Get the CD Now!


Discuss this text or ask a question on the official Early Writings forum. Anyone can post.

Online Text for Psalms

Online Resources for Psalms

Offline Resources for Psalms

Information on Psalms

Carroll Stuhlmueller writes:

Book One (Pss. 1-41) consists almost exclusively of 'Psalms of David' (except Pss. 1-2, 10, and 33) and is dominated by laments. Book One reflects the decadent or, at best, the despondent state of religion after the return from exile, as seen in Haggai and Isa. 56:9-57:13; 63:7-64:11. The fact that the royal Davidic psalms are scattered and that the titles refer to David's shared humanity, not to his royal status, reflects the demise of the dynasty.

Book Two (Pss. 42-72) gives new attention to Jerusalem's Temple liturgy in the psalms of Korah (Ps. 42-49) and Asaph (Ps. 50). These may date from the time of the religious reform of Ezra in the latter part of the fifth century B.C. (Ezra 7-10; Neh. 8-9) and the composition of the two books of Chronicles.

Book Three (Pss. 73-89) belongs almost exclusively to Asaph and Korah, while the slams in Book Four (Pss. 90-106) are almost completely untitled. Psalms 96-99 enhance the Temple liturgy as prefiguring the final or eschatological age. These books were added as the momentum of Ezra's reform continued.

Book Five (Pss. 107-150) is the most liturgical of all, with attention to Jews in the Diaspora on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, a situation possibly reflecting international stability and communication effected by the conquests of Alexander the Great. Psalms 120-134 constitute a booklet for pilgrims; Psalms 113-118, for the three major pilgrimage festivals. In Books Four and Five, composition of psalms has definitely passed from the control of the guilds under the names of David, Korah, and Asaph, to a wider group of worship leaders.

J. Alberto Soggin writes: "While the Hebrew and Christian tradition tended to attribute the greater part of the Psalter to the pen of David, critical Introduction from the end of the last century and the first decades of this has taken the opposite course: in his commentary, B. Duhm argued that it was no longer a question of asking whether there were any psalms from the Maccabaean period, but rather of asking whether there were any earlier than this period, and the authority which his opinion enjoyed is amply demonstrated by the support given to it by R. H. Pfieffer's Introduction and by the indecision of that of A. Lods. However, we have already seen that it is impossible to put the question in these terms, not only because of the recent discoveries from Qumran but also because of the studies made in the 1920s by S. Mowinckel, H. Gunkel and H. Schmidt. The second in particular advanced a more moderate argument, pointing out the absence of any convincing proof for such a late date and at the same time that there could be no question of 'dating' pure and simple or of the 'origin' of a given psalm. The task was, rather, to establish in as exact a form as possible the literary genre of each composition, and within the field of the literary genre, the use which was made of it." (Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 369)

Samuel Sandmel writes: "At Ugarit, twelve miles north of Latakia in north Syria, at a mound called Ras Shamra, many material remains were uncovered in the late 1920's and early 1930's, revealing remarkably close parallels to the Psalms in content and in a language kindred to the Hebrew. The Ras Shamra tablets come from the sixteenth-fourteenth pre-Christian centuries. Therefore, the view that the Psalms must necessarily be late was proven untenable. The attempt to date the Psalms reverted to the scrutinizing of each psalm, and the 'late dating' was properly abandoned or at least used with discretion." (The Hebrew Scriptures, p. 241)

Jay G. Williams writes: "Just when the psalms were written is a matter of great dispute. Some scholars argue that nearly all of them are post-exilic in origin, while others maintain that many came from the pre-exilic period. Some would even argue for a pre-Davidic date for several of the psalms. Although it is impossible to reach any absolute certainty concerning the matter, it is becoming more and more evident that those who argue for a post-exilic date for the origin of all the psalms are having an increasingly difficult time defending their position. Surely, the Israelites must have had some sort of psalmic tradition even during the time of the judges, for virtually every ancient religion employed hymns of one sort or another to praise the gods or God. Furthermore, discoveries at Ugarit have shown quite conclusively that Israelite and Canaanite hymnody have many literary similarities. This means that the Israelite psalmic tradition must have originated when Canaanite influence was still strong. The mention of kings in various psalms (20:9; 21:1, 7; 45:1, 11, 14, 15, for instance) also seems to imply a date when kings still ruled Israel. All of this points to a pre-exilic date for many of the psalms." (Understanding the Old Testament, p. 277)

James King West writes: "Study of the Psalter has undergone significant changes during the present century, not the least of which is an altogether different approach to the question of the date and occasion of individual psalms. In years past interest centered on efforts to determine the specific occasion for which each psalm was composed, and the prevailing tendency was toward late dating. Most, if not all, psalms were assigned to the post-Exilic period, and it was not uncommon to date some as late as the Maccabean era (second and first centuries B.C.). The present trend is toward earlier dating, allowing for a considerable number of pre-Exilic psalms, but with a reluctance to fix precise dates. It now appears that there are few, if any, psalms for which the specific historical occasion is beyond doubt. Following the path-finding studies of Hermann Gunkel, the major aim of psalms scholarship has become the discovery of the peculiar functions served by the psalms in their separate settings (Sitzen im Leben). Since the Psalter found its primary use in cultic worship, this approach (form criticism) is concerned especially with liturgical forms." (Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 385)

Please buy the CD to support the site, view it without ads, and get bonus stuff!

Early Jewish Writings is copyright © 2001-2013 Peter Kirby <E-Mail>.

Get the CD Now!

Kirby, Peter. Early Jewish Writings. <>.