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Law, Prophets and Psalms

June 21, 2009

I have often wondered why in the Gospel of St. Luke we have the order of Law, Prophets and Psalms (Luke 24:44). I think it may be to do with how the Psalms were viewed in early Judaism. The Qumran community viewed the Psalms as prophecy composed by David (11QPs^a) and so I would suggest that the formula of “law and the prophets” (Luke 16:16) may have been extended by Luke, and the community of faith he was representative of, who added the Psalms as a distinct part of their scripture on the grounds that they are really a subset of the prophets. Any thoughts?

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Rob Kashow permalink
    June 21, 2009 10:12 pm

    Are you against the idea of a tri-partite canon? Thus, Law, Prophets, and Psalms as a representative of the Writings since most orders place it as the first book in the writings.

  2. Richard permalink*
    June 22, 2009 5:28 pm

    Rob, I am not convinced that the tri-partite canon had been settled upon by the time of Jesus and the Apostles. I don’t think the evidence points in that direction.

  3. Rob Kashow permalink
    June 22, 2009 6:23 pm

    I don’t think you have to suggest the canon was settled (nor am I suggesting that) in order to see that the Psalms as representative of this third section (incomplete and messy) of the Tanak. It probably was unsettled and that’s likely why its referred to as the Psalms and not the Writings. I would find it difficult to suggest that the Law and the Prophets were not in tact as two parts of the canon. How do you address the Christ’s statement “from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah” that also seems to support a third section of the canon (though again, not necessarily complete)?

  4. Richard permalink*
    June 22, 2009 7:30 pm

    Why do you think that statement supports a third section of the canon? I’d be interested to see that fleshed out.

  5. March 13, 2010 5:11 am

    Hi Richard & Rob

    I stumbled upon this older post and thought to add something to the discussion.

    From what I understand Rob to be saying is that Jesus’ statement (Luk 11:51) seems to support a nod to the entire Hebrew canon, which could likely have been closed by this time. With Abel with have an approval of Genesis and with Zechariah we have an approval the prophets. The exception becomes Malachi.

    Malachi could have been viewed more as a priest than prophet. His name means “my messenger.” Both priests and prophets were messengers of the Lord. It could explain why Jesus doesn’t include Malachi as a prophet. Malachi doesn’t refer to himself as a prophet.

    I believe evidence does support a closed Hebrew canon by the time of Christ. These verses (i.e. Luk 11:51, 24:44) seem to add support. The mention of Law (torah), prophets (Neviim), and writings (ketuvim) would confirm the view of Psalms as wisdom literature; falling into the category of writings.

    The Qumram community had the habit of reading prophecy into everything. They believed the end times were being fulfilled before their very eyes. This is considered to be why they retreated to the coast around the diaspora.

    This is what I understand anyway. Thanks for the great entries. I enjoy following your blog.

    • Matt permalink
      May 19, 2010 12:27 pm

      The Zechariah in view seems to be the one killed in 2 Chron 24:19-21, not Zechariah the writing prophet. The reference “from Abel to Zechariah” then refers to the first and the last “martyrs” of the OT, as the Hebrew Canon didn’t end with the Twelve (…Zechariah, Malachi), but rather with Chronicles.

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