the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
Click to donate today!
Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary Keil & Delitzsch
by Karl Keil and Franz Delitzsch
The Book of Psalms
Introduction to the Psalter
Πάντα ὥσπερ ἐν μεγάλῳ τινὶ καὶ κοινῷ ταμιείῳ τῇ βίβλῳ τῶν ψαλμῶν τεθησαύρισται .
1. Position of the Psalter among the Hagiographa, and More Especially among the Poetical Books
The Psalter is everywhere regarded as an essential part of the Kethubim or Hagiographa; but its position among these varies. It seems to follow from Luke 24:44 that it opened the Kethubim in the earliest period of the Christina era.
(Note: Also from 2 Macc. 2:13, where τὰ τοῦ Δαυίδ appears to be the designation of the כתובים according to their beginning; and from Philo, De vita contempl. (opp. II 475 ed. Mangey), where he makes the following distinction νόμους καὶ λόγια θεσπισθέντα διὰ προφητῶν καὶ ὕμνους καὶ τὰ ἄλλα οἷς ἐπιστήμη καὶ εὐσέβεια συναύξονται καὶ τελειοῦνται .)
The order of the books in the Hebrew MSS of the German class, upon which our printed editions in general use are based, is actually this: Psalms, Proverbs, Job, and the five Megilloth. But the Masora and the MSS of the Spanish class begin the Kethubim with the Chronicles which they awkwardly separate from Ezra and Nehemiah, and then range the Psalms, Job, Proverbs and the five Megilloth next.
(Note: In all the Masoretic lists the twenty four books are arranged in the following order: 1) בראשׁית ; 2) ואלה שׁמות ; 3) ויקרא ; 4) וידבר (also במדבר ); 5) אלה הדברים ; 6) יהושׁע ; 7) שׁופטים ; 8) שׁמואל ; 9) מלכים ; 10) ישׁעיה ; 11) ירמיה ; 12) יחזקאל ; 13) תרי עשׂר ; 14) דברי הימים ; 15) תהלות ; 16) איוב ; 17) משׁלי ; 18) רות ; 19) שׁיר השׁירים ; 20) קהלת ; 21) קינות ( איכה ); 22) אחשׁורושׁ ( מגלה ); 23) דניאל ; 24) עזרא . The Masoretic abbreviation for the three pre-eminently poetical books is accordingly, not מת א but (in agreement with their Talmudic order) אם ת (as also in Chajug'), vid., Elia Levita, Masoreth ha-Masoreth p. 19. 73 ( ed. Ven. 1538) ed. Ginsburg, 1867, p. 120, 248.)
And according to the Talmud (Baba Bathra 14 b) the following is the right order: Ruth, Psalms, Job, Proverbs; the Book of Ruth precedes the Psalter as its prologue, for Ruth is the ancestor of him to whom the sacred lyric owes its richest and most flourishing era. It is undoubtedly the most natural order that the Psalter should open the division of the Kethubim, and for this reason: that, according to the stock which forms the basis of it, it represents the time of David, and then afterwards in like manner the Proverbs and Job represent the Chokma-literature of the age of Solomon. But it is at once evident that it could have no other place but among the Kethubim.
The codex of the giving of the Law, which is the foundation of the old covenant and of the nationality of Israel, as also of all its subsequent literature, occupies the first place in the canon. Under the collective title of נביאים , a series of historical writings of a prophetic character, which trace the history of Israel from the occupation of Canaan to the first gleam of light in the gloomy retributive condition of the Babylonish Exile ( Prophetae priores ) is first attached to these five books of the Thôra; and then a series of strictly prophetical writings by the prophets themselves which extend to the time of Darius Nothus, and indeed to the time of Nehemiah's second sojourn in Jerusalem under this Persian king ( Prophetae posteriores ). Regarded chronologically, the first series would better correspond to the second if the historical books of the Persian period (Chronicles with Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther) were joined to it; but for a very good reason this has not been done. The Israelitish literature has marked out two sharply defined and distinct methods of writing history, viz., the annalistic and the prophetic. The so-called Elohistic and so-called Jehovistic form of historical writing in the Pentateuch might serve as general types of these. The historical books of the Persian period are, however, of the annalistic, not of the prophetic character (although the Chronicles have taken up and incorporated many remnants of the prophetic form of historical writing, and the Books of the Kings, vice versa, many remnants of the annalistic): they could not therefore stand among the Prophetae priores . But with the Book of Ruth it is different. This short book is so like the end of the Book of the Judges (ch. 17-21), that it might very well stand between Judges and Samuel; and it did originally stand after the Book of the Judges, just as the Lamentations of Jeremiah stood after his prophecies. It is only on liturgical grounds that they have both been placed with the so-called Megilloth (Canticles, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther, as they are arranged in our ordinary copies according to the calendar of the festivals). All the remaining books could manifestly only be classed under the third division of the canon, which (as could hardly have been otherwise in connection with תורה and נביאים ) has been entitled, in the most general way, כתובים , , - a title which, as the grandson of Ben-Sira renders it in his prologue to Ecclesiasticus, means simply τὰ ἄλλα πάτρια βιβλία , or τὰ λοιπὰ τῶν βιβλίων , and nothing more. For if it were intended to mean writings, written ברוח הקדשׁ , - as the third degree of inspiration which is combined with the greatest spontaneity of spirit, is styled according to the synagogue notion of inspiration-then the words ברוח הקדשׁ would and ought to stand with it.
2. Names of the Psalter
At the close of the seventy-second Psalm (72:20) we find the subscription: “ Are ended the prayers of David, the Son of Jesse.” The whole of the preceding Psalms are here comprehended under the name תּפלּות . This strikes one as strange, because with the exception of Psalms 17:1-15 (and further on Ps 86; 90; 102; Psalms 142:1-7) they are all inscribed otherwise; and because in part, as e.g., Psalms 1:1-6 and Psalms 2:1-12, they contain no supplicatory address to God and have therefore not the form of prayers. Nevertheless the collective name Tephilloth is suitable to all Psalms. The essence of prayer is a direct and undiverted looking towards God, and the absorption of the mind in the thought of Him. Of this nature of prayer all Psalms partake; even the didactic and laudatory, though containing no supplicatory address-like Hannah's song of praise which is introduced with ותתפלל (1 Samuel 2:1). The title inscribed on the Psalter is תּהלּים ( ספר ) for which תּלּים (apocopated תּלּי deta ) is also commonly used, as Hippolytus ( ed. de Lagarde p. 188) testifies: Ἑεβραῖοι περιέγραψαν τὴν βίβλον Σέφρα θελείμ .
(Note: In Eusebius, vi. 25: Σέφηρ Θιλλήν ; Jerome (in the Preface to his translation of the Psalms juxta Hebraicam veritatem ) points it still differently: SEPHAR THALLIM quod interpretatur volumen hymnorum . Accordingly at the end of the Psalterium ex Hebraeo, Cod. 19 in the Convent Library of St. Gall we find the subscription: Sephar Tallim Quod interpretatur volumen Ymnorum explicit .)
This name may also seem strange, for the Psalms for the most part are hardly hymns in the proper sense: the majority are elegiac or didactic; and only a solitary one, Ps 145, is directly inscribed תהלה . But even this collective name of the Psalms is admissible, for they all partake of the nature of the hymn, to wit the purpose of the hymn, the glorifying of God. The narrative Psalms praise the magnalia Dei , the plaintive likewise praise Him, since they are directed to Him as the only helper, and close with grateful confidence that He will hear and answer. The verb הלּל includes both the Magnificat and the De profundis.
The language of the Masora gives the preference to the feminine form of the name, instead of תהלים , and throughout calls the Psalter ספר תהלות (e.g., on 2 Samuel 22:5).
(Note: It is an erroneous opinion of Buxtorf in his Tiberias and also of Jewish Masoretes, that the Masora calls the Psalter הלילא ( hallêla). It is only the so-called Hallel, Ps 113-119, that bears this name, for in the Masora on 2 Samuel 22:5; Psalms 116:3 is called הברו דהלילא (the similar passage in the Hallel) in relation to Psalms 18:5.)
In the Syriac it is styled k e tobo d e mazmûre , in the Koran zabûr (not as Golius and Freytag point it, zubûr ), which in the usage of the Arabic language signifies nothing more than “writing” (synon. kitâb : vid., on Psalms 3:1), but is perhaps a corruption of mizmor from which a plural mezâmir is formed, by a change of vowels, in Jewish-Oriental MSS. In the Old Testament writings a plural of mizamor does not occur. Also in the post-biblical usage mizmorı̂m or mizmoroth is found only in solitary instances as the name for the Psalms. In Hellenistic Greek the corresponding word ψαλμοί (from ψάλλειν = זמּר ) is the more common; the Psalm collection is called βίβλος ψαλμῶν (Luke 20:42; Acts 1:20) or ψαλτήριον , the name of the instrument ( psantêrı̂n in the Book of Daniel)
(Note: Νάβλα - say Eusebius and others of the Greek Fathers - παρ ̓ Ἑβραίοις λέγεται τὸ ψαλτήριον ὃ δὴ μόνον τῶν μουσικῶν ὀργάνων ὀρθότατον καὶ μὴ συνεργούμενον εἰς ἦχον ἐκ τῶν κατωτάτω μερῶν, ἀλλ ̓ ἄνωθεν ἔχων τὸν ὑπηχοῦντα χαλκόν . Augustine describes this instrument still more clearly in Psalms 42:1-11 and elsewhere: Psalterium istud organum dicitur quod de superiore parte habet testudinem, illud scilicet tympanum et concavum lignum cui chordae innitentes resonant, cithara vero id ipsum lignum cavum et sonorum ex inferiore parte habet . In the cithern the strings pass over the sound-board, in the harp and lyre the vibrating body runs round the strings which are left free (without a bridge) and is either curved or angular as in the case of the harp, or encompasses the strings as in the lyre. Harps with an upper sounding body (whether of metal or wood, viz., lignum concavum i.e., with a hollow and hence sonorous wood, which protects the strings like a testudo and serves as tympanum ) are found both on Egyptian and on Assyrian monuments. By the psalterium described by Augustine, Casiodorus and Isidorus understand the trigonum, which is in the form of an inverted sharp-cornered triangle; but it cannot be this that is intended because the horizontal strings of this instrument are surrounded by a three-sided sounding body, so that it must be a triangular lyre. Moreover there is also a trigon belonging to the Macedonian era which is formed like a harp (vid., Weiss' Kostümkunde, Fig. 347) and this further tends to support our view.)
being transferred metaphorically to the songs that are sung with its accompaniment. Psalms are songs for the lyre, and therefore lyric poems in the strictest sense.
3. The History of Psalm Composition
Before we can seek to obtain a clear idea of the origin of the Psalm-collection we must take a general survey of the course of the development of psalm writing. The lyric is the earliest kind of poetry in general, and the Hebrew poetry, the oldest example of the poetry of antiquity that has come down to us, is therefore essentially lyric. Neither the Epos nor the Drama, but only the Mashal, has branched off from it and attained an independent form. Even prophecy, which is distinguished from psalmody by a higher impulse which the mind of the writer receives from the power of the divine mind, shares with the latter the common designation of נכּא (1 Chronicles 24:1-3), and the psalm-singer, משׁרר , is also as such called חזה (1 Chronicles 25:5; 2 Chronicles 29:30; 2 Chronicles 35:15, cf. 1 Chronicles 15:19 and freq.); for just as the sacred lyric often rises to the height of prophet vision, so the prophetic epic of the future, because it is not entirely freed from the subjectivity of the prophet, frequently passes into the strain of the psalm.
The time of Moses was the period of Israel's birth as a nation and also of its national lyric. The Israelites brought instruments with them out of Egypt and these were the accompaniments of their first song (Ex 15) - the oldest hymn, which re-echoes through all hymns of the following ages and also through the Psalter (comp. Exodus 15:2 with Psalms 118:14; Exodus 15:3 with Psalms 24:8; Exodus 15:4, Exodus 14:27 with Psalms 136:15; Ex 15: with Psalms 78:13, Exodus 15:11 with Psalms 77:14; Psalms 86:8; Psalms 89:7.; Exodus 15:13, Exodus 15:17 with Psalms 78:54, and other parallels of a similar kind). If we add to these, Ps 90 and Deut 32, we then have the prototypes of all Psalms, the hymnic, elegiac, and prophetico-didactic. All three classes of songs are still wanting in the strophic symmetry which characterises the later art. But even Deborah's song of victory, arranged in hexastichs, - a song of triumph composed eight centuries before Pindar and far outstripping him, - exhibits to us the strophic art approximating to its perfect development. It has been thought strange that the very beginnings of the poesy of Israel are so perfect, but the history of Israel, and also the history of its literature, comes under a different law from that of a constant development from a lower to a higher grade. The redemptive period of Moses, unique in its way, influences as a creative beginning, every future development. There is a constant progression, but of such a kind as only to develope that which had begun in the Mosaic age with all the primal force and fulness of a divine creation. We see, however, how closely the stages of this progress are linked together, from the fact that Hannah the singer of the Old Testament Magnificat, was the mother of him who anointed, as King, the sweet singer of Israel, on whose tongue was the word of the Lord.
In David the sacred lyric attained its full maturity. Many things combined to make the time of David its golden age. Samuel had laid the foundation of this both by his energetic reforms in general, and by founding the schools of the prophets in particular, in which under his guidance (1 Samuel 19:19.), in conjunction with the awakening and fostering of the prophetic gift, music and song were taught. Through these coenobia, whence sprang a spiritual awakening hitherto unknown in Israel, David also passed. Here his poetic talent, if not awakened, was however cultivated. He was a musician and poet born. Even as a Bethlehemite shepherd he played upon the harp, and with his natural gift he combined a heart deeply imbued with religious feeling. But the Psalter contains as few traces of David's Psalms before his anointing (vid., on Psalms 8:1-9; Psalms 144:1-15) as the New Testament does of the writings of the Apostles before the time of Pentecost. It was only from the time when the Spirit of Jahve came upon him at his anointing as king of Israel, and raised him to the dignity of his calling in connection with the covenant of redemption, that he sang Psalms, which have become an integral part of the canon. They are the fruit not only of his high gifts and the inspiration of the Spirit of God (2 Samuel 23:2), but also of his own experience and of the experience of his people interwoven with his own. David's path from his anointing onwards, lay through affliction to glory. Song however, as a Hindu proverb says, is the offspring of suffering, the çloka springs from the çoka. His life was marked by vicissitudes which at one time prompted him to elegiac strains, at another to praise and thanksgiving; at the same time he was the founder of the kingship of promise, a prophecy of the future Christ, and his life, thus typically moulded, could not express itself otherwise than in typical or even consciously prophetic language. Raised to the throne, he did not forget the harp which had been his companion and solace when he fled before Saul, but rewarded it with all honour. He appointed 4000 Levites, the fourth division of the whole Levitical order, as singers and musicians in connection with the service in the tabernacle on Zion and partly in Gibeon, the place of the Mosaic tabernacle. These he divided into 24 classes under the Precentors, Asaph, Heman, and Ethan = Jeduthun (1 Chron 25 comp. 1 Chronicles 15:17.), and multiplied the instruments, particularly the stringed instruments, by his own invention (1 Chronicles 23:5; Nehemiah 12:36)
(Note: I tended, says David in the Greek Psalter, at the close of Ps, my father's sheep, my hands made pipes ( ὄργανον = עוגב ) and my fingers put together (or: tuned) harps ( ψαλτήριον = נבל ) cf. Numeri Rabba c. xv. (f. 264 a) and the Targum on Amos 6:5.).
In David's time there were three places of sacrifice: on Zion beside the ark (2 Samuel 6:17.), in Gibeon beside the Mosaic tabernacle (1 Chronicles 16:39.) and later, on the threshing-floor of Ornan, afterwards the Temple-hill (1 Chronicles 21:28-30). Thus others also were stimulated in many ways to consecrate their offerings to the God of Israel. Beside the 73 Psalms bearing the inscription לדוד , - Psalms the direct Davidic authorship of which is attested, at least in the case of some fifty, by their creative originality, their impassioned and predominantly plaintive strain, their graceful flow and movement, their ancient but clear language, which becomes harsh and obscure only when describing the dissolute conduct of the ungodly-the collection contains the following which are named after contemporary singers appointed by David: 12 לאסף (Ps 50; 78:1-83:18), of which the contents and spirit are chiefly prophetic, and 12 by the Levite family of singers, the בני־קרה (Ps 42-49; 84:1-85:13; 87:1-88:18, including Psalms 43:1-5), bearing a predominantly regal and priestly impress. Both the Psalms of the Ezrahite, Ps 88 by Heman and Ps 89 by Ethan, belong to the time of Solomon whose name, with the exception of Ps 72, is borne only by Psalms 127:1-5. Under Solomon psalm-poesy began to decline; all the existing productions of the mind of that age bear the mark of thoughtful contemplation rather than of direct conception, for restless eagerness had yielded to enjoyable contentment, national concentration to cosmopolitan expansion. It was the age of the Chokma, which brought the apophthegm to its artistic perfection, and also produced a species of drama. Solomon himself is the perfecter of the Mashal, that form of poetic composition belonging strictly to the Chokma, Certainly according to 1 Kings 5:12 [Hebr.; 1 Kings 4:32, Engl.] he was also the author of 1005 songs, but in the canon we only find two Psalms by him and the dramatic Song of Songs. This may perhaps be explained by the fact that he spake of trees from the cedar to the hyssop, that his poems, mostly of a worldly character, pertained rather to the realm of nature than to the kingdom of grace.
Only twice after this did psalm-poesy rise to any height and then only for a short period: viz., under Jehoshaphat and under Hezekiah. Under both these kings the glorious services of the Temple rose from the desecration and decay into which they had fallen to the full splendour of their ancient glory. Moreover there were two great and marvellous deliverances which aroused the spirit of poesy during the reigns of these kings: under Jehoshaphat, the overthrow of the neighbouring nations when they had banded together for the exstirpation of Judah, predicted by Jahaziel, the Asaphite; under Hezekiah the overthrow of Sennacherib's host foretold by Isaiah. These kings also rendered great service to the cause of social progress. Jehoshaphat by an institution designed to raise the educational status of the people, which reminds one of the Carlovingian missi (2 Chronicles 17:7-9); Hezekiah, whom one may regard as the Pisistratus of Israelitish literature, by the establishment of a commission charged with collecting the relics of the early literature (Proverbs 25:1); he also revived the ancient sacred music and restored the Psalms of David and Asaph to their liturgical use (2 Chronicles 29:25.). And he was himself a poet, as his מכתב ( מכתם ?) (Isa 38) shows, though certainly a reproductive rather than a creative poet. Both from the time of Jehoshaphat and from the time of Hezekiah we possess in the Psalter not a few Psalms, chiefly Asaphic and Korahitic, which, although bearing no historical heading, unmistakeably confront us with the peculiar circumstances of those times.
(Note: With regard to the time of Jehoshaphat even Nic. Nonne has acknowledge this in his Diss. de Tzippor et Deror (Bremen 1741, 4to.) which has reference to Psalms 84:4.)
