym Hallel specially designates two series of psalms, cxiii.–cxviii. and cxlvi.–cl., of which the former was sung at the three great feasts —the encaenia, and the new moon, and the latter at the daily morning prayer. That the whole book is named " praises " is clearly due to the fact that it was the manual of the Temple service of song, in which praise was the leading feature. But for an individual psalm the usual name is Wimp (in the Bible only in titles of psalms), which is applicable to any piece designed to be sung to a musical accompaniment. Of this word ibaXµbs, " psalm," is a translation, and in the Greek Bible the whole book is called ifiaX,uol or 1liaXTiJptov.2 The title I/iaXµol or /3g3Aos i//aXpwv is used in the New Testament (Luke xx. 42, xxiv. 44; Acts i. 20), but in Heb. iv. 7 we find another title, namely " David." Hippolytus tells us that in his time most Christians said " the Psalms of David," and believed the whole book to be his; but this title and belief are both of Jewish origin, for in 2 Mace. ii. 13 Tic Tov Aaetb means the Psalter, and the title of the apocryphal " Psalter of Solomon " implies that the previously existing Psalter was ascribed to David. Jewish tradition does not make David the author of all the psalms; but as he was regarded as the founder and legislator of the Temple psalmody (I Chron., ut supra; Ezra iii. lo; Neh. xii. 36, 45 seq.; Ecclus. xlvii. 8 seq.), so also he was held to have completed and arranged the whole book, though according to Talmudic tradition 3 he incorporated psalms by ten other authors, Adam, Melchizedek, Abraham, Moses, Heman, Jeduthun, Asaph, and the three sons of Korah. With this it agrees that the titles of the psalms name no one later than Solomon, and even he is not recognized as a psalmodist by the most ancient tradition, that of the LXX., which omits him from the title of Ps. cxxvii. and makes Ps. lxxii. be written not by him but of him. The details of the tradition of authorship show considerable variation; according to the Talmudic view Adam is author of the Sabbath psalm, xcii., and Melchizedek of Ps. cx., while Abraham is identified with Ethan the Ezrahite (Ps. lxxxix.). But, according to older Jewish tradition attested by Origen,4 Ps. xcii. is by Moses, to whom are assigned Ps. xc.–c. inclusive, according to a general rule that all anonymous pieces are by the same hand with the nearest preceding psalm whose author is named; and Ps. ex., which by its title is Davidic, seems to have been given to Melchizedek to avoid the dilemma of Matt. xxii. 41 seq. Origen's rule accounts for all the psalms except i. and ii., which were sometimes reckoned as one poem (Acts xiii. 33 in the Western text; Origen; B. Berakhoth, f. 9b.), and appear to have been ascribed to David (Acts iv. 25). The opinion of Jerome (Praef. in ps. heb.) and other Christian writers that the collector of the Psalter was Ezra does not seem to rest on Jewish tradition. Nature and Origin of the Collection.—Whatever may be the value of the titles to individual psalms, there can be no question that the tradition that the Psalter was collected by David is not historical ; i Hippol., ed. Lag., p. 188; Euseb. H.E. vi. 25, 2; Epiph. Mens et Pond. § 23; Jerome's preface to Psalt. juxta Hebraeos. 2 Similarly in the Syriac Bible the title is mazmore. 2 The passages are collected in Kimhi's preface to his commentary on the Psalms, ed. Schiller-Szinessy, Cambridge (1883). 4 Opp. ii. 514 seq., ed. Rue; cf. Hippol. ut supra; Jerome, Ep. cxl. (ed. Cypr.), and Praef. in Mal. The question now arises: Was the collection a single act or is the Psalter made up of several older collections ? And here we have first to observe that in the Hebrew text the Psalter is divided into five books, each of which closes with a doxology. The scheme of the whole is as follows: Book I., Ps. i.-x1i. ; all these are ascribed to David except i., ii., x. (which is really part of ix.), xxxiii. (ascribed to David in LXX.) ; doxology, xli. 13. Book II., Ps. xlii. Ixxii.: of these xlii.-xlix. are ascribed to the Korahites (xliii. being part of xlii.), 1. to Asaph, li.-lxxi. to David (except lxvi., lxvii., lxxi. anonymous; in LXX. the last two bear David's name), Ixxii. to Solomon; doxology, Ixxii. 