Covenant Renewal And The Formula Of Grace In The Psalter -- By: C. Hassell Bullock

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 176:701 (Jan 2019)
Article: Covenant Renewal And The Formula Of Grace In The Psalter
Author: C. Hassell Bullock

Covenant Renewal And The Formula Of Grace In The Psalter

C. Hassell Bullock

C. Hassell Bullock is the Franklin S. Dyrness Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies at Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois, and a former president of the Evangelical Theological Society.


One layer of redaction in Books 3, 4, and 5 of the Psalter can be seen in echoes of the formula of grace from Exodus 34:6–7. These echoes weave together a narrative of postexilic Israel receiving their own revelation of Yahweh’s character and experiencing their own Exodus in the return from exile. The redactor thus used the formula of grace as an instrument of covenant reaffirmation and renewal.

The Layered Editions Of The Psalter

The Psalter, as it has come to us, is the product of many redactions, with each contributing a valuable emphasis or theological thrust impressed on the material. An analogy, imperfect as analogies are, is that of a palimpsest manuscript. One text is written on top of another. In the case of the palimpsest, of course, the new text replaces the old, while the editors of the Psalms worked with the “old manuscript,” adapting and altering it in various ways by rearranging materials, adding new materials, reusing selected materials from other psalms, and labeling the psalms with superscripts, especially name-attributed superscripts.1

Every redaction, of course, has its own literary story. A good place to begin an understanding of this rather complex and elusive operation is the “hallelujah” redaction of the Psalter that affects Books 4 and 5. Fortunately, the editor(s) of this redaction has left some telltale signs of its editorial history. For example, there is good evidence that the “hallelujah” redaction of the Psalter was superimposed on the edition of the Psalms that lay before the “hallelujah” redactor. In fact, “hallelujah” is, with one exception (135:3), external to the form and content of the psalms where it occurs, occurring either before the psalm as a superscript or after it as a subscript, or both. Perhaps the most telling case is the concluding doxology of Book 4, where “hallelujah” appears after the doxology, suggesting that the doxology was already in place, and the redactor, respecting its presence and place, positioned “hallelujah” after it rather than after the last sentence of Psalm 106.

The framing thrust of the “hallelujah” redaction, of ...

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