With the exception of these two periods of revival the latter part of the regal period produced scarcely any psalm writers, but is all the more rich in prophets. When the lyric became mute, prophecy raised its trumpet voice in order to revive the religious life of the nation, which previously had expressed itself in psalms. In the writings of the prophets, which represent the λεῖμμα χάριτος in Israel, we do indeed find even psalms, as Jonah 2:1-10, Isaiah 12:1-6; Habakkuk 3:1, but these are more imitations of the ancient congregational hymns than original compositions. It was not until after the Exile that a time of new creations set in.
As the Reformation gave birth to the German church-hymn, and the Thirty years' war, without which perhaps there might have been no Paul Gerhardt, called it into life afresh, so the Davidic age gave birth to psalm-poesy and the Exile brought back to life again that which had become dead. The divine chastisement did not fail to produce the effect designed. Even though it should not admit of proof, that many of the Psalms have had portions added to them, from which it would be manifest how constantly they were then used as forms of supplication, still it is placed beyond all doubt, that the Psalter contains many psalms belonging to the time of the Exile, as e.g., Ps 102. Still far more new psalms were composed after the Return. When those who returned from exile, among whom were many Asaphites,
(Note: In Barhebraeus on Job and in his Chronikon several traditions are referred to “Asaph the Hebrew priest, the brother of Ezra the writer of the Scriptures.”)
again felt themselves to be a nation, and after the restoration of the Temple to be also a church, the harps which in Babylon hung upon the willows, were tuned afresh and a rich new flow of song was the fruit of this re-awakened first love. But this did not continue long. A sanctity founded on good works and the service of the letter took the place of that outward, coarse idolatry from which the people, now returned to their fatherland, had been weaned while undergoing punishment in the land of the stranger. Nevertheless in the era of the Seleucidae the oppressed and injured national feeling revived under the Maccabees in its old life and vigour. Prophecy had then long been dumb, a fact lamented in many passages in the 1st Book of the Maccabees. It cannot be maintained that psalm-poesy flourished again at that time. Hitzig has recently endeavoured to bring forward positive proof, that it is Maccabean psalms, which form the proper groundwork of the Psalter. He regards the Maccabean prince Alexander Jannaeus as the writer of Psalms 1:1-6 and Psalms 2:1-12, refers Ps 44 to 1 Macc. 5:56-62, and maintains both in his Commentary of 1835-36 and in the later edition of 1863-65 that from Ps 73 onwards there is not a single pre-Maccabean psalm in the collection and that, from that point, the Psalter mirrors the prominent events of the time of the Maccabees in chronological order. Hitzig has been followed by von Lengerke and Olshausen. They both mark the reign of John Hyrcanus (b.c. 135-107) as the time when the latest psalms were composed and when the collection as we now have it was made: whereas Hitzig going somewhat deeper ascribes Ps 1-2; Psalms 150:1-6 with others, and the arrangement of the whole, to Hyrcanus' son, Alexander Jannaeus.
On the other hand both the existence and possibility of Maccabean psalms is disputed not only by Hengstenberg, Hävernick, and Keil but also by Gesenius, Hassler, Ewald, Thenius, Böttcher, and Dillmann. For our own part we admit the possibility. It has been said that the ardent enthusiasm of the Maccabean period was more human than divine, more nationally patriotic than theocratically national in its character, but the Book of Daniel exhibits to us, in a prophetic representation of that period, a holy people of the Most High contending with the god-opposing power in the world, and claims for this contest the highest significance in relation to the history of redemption. The history of the canon, also, does not exclude the possibility of there being Maccabean psalms. For although the chronicler by 1 Chronicles 16:36 brings us to the safe conclusion that in his day the Psalter (comp. τὰ τοῦ Δαυίδ , 2 Macc. 2:13)
(Note: In the early phraseology of the Eastern and Western churches the Psalter is simply called David, e.g., in Chrysostom: ἐκμαθόντες ὅλον τὸν Δαβίδ , and at the close of the Aethiopic Psalter: “David is ended.”)
was already a whole divided into five books (vid., on Psalms 96:1-13; 105:1-106:48): it might nevertheless, after having been completely arranged still remain open for later insertions (just as the ספר הישׁר cited in the Joshua 1:1 and 2 Sam 1, was an anthology which had grown together in the course of time). When Judas Maccabaeus, by gathering together the national literature, followed in the footsteps of Nehemiah (2 Macc. 2:14: ὡσαύτως δὲ καὶ Ἰούδας τὰ δεισκορπισμένα διὰ τὸν πόλεμον τὸν γεγονότα ἡμῖν ἐπισυνήγαγε πάντα, καὶ ἔστι παρ ̓ ἡμῖν ), we might perhaps suppose that the Psalter was at that time enriched by some additions. And when Jewish tradition assigns to the so-called Great Synagogue ( כנסת הגדולה ) a share in the compilation of the canon, this is not unfavourable to the supposition of Maccabean psalms, since this συναγωγή μεγάλη was still in existence under the domination of the Seleucidae (1 Macc. 14:28).
It is utterly at variance with historical fact to maintain that the Maccabean period was altogether incapable of producing psalms worthy of incorporation in the canon. Although the Maccabean period had no prophets, it is nevertheless to be supposed that many possessed the gift of poesy, and that the Spirit of faith, which is essentially one and the same with the Spirit of prophecy, might sanctify this gift and cause it to bear fruit. An actual proof of this is furnished by the so-called Psalter of Solomon ( Ψαλτήριον Σαλομῶντος in distinction from the canonical Psalter of David)
(Note: First made known by De la Cerda in his Adversaria sacra (1626) and afterwards incorporated by Fabricius in his Codex Pseudepigraphus V. T. pp. 914ff. (1713).)
consisting of 18 psalms, which certainly come far behind the originality and artistic beauty of the canonical Psalms; but they show at the same time, that the feelings of believers, even throughout the whole time of the Maccabees, found utterance in expressive spiritual songs. Maccabean psalms are therefore not an absolute impossibility - no doubt they were many; and that some of them were incorporated in the Psalter, cannot be denied à priori. But still the history of the canon does not favour this supposition. And the circumstance of the lxx version of the Psalms (according to which citations are made even in the first Book of the Maccabees) inscribing several Psalms Ἀγγαίου καὶ Ζαχαρίου , while however it does not assign the date of the later period to any, is against it. And if Maccabean psalms be supposed to exist in the Psalter they can at any rate only be few, because they must have been inserted in a collection which was already arranged. And since the Maccabean movement, though beginning with lofty aspirations, gravitated, in its onward course, towards things carnal, we can no longer expect to find psalms relating to it, or at least none belonging to the period after Judas Maccabaeus; and from all that we know of the character and disposition of Alexander Jannaeus it is morally impossible that this despot should be the author of the first and second Psalms and should have closed the collection.
4. Origin of the Collection
The Psalter, as we now have it, consists of five books.
(Note: The Karaite Jerocham (about 950 a.d.) says מגלות (rolls) instead of ספרים .)
Τοῦτό σε μὴ παρέλθοι, ὦ φιλόλογε - says Hippolytus, whose words are afterwards quoted by Epiphanius - ὅτι καὶ τὸ ψαλτήριον εἰς πέντε διεῖλον βιβλία οἱ Ἑβραῖοι, ὥστε εἶναι καὶ αὐτὸ ἄλλον πεντάτευχον . This accords with the Midrash on Psalms 1:1: Moses gave the Israelites the five books of the Thôra and corresponding to these ( כנגדם ) David gave them the book of Psalms which consists of five books ( ספר תהלים שׁישׁ בו חמשׁה ספרים ). The division of the Psalter into five parts makes it the copy and echo of the Thôra, which it also resembles in this particular: that as in the Thôra Elohistic and Jehovistic sections alternate, so here a group of Elohistic Psalms (42-84) is surrounded on both sides by groups of Jehovistic (1-41, 85-150). The five books are as follow:-1-41, 42-72, 83-89, 90-106, 107-150.
(Note: The Karaite Jefeth ben Eli calls them אשׁרי ספר , כאיל ס etc.)
Each of the first four books closes with a doxology, which one might erroneously regard as a part of the preceding Psalm (Ps 41:14; Psalms 72:18., 89:53; Psalms 106:48), and the place of the fifth doxology is occupied by Ps as a full toned finale to the whole (like the relation of Ps 139 to the so-called Songs of degrees). These doxologies very much resemble the language of the liturgical Beracha of the second Temple. The אמן ואמן coupled with ו (cf. on the contrary Numbers 5:22 and also Nehemiah 8:6) is exclusively peculiar to them in Old Testament writings. Even in the time of the writer of the Chronicles the Psalter was a whole divided into five parts, which were indicated by these landmarks. We infer this from 1 Chronicles 16:36. The chronicler in the free manner which characterises Thucydides of Livy in reporting a speech, there reproduces David's festal hymn that resounded in Israel after the bringing home of the ark; and he does it in such a way that after he has once fallen into the track of Ps 106, he also puts into the mouth of David the beracha which follows that Ps. From this we see that the Psalter was already divided into books at that period; the closing doxologies had already become thoroughly grafted upon the body of the Psalms after which they stand. The chronicler however wrote under the pontificate of Johanan, the son of Eliashib, the predecessor of Jaddua, towards the end of the Persian supremacy, but a considerable time before the commencement of the Grecian.
Next to this application of the beracha of the Fourth book by the chronicler, Psalms 72:20 is a significant mark for determining the history of the origin of the Psalter. The words: “ are ended the prayers of David the son of Jesse,” are without doubt the subscription to the oldest psalm-collection, which preceded the present psalm-pentateuch. The collector certainly has removed this subscription from its original place close after Psalms 72:17, by the interpolation of the beracha Psalms 72:18, but left it, as the same time, untouched. The collectors and those who worked up the older documents within the range of the Biblical literature appear to have been extremely conscientious in this respect and they thereby make it easier for us to gain an insight into the origin of their work, - as, e.g., the composer of the Books of Samuel gives intact the list of officers from a later document 2 Samuel 8:16-18 (which closed with that, so far as we at present have it in its incorporated state), as well as the list from an older document (2 Samuel 20:23-26); or, as not merely the author of the Book of Kings in the middle of the Exile, but also the chronicler towards the end of the Persian period, have transferred unaltered, to their pages, the statement that the staves of the ark are to be found in the rings of the ark “to this day,” which has its origin in some annalistic document (1 Kings 8:8; 2 Chronicles 5:9). But unfortunately that subscription, which has been so faithfully preserved, furnishes us less help than we could wish. We only gather from it that the present collection was preceded by a primary collection of very much more limited compass which formed its basis and that this closed with the Salomonic Ps 72; for the collector would surely not have placed the subscription, referring only to the prayers of David, after this Psalm if he had not found it there already. And from this point it becomes natural to suppose that Solomon himself, prompted perhaps by the liturgical requirements of the new Temple, compiled this primary collection, and by the addition of Ps 72 may have caused it to be understood that he was the originator of the collection.
But to the question whether the primary collection also contained only Davidic songs properly so called or whether the subscribed designation תהלות דוד is only intended a potiori, the answer is entirely wanting. If we adopt the latter supposition, one is at a loss to understand for what reason only Ps 50 of the Psalms of Asaph was inserted in it. For this psalm is really one of the old Asaphic psalms and might therefore have been an integral part of the primary collection. On the other hand it is altogether impossible for all the Korahitic psalms Psalms 42:1 to have belonged to it, for some of them, and most undoubtedly Psalms 48:1 and Psalms 48:1 were composed in the time of Jehoshaphat, the most remarkable event of which, as the chronicler narrates, was foretold by an Asaphite and celebrated by Korahitic singers. It is therefore, apart from other psalms which bring us down to the Assyrian period (as Psalms 66:1, Psalms 67:1) and the time of Jeremiah (as Ps 71) and bear in themselves traces of the time of the Exile (as Psalms 69:35), absolutely impossible that the primary collection should have consisted of Psalms 2:1, or rather (since Psalms 2:1 appears as though it ought to be assigned to the later time of the kings, perhaps the time of Isaiah) of Psalms 3:1. And if we leave the later insertions out of consideration, there is no arrangement left for the Psalms of David and his contemporaries, which should in any way bear the impress of the Davidic and Salomonic mind. Even the old Jewish teachers were struck by this, and in the Midrash on Psalms 3:1-8 we are told, that when Joshua ben Levi was endeavouring to put the Ps. in order, a voice from heaven cried out to him: arouse not the slumberer ( אל־תפיחי את־ישׁן ) i.e., do not disturb David in his grave! Why Psalms 3:1-8 follows directly upon Psalms 2:1-12, or as it is expressed in the Midrash פרשׁת אבשׁלום follows פרשׁת גוג ומגוג , may certainly be more satisfactorily explained than is done there: but to speak generally the mode of the arrangement of the first two books of the Psalms is of a similar nature to that of the last three, viz., that which in my Symbolae ad Psalmos illustrandos isagogicae (1846) is shown to run through the entire Psalter, more according to external than internal points of contact.
(Note: The right view has been long since perceived by Eusebius, who in his exposition of Psalms 63:1-11 (lxx 62), among other things expresses himself thus: ἐγὼ δὲ ἡγοῦμαι τῆς τῶν ἐγγεγραμμένων διανοίας ἕνεκεν ἐφεξῆς ἀλλήλων τοὺς ψαλμοὺς κεῖσθαι κατὰ τὸ πλεῖστον, οὕτως ἐν πολλοῖς ἐπιτηρήσας καὶ εὑρών, διὸ καὶ συνῆφθαι αὐτοὺς ὡσανεὶ συγγένειαν ἔχοντας καὶ ἀκολουθίαν πρὸς ἀλλήλους· ἔνθεν μὴ κατὰ τοὺς χρόνους ἐμφέρεσθαι, ἀλλὰ κατὰ τὴν τῆς διανοίας ἀκολουθίαν (in Montfaucon's Collectio Nova, t. i. p. 300). This ἀκολουθία διανοίας is however not always central and deep. The attempts of Luther (Walch, iv. col. 646ff.) and especially of Solomon Gesner, to prove a link of internal progress in the Psalter are not convincing.)
On the other side it cannot be denied that the groundwork of the collection that formed the basis of the present Psalter must lie within the limits of Psalms 3:1, for nowhere else do old Davidic psalms stand so closely and numerously together as here. The Third book (Psalms 73:1) exhibits a marked difference in this respect. We may therefore suppose that the chief bulk of the oldest hymn book of the Israelitish church is contained in Psalms 3:1. But we must at the same time admit, that its contents have been dispersed and newly arranged in later redactions and more especially in the last of all; and yet, amidst these changes the connection of the subscription, Psalms 72:20, with the psalm of Solomon was preserved. The two groups Psalms 3:1, Psalms 73:1, although not preserved in the original arrangement, and augmented by several kinds of interpolations, at least represent the first two stages of the growth of the Psalter. The primary collection may be Salomonic. The after portion of the second group was, at the earliest, added in the time of Jehoshaphat, at which time probably the book of the Proverbs of Solomon was also compiled. But with a greater probability of being in the right we incline to assign them to the time of Hezekiah, not merely because some of the psalms among them seem as though they ought to be referred to the overthrow of Assyria under Hezekiah rather than to the overthrow of the allied neighbouring nations under Jehoshaphat, but chiefly because just in the same manner “the men of Hezekiah” appended an after gleaning to the older Salomonic book of Proverbs (Proverbs 25:1), and because of Hezekiah it is recorded, that he brought the Psalms of David and of Asaph (the bulk of which are contained in the Third book of the Psalms) into use again (2 Chronicles 29:30). In the time of Ezra and Nehemiah the collection was next extended by the songs composed during and (which are still more numerous) after the Exile. But a gleaning of old songs also had been reserved for this time. A Psalm of Moses was placed first, in order to give a pleasing relief to the beginning of the new psalter by this glance back into the earliest time. And to the 56 Davidic psalms of the first three books, there are seventeen more added here in the last two. They are certainly not all directly Davidic, but partly the result of the writer throwing himself into David's temper of mind and circumstances. One chief store of such older psalms were perhaps the historical works of an annalistic or even prophetic character, rescued from the age before the Exile. It is from such sources that the historical notes prefixed to the Davidic hymns (and also to one in the Fifth book: Psalms 142:1-7) come. On the whole there is unmistakeably an advance from the earliest to the latest; and we may say, with Ewald, that in Psalms 1:1 the real bulk of the Davidic and, in general, of the older songs, is contained, in Psalms 42:1 predominantly songs of the middle period, in Psalms 90:1 the large mass of later and very late songs. But moreover it is with the Psalm-collection as with the collection of the prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel: the chronological order and the arrangement according to the matter are at variance; and in many places the former is intentionally and significantly disregarded in favour of the latter. We have often already referred to one chief point of view of this arrangement according to matter, viz., the imitation of the Thôra; it was perhaps this which led to the opening of the Fourth book, which corresponds to the Book of Numbers, with a psalm of Moses of this character.
5. Arrangement and inscriptions
Among the Fathers, Gregory of Nyssa has attempted to show that the Psalter in its five books leads upward as by five steps to moral perfection, ἀεὶ πρὸς τὸ ὑψηλότερον τὴν ψυχὴν ὑπερτιθεὶς, ὡς ἂν ἐπὶ τὸ ἀκρότατον ἐφίκηται τῶν ἀγαθῶν ;
(Note: Opp. ed. Paris, (1638) t. i. p. 288.)
and down to the most recent times attempts have been made to trace in the five books a gradation of principal thoughts, which influence and run through the whole collection.
(Note: Thus especially Stähelin, Zur Einleitung in die Psalmen, 1859, 4to.)
We fear that in this direction, investigation has set before itself an unattainable end. Nevertheless, as we shall see, the collection bears the impress of one ordering mind. For its opening is formed by a didactic-prophetic couplet of psalms (Psalms 1:1), introductory to the whole Psalter and therefore in the earliest times regarded as one psalm, which opens and closes with אשׁרי ; and its close is formed by four psalms (Psalms 146:1) which begin and end with הללו־יה . We do not include Ps for this psalm takes the place of the beracha of the Fifth book, exactly as the recurring verse Isaiah 48:22 is repeated in 57:21 with fuller emphasis, but is omitted at the close of the third part of this address of Isaiah to the exiles, its place being occupied by a terrifying description of the hopeless end of the wicked. The opening of the Psalter celebrates the blessedness of those who walk according to the will of God in redemption, which has been revealed in the law and in history; the close of the Psalter calls upon all creatures to praise this God of redemption, as it were on the ground of the completion of this great work. Bede has already called attention to the fact that the Psalter from Psalms 146:1-10 ends in a complete strain of praise; the end of the Psalter soars upward to a happy climax. The assumption that there was an evident predilection for attempting to make the number 150 complete, as Ewald supposes, cannot be established; the reckoning 147 (according to a Haggadah book mentioned in Jer. Sabbath xvi., parallel with the years of Jacob's life), and the reckoning 149, which frequently occurs both in Karaitic and Rabbinic MSS, have also been adopted; the numbering of the whole and of particular psalms varies.
