The Book Of Psalms Within The Canonical Process In Ancient Israel -- By: Duane L. Christensen

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 39:3 (Sep 1996)
Article: The Book Of Psalms Within The Canonical Process In Ancient Israel
Author: Duane L. Christensen

The Book Of Psalms
Within The Canonical Process In Ancient Israel

Duane L. Christensen**

The fact that the book of Psalms has a long and complex history within the life of the people of ancient Israel is obvious to any reader who takes the time and effort to look at the facts. Though the psalms are frequently referred to as the “Psalms of David,” David is actually designated as the author in less than half of the 150 psalms in the MT book of Psalms. Other designated authors include Moses (Psalm 90), Solomon (Psalms 72, 127), the “sons of Korah” (Psalms 42–49, 84–85, 87–88), Asaph (Psalms 50, 73–83), and Ethan the Ezrahite (Psalm 89), and many of the psalms are without any designation so far as authorship is concerned. Moreover some psalms, like Psalm 137, clearly presuppose the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem and are written from the perspective of the Babylonian exile, which took place centuries after the time of David. Thus though David plays a sig-nificant role in the development of the Psalter and perhaps may even still be seen—at least in the broadest sense—as the “author” of the Psalms we have in our Bible, the Psalms enjoyed a life of their own. And the collection of the Psalms within the life of ancient Israel continued to grow long after the death of David within the canonical process that produced the HB as we now know it.

This paper is an attempt to trace the broad outline of the history of the canonical process in ancient Israel as it relates to the Psalter. As we will see, this task cannot be done without discussing the history of the Pentateuch as well. It will be argued that we can identify at least three stages in that canonical process: (1) a preexilic Davidic Psalter, which is now preserved largely within books 1 and 5 of the MT; (2) a “Deuteronomic Psalter,” which appears to have been structured around the number seventeen and includes books 1, 3, 4 and 5; and (3) the Pentateuchal Psalter, which may well have been promulgated as late as the time of Ezra, in which book 2 (the so-called Elohistic Psalter) was inserted to complete the canonical collection.

Through the centuries scholars have commented on the fact that the book of Psalms is pentateuchal in structure. Like the Pentateuch, the Psalms are divided into five books. Book 1 contains You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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