18, 19 followed by the subscription " The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended." Book III., Ps. Ixxiii.-lxxxix.; here lxxiii.-lxxxiii. bear the name of Asaph, lxxxiv., lxxxv., lxxxvii., lxxxviii. that of the Korahites, lxxxvi. of David, lxxxviii. of Heman, Ixxxix. of Ethan; doxology, Ixxxix. 52. Book IV., Ps. xc.-evi.: all are anonymous except xc. (Moses), ci., ciii. (David),—LXX. gives also civ. to David; here the doxology is peculiar, " Blessed be Jehovah God of Israel from everlasting and to everlasting. And let all the people say Amen, Hallelujah." Book V., Ps. evii.-cl.: of these cviii.-cx., cxxii., cxxiv., exxxi., cxxxiii., cxxxviii.-cxlv. are ascribed to David and cxxvii. to Solomon, and cxx.-cxxxiv. are pilgrimage psalms, LXX. varies considerably from the Hebrew as to the psalms to be ascribed to David; the book closes with a group of doxological psalms. The division into five books was known to Hippolytus, but a closer examination of the doxologies shows that it does not represent the original scheme of the Psalter; for, while the doxologies to the first three books are no part of the psalms to which they are attached, but really mark the end of a book in a pious fashion not uncommon in Eastern literature, that to book IV., with its rubric addressed to the people, plainly belongs to the psalm, or rather to its liturgical execution, and does not therefore really mark the close of a collection once separate. In point of fact books IV. and V. have so many common characters that there is every reason to regard them as a single great group. Again, the main part of books II. and III. (Ps. xlii.-lxxxiii.) is distinguished from the rest of the Psalter by habitually avoiding the name Jehovah (the Lord) and using Elohim (God) instead, even in cases like Ps. 1. 7, where " I am Jehovah thy God " of Exod. xx. 2 is quoted but changed very awkwardly to " I am God thy God." This is not due to the authors of the Individual psalms, but to an editor; for Ps. H. is only another recension of Ps. xiv., and Ps. lxa repeats part of Ps. xl., and here Jehovah is six times changed to Elohim, while the opposite change happens but once. The Elohim psahns, then, have undergone a common editorial treatment, distinguishing them from the rest of the Psalter. And they make up the mass of books II. and III., the remaining psalms, lxxxiv.-lxxxix., appearing to be a sort of appendix. But when we look at the Elohim psalms more nearly, -we see that they contain two distinct elements, Davidic psalms and psalms ascribed to the Levitical choirs (sons of Korah, Asaph). The Davidic collection as we have it splits the Levitical psalms into two groups and actually divides the Asaphic Ps. I. from the main Asaphic collection, lxxiii.-lxxxiii. This order can hardly be original, especially as the Davidic Elohim psalms have a separate subscription (Ps. Ixxii. 20). But if we remove them we get a continuous body of Levitical Elohim psalms, or rather two collections, the first Korahitic and the second Asaphic, to which there have been added by way of appendix by a non-Elohistic editor a supplementary group of Korahite psalms and one psalm (certainly late) ascribed to David. The formation of books IV. and V. is certainly later than the Elohistic redaction of hooks II. and III., for Ps. eviii. is made up of two Elohim psalms (,vii. 7-11,1x. 5-12) in the Elohistic form, though the last two books of the Psalter are generally not of all its component parts. (R. H. K.) Jehovistic. We can thus distinguish the following steps in the redaction: (a) the formation of a Davidic collection (book I.) with a closing doxology; (b) a second Davidic collection (li.-Ixxii.) with doxology and subscription; (c) a twofold Levitical collection (xlii.-xlix.; 1., lxxiii.-lxxxiii.) ; (d) an Elohistic redaction and combination of (b) and (c) ; (e) the addition of a non-Elohistic supplement to (d) with a doxology; (f) a collection later than (d), consisting of books IV. and V. And finally the anonymous psalms i., ii., which as. anonymous were hardly an original part of book I., may have been prefixed after the whole Psalter was completed. We see, too, that It is only in the latest collection (books IV., V.) that anonymity is the rule, and titles, especially titles with names, occur only sporadically. Elsewhere the titles run in series and correspond to the limits of older collections. Date of the Collection.