The Date of the Psalms -- By: Charles Lee Feinberg

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 104:416 (Oct 1947)
Article: The Date of the Psalms
Author: Charles Lee Feinberg


The Date of the Psalms

Charles Lee Feinberg

The question of the date of the Psalter or of individual psalms in the collection has for long been a most vexing one. Confusion has been the result of many discussions of this problem. It is not our aim to settle the matter dogmatically for all time, but we shall present the respective views with their support and our own conclusions on the subject. It is generally admitted that on the whole the Psalms have very little to identify them with any special event or occasion. Critical treatments of the date and authorship of the Psalms have been chiefly concerned with the two great questions, one as to the presence of Davidic psalms and the other as to the inclusion in the collection of Maccabean psalms. Views have been propounded that run the entire gamut of the period just indicated. T. H. Robinson points out that on the one hand we have the traditional dates derived from the titles found at the head of many of the psalms; on the other hand, there are those, like Cheyne and Duhm, who attribute many psalms to a late period. Now the view is shifting so that we find men like Gressmann and Mowinckel placing the Psalms in the pre-exilic period, howbeit for different reasons.1 There are now those who are prepared to say that there may be a good deal more pre-exilic material in the Psalter than the past generation was willing to concede. H. H. Rowley notes, “That many of the actual psalms were written in pre-exilic days is much more widely agreed today than it would have been a generation ago. Nevertheless, it is still generally believed that the majority of our psalms come from the post-exilic age, and the compilation of

the Psalter is certainly to be placed in that age. Few scholars today would assign large numbers of psalms to the Maccabean age in the way that was common at the beginning of the century.”2

What has been responsible for the change in viewpoint as to the date of the Psalter? Unquestionably the light that archaeology has afforded us on the subject has been the deciding factor. Breasted shows how the hymns of Egypt were a thousand years earlier than those of the Hebrews. He adduces proof to reveal that not only was psalmody possible at such an early date in the history of the world, but that it actually existed in great abundance. Montgomery notes that, since we cannot deny that a monotheism was possible in the fourteenth century B.C. in Egypt (following Breasted), then we have little ground to question the early existence of the Hebrew Psalms. Contrary to Wellhausen’s former dictum that “it is not a question whether there be any post-Exilic Psalms, b...

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