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Division and Order of the Psalms

February 26, 2008

“The Division and Order of the Psalms” by Dean Anderson, Jr can be read online here or as a pdf here.

From the conclusion:

In summation we have seen that the division of the psalter into five books is indeed not only warranted, but gives evidence of a historical development of compilation over the ages since the times of Hezekiah or earlier. This work of compilation into known and well used canonical collections was probably completed only after the exile, perhaps in the time of Nehemia. Whilst there are indications of internal ordering here and there, there appears to be no systematic attempt to structure the psalter internally. Given the historical development of compilation, the old interpretation of midrash tehillim (on Ps 1:5) that the five books reflect the five books of Moses is probably no more than a late reflection.94 The Sitz im Leben of this long process of compilation appears to have been the need to furnish recognized collections for use in the temple liturgy (cf. the connection to the liturgical reforms of Hezekiah, 2 Chr 29:30, and the implications of Ps 137:3).95 The psalter thus remains for us today as the church’s prophetic songbook, teaching her in inspired words of the greatness of her God, his wonderful deeds of salvation, and his faithfulness to his covenant promises. It enables the church to give back to God her prophetic response of praise that is his due.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 14, 2008 8:14 pm

    “there appears to be no systematic attempt to structure the psalter internally”

    I don’t think I would agree with this sentiment. If I in two short years can ‘see’ many connections including a double set of opening and closing parentheses for the 150 as a whole. then there is still much to be learned from that ancient post restoration redactor-team…

    It may be that some of the things we see are unintended, but our own sense of incusio can I think determine those probabilities.

  2. June 14, 2008 8:23 pm

    I agree with you completely in that there is a great deal of order within the Psalter thematically. The theme being found in Pss. 1 & 2, the hope for Messiah.

    Have you read Futato’s Transformed by Praise? Well worth it, even if it is pretty basic but it provides a great outline of the Psalter’s metanarrative.

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