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Traditio-Historical origin of the Psalter

November 9, 2008

I have produced an outline of how I believe the Psalter to have developed. It is in no way complete and needs a great deal of work but it sets out in brief the trajectory upon which I see the final form of the Psalter to have developed.

When you read the attached diagram keep in mind the following statement made by Frank Cross in his “The Song of the Sea and Canaanite Myth”.

We must posit two New Year’s festivals in the early cult of Israel, both covenant-renewal festivals. The autumn festival, falling on the New Year common to Canaan and Egypt, in Israel became the great feast of the era of kingship, both in Jerusalem and Beth’el. The spring New Year, with its ultimately Mesopotamian connections, appears to have been the time of the major festival at the old league sanctuaries of Gilgal and Shiloh, a covenant festival which virtually disappeared during the monarchy as a national pilgrimage feast, until the archaizing reforms of Josiah (2 Kings 23:22; cf. 2 Chron. 30:1-26). The associations of the Gilgal rites with the spring, with the covenant, with the sea crossing and the ‘ritual conquest,’ seems very clear indeed.

My outline is to be found here: psalmtraditiohistory I am no Clarence Larkin and apologise in advance!

5 Comments leave one →
  1. November 9, 2008 9:53 pm

    Cool – here is how it looks with our diagramming tool. It isn’t easy to get the same effects. One has many questions also as to just what each transition means along the horizontal.

    I can see the psalter dragging me much deeper into the TNK before I can imagine my questions’ answers…

  2. November 10, 2008 6:16 pm

    Thanks for that Bob, what programme is that?

    I agree, as far as I am concerned one essential thing is to try and link the Psalms with Pentateuchal traditions.

  3. November 10, 2008 10:37 pm

    I could spend more time on it and make it very colorful. Maybe someday when I understand more of what you are trying to focus our attention on. The tool is one that I have done all my psalms with to illustrate the structures – at least as far as I have gone. It has been developed by my staff over the past 5 years for ‘logic modeling’ a practice for understanding and measuring the impact of a government program. It is currently called GX-LEAF and there may be a new demo of it at if not now then soon.

    I am glad you are linking the psalter with the Pentateuch – I am not going back so far though I may have to eventually. I am trying to learn enough to see how the NT writers used the psalms – particularly the writer of Hebrews.

  4. November 15, 2008 9:29 am

    the old league sanctuaries of Gilgal

    Does this refer to Noth’s amphictyony?

    Interesting diagram. How does this relate to Wilson’s The editing of the Hebrew Psalter?

  5. November 15, 2008 10:25 am

    Hi Phil, good questions! In regards to Noth, as I understand it he posited that the twelve tribes formed a confederation who worshipped at a central shrine. Personally I don’t have the knowledge to say whether that is right or wrong and the biblical data, seems to allow for that but at the same time deny it. I think it more likely that the tribes would worship at different shrines (Beth’el, Gilgal, Shiloh, Shechem). Cross is looking at Josh. 3-5 and trying to understand the ancient traditions behind the biblical text, cf. “Traditional Narrative and the Reconstruction of Early Israelite Institutions” in From Epic to Canon and of course a number of essays in Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic.

    As regards Wilson, your question is rather general but what I want to say is that I want to try and understand how the Psalter developed into its final canonical form. One questions is whether the Yahwist and Elohist psalms are so construed because they stemmed from different epic traditions/sanctuaries. I have really been enjoying Kraus’ comments on these issues in his commentary. Indeed, he wrote a good essay on Gilgal which Cross references, unfortunately I can’t read it as its in German.

    Wilson’s idea that Books 1-3 formed an early Psalter is plausable not least because of the huge differences in the Psalms that are in Books 4 & 5 compared to Books 1-3 but questions abound.

    Thanks for your questions, I apologise for not really answering them!

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