(Note: The lxx, like our Hebrew text, reckons 150 psalms, but with variations in separate instances, by making 9 and 10, and 114 and 115 into one, and in place of these, dividing 116 and 147 each into two. The combination of 9 and 10, of 114 and 115 into one has also been adopted by others; 134 and 135, but especially 1 and 2, appear here and there as one psalm. Kimchi reckons 149 by making Ps 114 and 115 into one. The ancient Syriac version combines Ps 114 and 115 as one, but reckons 150 by dividing Ps 147.)
There are in the Psalter 73 psalms bearing the inscription לדוד , viz., (reckoning exactly) 37 in book 1; 18 in book 2; 1 in book 3; 2 in book 4; 15 in book 5. The redaction has designed the pleasing effect of closing the collection with an imposing group of Davidic psalms, just as it begins with the bulk of the Davidic psalms. And the Hallelujahs which begin with Psalms 146:1-10 (after the 15 Davidic psalms) are the preludes of the closing doxology. The Korahitic and Asaphic psalms are found exclusively in the Second and Third books. There are 12 Asaphic psalms: 50, 73-83, and also 12 Korahitic: 42, 43, 44-49, 84, 85, 87, 88, assuming that Psalms 43:1-5 is to be regarded as an independent twin psalm to Psalms 42:1 and that Ps 88 is to be reckoned among the Korahitic psalms. In both of these divisions we find psalms belonging to the time of the Exile and to the time after the Exile (Psalms 74:1, Psalms 79:1, Psalms 85:1). The fact of their being found exclusively in the Second and Third books cannot therefore be explained on purely chronological grounds. Korahitic psalms, followed by an Asaphic, open the Second book; Asaphic psalms, followed by four Korahitic, open the Third book.
The way in which Davidic psalms are interspersed clearly sets before us the principle by which the arrangement according to the matter, which the collector has chosen, is governed. It is the principle of homogeneousness, which is the old Semitic mode of arranging things: for in the alphabet, the hand and the hollow of the hand, water and fish, the eye and the mouth, the back and front of the head have been placed together. In like manner also the psalms follow one another according to their relationship as manifested by prominent external and internal marks. The Asaphic psalm, Ps 50, is followed by the Davidic psalm, Psalms 51:1, because they both similarly disparage the material animal sacrifice, as compared with that which is personal and spiritual. And the Davidic psalm Psalms 86:1 is inserted between the Korahitic psalms Psalms 85:1 and Psalms 87:1, because it is related both to Psalms 85:8 by the prayer: “Show me Thy way, O Jahve” and “give Thy conquering strength unto Thy servant,” and to Psalms 87:1-7 by the prospect of the conversion of the heathen to the God of Israel. This phenomenon, that psalms with similar prominent thoughts, or even with only markedly similar passage, especially at the beginning and the end, are thus strung together, may be observed throughout the whole collection. Thus e.g., Psalms 56:1-13 with the inscription, “after (the melody): the mute dove among strangers,” is placed after Ps 55 on account of the occurrence of the words: “Oh that I had wings like a dove!” etc., in that psalm; thus Ps 34 and 35 stand together as being the only psalms in which “the Angel of Jahve” occurs; and just so Ps 9 and Psalms 10:1 which coincide in the expression יתות בצרה .
Closely connected with this principle of arrangement is the circumstance that the Elohimic psalms (i.e., those which, according to a peculiar style of composition as I have shown in my Symbolae, not from the caprice of an editor,
(Note: This is Ewald's view (which is also supported by Riehm in Stud. u. Kirt. 1857 S. 168). A closer insight into the characteristic peculiarity of the Elohim-psalms, which is manifest in other respects also, proves it to be superficial and erroneous.)
almost exclusively call God אלהים , and beside this make use of such compound names of God as יהוה צבאות , יהוה אלהים צבאות and the like) are placed together without any intermixture of Jehovic psalms. In Psalms 1:1 the divine name יהוה predominates; it occurs 272 times and אלהים only 15 times, and for the most part under circumstances where יהוה was not admissible. With Psalms 42:1-11 the Elohimic style begins; the last psalm of this kind is the Korahitic psalm Psalms 84:1, which for this very reason is placed after the Elohimic psalms of Asaph. In the Psalms 85:1 יהוה again becomes prominent, with such exclusiveness, that in the Psalms of the Fourth and Fifth books יהוה occurs 339 times (not 239 as in Symbolae p. 5), and אלהים of the true God only once (Psalms 144:9). Among the psalms of David 18 are Elohimic, among the Korahitic 9, and the Asaphic are all Elohimic. Including one psalm of Solomon and four anonymous psalms, there are 44 in all (reckoning Psalms 42:1-11 and Psalms 43:1 as two). They form the middle portion of the Psalter, and have on their right 41 and on their left 65 Jahve-psalms.
Community in species of composition also belongs to the manifold grounds on which the order according to the subject-matter is determined. Thus the משׂכּיל (Psalms 42:1, Psalms 44:1, Psalms 45:1, Psalms 52:1) and מכתּם (Psalms 56:1) stand together among the Elohim-psalms. In like manner we have in the last two books the המּצלות שׁיר (Psalms 120:1) and, divided into groups, those beginning with הודוּ (Psalms 105:1) and those beginning and ending with הללוּיהּ (Psalms 111:1, Psalms 146:1) - whence it follows that these titles to the psalms are older than the final redaction of the collection.
It could not possibly be otherwise than that the inscriptions of the psalms, after the harmless position which the monographs of Sonntag (1687), Celsius (1718), Irhof (1728) take with regard to them, should at length become a subject for criticism; but the custom which has gained ground since the last decade of the past century of rejecting what has been historically handed down, has at present grown into a despicable habit of forming a decision too hastily, which in any other department of literature where the judgment is not so prejudiced by the drift of the enquiry, would be regarded as folly. Instances like Habakkuk 3:1 and 2 Samuel 1:18, comp. Psalms 60:1, show that David and other psalm-writers might have appended their names to their psalms and the definition of their purport. And the great antiquity of these and similar inscriptions also follows from the fact that the lxx found them already in existence and did not understand them; that they also cannot be explained from the Books of the Chronicles (including the Book of Ezra, which belongs to these) in which much is said about music, and appear in these books, like much besides, as an old treasure of the language revived, so that the key to the understanding of them must have been lost very early, as also appears from the fact that in the last two books of the Psalter they are of more rare, and in the first three of more frequent occurrence.
6. The Strophe-System of the Psalms
The early Hebrew poetry has neither rhyme nor metre, both of which (first rhyme and then afterwards metre) were first adopted by Jewish poesy in the seventh century after Christ. True, attempts at rhyme are not wanting in the poetry and prophecy of the Old Testament, especially in the tephilla style, Psalms 106:4-7 cf. Jeremiah 3:21-25, where the earnestness of the prayer naturally causes the heaping up of similar flexional endings; but this assonance, in the transition state towards rhyme proper, had not yet assumed such an established form as is found in Syriac.
(Note: Vid., Zingerle in the Deutsch. Morgenländ. Zeitschrift. X. 110ff.)
It is also just as difficult to point out verses of four lines only, which have a uniform or mixed metre running through them. Notwithstanding, Augustine, Ep. cxiii ad Memorium, is perfectly warranted in saying of the Psalms: certis eos constare numeris credo illis qui eam linguam probe callent , and it is not a mere fancy when Philo, Josephus, Eusebius, Jerome and others have detected in the Old Testament songs, and especially in the Psalms, something resembling the Greek and Latin metres. For the Hebrew poetry indeed had a certain syllabic measure, since, - apart from the audible Shebâ and the Chateph , both of which represent the primitive shortenings, - all syllables with a full vowel are intermediate, and in ascending become long, in descending short, or in other words, in one position are strongly accented, in another more or less slurred over. Hence the most manifold rhythms arise, e.g., the anapaestic wenashlı̂cha mimrénnu abothémo (Psalms 2:3) or the dactylic áz jedabbér elêmo beappó (Psalms 2:5). The poetic discourse is freer in its movement than the Syriac poetry with its constant ascending ( _ _ ́ ) or descending spondees ( ́ _ _ ); it represents all kinds of syllabic movements and thus obtains the appearance of a lively mixture of the Greek and Latin metres. But it is only an appearance - for the forms of verse, which conform to the laws of quantity, are altogether foreign to early Hebrew poetry, as also to the oldest poetry; and these rhythms which vary according to the emotions are not metres, for, as Augustine says in his work De Musica, “ Omne metrum rhythmus, non omnis rhythmus etiam metrum est .” Yet there is not a single instance of a definite rhythm running through the whole in a shorter or longer poem, but the rhythms always vary according to the thoughts and feelings; as e.g., the evening song Psalms 4:1-8 towards the end rises to the anapaestic measure: ki - attá Jahawé lebadád , in order then quietly to subside in the iambic: labétach tôshibéni .
(Note: Bellermann's Versuch über die Metrik der Hebräer (1813) is comparatively the best on this subject even down to the present time; for Saalschütz ( Von der Form der hebr. Poesie, 1825, and elsewhere) proceeds on the erroneous assumption that the present system of accentuation does not indicate the actual strong toned syllable of the words-by following the pronunciation of the German and Polish Jews he perceives, almost throughout, a spondaeo-dactylic rhythm (e.g., Judges 14:18 lûle charáshtem beegláthi ). But the traditional accentuation is proved to be a faithful continuation of the ancient proper pronunciation of the Hebrew; the trochaic pronunciation is more Syrian, and the tendency to draw the accent from the final syllable to the penult, regardless of the conditions originally governing it, is a phenomenon which belongs only to the alter period of the language (vid., Hupfeld in the Deutsch. Morgenl. Zeitschr. vi. 187).)
With this alternation of rise and fall, long and short syllables, harmonizing in lively passages with the subject, there is combined, in Hebrew poetry, and expressiveness of accent which is hardly to be found anywhere else to such an extent. Thus e.g., Psalms 2:5 sounds like pealing thunder, and Psalms 2:5 corresponds to it as the flashing lightning. And there are a number of dull toned Psalms as Psalms 17:1, Psalms 49:1, Psalms 58:1, Psalms 59:1, Psalms 73:1, in which the description drags heavily on and is hard to be understood, and in which more particularly the suffixes in mo are heaped up, because the indignant mood of the writer impresses itself upon the style and makes itself heard in the very sound of the words. The non plus ultra of such poetry, whose very tones heighten the expression, is the cycle of the prophecies of Jeremiah Jeremiah 24:1.
Under the point of view of rhythm the so-called parallelismus membrorum has also been rightly placed: that fundamental law of the higher, especially poetic, style for which this appropriate name as been coined, not very long since.
(Note: Abenezra calls it כּפוּל duplicatum, and Kimchi שׁונות בּמלּות ענין כּפל , duplicatio sententiae verbis variatis ; both regard it as an elegant form of expression ( דוך צחות ). Even the punctuation does not proceed from a real understanding of the rhythmical relation of the members of the verse to one another, and when it divides every verse that is marked off by Silluk wherever it is possible into two parts, it must not be inferred that this rhythmical relation is actually always one consisting of two members merely, although (as Hupfeld has shown in his admirable treatise on the twofold law of the rhythm and accent, in the D. M. Z. 1852), wherever it exists it always consists of at least two members.)
The relation of the two parallel members does not really differ from that of the two halves on either side of the principal caesura of the hexameter and pentameter; and this is particularly manifest in the double long line of the caesural schema (more correctly: the diaeretic schema) e.g., Psalms 48:6, Psalms 48:7: They beheld, straightway they marvelled, | bewildered they took to flight. Trembling took hold upon them there | anguish, as a woman in travail. Here the one thought is expanded in the same verse in two parallel members. But from the fact of the rhythmical organization being carried out without reference to the logical requirements of the sentence, as in the same psalm Psalms 48:4, Psalms 48:8: Elohim in her palaces | was known as a refuge. With an east wind Thou breakest | the ships of Tarshish, we see that the rhythm is not called into existence as a necessity of such expansion of the thought, but vice versa this mode of expanding the thought results from the requirements of the rhythm. Here is neither synonymous or identical (tautological), nor antithetical, nor synthetical parallelism, but merely that which De Wette calls rhythmical, merely the rhythmical rise and fall, the diastole and systole, which poetry is otherwise (without binding itself) wont to accomplish by two different kinds of ascending and descending logical organization. The ascending and descending rhythm does not usually exist within the compass of one line, but it is distributed over two lines which bear the relation to one another of rhythmical antecedent and consequent, of proodo's and epoodo's. This distich is the simplest ground-form of the strophe, which is visible in the earliest song, handed down to us, Genesis 4:23. The whole Ps 119 is composed in such distichs, which is the usual form of the apophthegm; the acrostic letter stands there at the head of each distich, just as at the head of each line in the likewise distichic pair, Ps 111-112. The tristich is an outgrowth from the distich, the ascending rhythm being prolonged through two liens and the fall commencing only in the third, e.g., Psalms 25:7 (the ח of this alphabetical Psalm):
Have not the sins of my youth and my transgressions in remembrance,
According to Thy mercy remember Thou me
For Thy goodness' sake, O Jahve!
This at least is the natural origin of the tristich, which moreover in connection with a most varied logical organization still has the inalienable peculiarity, that the full fall is reserved until the third line, e.g., in the first two strophes of the Lamentations of Jeremiah, where each line is a long line in two parts consisting of rise and fall, the principal fall, however, after the caesura of the third long line, closes the strophe:
Ah! how doth the city sit solitary, otherwise full of people! She is become as a widow, the great one among nations, The princess among provinces, she is become tributary. By night she weepeth sore and her tears are upon her cheeks; There is not one to comfort her of all her lovers, All her friends have betrayed her, they are become her enemies. If we now further enquire, whether Hebrew poesy goes beyond these simplest beginnings of the strophe-formation and even extends the network of the rhythmical period, by combining the two and three line strophe with ascending and descending rhythm into greater strophic wholes rounded off into themselves, the alphabetical Ps 37 furnishes us with a safe answer to the question, for this is almost entirely tetrastichic, e.g.,
About evil-doers fret not thyself,
About the workers of iniquity be thou not envious.
For as grass they shall soon be cut down,
And as the green herb they shall wither,
but it admits of the compass of the strophe increasing even to the pentastich, (Psalms 37:25, Psalms 37:26) since the unmistakeable landmarks of the order, the letters, allow a freer movement:
Now I, who once was young, am become old,
Yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken
And his seed begging bread.
He ever giveth and lendeth
And his seed is blessed.
From this point the sure guidance of the alphabetical Psalms
(Note: Even the older critics now and then supposed that we were to make these Ps. the starting point of our enquiries. For instance, Serpilius says: “It may perhaps strike some one whether an opinion as to some of the modes of the Davidic species of verse and poetry might not be formed from his, so-to-speak, alphabetical psalms.”)
fails us in investigating the Hebrew strophe-system. But in our further confirmatory investigations we will take with us from these Psalms, the important conclusion that the verse bounded by Sôph pasûk , the placing of which harmonizes with the accentuation first mentioned in the post-Talmudic tractate Sofrim ,
(Note: Even if, and this is what Hupfeld and Riehm (Luth. Zeitschr. 1866, S. 300) advance, the Old Testament books were divided into verses, פסוקים , even before the time of the Masoretes, still the division into verses, as we now have it and especially that of the three poetical books, is Masoretic.)
is by no means (as, since Köster, 1831, it has been almost universally supposed) the original form of the strophe but that strophes are a whole consisting of an equal or symmetrical number of stichs.
(Note: It was these stichs, of which the Talmud ( B. Kiddushin 30 a) counts eight more in the Psalter than in the Thôra, viz., 5896, which were originally called פסוקים . Also in Augustine we find versus thus used like στίχος . With him the words Populus ejus et oves pascuae ejus are one versus . There is no Hebrew MS which could have formed the basis of the arrangement of the Psalms in stichs; those which we possess only break the Masoretic verse, (if the space of the line admits of it) for ease of writing into the two halves, without even regarding the general injunction in c. xiv. of the tractate Sofrim and that of Ben-Bileam in his Horajoth ha-Kore, that the breaks are to be regulated by the beginnings of the verses and the two great pausal accents. Nowhere in the MSS, which divide and break up the words most capriciously, is there to be seen any trace of the recognition of those old פסוקים being preserved. These were not merely lines determined by the space, as were chiefly also the στίχοι or ἔπη according to the number of which, the compass of Greek works was recorded, but liens determined by the sense, κῶλα (Suidas: κῶλον ὁ ἀπηρτισμένην ἔννοιαν ἔχων στίχος ), as Jerome wrote his Latin translation of the Old Testament after the model of the Greek and Roman orators (e.g., the MSS of Demosthenes), per cola et commata i.e., in lines breaking off according to the sense.)
Hupfeld (Ps. iv. 450) has objected against this, that “this is diametrically opposed to the nature of rhythm = parallelism, which cannot stand on one leg, but needs two, that the distich is therefore the rhythmical unit.” But does it therefore follow, that a strophe is to be measured according to the number of distichs? The distich is itself only the smallest strophe, viz., one consisting of two lines. And it is even forbidden to measure a greater strophe by the number of distichs, because the rhythmical unit, of which the distich is the ground-form, can just as well be tristichic, and consequently these so-called rhythmical units form neither according to time nor space parts of equal value. But this applies still less to the Masoretic verses. True, we have shown in our larger Commentary on the Psalms, ii. 522f., in agreement with Hupfeld, and in opposition to Ewald, that the accentuation proceeds upon the law of dichotomy. But the Masoretic division of the verses is not only obliged sometimes to give up the law of dichotomy, because the verse (as e.g., Psalms 18:2; Psalms 25:1; Psalms 92:9), does not admit of being properly divided into two parts; and it subjects not only verses of three members (as e.g., Psalms 1:1; Psalms 2:2) in which the third member is embellishingly or synthetically related to the other two - both are phenomena which in themselves furnish proof in favour of the relative independence of the lines of the verse - but also verses of four members where the sense requires it (as Psalms 1:3; Psalms 18:16) and where it does not require it (as Psalms 22:15; Psalms 40:6), to the law of dichotomy. And these Masoretic verses of such various compass are to be the constituent parts according to which strophes of a like cipher shall be measured! A strophe only becomes a strophe by virtue of its symmetrical relation to others, to the ear it must have the same time, to the eye the same form and it must consequently represent the same number of lines (clauses). The fact of these clauses, according to the special characteristic of Hebrew poetry, moving on with that rising and falling movement which we call parallelism until they come to the close of the strophe where it gently falls to rest, is a thing sui generis, and, within the province of the strophe, somewhat of a substitute for metre; but the strophe itself is a section which comes to thorough repose by this species of rhythmical movement. So far, then, from placing the rhythm on one leg only, we give it its two: but measure the strophe not by the two feet of the Masoretic verses or even couplets of verses, but by the equal, or symmetrically alternating number of the members present, which consist mostly of two feet, often enough however of three, and sometimes even of four feet.