—An inferior limit for the final collection is given by the Septuagint translation. But this translation was not written all at once, and its history is obscure; we only know from the prologue to Ecclesiasticus that the Hagiographa, and doubtless therefore the Psalter, were read in Greek in Egypt about 130 B.C. or somewhat later., And the Greek Psalter, though it contains one apocryphal psalm at the close, is essentially the same as the Hebrew; there is nothing to suggest that the Greek was first translated from a less complete Psalter and afterwards extended to agree with the extant Hebrew. It is therefore reasonable to hold that the Hebrew Psalter was completed and recognized as an authoritative collection long enough before 13o B.C. to allow of its passing to the Greek-speaking Jews in Alexandria. Beyond this the external evidence for the completion of the collection does not carry us. (W. R. S.) But there is absolutely no necessity for supposing that when the grandson of Ben Sira reached Egypt the Psalter had been translated into Greek for any considerable time. Indeed it is at least equally probable that it was the recent translation of some of the poetical books of the Old Testament which fired him with a desire to translate his grandfather's book, and perhaps add the work of a member of the family to the Bible of the Egyptian Jews. It appears indeed from i Chron. xvi., 2 Chron. vi. 41, 42, that various psalms belonging to books IV. and V. were current in the time of the Chronicler. Unfortunately however it is impossible to date the book of Chronicles with certainty. The argument that the Chronicler must have been contemporary with the last persons named in his book is by no means convincing and on the other hand his account of the Temple services, in which he seems to be describing the Temple of his own days, harmonizes far better with a date at the end of the third, or even in the second, century B.C. than with the close of the Persian or the beginning of the Greek period. For the impression which we get from Nehemiah's memoirs is that in his days the community at Jerusalem was in the main poverty-stricken, while Malachi's exhortations to the people to pay their dues to the priests implies that in the middle of the fifth century B.C. the Temple was by no means wealthy. But in the comparative peace and freedom of the 3rd century B.C. the condition of Jerusalem was greatly ameliorated. Wealth accumulated to such a degree that Simon the son of Oniah was enabled practically to rebuild the Temple, and to maintain its services with a grandeur of ritual which they had probably never known before. It must be admitted that the gorgeousness of ritual described by the Chronicler is far more in harmony with the days of Simon than with any previous post-exilic period. How late the Chronicler wrote cannot perhaps be determined; but it is, at all events, impossible to prove that the author of Ecclesiasticus was acquainted with his work. Ben Sira indeed in his list of worthies mentions Zerubbabel, Joshua and Nehemiah; but Zerubbabel and Joshua he must have known from the books of Haggai and Zechariah, and he may well have been acquainted with that document relating to Nehemiah which the Chronicler incorporated with his book. Ben Sira's omission of the name of Ezra rather militates against the supposition that he had the Chronicler's book before him when he wrote. The conflict between Saduceeism and the sopherir was hardly so intense in his days as to warrant the supposition that he omitted the name of Ezra intentionally. Moreover, it is not certain that the psalms that the Chronicler quotes (xcvi., cv., cvi., cxxxii.) 1 The text of the passage is obscure and in part corrupt, but the Latin " cum multum temporis ibi fuissem " probably expresses the 1 This must be understood of the whole collection as completed, author's meaning. A friend has written to the author that for ovyXpovteas we ought perhaps to read svxvov yxpoviaas.
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