Saturday 2 October 2010

The Psalter as a Book

Presenter: Klaus Seybold (Basel)
From the abstract: construct the genesis of the Psalter as a book

Psalm 40:8 - in the scroll of the book - does this suggest the formation of a book from an early collection of psalms? Then collecting psalms in exile.

2 Macc 2:13 - And these same things were set down in the memoirs, and commentaries of Nehemias: and how he made a library, and gathered together out of the countries, the books both of the prophets, and of David,

2Qps-a the psalms scroll in cave 4 and 11Qps-b of cave 11, also 4Qps-b and the Masada Ps-a and other fragments with new stichographic writing (expressing the text as lines + cola)

LXX Psalter in the form encountered in the NT Luke 20:42 - And David himself saith in the book of Psalms, the Lord said to my Lord (note how the inscription is used as part of the received text). Note also Luke 24:44, Acts 1:20.

Finally the Masoretic codices.

Four factors: collection of psalms in a fixed context, assimilation of the texts to the model 'Psalms', canonical intention of the whole collection as a book of David or a book of Moses, and the production of a sample edition of a biblical book.

All the above with a few interpolations from me is from the Abstract. Klaus Seybold then outlined a seven-step process in the evidence we have for the book of psalms. So I had completely misread this title - thinking it would be a literary reading (which we have already had) and not realizing it would be a diachronic or historical reading of the evidence. (I had been warned in a prior conversation with Prof. Seybold).

Aside: reading Childs this week, canonical intention is a phrase I have seen a few times. Clearly as a gene has no intent, neither does a poem or a collection of poems - but I think we can ascribe intent, particularly the intent to remember and in doing so to make present the history, to the community.

Seybold introduced his talk with an overview of Psalm 40 read historically - as if the scroll of the book was perhaps at least as long as book 1 of the Psalter. So the rescue (Psalm 40:2-6) and the new song (6-12) and the lament (=70) -It is worth reading again - e.g. here. (More prayer than lament and in the Monteverdi at Psalm 70 (69) it is seen together with the anticipation of praise.)

Aside: It is true here that Psalm 40 is quoted in the NT - and in doing so, the NT draws in the full allusion to psalms 40 and 70 and books 1 and 2. The title of Psalm 70 'to Remember' is thus associated with the trouble of David, the salvation of Psalm 22 (note the repeated reference to the great assembly) and the exile - even though this is not explicit in Book 1, it is included by implication in the refrain of Psalm 70 which is לְהַזְכִּיר lechazkir, 'as a memorial' or in the Greek eis anamnesin, exactly what is noted in the Eucharist, (anamnesis), at the elevation (and the translator adds εἰς τὸ σῶσαί με κύριον that the Lord may save me).

Seybold then took us on an imaginary journey through 7 steps in creating the Psalter as a book. (All the following transcribed from notes)
  1. First book influenced all the following (Psalm 72:20 Here end the prayers of David 3-41...51-72, 72 interpreted as of David for Solomon)
  2. Where? Temple library? copied for performance in Qumran, 2 Maccabees 2 a letter from Pharasaic circles as Nehemiah collected... so Judas ... 2nd C - copied for performance at Qumran
  3. 4Qpsalms-a oldest complete pss 5-69, 19 fragments, early semi-formal hand, mid 2nd C BCE, 7.6 meters - 10 meter scroll (huge) 23x11 cm, Isaiah scroll is 7.5 m. (Aside A 10 meter scroll about 50% larger than Isaiah could hold the entire 5 books?) 150 BCE means not copied at Qumran, 5-69 arranged as in MT, ps31-->ps33, ps38-->ps71, superscriptions in the scrolls, 72-150? Did the scroll contain the whole psalter? Text near MT ps 136, 145 longer than MT. 
  4. The 11th cave - best preserved 30-50 BCE 29 continuous columns, 52 columns beginning with ps90. Was cave 11 scroll a new collection? 1-89, 2A cave 11, 2B MT, Ed 1+2B Jerusalem Psalter edition? attributed to David were 3600 psalms through prophecy - Qumran read the Psalms as prophecy - (Aside: like the writer to the Hebrews)
  5. Stichometric psalms - like Ps 119. 4Q psalms-b Herodian hand 91-118, Masada psalter 20 Nov 1963 81-85 stichometric. 4Qpsalms-c large and long scroll maybe the whole thing. Attempts to express the text as poetry - lines- cola etc.
  6. Authors of NT Luke - David says in the book of Psalms, Acts, Peter - probably LXX - no MS available. Earliest ms of LXX is 4th to 5th C CCE. 100 ps texts cited in the NT. Psalms regarded as a prophetic book, history of LXX complicated, superscriptions may be very late in some MSS, Anastasios, Psalm 63. (Perhaps this last reference is to saint Anastasios who commented on psalm 63 - but I have no context nor do I know if this is LXX or MT numbering).
  7. Finally MT - texts by assimilation, collection unifies, Book has canonical intention - cave 4 Torah Jerusalem temple centre, Moser psalter - accum to Torah, 5 books not shown in cave 11, Qumran 151 names David as prophet. 4th-3rd C BCE "original"?
Whew! The lecture was well paced so it was not hard to grasp the intent even with all this (to me) unfamiliar detail.

Responder: Professor David Howard (Bethel). First "imaginary" scroll in the German diachronic reconstruction. No thematic analysis as in the American synchronic analysis. Was 11Q psalms canon or liturgy? If liturgy then the order would not be preserved, but psalms would have been selected for copying and reciting / performance. Was it a sectarian canon?

Moses (Jerusalem) and David --- psalms insert --- Messianic thrust. Ps 1 - Torah shape, Ps 89 rejection of David, Royal frame songs in 1-3, David - Messianic king, Exemplar king, powerless fugitive. Counter cultural picture - Does psalter, like Job, critique Deuteronomy? Gerbrant, Patrick Miller, James Grout, R. Cole.


  1. I'm following your journey with interest. Your joy is clear between the lines.

  2. Thank you Carl - you are the one who encouraged me in late July to continue the work. Such a word has great power for I did continue. I have so much more available to me this week with the Cambridge University library. After Israel, where I go next week, I expect I will also have a new perspective on many things. I am glad also that my joy is evident in the spaces. I think it would be fun to write about the spaces in the psalms.