Whether and how a psalm is laid out in strophes, is shown by seeing first of all what its pauses are, where the flow of thoughts and feelings falls in order to rise anew, and then by trying whether these pauses have a like or symmetrically correspondent number of stichs (e.g., 6. 6. 6. 6 or 6. 7. 6. 7) or, if their compass is too great for them to be at once regarded as one strophe, whether they cannot be divided into smaller wholes of an equal or symmetrical number of stichs. For the peculiarity of the Hebrew strophe does not consist in a run of definite metres closely united to form one harmonious whole (for instance, like the Sapphic strophe, which the four membered verses, Isaiah 16:9-10, with their short closing lines corresponding to the Adonic verse, strikingly resemble), but in a closed train of thought which is unrolled after the distichic and tristichic ground-form of the rhythmical period. The strophe-schemata, which are thus evolved, are very diverse. We find not only that all the strophes of a poem are of the same compass (e.g., 4. 4. 4. 4), but also that the poem is made up of symmetrical relations formed of strophes of different compass. The condition laid down by some,
(Note: For instance Meier in his Geschichte der poetischen Nationalliteratur der Hebräer, S. 67, who maintains that strophes of unequal length are opposed to the simplest laws of the lyric song and melody. But the demands which melody imposes on the formation of the verse and the strophe were not so stringent among the ancients as now, and moreover - is not the sonnet a lyric poem?)
that only a poem that consists of strophes of equal length can be regarded as strophic, is refuted not only by the Syriac
(Note: Vid., Zingerle in the Dm. M. Z. x. 123, 124.)
but also by the post-biblical Jewish poetry.
(Note: Vid., Zunz, Synagogale Poesie des Mittelalters, S. 92-94.)
We find the following variations: strophes of the same compass followed by those of different compass (e.g., 4. 4. 6. 6); as in the chiasmus, the outer and inner strophes of the same compass (e.g., 4. 6. 6. 4); the first and third, the second and fourth corresponding to one another (e.g., 4. 6. 4. 6); the mingling of the strophes repeated antistrophically, i.e., in the inverted order (e.g., 4. 6. 7. 7. 6. 4); strophes of equal compass surrounding one of much greater compass (e.g., 4. 4. 10. 4. 4), what Köster calls the pyramidal schema; strophes of equal compass followed by a short closing stanza (e.g., 3. 3. 2); a longer strophe forming the base of the whole (e.g., 5. 3. 3. 7), and these are far from being all the different figures, which the Old Testament songs and more especially the Psalms present to us, when we arrange their contents in stichs.
With regard to the compass of the strophe, we may expect to find it consisting of as many as twelve lines according to the Syrian and the synagogue poetry. The line usually consists of three words, or at least only of three larger words; in this respect the Hebrew exhibits a capacity for short but emphatic expressions, which are inadmissible in German [or English]. This measure is often not uniformly preserved throughout a considerable length, not only in the Psalms but also in the Book of Job. For there is far more reason for saying that the strophe lies at the basis of the arrangement of the Book of Job, than for G. Hermanjn's observation of strophic arrangement in the Bucolic writers and Köchly's in the older portions of Homer.
7. Temple Music and Psalmody
The Thôra contains no directions respecting the use of song and music in divine worship except the commands concerning the ritualistic use of silver trumpets to be blown by the priests (Numbers 10). David is really the creator of liturgical music, and to his arrangements, as we see from the Chronicles, every thing was afterwards referred, and in times when it had fallen into disuse, restored. So long as David lived, the superintendence of the liturgical music was in his hands (1 Chronicles 25:2). The instrument by means of which the three choir-masters (Heman, Asaph, and Ethan-Jeduthun) directed the choir was the cymbals ( מצלתּים or צלצלים )
(Note: Talmudic צלצל . The usual Levitic orchestra of the temple of Herod consisted of 2 Nabla players, 9 Cithern players and one who struck the Zelazal, viz., Ben-Arza ( Erachin 10 a, etc.; Tamid vii. 3), who also had the oversight of the duchan ( Tosiphta to Shekalim ii).)
which served instead of wands for beating time; the harps ( נבלים ) represented the soprano, and the bass (the male voice in opposition to the female) was represented by the citherns an octave lower (1 Chronicles 15:17-21), which, to infer from the word לנצּח used there, were used at the practice of the pieces by the מנצּח appointed. In a Psalm where סלה is appended (vid., on Psalms 3:1-8), the stringed instruments (which הגּיון סלה Job 9:17 definitely expresses), and the instruments generally, are to join in
(Note: Comp. Mattheson's “ Erläutertes Selah ” 1745: Selah is a word marking a prelude, interlude, or after-piece with instruments, a sign indicating the places where the instruments play alone, in short a so-called ritornello.)
in such a way as to give intensity to that which is being sung. To these instruments, besides those mentioned in Psalms 150:1-6; 2 Samuel 6:5, belonged also the flute, the liturgical use of which (vid., on Psalms 5:1) in the time of the first as of the second Temple is undoubted: it formed the peculiar musical accompaniment of the hallel (vid., Psalms 113:1-9) and of the nightly torch-light festival on the semi-festival days of the Feast of Tabernacles (Succa 15 a). The trumpets ( חצצרות ) were blown exclusively by the priests to whom no part was assigned in the singing (as probably also the horn שׁופר Psalms 81:4; Psalms 98:6; Psalms 150:3), and according to 2 Chronicles 5:12. (where the number of the two Mosaic trumpets appears to be raised to 120) took their turn unisono with the singing and the music of the Levites. At the dedication of Solomon's Temple the Levites sing and play and the priests sound trumpets נגדּם , 2 Chronicles 7:6, and at the inauguration of the purified Temple under Hezekiah the music of the Levites and priests sound in concert until all the burnt offerings are laid upon the altar fire, and then (probably as the wine is being poured on) began (without any further thought of the priests) the song of the Levites, 2 Chronicles 29:26-30. In the second Temple it was otherwise: the sounding of the trumpets by the priests and the Levitical song with its accompanying music alternated, they were not simultaneous. The congregation did not usually sing with the choir, but only uttered their Amen; nevertheless they joined in the Hallel and in some psalms after the first clause with its repetition, after the second with hallelujah (Maimonides, Hilchoth Megilla, 3). 1 Chronicles 16:36 points to a similar arrangement in the time of the first Temple. Just so does Jeremiah 33:11 in reference to the “ Give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good.” Antiphonal singing in the part of the congregation is also to be inferred from Ezra 3:10. The Psalter itself is moreover acquainted with an allotment of the עלמות , comp. משׁררות Ezra 2:65 (whose treble was represented by the Levite boys in the second Temple, vid., on Psalms 46:1) in choral worship and speaks of a praising of God “in full choirs,” Psalms 26:12; Psalms 68:27. And responsive singing is of ancient date in Israel: even Miriam with the women answered the men ( להם Exodus 15:21) in alternating song, and Nehemiah (Nehemiah 12:27.) at the dedication of the city walls placed the Levites in two great companies which are there called תודות , in the midst of the procession moving towards the Temple. In the time of the second Temple each day of the week had its psalm. The psalm for Sunday was 24, for Monday 48, Tuesday 82, Wednesday 94, Thursday 81, Friday 93, the Sabbath 92. This arrangement is at least as old as the time of the Ptolemies and the Seleucidae, for the statements of the Talmud are supported by the inscriptions of Psalms 24:1; Psalms 48:1; Psalms 94:1; Psalms 93:1 in the lxx, and as respects the connection of the daily psalms with the drink-offering, by Sir. 50:14-16. The psalms for the days of the week were sung, to wit, at the time of the drink-offering ( נסך ) which was joined with the morning Tamı̂d :
(Note: According to the maxim אין אומר שׁירה אלא על היין , “no one singeth except over the wine.”)
two priests, who stood on the right and left of the player upon the cymbal ( Zelazal) by whom the signal was given, sounded the trumpets at the nine pauses ( פרקים ), into which it was divided when sung by the Levites, and the people bowed down and worshipped.
(Note: B. Rosh ha-Shana, 31 a. Tamîd vii. 3, comp. the introduction to Psalms 24:1-10; Psalms 92:1-15 and Ps 94.)
The Levites standing upon the suggestus ( דּוּבן ) - i.e., upon a broad staircase consisting of a few steps, which led up from the court of the laity to that of the priests-who were both singers and musicians, and consequently played only on stringed instruments and instruments of percussion, not wind-instruments, were at least twelve in number, with 9 citherns, 2 harps, and one cymbal: on certain days the flute was added to this number.
(Note: According to B. Erachin 10 a the following were the customary accompaniments of the daily service: 1) 21 trumpet blasts, to as many as 48; (2) 2 nablas, to 6 at most; 2 flutes ( חלילין ), to 12 at most. Blowing the flute is called striking the flute, הכּה החליל . On 12 days of the year the flute was played before the altar: on the 14th of Nisan at the slaying of the Passover (at which the Hallel was sung), on the 14th of Ijar at the slaying of the little Passover, on the 1st and 7th days of the Passover and on the eight days of the Feast of Tabernacles. The mouth-piece ( אבּוּב according to the explanation of Maimonides) was not of metal but a reed (comp. Arab. anbûb , the blade of the reed), because it sounds more melodious. And it was never more than one flute ( אבוב יחידי , playing a solo), which continued at the end of a strain and closed it, because this produces the finest close ( חלּוּק ). On the 12 days mentioned, the Hallel was sung with flute accompaniment. On other days, the Psalm appointed for the day was accompanied by nablas, cymbals and citherns. This passage of the treatise Erachin also tells who were the flute-players. On the flute-playing at the festival of water-drawing, vid., my Geschichte der jüdischen Poesie S. 195. In the Temple of Herod, according to Erachin 10 b, there was also an organ. This was however not a water-organ ( הדוליס , hydraulis ), but a wind-organ ( מגרפה ) with a hundred different tones ( מיני זמר ), whose thunder-like sound, according to Jerome ( Opp. ed. Mart. v. 191), was heard ab Jerusalem usque ad montem Oliveti et amplius , vid., Saalschütz, Archäol. i. 281-284.)
The usual suggestus on the steps at the side of the altar was changed for another only in a few cases; for it is noticed as something special that the singers had a different position at the festival of water-drawing during the Feast of Tabernacles (vid., introduction to Psalms 120:1), and that the flute-players who accompanied the Hallel stood before the altar, לפני המזכח ( Erachin 10 a). The treble was taken by the Levite youths, who stood below the suggestus at the feet of the Levites (vid., on Psalms 46:1-11). The daily שׁיר הקרבן (i.e., the week-day psalm which concluded the morning sacrifice) was sung in nine (or perhaps more correctly 3)
(Note: This is the view of Maimonides, who distributes the 9 trumpet-blasts by which the morning sacrifice, according to Succa 53 b, was accompanied, over the 3 pauses of the song. The hymn Haazînu, Deut 32, which is called הלוים שׁירת par excellence , was sung at the Sabbath Musaph -sacrifice - each Sabbath a division of the hymn, which was divided into six parts - so that it began anew on every seventh Sabbath, vid., J. Megilla, sect. iii, ad fin.)
pauses, and the pauses were indicated by the trumpet-blasts of the priests (vid., on Ps 38; Psalms 81:4). Beside the seven Psalms which were sung week by week, there were others appointed for the services of the festivals and intervening days (vid., on Ps 81), and in Biccurim 3, 4 we read that when a procession bearing the firstfruits accompanied by flute playing had reached the hill on which the Temple stood and the firstfruits had been brought up in baskets, at the entrance of the offerers into the Azara, Psalms 30:1-12 was struck up by the Levites. This singing was distinct from the mode of delivering the Tefilla (vid., on Ps 44 ad fin.) and the benediction of the priests (vid., on Psalms 67:1-7), both of which were unaccompanied by music. Distinct also, as it seems, from the mode of delivering the Hallel, which was more as a recitative, than sung ( Pesachim 64 a, קראוּ את ההלל ). It was probably similar to the Arabic, which delights in shrieking, long-winded, trilling, and especially also nasal tones. For it is related of one of the chief singers that in order to multiply the tones, he placed his thumb in his mouth and his fore finger ביו הנימין (between the hairs, i.e., according to Rashi: on the furrow of the upper lip against the partition of the nostrils), and thus (by forming mouth and nose into a trumpet) produced sounds, before the volume of which the priests started back in astonishment.
(Note: Vid., B. Joma 38 b and J. Shekalim v. 3, comp. Canticum Rabba on Canticles Psalms 3:6.)
This mode of psalm-singing in the Temple of Herod was no longer the original mode, and if the present accentuation of the Psalms represents the fixed form of the Temple song, it nevertheless does not convey to us any impression of that before the Exile. It does, however, neither the one nor the other.
The accents are only musical, and indirectly interpunctional, signs for the chanting pronunciation of the synagogue. And moreover we no longer possess the key to the accents of the three metrical (i.e., consisting of symmetrical stichs and strophes) books as musical signs. For the so-called Sarkatables (which give the value of the accents as notes, beginning with Zarka, זרקא ), e.g., at the end of the second edition of Nägelsbach's Gramm., relate only to the reading of the pentateuchal and prophetic pericope, - consequently to the system of prose accents. In the German synagogue there is no tradition concerning the value of the so-called metrical accents as notes, for the Psalms were not recited according to the accents; but for all the Psalms, there are only two different modes, at least in the German ritual, viz., 1) the customary one according to which verse after verse is recited by the leader and the congregation, as e.g., Psalms 95:1; Psalms 29:1 every Friday evening; and 2) that peculiar to Ps 119 in which the first seven verses of the eight are recited alternately by the leader and the congregation, but the eighth as a concluding verse is always closed by the congregation with a cadence. This psalmody does not always follow the accents. We can only by supposition approximately determine how the Psalms were to be recited according to them. For we still possess at least a few statements of Ben-Asher, Shemtob and Moses Provenzalo (in his grammatical didactic poem בּשׁם קדמון ) concerning the intonation of single metrical accents. Pazzer and Shalshéleth have a like intonation, which rises with a trill; though Shalshéleth is more prolonged, about a third longer than that of the prose books. Legarme (in form Mahpach or Azla followed by Psik) has a clear high pitch, before Zinnor, however, a deeper and more broken tone; Rebia magnum a soft tone tending to repose. By Silluk the tone first rises and then diminishes. The tone of Mercha is according to its name andante and sinking into the depths; the tone of Tarcha corresponds to adagio. Further hints cannot be traced: though we may infer with respect to Ole we-jored ( Mercha mahpachatum) and Athnach, that their intonation ought to form a cadence, as that Rebia parvum and Zinnor ( Zarka) had an intonation hurrying on to the following distinctive accent. Further, if we place Dechi ( Tiphcha initiale) and Rebia gereshatum beside the remaining six servi among the notes, we may indeed produce a sarka-table of the metrical accentuation, although we cannot guarantee its exact agreement with the original manner of singing.
Following Gerbert ( De musica sacra) and Martini ( Storia della musica), the view is at present very general that in the eight Gregorian tones together with the extra tone ( tonus peregrinus),
(Note: Vid., Friedr. Hommel's Psalter nach der deutschen Uebersetzung D. M. Luthers für den Gesang eingerichtet, 1859. The Psalms are there arranged in stichs, rightly assuming it to be the original mode and the most appropriate, that antiphonal song ought to alternate not according to the verses, as at the present day in the Romish and English church, but according to the two members of the verse.)
used only for Psalms 113:1-9 (=Psalms 114:1 in the Hebrew numeration), we have a remnant of the ancient Temple song; and this in itself is by no means improbable in connection with the Jewish nationality of the primitive church and its gradual severance at the first from the Temple and synagogue. In the convents of Bethlehem, which St. Paula founded, psalms were sung at six hours of prayer from early morn till midnight, and she herself was so well versed in Hebrew, ut Psalmos hebraice caneret et sermonem absque ulla Latinae linguae proprietate personaret ( Ep. 108 ad Eustoch. c. 26). This points to a connection between the church and synagogue psalm-melodies in the mos orientalium partium , the oriental psalmody, which was introduced by Ambrose into the Milanese church. Nevertheless, at the same time the Jewish element has undergone scarcely any change; it has been developed under the influence of the Greek style, but is, notwithstanding, still recognizable.
(Note: Vid., Saalschütz, Geschichte und Würdigung der Musik bei den Hebräern, 1829, S. 121, and Otto Strauss, Geschichtliche Betrachtung über den Psalter als Gesang-und Gebetbuch, 1859.)
Pethachja of Ratisbon, the Jewish traveller in the 12th century, when in Bagdad, the ancient seat of the Geonim ( גאונים ), heard the Psalms sung in a manner altogether peculiar;
(Note: Vid., Literaturblatt des Orients, 4th years, col. 541.)
and Benjamin of Tudela, in the same century, became acquainted in Bagdad with a skilful singer of the Psalms used in divine worship. Saadia on Psalms 6:1, infers from על־השׁמינית that there were eight different melodies (Arab. 'l - hân ). And eight נגינית are also mentioned elsewhere;
(Note: Steinschneider, Jewish Literature p. 336f.)
perhaps not without reference to those eight church-tones, which are also found among the Armenians.
(Note: Petermann, Ueber die Musik der Armenier in the Deutsche Morgenl. Zeitschrift v. 368f.)
Moreover the two modes of using the accents in chanting, which are attested in the ancient service-books,
(Note: Zunz, Synagogale Poesie, S. 115.)
may perhaps be not altogether unconnected with the distinction between the festival and the simpler ferial manner in the Gregorian style of church-music.
8. Translations of the Psalms
The earliest translation of the Psalms is the Greek Alexandrine version. When the grandson of the son of Sirach came to Egypt in the year 132 b.c., not only the Law and the Prophets, but also the Hagiographa were already translated into the Greek; of course therefore also the Psalms, by which the Hagiographa are directly named in Luke 24:44. The story of the lxx (lxxII) translators, in its original form, refers only to the Thôra; the translations of the other books are later and by different authors. All these translators used a text consisting only of consonants, and these moreover were here and there more or less indistinct; this text had numerous glosses, and was certainly not yet, as later, settled on the Masoretic basis. This they translated literally, in ignorance of the higher exegetical and artistic functions of the translator, and frequently the translation itself is obscure. From Philo, Josephus and the New Testament we see that we possess the text of this translation substantially in its original form, so that criticism, which since the middle of the last century has acquired many hitherto unknown helps,
(Note: To this period belong 1) the Psalterium Veronense published by Blanchini 1740, the Greek text in Roman characters with the Italic at the side belonging to the 5th or 6th century (vid., Tischendorf's edition of the lxx, 1856, Prolegg. p. lviii.f.); 2) the Psalterium Turicense purpureum described by Breitinger 1748, Greek Text likewise of the 5th or 6th century (vid., ibid. p. lix.f.); 3) Palmorum Fragmenta papyraccea Londinensia (in the British Museum), Psalms 10:2; 20:14-34:6, of the 4th century, given in Tischendorf's Monumenta Sacra Inedita. Nova Collectio t. i.; 4) Fragmenta Psalmorum Tischendorfiana Psalms 141:7, Psalms 142:1, Psalms 144:7, of the 5th or 4th century in the Monumenta t. ii. There still remain unused to the present time 1) the Psalterium Graeco-Latinum of the library at St. Gall, Cod. 17 in 4to, Greek text in uncial characters with the Latin at the side; 2) Psalterium Gallico-Romano-Hebraico-Graecum of the year 909, Cod. 230 in the public library at Bamberg (vid., a description of this MS by Schönfelder in the Serapeum, 1865, No. 21) written by Solomon, abbot of St. Gall and bishop of Constance (d. 920), and brought to Bamberg by the emperor Henry II (d. 1024), who had received it as a gift when in St. Gall; as regards the criticism of the text of the lxx it is of like importance with the Veronense which it resembles.)
more especially also in the province of the Psalms, will not need to reverse its judgment of the character of the work. Nevertheless, this translation, as being the oldest key to the understanding of the language of the Old Testament writings, as being the oldest mirror of the Old Testament text, which is not to be excepted from modest critical investigation, and as an important check upon the interpretation of Scripture handed down in the Talmud, in the Midrash, and in that portion of the national literature in general, not originating in Egypt, - is invaluable.
