Psalm 78:1-8 As A Musical Intertext Of Torah And Wisdom -- By: Daniel J. Estes

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 173:691 (Jul 2016)
Article: Psalm 78:1-8 As A Musical Intertext Of Torah And Wisdom
Author: Daniel J. Estes

Psalm 78:1-8 As A Musical Intertext Of Torah And Wisdom

Daniel J. Estes

Daniel J. Estes is Distinguished Professor of Old Testament at Cedarville University, Cedarville, Ohio.


By means of connections with both Torah and Wisdom literature, Psalm 78:1-8 introduces the psalm’s recounting of Israel’s history, framing it as a wisdom text whose purpose is to teach readers and transmit knowledge of and faith in Yahweh to the following generation. In addition to its intertextuality, its characteristics as poetry and as song also contribute to its effectiveness in shaping the values of its readers and singers.


As we study the Bible, we must make choices about the approaches we employ. Meir Weiss has advocated a holistic approach to biblical exegesis that he calls total interpretation,1 but that ideal is more honored in the breach than in the observance. Usually, due to a variety of factors biblical scholars select out of many useful avenues of research approaches that seem of particular interest or importance to them, or what is in vogue in academic journals and monographs at the time. Some gravitate toward textual, philological, grammatical, or historical investigations. Others consider the reception history of the biblical texts. Still others focus on how the texts inform the various branches of theology. All of these approaches have value, to be sure, and all are needed for the full import of the biblical texts to be discovered and articulated.

In recent years, a flood of intertextual studies of the Bible has tended to focus primarily on describing how terms and phrases in earlier texts were reused in later biblical texts, either within one of the Testaments, or else across the Testaments. Intertextual studies have considered the procedures and strategies by which later authors cited, alluded to, or echoed earlier texts, sometimes adapting them in surprising and creative ways.2 This article begins with the familiar approach of intertextuality, using as a test case the introductory section of Psalm 78.3 After briefly surveying the psalm as a whole, I will look in detail at the language of the introductory strophe in Psalm 78:1-8 in order to identify the range of intertextual links between these verses and other Old Testament passages. In particular, I will investigate its connections to Deuteronomy, as r...

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