The Division and Order of the Psalms -- By: R. Dean Anderson Jr.

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 56:2 (Fall 1994)
Article: The Division and Order of the Psalms
Author: R. Dean Anderson Jr.


The Division and Order of the Psalms

R. Dean Anderson Jr.

I. Introduction

Research into the psalter was revolutionized early in this century by the work of H. Gunkel and his introduction of Gattungsforschung. This work was subsequently developed by many, notably S. Mowinckel, and the task and modern classification of Gattungen continues. Yet for the question at hand, this modern research has not been all that helpful. D. J. A. Clines, in his summary of research since 1955, for instance, states that “as yet a real connection between psalms bearing the same title has still to be discovered.”1 The various modern schemes of classification do not account for the present arrangement of the psalter, nor for the psalter’s own indications of arrangement by its superscripts.2 Therefore this essay has concentrated upon what I have considered to be basic issues. I shall consider first the basic textual evidence for the psalter together with related issues arising from this evidence. Thereupon follows a discussion of the basic division of the psalter into five books. A discussion of superscripts and postscripts and their relation to the arrangement and order of the psalms ensues. Finally I go briefly through the five books themselves attempting to show what may be said of the arrangement of the psalms in each.3

II. Textual Evidence

The Masoretic psalter, as is commonly known, is divided into five books. This division will be discussed below. The division of individual psalms in the Masoretic tradition is not as uniform as one might suspect. There are several individual cases in books 1–3 where MSS show varying traditions of combination of psalms. In books 4–5, however, many MSS combine not a few psalms in various ways. The most important of these combinations will be discussed in more detail below.

The evidence from Qumran as respects the psalter is very interesting and ought not to be overlooked in a study of our Masoretic psalter. This evidence has engendered much debate, particularly over the question of how the material is to be related to the MT. G. H. Wilson goes over this material and its discussion in quite some detail, in particular considering the debate between J. A. Sanders et al. and P. W. Skehan et al. over 11QPsa and its function at Qumran and relation to the MT. This is the only extensive set of MSS forming a reasonably sized collection of psalms at Qumran, and thus merits attention.4 It is the more interesting because of its use of many psalms in comm...

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