In one other respect this version claims a still greater significance. Next to the Book of Isaiah, no book is so frequently cited in the New Testament as the Psalter. The Epistle to the Hebrews has grown up entirely from the roots of the language of the Old Testament psalms. The Apocalypse, the only book which does not admit of being referred back to any earlier formula as its basis, is nevertheless not without references to the Psalter: Psalms 2:1-12 in particular has a significant part in the moulding of the apocalyptic conceptions and language. These New Testament citations, with few exceptions (as John 13:18), are based upon the lxx, even where this translation (as e.g., Psalms 19:5; Psalms 51:6; Psalms 116:10), only in a general way, correctly reproduces the original text. The explanation of this New Testament use of the lxx is to be found in the high esteem in which this translation was held among the Jewish people: it was accounted, not only by the Hellenistic, but also by the Palestinian Jews, as a providential and almost miraculous production; and this esteem was justified by the fact, that, although altogether of unequal birth with the canonical writings, it nevertheless occupies a position in the history of divine revelation which forms a distinct epoch. For it was the first opportunity afforded to the gentile world of becoming acquainted with the Old Testament revelation, and thus the first introduction of Japheth into the tents of Shem. At the same time therewith, a distinct breaking down of the barriers of the Old Testament particularism was effected. The Alexandrine translation was, therefore, an event which prepared the way for that Christianity, in which the appointment of the religion of Israel to be the religion of the world is perfected. This version, at the outset, created for Christianity the language which it was to use; for the New Testament Scriptures are written in the popular Greek dialect ( κοινή ) with an Alexandrine colouring. And in a general way we may say that Alexandrinism moulded the forms beforehand, which Christianity was afterwards to fill up with the substance of the gospel. As the way of Jesus Christ lay by Egypt (Matthew 2:15), so the way of Christianity also lay by Egypt, and Alexandria in particular.
Equally worthy of respect on account of its antiquity and independence, though not of the same importance as the lxx from a religio-historical point of view, is the Targum or Chaldee version of the Psalms: a version which only in a few passages assumed the form of a paraphrase with reference to Midrash interpretations. The date of its composition is uncertain. But as there was a written Targum to the Book of Job
(Note: Vid., Tosefta to Sabb. xvi. Jer. Sabb. xiv. 1, Bab. Sabb. 115 a, Sofrim v., 15.)
even during the time of the Temple, there was also a Targum of the Psalms, though bearing in itself traces of manifold revisions, which probably had its origin during the duration of the Temple. In distinction from the Targums of Onkelos to the Pentateuch and of Jonathan to the minor Prophets the Targum of the Psalms belongs to the so-called Jerusalem group,
(Note: Vid., Geiger, Urschrift und Uebersetzungen der Bibel, S. 166f.)
for the Aramaic idiom in which it is written-while, as the Jerusalem Talmud shows, it is always distinguished in no small degree from the Palestinian popular dialect as being the language of the literature-abounds in the same manner as the former in Greek words (as אנגּלין ἄγγελοι , אכסדרין ἐξέδραι , קירים κύριος ), and like it also closely approximates, in sound and formation, to the Syriac. From this translation which excels the lxx in grammatical accuracy and has at its basis a more settled and stricter text, we learn the meaning of the Psalms as understood in the synagogue, as the interpretation became fixed, under the influence of early tradition, in the first centuries of the Christian era. The text of the Targum itself is at the present day in a very neglected condition. The most correct texts are to be found in Buxtorf and Norzi's Bibles. Critical observations on the Targums of the Hagiographa are given in the treatise עוטה אור by Benzion Berkowitz (Wilna, 1843).
The third most important translation of the Psalms is the Peshı̂to , the old version of the Syrian church, which was made not later than in the second century. Its author translated from the original text, which he had without the vowel points, and perhaps also in a rather incorrect form: as is seen from such errors as Psalms 17:15 ( אמונתך instead of תמונתך ), Psalms 83:12 ( שדמו ואבדמי dele eos et perde eos instead of שיתמו נדיבמו ), Psalms 139:16 ( גמלי retributionem meam instead of גלמי ). In other errors he is influenced by the lxx, as Psalms 56:9 ( בנגדך lxx ἐνώπιόν σου instead of בנאדך ), he follows this version in such departures from the better text sometimes not without additional reason, as Psalms 90:5 ( generationes eorum annus erunt , i.e., זראותיו שׁנה יהיו , lxx τὰ ἐξουδενώματα αὐτῶν ἔτη ἔσονται ), Psalms 110:3 ( populus tuus gloriosus , i.e., נדבוּת עמך in the sense of נדיבה , Job 30:15, nobility, rank, lxx μετὰ σοῦ ἡ ἀρχή ). The fact that he had the lxx before him beside the original text is manifest, and cannot be done away by the supposition that the text of the Peshîto has been greatly distorted out of the later Hexaplarian translation; although even this is probable, for the lxx won such universal respect in the church that the Syrians were almost ashamed of their ancient version, which disagreed with it in many points, and it was this very circumstance which gave rise in the year 617 a.d. to the preparation of a new Syriac translation from the Hexaplarian lxx-text. It is not however merely between the Peshîto and the lxx, but also between the Peshîto and the Targum, that a not accidental mutual relation exists, which becomes at once apparent in Psalms 1:1-6 (e.g., in the translation of לצים by ממיקני and of תורת by נמוסא ) and hardly admits of explanation by the use of the Christian Peshîto on the part of Jewish Targumist.
(Note: Although more recently we are told, Hai Gaon (in Babylonia) when he came upon a difficult passage in his Academical lectures on the Psalms enquired of the patriarch of the Eastern church how he interpreted it, vid., Steinschneider, Jewish Literature, p. 125f.)
It may be more readily supposed that the old Syriac translator of the Psalms, of whom we are now speaking, was a Jewish Christian and did not despise the welcome assistance of the Targum, which was already at hand, in whatever form it might be. It is evident that he was a Christian from passages like Psalms 19:5; Psalms 110:3, also from Psalms 68:19 comp. with Ephesians 4:8; Jeremiah 31:31 comp. with Hebrews 8:8; and his knowledge of the Hebrew language, with which, as was then generally the case, the knowledge of Greek was united, shows that he was a Jewish Christian. Moreover the translation has its peculiar Targum characteristics: tropical expressions are rendered literally, and by a remarkable process of reasoning interrogative clauses are turned into express declarations: Psalms 88:11-13 is an instance of this with a bold inversion of the true meaning to its opposite. In general the author shuns no violence in order to give a pleasing sense to a difficult passage e.g., Psalms 12:6, Psalms 60:6. The musical and historical inscriptions, and consequently also the סלה (including הגיון סלה Psalms 9:17) he leaves untranslated, and the division of verses he adopts is not the later Masoretic. All these peculiarities make the Peshîto all the more interesting as a memorial in exegetico-historical and critical enquiry: and yet, since Dathe's edition, 1768, who took the text of Erpenius as his ground-work and added valuable notes,
(Note: The fragments of the translation of the Ps., which are cited under the name ὁ Σύρος , Dathe has also there collected in his preface.)
scarcely anything has been done in this direction.
In the second century new Greek translations were also made. The high veneration which the lxx had hitherto enjoyed was completely reversed when the rupture between the synagogue and the church took place, so that the day when this translation was completed as no longer compared to the day of the giving of the Law, but to the day of the golden calf. Nor was it possible that it should be otherwise than that its defects should become more and more perceptible. Even the New Testament writers found it requiring correction here and there, or altogether unfit for use, for the Palestinian text of the Old Testament which had been handed down, was not merely as regards the consonants but also as to pronunciation substantially the same as that which has been fixed by the Masoretes since the sixth century. Consequently Aquila of Pontus (a proselyte from heathenism to Judaism) in the first half of the 2nd century, made a Greek translation of the Old Testament, which imitated the original text word for word even at the risk of un-Greek expressions, and in the choice of the Greek words used is determined by the etymology of the Hebrew words. Not to lose any of the weighty words he translates the first sentence of the Thôra thus: Ἐν κεφαλαίῳ ἔκτισεν ὁ Θεὸς σὺν ( את ) τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ σὺν ( את ) τὴν γῆν . In the fragments of the translation of the Psalms, one of which has been preserved in the Talmudic literature (vid., on Ps. 48:15), we do not meet with such instances of violence in favour of literalness, although also even there he forces the Greek into the form of the Hebrew, and always renders the words according to their primary meaning (e.g., דביר χρηματιστήριον , מגלה εἴλημα , פתח ἄνοιγμα , רהב ὅρμημα , אמן πεπιστευμένως ), sometimes unhappily and misled by the usage the language had acquired in his time. In some passages he reads the text differently from our present pointing (e.g., Psalms 10:4 ὅταν ὑψωθῇ ), but he moreover follows the tradition (e.g., סלה ἀεὶ , שׁדי ἱκανός , מכתם τοῦ ταπεινόφρονος καὶ ἁπλοῦ = מך ותם ) and also does not despise whatever the lxx may offer that is of any worth (e.g., במנים ἐν χορδαῖς ), as his translation throughout, although an independent one, relies more or less upon the pioneering work of its predecessor, the lxx. His talent as a translator is unmistakeable. He has perfect command of the Hebrew, and handles the treasures of the Greek with a master-hand. For instance, in the causative forms he is never in difficulty for a corresponding Greek word ( הפיל πτωματίζειν , הריץ δρομοῦν , השׂכיל ἐπιστημοῦν and the like). The fact that he translated for the synagogue in opposition to the church is betrayed by passages like Psalms 2:12; Psalms 22:17; Psalms 110:3 and perhaps also Psalms 84:10, comp. Daniel 9:26, where he prefers ἠλειμμένου to Χριστοῦ : nevertheless one must not in this respect charge him with evil intentions throughout. Even Jerome, on calmer reflection, moderated his indignation against Aquila's translation to a less harsh judgment: ut amicae menti fatear, quae ad nostram fidem pertineant roborandam plura reperio , and praised it even at the expense of the translations of Theodotion and Symmachus: Isti Semichristiani Judaice transtulerunt, et Judaeus Aquila interpretatus est ut Christianus .
The translation of Theodotion is not an original work. It is based upon the lxx and brings this version, which was still the most widely used, into closer relation to the original text, by making use of Aquila's translation. The fragments that are preserved to us of passages independently translated contain nothing pre-eminently characteristic. Symmachus also takes the lxx as his basis, but in re-moulding it according to the original text he acts far more decidedly and independently than Theodotion, and distinguishes himself from Aquila by endeavouring to unite literalness with clearness and verbal accuracy: his translation of the Psalms has even a poetic inspiration about it. Both Aquila and Symmachus issued their translations twice, so that some passages are extant translated in a twofold form (vid., Psalms 110:3).
Beside the lxx Aq. Symm. and Theod. there are also a fifth, sixth and seventh Greek translation of the Psalms. The fifth is said to have been found in Jericho under the emperor Caracalla, the sixth in Nicopolis under the emperor Alexander Severus. The former, in its remains, shows a knowledge of the language and tradition, the latter is sometimes (Psalms 37:35; Habakkuk 3:13) paraphrastic. A seventh is also mentioned besides, it is not like Theodotion. In the Hexapla of Origen, which properly contains only six columns (the Hebrew text, the Hebr. text in Greek characters, Aq., Symm., lxx, Theod.), in the Ps. and elsewhere a Quinta ( Ε ) , Sexta ( ς ) , and Septima ( Ζ ) are added to these six columns: thus the Hexapla (apart from the Seventh) became an Octapla. Of the remains of these old versions as compiled by Origen, after the labours of his predecessors Nobilius and Drusius, the most complete collection is that of Bernard de Montfaucon in his Hexaplorum Origenis quae supersunt (2 vols. folio, Paris 1713); the rich gleanings since handed down from many different quarters
(Note: Thus e.g., Montfaucon was only able to make use of the Psalter-MS Cod. Vat. 754 for 16 Psalms; Adler has compared it to the end and found in it valuable Hexapla fragments (vid., Repert. für Bibl. u. Morgenl. Lit. xiv. S. 183f.). The Psalm-commentary of Barhebraeus and the Psalterium Mediolanense have also been begun to be worked with this object; but as yet, not the Syriac Psalter of the Medici library mentioned by Montfaucon, Bibliotheca Bibliothecarum i. 240 and supposed to be based upon the Quinta.)
are unfortunately still scattered and uncollated.
Euthymius Zigadenus mentions beside the lxx, Aq., Symm., Theod., V, and VI, as a Seventh version that of Lucian which attempts to restore the original Septuagint-text by a comparison with the original text. Lucian died as a martyr 311 a.d. in Nicomedia, whither he had been dragged from Antioch. The autograph of this translation was found in Nicomedia, hidden in a small rough-plastered tower.
(Note: Comp. the Athanasian synopsis in Montfaucon, Hexapla t. 1 p. 59 and the contribution from a Syriac MS in the Repertorium für Bibl. u. Morgenl. Lit. ib. (1784) S. 48f.)
We are as little able to form a conception of this Septuagint-recension of Lucian as of that of the contemporary Egyptian bishop Hesychius, since not a single specimen of either is extant. It would be interesting to know the difference of treatment of the two critics from that of Origen, who corrected the text of the κοινή after the Hebrew original by means of Theodotion's, obelis jugulans quae abundare videbantur, et quae deerant sub asteriscis interserens , which produced a confusion that might easily have been foreseen.
From the Old Latin translation, the so-called Itala, made from the lxx, we possess the Psalter complete: Blanchini has published this translation of the Psalms (1740) from the Veronese Psalter, and Sabbatier in the second volume of his Latinae Versiones Antiquae (1751) from the Psalter of the monastery of St. Germain. The text in Faber Stapulensis' Quincuplex Pslaterium (1509) is compiled from Augustine; for Augustine, like Hilary, Ambrose, Prosper, and Cassiodorus, expounds the Psalms according to the old Latin text. Jerome first of all carefully revised this in Rome, and thus originated the Psalterium Romanum, which has been the longest retained by the church of Milan and the Basilica of the Vatican. He then in Bethlehem prepared a second more carefully revised edition, according to the Hexaplarian Septuagint-text
(Note: Illud breviter admoneo - says Jerome, Ep. cvi. ad Sunniam et Fretelam - ut sciatis, aliam esse editionem, quam Origenes et Caesareensis Eusebius omnesque Graeciae tractatores Koinee'n id est, Communem appellant atque Vulgatam et a plerisque nunc Λουκιανός dicitur; aliam Septuaginta Interpretum, quae in Ἑξαπλοῖς codicibus reperitur et a nobis in Latinum sermonem fideliter versa est et Hierosolymae atque in Orientis ecclesiis decantatur .)
with daggers (as a sign of additions in the lxx contrary to the original) and asterisks (a sign of additions in the lxx from Theodotion in accordance with the original), and this second edition which was first adopted by the Gallican churches obtained the name of the Psalterium Gallicanum. It is not essentially different from the Psalter of the Vulgate, and appeared, with its critical signs, from a MS of Bruno, bishop of Würzburg (died 1045), for the first time in the year 1494 (then edited by Cochleus, 1533): both Psalters, the Romish and the Gallican, are placed opposite one another in Faber's Quincuplex Psalterium, in t. x. p. 1 of the Opp. Hieronymi, ed. Vallarsi and elsewhere.
The Latin Psalters, springing from the common or from the Hexaplarian Septuagint-text, as also the Hexapla-Syriac and the remaining Oriental versions based upon the lxx and the Peshîto, have only an indirectly exegetico-historical value. On the contrary Jerome's translation of the Psalter, juxta Hebraicam veritatem , is the first scientific work of translation, and, like the whole of his independent translation of the Old Testament from the original text, a bold act by which he has rendered an invaluable service to the church, without allowing himself to be deterred by the cry raised against such innovations. This independent translation of Jerome has become the Vulgate of the church: but in a text in many ways estranged from its original form, with the simple exception of the Psalter. For the new translation of this book was opposed by the inflexible liturgical use it had attained; the texts of the Psalterium Romanum and Gallicanum maintained their ground and became (with the omission of the critical signs) an essential portion of the Vulgate. On this account it is the more to be desired that Jerome's Latin Psalter ex Hebraeo ( Opp. ed. Vallarsi t. ix. p. 333) were made more generally known and accessible by a critical edition published separately. It is not necessary to search far for critical helps for such an undertaking. There is an excellent MS, Cod. 19, in the library of St. Gall, presented by the abbot Hartmot (died 895).
Origen and Jerome learnt the language of the Old Testament from Jewish teachers. All the advantages of Origen's philological learning are lost to us, excepting a few insignificant remains, with his Hexapla: this gigantic bible which would be the oldest direct monument of the Old Testament text if it were but extant. Whereas in Jerome's Old Testament translated from the original text ( canon Hebraicae veritatis ) we have the maturest fruit of the philological attainments of this indefatigable, steady investigator inspired with a zeal for knowledge. It is a work of the greatest critical and historical value in reference to language and exegesis. The translation of the Psalter is dedicated to Sophronius who had promised to translate it into Greek: this Greek translation is not preserved to us.
Jerome's translation of the Psalter has not its equal either in the synagogue or the church until the time of Saadia Gaon of Fajum, the Arabian translator of the Psalms. Two MSS of his translation of the Psalms are to be found at Oxford; but the most important, which also contains his annotations complete, is in Munich. Schnurrer (1791) contributed Psalms 16:1-11; 40 and Psalms 110:1-7 to Eichhorn's Biblioth. der Bibl. Lit. iii, from Cod. Pocock. 281, then Haneberg (1840) Ps 68 and several others from the Munich Cod.; the most extensive excerpts from Cod. Pocock. 281 and Cod. Huntingt. 416 (with various readings from Cod. Mon. appended) are given by Ewald in the first vol. of his Beiträge zur ältesten Ausleg. u. Spracherklärung des A. T. 1844. The gain which can be drawn from Saadai for the interpretation of the Psalms, according to the requirements of the present day, is very limited; but he promises a more interesting and rich advantage to philology and the history of exegesis. Saadia stands in the midst of the still ever mysterious process of development out of which the finally established and pointed text of the Old Testament came forth. He has written a treatise on the punctuation ( ניקוד ) to which Rashi refers in Psalms 45:10, but in his treatment of the Old Testament text shows himself to be unfettered by its established punctuation. His translation is the first scientific work on the Psalms in the synagogue. The translation of Jerome is five hundred years older, but only the translation of Luther has been able to stand side by side with it and that because he was the first to go back to the fountain head of the original text.
The task, which is assigned to the translator of the sacred Scriptures, was recognised by Luther as by no one before him, and he has discharged it as no one up to the present day since his time has done. What Cicero said of his translation of the two controversial speeches of Demosthenes and Aeschines holds good also of Luther: Non converti ut interpres, sed ut orator, sententiis iisdem et earum formis tanquam figuris, verbis ad nostram consuetudinem aptis: in quibus non verbum pro verbo necesse habui reddere, sed genus omnium verborum vimque servavi; non enim ea me adnumerare lectori putavi oportere, sed tanquam adpendere - he has lived in thought and feeling in the original text in order not to reproduce it literally with a slavish adherence to its form, but to re-mould it into good and yet spiritually renewed German and at the same time to preserve its spirit free and true to its deepest meaning. This is especially the case with his translation of the Psalms, in which even Moses Mendelssohn has thought it to his advantage to follow him. To deny that here and there it is capable of improvement by a more correct understanding of the sense and in general by greater faithfulness to the original (without departing from the spirit of the German language), would indicate an ungrateful indifference to the advance which has been made in biblical interpretation - an advance not merely promised, but which we see actually achieved.
9. History of the Exposition of the Psalms
If we now take a glance over the history of the exposition of the Psalms, we shall see from it how late it was before the proper function of scientific exposition was recognised. We begin with the apostolic exposition. The Old Testament according to its very nature tends towards and centres in Christ. Therefore the innermost truth of the Old Testament has been revealed in the revelation of Jesus Christ. But not all at once: His passion, resurrection, and ascension are three steps of this progressive opening up of the Old Testament, and of the Psalms in particular. Our Lord himself, both before and after His resurrection, unfolded the meaning of the Psalms from His own life and its vicissitudes; He showed how what was written in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets and in the Psalms was fulfilled in Him; He revealed to His disciples the meaning τοῦ συνιέναι τάς γραφάς Luke 24:44. Jesus Christ's exposition of the Psalms is the beginning and the goal of Christian Psalm-interpretation. This began, as that of the Christian church, and in fact first of all that of the Apostles, at Pentecost when the Spirit, whose instrument David acknowledges himself to have been (2 Samuel 23:2), descended upon the Apostles as the Spirit of Jesus, the fulfiller and fulfilment of prophecy. This Spirit of the glorified Jesus completed what, in His humiliation and after His resurrection, he had begun: He opened up to the disciples the meaning of the Psalms. How strongly they were drawn to the Psalms is seen from the fact that they are quoted about seventy times in the New Testament, which, next to Isaiah, is more frequently than any other Old Testament book. From these interpretations of the Psalms the church will have to draw to the end of time. For only the end will be like the beginning and even surpass it. But we must not seek in the New Testament Scriptures what they are not designed to furnish, viz., an answer to questions belonging to the lower grades of knowledge, to grammar, to contemporary history and to criticism. The highest and final questions of the spiritual meaning of Scripture find their answer here; the grammatico-historico-critical under-structure, - as it were, the candlestick of the new light, - it was left for succeeding ages to produce.
The post-apostolic, patristic exposition was not capable of this. The interprets of the early church with the exception of Origen and Jerome possessed no knowledge of the Hebrew tongue, and even these two not sufficient to be able to rise to freedom from a dependence upon the lxx which only led them into frequent error. Of Origen's Commentary and Homilies on the Ps. we possess only fragments translated by Rufinus, and his ὑπόμνημα εἰς τοὺς ψαλμοὺς (edited complete by Kleopas, 1855, from a MS in the monastery of Mar-Saba). Jerome, contra Rufinum i. 19, indeed mentions Commentarioli on the Ps. by himself, but the Breviarium in Psalterium (in t. vii. p. ii. of his Opp. ed. Vallarsi) bearing his name is allowed not to be genuine, and is worthless as regards the history of the text and the language. The almost complete Commentary (on Ps 1-119 according to the Hebrew reckoning) of Eusebius, made known by Montfaucon ( Collectio nova Patrum et Scriptorum Graec. t. i.) is unsuspected. Eusebius, though living in Palestine and having a valuable library at command, is nevertheless so ignorant of the Hebrew, that he considers it is possible Μαριαμ ( מרחם ) in Psalms 110:1-7 may refer to Mary. But by contributions from the Hexapla he has preserved many acceptable treasures of historical value in connection with the translation, but of little worth in other respects, for the interpretation is superficial, and capriciously allegorical and forced. Athanasius in his short explanation of the Psalms (in t. i. p. ii. of the Benedictine edition) is entirely dependent on Philo for the meaning of the Hebrew names and words. His book: πρὸς Μαρκελλῖνον εἰς τὴν ἑρμηνείαν τῶν ψαλμῶν (in the same vol. of the Benedictine edition) is a very beautiful essay. It treats of the riches contained in the Psalms, classifies them according to their different points of view, and gives directions how to use them profitably in the manifold circumstances and moods of the outward and inner life. Johann Reuchlin has translated this little book of Athanasius into Latin, and Jörg Spalatin from the Latin of Reuchlin into German (1516. 4to.). Of a similar kind are the two books of Gregory of Nyssa εἰς τὴν ἐπιγραφὴν τῶν ψαλμῶν ( Opp. ed. Paris, t. i.), which treat of the arrangement and inscriptions; but in respect of the latter he is so led astray by the lxx, that he sets down the want of titles of 12 Ps. (this is the number according to Gregory), which have titles in the lxx, to Jewish ἀπιστία and κακία . Nevertheless there are several valuable observations in this introduction of the great Nyssene. About contemporaneously with Athanasius, Hilarius Pictaviensis, in the Western church, wrote his allegorizing (after Origen's example) Tractatus in librum Psalmorum with an extensive prologue, which strongly reminds one of Hippolytus'. We still have his exposition of Ps. 1, 2, 9, 13, 14, 51, 52, 53-69, 91, 118-150 (according to the numbering of the lxx); according to Jerome ( Ep. ad Augustin. cxii)
(Note: The following Greek expositors of the Psalms are mentioned there: 1) Origen, 2) Eusebius of Caesarea, 3) Theodore of Heraclea (the Anonymus in Corderius' Catena), 4) Asterius of Scythopolis, 5) Apollinaris (Apolinarios) of Laodicea, 6) Didymus of Alexandria. Then the following Latin expositors: 1) Hilary of Poictiers, who translated or rather remodelled Origen's Homilies on the Psalms (Jerome himself says of him, Ep. lvii. ad Pammach.: captivos sensus in suam linguam victoris jure transposuit ), 2) Eusebius of Vercelli, translator of the commentary of Eusebius of Caesarea, and 3) Ambrose, who was partly dependent upon Origen. Of Apollinaris the elder, we have a Μετάφρασις τοῦ ψαλτῆρος διὰ στὶχων ἡρωΐκῶν preserved to us. He has also translated the Pentateuch and other Old Testament books into heroic verse.)
it is transferred from Origen and Eusebius. It is throughout ingenious and pity, but more useful to the dogmatic theologian than the exegete (t. xxvii., xxviii. of the Collectio Patrum by Caillau and Guillon).
(Note: Vid., the characteristics of this commentary in Reinkens, Hilarius von Poitiers (1864) S. 291-308.)
Somewhat later, but yet within the last twenty years of the fourth century (about 386-397), come Ambrose's Enarrationes in Psalms 1:1-6, 35-40, Psalms 43:1-5, 45, Psalms 47:1-9, Psalms 48:1-14, Psalms 61:1-8, 118 (in t. ii. of the Benedictine edition). The exposition of Psalms 1:1-6 is likewise an introduction to the whole Psalter, taken partly from Basil. He and Ambrose have pronounced the highest eulogiums on the Psalter. The latter says: Psalmus enim benedictio populi est, Dei laus, plebis laudatio, plausus omnium, sermo universorum, vox Ecclesiae, fidei canora confessio, auctoritatis plena devotio, libertatis laetitia, clamor jucunditatis, laetitiae resultatio. Ab iracundia mitigat, a sollicitudine abdicat, a maerore allevat. Nocturna arma, diurna magisteria; scutum in timore, festum in sanctitate, imago tranquillitatis, pignus pacis atque concordiae, citharae modo ex diversis et disparibus vocibus unam exprimens cantilenam. Diei ortus psalmum resultat, psalmum resonat occasus . After such and similar prefatory language we are led to expect from the exposition great fervour and depth of perception: and such are really its characteristics, but not to so large an extent as might have been the case had Ambrose - whose style of writing is as musical as that of Hilary is stiff and angular - worked out these expositions, which were partly delivered as sermons, partly dictated, and his own hand.
The most comprehensive work of the early church on the Psalms was that of Chrysostom, which was probably written while at Antioch. We possess only the exposition of 58 Ps. or (including Psalms 3:1-8 and Psalms 41:1-13, which in their present form do not belong to this work) 60 Ps. (in t. v. of Montfaucon's edition). Photius and Suidas place this commentary on the Psalms in the highest rank among the works of Chrysostom. It is composed in the form of sermons, the style is brilliant, and the contents more ethical than dogmatic. Sometimes the Hebrew text according to the Hexapla is quoted, and the Greek versions which depart from the original are frequently compared, but, unfortunately, generally without any name. There is hardly any trace in it of the renowned philologico-historical tendency of the school of Antioch. Theodoret (in t. ii. p. ii. of the Halle edition) was the first to set before himself the middle course between an extravagant allegorising and an unspiritual adherence to the literal historical sense (by which he doubtless has reference to Theodore of Mopsuestia), and thus to a certain extent he makes a beginning in distinguishing between the province of exegesis and practical application. But this scientific commencement, with even more of the grammatico-historical tendency, is still defective and wanting in independence. For example, the question whether all the Psalms are by David or not, is briefly decided in the affirmative, with κρατείτω τῶν πλειόνων ἡ ψῆφος .
(Note: In the Talmud R. Meir, Pesachim 117 a, adopts the view that David is the author of all the Ps.: כל תשׁבחות שׁבספר תהלים כולן דוד אמרן , which in Bathra 14 b ten authors are supposed: דוד כתב ספר תהלים על ידי ערשׂה זקנים , vid., on this Midrash to Song of Solomon 4:4 and Ecclesiastes 7:19. In the former passage לתלפיות is explained as an emblematic name of the Psalter: ספר שׁאמרוהו לו פיות הרבה , the book of David, to which the mouths of many have contributed. And there are two modern commentaries, viz., by Klauss, 1832, and Randegger, 1841, which are written with the design of proving all the Psalms to be Davidic.)
The designed, minute comparison of the Greek translators is most thankworthy; in other respect, this expositor, like the Syrians generally, is wanting in the mystic depth which might compensate for the want of scientific insight. All this may be also said of Euthymius Zigadenus (Zigabgenues): his commentary on the Psalms (in Greek in t. iv. of the Venetian edition of the Opp. Theophylacti), written at the desire of the emperor Alexius Comnenus, is nothing but a skilful compilation, in the preparation of which he made good use of the Psalm-catena, likewise a compilation, of the somewhat earlier Νικήτας Σερρῶν ,
(Note: This information is found in the modern Greek edition of Euthemius' Commentary on the Ps. by Nicodemos the Agiorite (2 vols. Constantinople 1819-21), which also contains extracts from this catena of Nicetas Serronius.)
which is to be found on Mount Athos and is still unprinted.
The Western counterpart to Chrysostom's commentary are Augustine's Enarrationes in Psalmos (in t. iv. of the Benedictine edition). The psalm-singing in the Milaneses church had contributed greatly to Augustine's conversion. But his love to his Lord was fired still more by the reading of the Psalms when he was preparing himself in solitude for his baptism. His commentary consists of sermons which he wrote down in part himself and in part dictated. Only the thirty-two sermones on Ps 118 (119), which he ventured upon last of all, were not actually delivered. He does not adopt the text of Jerome as his basis, but makes use of the older Latin version, the original text of which he sought to establish, and here and there to correct, by the lxx; whereas Arnobius, the Semi-Pelagian, in his paraphrastic Africano-Latin commentary on the Psalms (first edition by Erasmus, Basileae, Forben. 1522, who, as also Trithemnius, erroneously regarded the author as one and the same with the Apologist) no longer uses the so-called Itala, but takes Jerome's translation as his basis. The work of Augustine far surpassing that of Chrysostom in richness and depth of thought, has become, in the Western church, the chief mine of all later exposition of the Psalms. Cassiodorus in his Expositiones in omnes Psalmos (in t. ii. of the Bened. ed.) draws largely from Augustine, though not devoid of independence.
What the Greek church has done for the exposition of the Psalms has been garnered up many times since Photius in so-called Σειραί , Catenae. That of Nicetas archbishop of Serra in Macedonia (about 1070), is still unprinted. One, extending only to Ps 50, appeared at Venice 1569, and a complete one, edited by Corderius, at Antwerp 1643 (3 vols., from Vienna and Munich MSS). Folckmann (1601) made extracts from the Catena of Nicetas Heracleota, and Aloysius Lippomanus began a Catena from Greek and Latin writers on the largest scale (one folio vol. on Psalms 1:1, Romae 1585). The defects to be found in the ancient exposition of the Psalms are in general the same in the Greek and in the Western expositors. To their want of acquaintance with the text of the original was added their unmethodical, irregular mode of procedure, their arbitrary straining of the prophetic character of the Psalms (as e.g., Tertullian, De spectaculis, takes the whole of Psalms 1:1-6 as a prophecy concerning Joseph of Arimathea), their unhistorical perception, before which all differences between the two Testaments vanish, and their misleading predilection for the allegorical method. In all this, the meaning of the Psalms, as understood by the apostles, remains unused; they appropriate it without rightly apprehending it, and do not place the Psalms in the light of the New Testament fulfilment of them, but at once turn them into New Testament language and thoughts. But the church has never found such rapturous delight in the Psalms, which it was never weary of singing day and night, never used them with richer results even to martyrdom, than at that period. Instead of profane popular songs, as one passed through the country one might hear psalms resounding over the fields and vineyards. Quocunque te verteris , writes Jerome to the widow of Marcellus from the Holy Land, arator stivam tenens Alleluja decantat, sudans messor psalmis se avocat et curva attondens vitem falce vinitor aliquid Davidicum canit. Haec sunt in hac provincia carmina, hae (ut vulgo dicitur) amatoriae cantiones, hic pastorum sibilus, haec arma culturae . The delights of country life he commends to Marcella in the following among other words: Vere ager floribus pingitur et inter querulas aves Psalmi dulcius cantabuntur . In Sidonius Apollinaris we find even psalm-singing in the mouth of the men who tow the boats, and the poet takes from this a beautiful admonition for Christians in their voyage and journey through this life:
Curvorum hinc chorus helciariorum
Responsantibus Alleluja ripis
Ad Christum levat amicum celeusma.
Sic, sic psallite, nauta et viator!
And how many martyrs have endured every form of martyrdom with psalms upon their lips! That which the church in those days filed to furnish in writing towards the exposition of the Psalms, it more than compensated for by preserving the vitality of the Psalms with its blood. Practice made far more rapid progress than theory.
(Note: Vid., besides the essay by Otto Strauss, already mentioned: Armknecht, Die heilige Psalmodie oder der psalmodirende König David und die singende Urkirche, 1855; and W. von Gülick, Das Psalterium nach seinem Hauptinhalte in seiner wissenschaftlichen und praktischen Bedeutung (a Catholic prize essay) 1858; partly also Rudelbach's Hymnologische Studien in the Luther. Zeitschrift 1855, 4, 1856, 2. and especially no penitential psalm-singing Zöckler's Geschichte der Askese (1863) S. 256-264.)
These patristic works are patterns for every age of the true fervour which should characterise the expositor of the Psalms.
The mediaeval church exposition did not make any essential advance upon the patristic. After Cassiodorus, came Haymo (d. 853) and Remigius of Auxerre (d. about 900), still less independent compilers; the commentary of the former, edited by Erasmus, appeared Trib. 1531, of the latter, first Colon. 1536, and then in the Bibl. maxima Lugdunensis. That of Petrus Lombardus (d. about 1160) is a catena taken directly from earlier expositors from Jerome to Alcuin. Of a more independent character are the commentaries of Thomas Aquinas, who however only completed 51 Ps., and Alexander of Hales, if the Commentary which appeared under his name ( Venet. 1496) is not rather to be attributed to cardinal Hugo. Besides, these, Bonaventura (d. 1274) and Albertus Magnus (d. 1280) stand out prominently in the Middle Ages as expositors of the Psalms; and on the border of the Middle Ages Michael Ayguanus (about 1400) whose commentary has been frequently reprinted since its first appearance, Mediol. 1510. If you know one of these expositors, you know them all. The most that they have to offer us is an echo of the earlier writers. By their dependence on the letter of the Vulgate, and consequently indirectly of the lxx, they only too frequently light upon a false track and miss the meaning. The literalis sensus is completely buried in mysticae intelligentiae . Without observing the distinction between the two economies, the conversion of the Psalms into New Testament language and thought, regardless of the intermediate steps of development, is here continued. Thus, for example, Albertus Magnus in his commentary ( Opp. t. vii.), on the principle: Constat, quod totus liber iste de Christo , at once expounds Beatus vir (Psalms 1:1), and the whole Ps., de Christo et ejus corpore ecclesia . But as we find in the Fathers occasional instances of deep insight into the meaning of passages, and occasional flashes of thought of lasting value, so even here the reading, especially of the mystics, will repay one. - The greatest authority in psalm-exposition for the Middle Ages was Augustine. From Augustine, and perhaps we may add from Cassiodorus, Notker Labeo (d. 1022), the monk of St. Gall, drew the short annotations which, verse by verse, accompany his German translation of the Psalms (vol. ii. of H. Hattemer's Denkmahle des Mittelalters). In like manner the Latin Psalter-catena of bishop Bruno of Würzburg (d. 1045), mentioned above, is compiled from Augustine and Cassiodorus, but also from Jerome, Bede and Gregory. And the Syriac annotations to the Psalms of Gregory Barhebraeus (d. 1286), - of which Tullberg and Koraen, Upsala 1842, and Schröter, Breslau 1857, have published specimens, - are merely of importance in connection with the history of exposition, and are moreover in no way distinguished from the mediaeval method.
The mediaeval synagogue exposition is wanting in the recognition of Christ, and consequently in the fundamental condition required for a spiritual understanding of the Psalms. But as we are indebted to the Jews for the transmission of the codex of the Old Testament, we also owe the transmission of the knowledge of Hebrew to them. So far the Jewish interpreters give us what the Christian interpreters of the same period were not able to tender. The interpretations of passages from the Psalms scattered up and down in the Talmud are mostly unsound, arbitrary, and strange. And the Midrash on the Ps., bearing the title טוב שׁוחר (vid., Zunz, Vorträge, 266ff.), and the Midrash-catenae entitled ילקוט , of which at present only ילקוט שׁמעוני (by Simeon Kara ha-Darshan) is known, and ילקוט מכירי (by Machir b. Abba-Mari), contain far more that is limitlessly digressive than what is to the point and usable. This class of psalm-exposition was always employed for the thoroughly practical end of stimulating and edifying discourse. It is only since about 900 a.d., when indirectly under Syro-Arabian influence, the study of grammar began to be cultivated among the Jews, that the exposition and the application of Scripture began to be disentangled. At the head of this new era of Jewish exegesis stands Saadia Gaon (d. 941-2), from whose Arabic translation and annotations of the Ps. Haneberg (1840) and Ewald (1844) have published extracts. The Karaites, Salmon b. Jerocham and Jefeth, both of whom have also expounded the Psalms, are warm opponents of Saadia; but Jefeth whose commentary on the Psalms
(Note: It is to be found in MS partly in Paris, partly in St. Petersburg: the former having been brought thither from Egypt by Munk in 1841 and the latter by Tischendorf in 1853.)
has been in part made known by Bargès (since 1846), nevertheless already recognises the influence of grammar, which Saadia raised to the dignity of a science, but which Salmon utterly discards. The next great expositor of the Psalms is Rashi (i.e., Rabbi Salomo Isaaki) of Troyes (d. 1105), who has interpreted the whole of the Old Testament (except the Chronicles) and the whole of the Talmud;
(Note: But on some parts of the Talmud, e.g., the tractate Maccoth, we have not any commentary by Rashi.)
and he has not only treasured up with pithy brevity the traditional interpretations scattered about in the Talmud and Midrash, but also (especially in the Psalms) made use of every existing grammatico-lexical help. Aben-Ezra of Toledo (d. 1167) and David Kimchi of Narbonne (d. about 1250) are less dependent upon tradition, which for the most part expended itself upon strange interpretations. The former is the more independent and genial, but seldom happy in his characteristic fancies; the latter is less original, but gifted with a keener appreciation of that which is simple and natural, and of all the Jewish expositors he is the pre-eminently grammatico-historical interpreter. Gecatilia's (Mose ha-Cohen Chiquitilla) commentary on the Psalms written in Arabic is only known to us from quotations, principally in Aben-Ezra. In later commentaries, as those of Mose Alshêch (Venice 1601) and Joel Shoëb (Salonica 1569), the simplicity and elegance of the older expositors degenerates into the most repulsive scholasticism. The commentary of Obadia Sforno (d. at Bologna 1550), Reuchlin's teacher, is too much given to philosophising, but is at least withal clear and brief. Their knowledge of the Hebrew gives all these expositors a marked advantage over their Christian contemporaries, but the veil of Moses over their eyes is thicker in proportion to their conscious opposition to Christianity. Nevertheless the church has not left these preparatory works unused. The Jewish Christians, Nicolaus de Lyra (d. about 1340), the author of the Postillae perpetuae, and Archbishop Paul de Santa Maria of Burgos (d. 1435), the author of the Additiones ad Lyram, took the lead in this respect. Independently, like the last mentioned writers, Augustinus Justinianus of Genoa, in his Octaplus Psalterii (Genoa, 1516, folio), drew chiefly from the Midrash and Sohar. The preference however was generally given to the use of Aben-Ezra and Kimchi; e.g., Bucer, who acknowledges his obligation to these, says: neque enim candidi ingenii est dissimulare, per quos profeceris . Justinianus, Pagninus, and Felix were the three highest authorities on the original text at the commencement of the Reformation. The first two had gained their knowledge of the original from Jewish sources and Felix Pratensis, whose Psalterium ex hebreo diligentissime ad verbum fere translatum, 1522, appeared under Leo X, was a proselyte.
We have now reached the threshold of the Reformation exposition. Psalmody in the reigning church had sunk to a lifeless form of service. The exposition of the Psalms lost itself in the dependency of compilation and the chaos of the schools . Et ipsa quamvis frigida tractatione Psalmorum - says Luther in his preface to Bugenhagen's Latin Psalter - aliquis tamen odor vitae oblatus est plerisque bonae mentis hominibus, et utcunque ex verbis illis etiam non intellectis semper aliquid consolationis et aurulae senserunt e Psalmis pii, veluti ex roseto leniter spirantis . Now, however, when a new light dawned upon the church through the Reformation - the light of a grammatical and deeply spiritual understanding of Scripture, represented in Germany by Reuchlin and in France by Vatablus - then the rose-garden of the Psalter began to breathe forth its perfumes as with the renewed freshness of a May day; and born again from the Psalter, German hymns resounded from the shores of the Baltic to the foot of the Alps with all the fervour of a newly quickened first-love. “It is marvellous” - says the Spanish Carmelite Thomas à Jesu, - “How greatly the hymns of Luther helped forward the Lutheran cause. Not only the churches and schools echo with them, but even the private houses, the workshops, the markets, streets, and fields.” For converted into imperishable hymns (by Luther, Albinus, Franck, Gerhardt, Jonas, Musculus, Poliander, Ringwaldt, and many more) the ancient Psalms were transferred anew into the psalmody of the German as of the Scandinavian
(Note: The Swedish hymns taken from the Psalms have been recently remodelled for congregational use and augmented by Runeberg (Oerebro 1858).)
Lutheran church. In the French church Clément Marot translated into verse 30 Ps., then 19 more (1541-43) and Theodore Beza added the rest (1562).
(Note: Vid., Félix Bovet, Les Psaumes de Marot et de Bèze, in the Lausanne magazine, Le Chrétien Evangélique, 1866, No. 4.)
Calvin introduced the Psalms in Marot's version as early as 1542 into the service of the Geneva church, and the Psalms have since continued to be the favorite hymns of the Reformed church. Goudimel, the martyr of St. Bartholemew's night and teacher of Palestrina, composed the melodies and chorales. The English Established church adopted the Psalms direct as they are, as a portion of its liturgy, the Congregational church followed the example of the sister-churches of the Continent. And how industriously the Psalter was moulded into Greek verse, as by Olympia Morata (d. 1555)
(Note: Vid., examples in Bonnet's life of Olympia Morata. Germ. transl. by Merschmann 1860 S. 131-135.)
and under the influence of Melanthon
(Note: Vid., Wilhelm Thilo, Melanchthon im Dienste an heil. Schrift (Berlin, 1859), S. 28.)
into Latin! The paraphrases of Helius Eoban Hesse (of whom Martin Herz, 1860, has given a biographical sketch),
(Note: His Psalms (to which Veit Dietrich wrote notes) passed through forty editions in seventy years.)
Joh. Major, Jacob Micyllus (whose life Classen has written, 1859), Joh. Stigel (whose memory has been revived by Paulus Cassel 1860), Gre. Bersmann (d. 1611), and also that begun by Geo. Buchanan during his sojourn in a Portuguese monastery, are not only learned performances, but productions of an inward spiritual need; although one must assent to the judgment expressed by Harless, that the best attempts of this kind only satisfy one in proportion as we are able first of all to banish the remembrance of the original from our mind.
But since the time of the Reformation the exegetical functions of psalm-exposition have been more clearly apprehended and more happily discharged than ever before. In Luther, who opened his academical lectures in 1514 with the Ps. (in Latin in Luther's own hand writing in Wolfenbüttel) and began to publish a part of them in 1519 under the title Operationes in duas Psalmorum decades, the depth of experience of the Fathers is united to the Pauline recognition (which he gave back to the church) of the doctrine of free grace. It is true, he is not entirely free from the allegorising which he rejected in thesi, and, in general, from a departure a sensu literae , and there is also still wanting in Luther the historical insight into the distinctive character of the two Testaments; but with respect to experimental, mystical, and withal sound, understanding he is incomparable. His interpretations of the Psalms, especially of the penitential Ps. and of Ps 90, excel every thing hitherto produced, and are still a perpetual mine of wealth. Bugenhagen's exposition of the Psalms (Basel 1524, 4to. and freq.) continued the interrupted work of Luther, who in a brief but forcible preface says in its praise, that it is the first worthy of the name of an exposition. Penetration and delicacy of judgment distinguish the interpretation of the five books of the Psalms by Aretius Felinus i.e., Martin Bucer (1529, 4to. and freq.). The Autophyes (= a se et per se Existens), by which throughout he translates יהוה , gives it a remarkable appearance. But about the same time, as an exegete, Calvin came forward at the side of the German reformer. His commentary (first published at Geneva 1564) combines with great psychological penetration more discernment of the types and greater freedom of historical perception, but is not without many errors arising from this freedom. Calvin's strict historical method of interpretation becomes a caricature in Esrom Rüdinger, the schoolmaster of the Moravian brethren, who died at Altorf in 1591 without being able, as he had intended, to issue his commentary, which appeared in 1580-81, in a new and revised form. His is an original work which, after trying many conjectures, at last assigns even the first Psalm to the era of the Seleucidae.
Within the range of the post-Reformation exposition the first that meets us is Reinhard Bakius, the persevering and talented pastor of Magdeburg and Grimma during the Thirty-years' war, whose Comm. exegetico-practicus on the Ps. (in the first edition by his son 1664) is a work of extensive reading and good sense, in many respects a welcome supplement to Luther, crammed full of all kinds of notable things about the Psalms, under which, however, the thread of simple exposition is lost. Martin Geier keeps the work of the exposition most distinctly before him, adhering more closely to it and restraining himself from digression. His lectures on the Psalms delivered at Leipzig extended over a period of eighteen years. Deep piety and extensive learning adorn his commentary (1668), but the free spirit of the men of the Reformation is no longer here. Geier is not capable of turning from dogmatics, and throwing himself into the exegesis: a traditional standard of exegesis had become fixed, to overstep which was accounted as heterodox. In the Reformed church Cocceius stands prominently forward (d. 1669). He was an original and gifted man, but starting from false principles of hermeneutics, too fond of an eschatological literalness of interpretation.
Not only the two Protestant churches, but also the Romish church took part in the advancing work of psalm-exposition. Its most prominent expositors from 1550-1650 are Genebrardus, Agellius, and De Muis, all of whom possessing a knowledge of the Semitic languages, go back to the original, and Gallarmin, who brings to the work not merely uncommon natural talents, but, within the limits of papistical restraint, a deep spiritual penetration. Later on psalm-exposition in the Romish church degenerated into scholasticism. This is at its height in Le Blanc's Psalmorum Davidicorum Analysis and in Joh. Lorinus' Commentaria in Psalmos (6 folio vols. 1665-1676). In the protestant churches, however, a lamentable decline from the spirit of the men of the Reformation in like manner manifested itself. The Adnotationes uberiores in Hagiographa (t. i. 1745, 4to.: Ps. and Prov.) of Joh. Heinrich Michaelis are a mass of raw materials: the glossarial annotations groan beneath the burden of numberless unsifted examples and parallel passages. What had been done during the past sixteen hundred years remains almost entirely unnoticed; Luther is not explored, even Calvin within the pale of his own church no longer exerts any influence over the exposition of Scripture. After 1750, the exposition of Scripture lost that spiritual and ecclesiastical character which had gained strength in the seventeenth century, but had also gradually become torpid; whereas in the Romish church, as the Psalm-expositions of De Sacy, Berthier and La Harpe show, it never sank so low as to deny the existence of revealed religion. That love for the Ps., which produced the evangelical hymn-psalter of that truly Christian poet and minister Christoph Karl Ludwig von Pfeil (1747),
(Note: Vid., his Life by Heinr. Jerz (1863), 111-117.)
prefaced by Bengel, degenerated to a merely literary, or at most poetical, interest, - exegesis became carnal and unspiritual. The remnant of what was spiritual in this age of decline, is represented by Burk in his Gnomon to the Ps. (1760) which follows the model of Bengel, and by Chr. A. Crusius in the second part of his Hypomnemata ad Theologiam Propheticam (1761), a work which follows the track newly opened up by Bengel, and is rich in germs of progressive knowledge (vid., my Biblisch-prophetische Theologie, 1845). We may see the character of the theology of that age from Joh. Dav. Michaelis' translation of the Old Testament, with notes for the unlearned (1771), and his writings on separate Psalms. From a linguistic and historical point of view we may find something of value here; but besides, only wordy, discursive, tasteless trifling and spiritual deadness. It has been the honour of Herder that he has freed psalm-exposition from this want of taste, and the merit of Hengstenberg (first of all in his Lectures), that he has brought it back out of this want of spirituality to the believing consciousness of the church.
The transition to modern exposition is marked by Rosenmüller's Scholia to the Ps. (first published in 1798-1804), a compilation written in pure clear language with exegetical tact and with a thankworthy use of older expositors who had become unknown, as Rüdinger, Bucer, and Agellius, and also of Jewish writers. De Wette's commentary on the Psalms (first published in 1811, 5th edition by Gustav Baur, 1856) was far more independent and forms an epoch in exegesis. De Wette is precise and clear, and also not without a perception of the beautiful; but his position in relation to the Scripture writers is too much like that of a reviewer, his research too sceptical, and his estimate of the Ps. does not sufficiently recognise their place in the history of redemption. He regards them as national hymns, partly in the most ordinary patriotic sense, and when his theological perception fails him, he helps himself out with sarcasm against the theocratic element, which he carries to the extreme of disgust. Nevertheless, De Wette's commentary opens up a new epoch so far as it has first of all set in order the hitherto existing chaos of psalm-exposition, and introduced into it taste and grammatical accuracy, after the example of Herder and under the influence of Gesenius. He is far more independent than Rosenmüller, who though not wanting in taste and tact, is only a compiler. In investigating the historical circumstances which gave rise to the composition of the different psalms, De Wette is more negative than assumptive. Hitzig in his historical and critical commentary (1835. 36), which has appeared recently in a revised form (Bd. 1, 1863, Bd. 2. Abth. 1, 1864, Abth. 2, 1865), has sought to supplement positively the negative criticism of De Wette, by ascribing to David fourteen Ps. of the seventy three that bear the inscription לדוד , assigning all the Ps. from the 73 onwards, together with 1, 2, 60 (these three, as also 142-144, 150, by Alexander Jannaeus) to the Maccabean period (e.g., 138-141 to Alexander's father, John Hyrcanus), and also inferring the authors (Zechariah, 2 Chronicles 26:5; Isaiah, Jeremiah) or at least the date of composition of all the rest.
Von Lengerke, in his commentary compiled half from Hengstenberg, half from Hitzig (1847), has attached himself to this so-called positive criticism, which always arrives at positive results and regards Maccabean psalms as the primary stock of the Psalter. Von Lengerke maintains that not a single Ps. can with certainty be ascribed to David. Olshausen (in his Comment. 1853), who only leaves a few Ps., as 2, 20, 21, to the time of the kings prior to the Exile, and with a propensity, which he is not able to resist, brings down all the others to the time of the Maccabees, even to the beginning of the reign of John Hyrcanus, also belongs to the positive school. Whereas Hupfeld in his commentary, 1855-1862 (4 vols.), considers it unworthy of earnest investigation, to lower one's self to such “childish trifling with hypotheses” and remains true to De Wette's negative criticism: but he seeks to carry it out in a different way. He also maintains that none of the Ps. admit of being with certainty ascribed to David; and proceeds on the assumption, that although only a part of the inscriptions are false, for that very reason none of them can be used by us.
We stand neither on the side of this scepticism, which everywhere negatives tradition, nor on the side of that self-confidence, which mostly negatives it and places in opposition to it its own positive counter-assumptions; but we do not on this account fail to recognise the great merit which Olshausen, Hupfeld and Hitzig have acquired by their expositions of the Psalms. In Olshausen we prize his prominent talent for critical conjectures; in Hupfeld grammatical thoroughness, and solid study so far as it is carried; in Hitzig the stimulating originality everywhere manifest, his happy perspicacity in tracing out the connection of the thoughts, and the marvellous amount of reading which is displayed in support of the usage of language and of that which is admissible according to syntax. The commentary of Ewald ( Poetische Bücher, 1839, 40. 2nd edition 1866), apart from the introductory portion, according to its plan only fragmentarily meets the requirements of exposition, but in the argument which precedes each Ps. gives evidence of a special gift for piercing the emotions and throbbings of the heart and entering into the changes of feeling.
None of these expositors are in truly spiritual rapport with the spirit of the psalmists. The much abused commentary of Hengstenberg 1842-1847 (4 vols. 2nd edition 1849-1852) consequently opened a new track, in as much as it primarily set the exposition of the Psalms in its right relation to the church once more, and was not confined to the historico-grammatical function of exposition. The kindred spirited works of Umbreit ( Christliche Erbauung aus dem Psalter 1835) and Stier ( Siebenzig Psalmen 1834. 36), which extend only to a selection from the Psalms, may be regarded as its forerunners, and the commentary of Tholuck (1847) who excludes verbal criticism and seeks to present the results of exegetical progress in a practical form for the use of the people, as its counterpart. For the sake of completeness we may also mention the commentary of Köster (1837) which has become of importance for its appreciation of the artistic form of the Psalms, especially the strophe-system, and Vaihinger's (1845). Out of Germany, no work on the Psalms has appeared which could be placed side by side with those of Hengstenberg, Hupfeld and Hitzig. And yet the inexhaustible task demands the combined work of many hands. Would that the examples set by Björk, by Perret-Gentil, Armand deo Mestral and J. F. Thrupp, of noble rivalry with German scholarship might find many imitators in the countries of the Scandinavian, Latin, and English tongues! Would that the zealous industry of Bade and Reinke, the noble endeavours so Schegg and König, might set an example to many in the Romish church! Would that also the Greek church on the basis of the criticism of the lxx defended by Pharmakides against Oikonomos, far surpassing the works on the Ps. of Nicodimos and Anthimos, which are drawn from the Fathers, might continue in that rival connection with German scholarship of which the Prolegomena to the Psalm-commentary of the Jerusalem patriarch Anthimos, by Dionysios Kleopas (Jerusalem 1855. 4to.) give evidence! Non plus ultra is the watchword of the church with regard to the word of God, and plus ultra is its watchword with regard to the understanding of that word. Common work upon the Scriptures is the finest union of the severed churches and the surest harbinger of their future unity. The exposition of Scripture will rear the Church of the Future.
10. Theological Preliminary Considerations
The expositor of the Psalms can place himself on the standpoint of the poet, or the standpoint of the Old Testament church, or the standpoint of the church of the present dispensation - a primary condition of exegetical progress is the keeping of these three standpoints distinct, and, in accordance therewith, the distinguishing between the two Testaments, and in general, between the different steps in the development of the revelation, and in the perception of the plan, of redemption. For as redemption itself has a progressive history, so has the revelation and growing perception of it a progressive history also, which extends from paradise, through time, on into eternity. Redemption realizes itself in a system of facts, in which the divine purpose of love for the deliverance of sinful humanity unfolds itself, and the revelation of salvation is given in advance of this gradually developing course of events in order to guarantee its divine authorship and as a means by which it may be rightly understood. In the Psalms we have five centuries and more of this progressive realizing, disclosing, and perception of salvation laid open before us. If we add to this the fact that one psalm is by Moses, and that the retrospective portions of the historical psalms refer back even to the patriarchal age, then, from the call of Abraham down to the restoration of Israel's position among the nations after the Exile, there is scarcely a single event of importance in sacred history which does not find some expression in the Psalter. And it is not merely facts external to it, which echo therein in lyric strains, but, because David, - next to Abraham undoubtedly the most significant character of sacred history in the Old Testament, - is its chief composer, it is itself a direct integral part of the history of redemption. And it is also a source of information for the history of the revelation of redemption, in as much as it flowed not from the Spirit of faith merely, but mainly also from the Spirit of prophecy: but, pre-eminently, it is the most important memorial of the progressive recognition of the plan of salvation, since it shows how, between the giving of the Law from Sinai and the proclamation of the Gospel from Sion, the final, great salvation was heralded in the consciousness and life of the Jewish church.
We will consider 1) the relation of the Psalms to the prophecy of the future Christ. When man whom God had created, had corrupted himself by sin, God did not leave him to that doom of wrath which he had chosen for himself, but visited him on the evening of that most unfortunate of all days, in order to make that doom the disciplinary medium of His love. This visitation of Jahve Elohim was the first step in the history of redemption towards the goal of the incarnation, and the so-called protevangelium was the first laying of the foundation of His verbal revelation of law and gospel - a revelation in accordance with the plan of salvation, and preparing the way towards this goal of the incarnation and the recovery of man. The way of this salvation, which opens up its own historical course, and at the same time announces itself in a form adapted to the human consciousness, runs all through Israel, and the Psalms show us how this seed-corn of words and acts of divine love has expanded with a vital energy in the believing hearts of Israel. They bear the impress of the period, during which the preparation of the way of salvation was centred in Israel and the hope of redemption was a national hope. For after mankind was separated into different nations, salvation was confined within the limits of a chosen nation, that it might mature there, and then bursting its bounds become the property of the human race. At that period the promise of the future Mediator was in its third stage. The hope of overcoming the tendency in mankind to be led astray into evil was attached to the seed of the woman, and the hope of a blessing for all peoples, to the seed of Abraham: but, at this period, when David became the creator of psalm-poesy for the sanctuary service, the promise had assumed a Messianic character and pointed the hope of the believing ones towards the king of Israel, and in fact to David and his seed: the salvation and glory of Israel first, and indirectly of the nations, was looked for from the mediatorship of Jahve's Anointed.
The fact that among all the Davidic psalms there is only a single one, viz., Psalms 110:1-7, in which David (as in his last words 2 Samuel 23:1-7) looks forth into the future of his seed and has the Messiah definitely before his mind, can only be explained by the consideration, that he was hitherto himself the object of Messianic hope, and that this hope was first gradually (especially in consequence of his deep fall) separated from himself individually, and transferred to the future. Therefore when Solomon came to the throne the Messianic desires and hopes of Israel were directed towards him, as Ps 72 shows; they belonged only to the one final Christ of God, but they clung for a long time enquiringly and with a perfect right (on the ground of 2 Sam 7) to the direct son of David. Also in Ps 45 it is a son of David, contemporary with the Korahite singer, to whom the Messianic promise is applied as a marriage benediction, wishing that the promise may be realized in him.
But it soon became evident that He, in whom the full realization of the idea of the Messiah is to be found, had not yet appeared either in the person of this king or of Solomon. And when in the later time of the kings the Davidic line became more and more inconsistent with its vocation in the sacred history, then the hope of the Messiah was completely weaned of its expectation of immediate fulfilment, and the present became merely the dark ground from which the image of the Messiah, as purely future, stood forth in relief. The בן־דוד , in whom the prophecy of the later time of the kings centres, and whom also Psalms 2:1-12 sets forth before the kings of the earth that they may render homage to Him, is an eschatological character (although the אחרית was looked for as dawning close upon the border of the present). In the mouth of the congregation Ps 45 and 132, since their contents referred to the future, have become too prophetically and eschatologically Messianic. But it is remarkable that the number of these psalms which are not merely typically Messianic is so small, and that the church of the period after the Exile has not enriched the Psalter with a single psalm that is Messianic in the stricter sense. In the later portion of the Psalter, in distinction from the strictly Messianic psalms, the theocratic psalms are more numerously represented, i.e., those psalms which do not speak of the kingdom of Jahve's Anointed which shall conquer and bless the world, not of the Christocracy, in which the theocracy reaches the pinnacle of its representation, but of the theocracy as such, which is complete inwardly and outwardly in its own representation of itself, - not of the advent of a human king, but of Jahve Himself, with the kingdom of God manifest in all its glory. For the announcement of salvation in the Old Testament runs on in two parallel lines: the one has as its termination the Anointed of Jahve, who rules all nations out of Zion, the other, the Lord Himself sitting above the Cherubim, to whom all the earth does homage. These two lines do not meet in the Old Testament; it is only the fulfilment that makes it plain, that the advent of the Anointed one and the advent of Jahve is one and the same. And of these two lines the divine is the one that preponderates in the Psalter; the hope of Israel, especially after the kingship had ceased in Israel, is directed generally beyond the human mediation directly towards Jahve, the Author of salvation. The fundamental article of the Old Testament faith funs ישׁועתה ליהוה (Ps. 3:9; Jonah 2:10). The Messiah is not yet recognised as a God-man. Consequently the Psalms contain neither prayer to Him, nor prayer in His name. But prayer to Jahve and for Jahve's sake is essentially the same. For Jesus is in Jahve. Jahve is the Saviour. And the Saviour when he shall appear, is nothing but the visible manifestation of the ישׁועה of this God (Isaiah 49:6).
In considering the goal of the Old Testament history in its relation to the God-man, we distinguish five classes of psalms which are directed towards this goal. After 2 Sam 7 the Messianic promise is no longer in a general way connected with the tribe of Judah, but with David; and is referred not merely to the endless duration of his kingdom, but also to one scion of his house, in whom that to which God has appointed the seed of David in its relation to Israel first, and from Israel to all the other nations, shall be fully realised, and without whom the kingdom of David is like a headless trunk. Psalms in which the poet, looking beyond his own age, comforts himself with the vision of this king in whom the promise is finally fulfilled, we call eschatological psalms, and in fact directly eschatologically Messianic psalms. These connect themselves not merely with the already resisting prophetic utterances, but carry them even further, and are only distinguished from prophecy proper by their lyric form; for prophecy is a discourses and the psalms are spiritual songs.
The Messianic character of the Psalms is, however, not confined to prophecy proper, the subject of which is that which is future. Just as nature exhibits a series of stages of life in which the lower order of existence points to the next order above it and indirectly to the highest, so that, for instance, in the globular form of a drop we read the intimation of the struggle after organism, as it were, in the simplest barest outline: so also the progress of history is typical, and not only as a whole, but also most surprisingly in single traits, the life of David is a vaticinium reale of the life of Him, whom prophecy calls directly עבדי דוד Ezekiel 34:23., Psalms 37:24. and דוד מלכם Hosea 3:5; Jeremiah 30:9, as the David who is, as it were, raised from the dead in a glorified form. Those psalms in which David himself (or even a poet throwing himself into David's position and mood) gives expression in lyric verse to prominent typical events and features of his life, we call typically Messianic psalms. This class, however, is not confined to those, of which David is directly or indirectly the subject, for the course of suffering of all the Old Testament saints, and especially of the prophets in their calling (vid., on Psalms 34:20. and Ps 69), was to a certain extent a τύπος τοῦ μέλλοντος . All these psalms, not less than those of the first class, may be quoted in the New Testament with the words ἵνα πληρωθῇ , with this difference only, that in the former it is the prophetic word, in the latter the prophetic history, that is fulfilled. The older theologians, especially the Lutheran, contended against the supposition of such typological citations of the Old Testament in the New: they were destitute of that perception of the organic element in history granted to our age, and consequently were lacking in the true counterpoise to their rigid notions of inspiration.
But there is also a class of Psalms which we call typico-prophetically Messianic, viz., those in which David, describing his outward and inward experiences, - experiences even in themselves typical, - is carried beyond the limits of his individuality and present condition, and utters concerning himself that which, transcending human experience, is intended to become historically true only in Christ. Such psalms are typical, in as much as their contents is grounded in the individual, but typical, history of David; they are, however, at the same time prophetic, in as much as they express present individual experience in laments, hopes, and descriptions which point far forward beyond the present and are only fully realised in Christ. The psychological possibility of such psalms has been called in question; but they would only be psychologically impossible, if one were obliged to suppose that David's self-consciousness must under such circumstances pass over into that of his antitype; but it is in reality quite otherwise. As the poet in order to describe his experiences in verse, idealises them, i.e., seizes the idea of them at the very root, and, stripping off all that is adventitious and insignificant, rises into the region of the ideal: so David also in these psalms idealises his experiences, which even in itself results in the reduction of them to all that is essential to their continuance as types. This he does, however, not from his own poetic impulse, but under the inspiration of the Spirit of God; and a still further result which follows from this is, that the description of his typical fortunes and their corresponding states of feeling is moulded into the prophetic description of the fortunes and feelings of his antitype.
Beside these three classes of Messianic psalms one may regard psalms like Psalms 45:1 and Psalms 72:1 as a fourth class of indirectly eschatologically Messianic psalms. They are those in which, according to the time of their composition, Messianic hopes are referred to a contemporary king, but without having been fulfilled in him; so that, in the mouth of the church, still expecting their final accomplishment, these psalms have become eschatological hymns and their exposition as such, by the side of their chronological interpretation, is fully warranted.
A fifth class is formed by the eschatologically Jehovic psalms, which are taken up with describing the advent of Jahve and the consummation of His kingdom, which is all through brought about by judgment (vid., Psalms 93:1-5). The number of these psalms in the Psalter greatly preponderates. They contain the other premiss to the divine-human end of the history of salvation. There are sudden flashes of light thrown upon this end in the prophets. But it remains reserved to the history itself to draw the inference of the unio personalis from these human and divine premises. The Redeemer, in whom the Old Testament faith reposed, is Jahve. The centre of the hope lay in the divine not in the human king. That the Redeemer, when He should appear, would be God and man in one person was alien to the mind of the Old Testament church. And the perception of the fact that He would be sacrifice and priest in one person, only penetrates in single rays into the Old Testament darkness, the cynosure of which is יהוה , and יהוה only.
Coming now to consider 2) the relation of the Psalms to the legal sacrifice, we shall find this also different from what we might expect from the stand-point of fulfilment. Passages certainly are not wanting where the outward legal sacrifice is acknowledged as an act of worship on the part of the individual and of the congregation (Psalms 66:15; Ps 51:21); but those occur more frequently, in which in comparison with the λογικὴ λατρεία it is so lightly esteemed, that without respect to its divine institution it appears as something not at all desired by God, as a shell to be cast away, and as a form to be broken in pieces (Psalms 40:7, Psalms 50:1, Psalms 51:18). But it is not this that surprises us. It is just in this respect that the psalms contribute their share towards the progress of sacred history. It is that process of spiritualisation which beings even in Deuteronomy, and which is continued by reason of the memorable words of Samuel, 1 Samuel 15:22. It is the spirit of the New Testament, growing more and more in strength, which here and in other parts of the Psalter shakes the legal barriers and casts off the στοιχεῖα τοῦ κόσμου as a butterfly does its chrysalis shell. But what is substituted for the sacrifice thus criticised and rejected? Contrition, prayer, thanksgiving, yielding one's self to God in the doing of His will, as Proverbs 21:3 to do justly, Hosea 6:6 kindness, Micah 6:6-8 acting justly, love, and humility, Jeremiah 7:21-23 obedience. This it is that surprises one. The disparaged sacrifice is regarded only as a symbol not as a type; it is only considered in its ethical character, not in its relation to the history of redemption. Its nature is unfolded only so far as it is a gift to God ( קרבן ), not so far as the offering is appointed for atonement ( כפרה ); in one word: the mystery of the blood remains undisclosed. Where the New Testament mind is obliged to think of the sprinkling with the blood of Jesus Christ, it is, in Psalms 51:9, the sprinkling of the legal ritual of purification and atonement that is mentioned, and that manifestly figuratively but yet without the significance of the figure. Whence is it? - Because the sacrifice with blood, as such, in the Old Testament remains a question to which Isaiah, in Isaiah 53:1, gives almost the only distinct answer in accordance with its historical fulfilment; for passages like Daniel 9:24., Zechariah 12:10; Zechariah 13:7 are themselves questionable and enigmatical. The prophetic representation of the passion and sacrifice of Christ is only given in direct prophetic language thus late on, and it is only the evangelic history of the fulfilment that shows, how exactly the Spirit which spoke by David has moulded that which he says concerning himself, the type, into correspondence with the antitype. The confidence of faith under the Old Testament, as it finds expression in the Psalms, rested upon Jahve even in reference to the atonement, as in reference to redemption in general. As He is the Saviour, so is He also the one who makes the atonement ( מכפר ), from whom expiation is earnestly sought and hoped for (Psalms 79:9; Psalms 65:4; Psalms 78:38; Psalms 85:3 and other passages). It is Jahve who at the end of His course of the redemptive history is the God-man, and the blood given by Him as the medium of atonement (Leviticus 17:11) is, in the antitype, His own blood.
Advancing from this point, we come to examine 3) the relation of the Psalms to the New Testament righteousness of faith and to the New Testament morality which flows from the primary command of infinite love. Both with respect to the atonement and to redemption the Psalms undergo a complete metamorphosis in the consciousness of the praying New Testament church - a metamorphosis, rendered possible by the unveiling and particularising of salvation that has since taken place, and to which they can without any reserve be accommodated. There are only two points in which the prayers of the Psalms appear to be difficult of amalgamation with the Christian consciousness. These are the moral self-confidence bordering on self-righteousness, which is frequently maintained before God in the Psalms, and the warmth of feeling against enemies and persecutors which finds vent in fearful cursings. The self-righteousness here is a mere appearance; for the righteousness to which the psalmists appeal is not the merit of works, not a sum of good works, which are reckoned up before God as claiming a reward, but a godly direction of the will and a godly form of life, which has its root in the surrender of one's whole self to God and regards itself as the operation and work of justifying, sanctifying, preserving and ruling grace (Psalms 73:25., Psalms 25:5-7; Psalms 19:14 and other passages). There is not wanting an acknowledgement of the innate sinfulness of our nature (Psalms 51:7), of the man's exposure to punishment before God apart from His grace (Psalms 143:2), of the many, and for the most part unperceived, sins of the converted (Psalms 19:13), of the forgiveness of sins as a fundamental condition to the attainment of happiness (Psalms 32:1.), of the necessity of a new divinely-created heart (Psalms 51:12), in short, of the way of salvation which consists of penitential contrition, pardon, and newness of life.
On the other hand it is not less true, that in the light of the vicarious atonement and of the Spirit of regeneration it becomes possible to form a far more penetrating and subtle moral judgment of one's self; it is not less true, that the tribulation, which the New Testament believer experiences, though it does not produce such a strong and overwhelming sense of divine wrath as that which is often expressed in the psalms, nevertheless sinks deeper into his inmost nature in the presence of the cross on Golgotha and of the heaven that is opened up to him, in as much as it appears to him to be sent by a love that chastens, proves, and prepares him for the future; and it is not less true, that after the righteousness of God - which takes over our unrighteousness and is accounted even in the Old Testament as a gift of grace - lies before us for believing appropriation as a righteousness redemptively wrought out by the active and passive obedience of Jesus, the distinctive as well as the reciprocally conditioned character of righteousness of faith and of righteousness of life is become a more clearly perceived fact of the inner life, and one which exercises a more powerful influence over the conduct of that life.
(Note: Cf. Kurtz, Zur Theologie der Psalmen, III: The self-righteousness of the psalmists, in the Dorpater Zeitschrift 1865 S. 352-358: “The Old Testament righteousness of faith, represented by the evangelium visibile of the sacrificial worship, had not as yet the fundamental and primary, helpful position assigned to it, especially by Paul, in the New Testament, but only a more secondary position; justification is conceived not as a condition of the sanctification which is to be striven after, but as a supplementing of that which is wanting in the sanctification thus defectively striven after.)
Nevertheless even such personal testimonies, as Psalms 17:1-5, do not resist conversion into New Testament forms of thought and experience, for they do not hinder the mind from thinking specially, at the same time, of righteousness of faith, of God's acts which are performed through the medium of sacraments, and of that life resulting from the new birth, which maintains itself victorious in the old man; moreover the Christian ought to be himself earnestly warned by them to examine himself whether his faith is really manifest as an energising power of a new life; and the difference between the two Testaments loses its harshness even here, in the presence of the great verities which condemn all moral infirmity, viz., that the church of Christ is a community of the holy, that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin, and that whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin.
But as to the so-called imprecatory psalms,
(Note: Cf. Kurtz, ibid. IV: The imprecatory Psalms, ibid. S. 359-372 and our discussions in the introductions to Ps 35 and 109, which belong to this class.)
in the position occupied by the Christian and by the church towards the enemies of Christ, the desire for their removal is certainly outweighed by the desire for their conversion: but assuming, that they will not be converted and will not anticipate their punishment by penitence, the transition from a feeling of love to that of wrath is warranted in the New Testament (e.g., Galatians 5:12), and assuming their absolute Satanic hardness of heart the Christian even may not shrink from praying for their final overthrow. For the kingdom of God comes not only by the way of mercy but also of judgment; and the coming of the kingdom of God is the goal of the Old as well as of the New Testament saint (vid., Ps 9:21; Psalms 59:14 and other passages), and every wish that judgment may descend upon those who oppose the coming of the kingdom of God is cherished even in the Psalms on the assumption of their lasting impenitence (vid., Psalms 7:13., Psalms 109:17). Where, however, as in Ps 69 and Ps 109, the imprecations go into particulars and extend to the descendants of the unfortunate one and even on to eternity, the only justification of them is this, that they flow from the prophetic spirit, and for the Christian they admit of no other adoption, except as, reiterating them, he gives the glory to the justice of God, and commends himself the more earnestly to His favour.
Also 4) the relation of the Psalms to the Last Things is such, that in order to be used as prayer expressive of the New Testament faith they require deepening and adjusting. For what Julius Africanus says of the Old Testament: οὐδέπω δέδοτο ἐλπίς ἀναστάσεως σαφής , holds good at least of the time before Isaiah. For Isaiah is the first to foretell, in one of his latest apocalyptic cycles (Psalms 24:1), the first resurrection, i.e., the re-quickening of the martyr-church that has succumbed to death (Isaiah 26:19), just as with an extended vision he foretells the termination of death itself (Psalms 25:8); and the Book of Daniel-that Old Testament apocalypse, sealed until the time of its fulfilment-first foretells the general resurrection, i.e., the awakening of some to life and others to judgment (Daniel 12:2). Between these two prophecies comes Ezekiel's vision of Israel's return from the Exile under the figure of a creative quickening of a vast field of corpses (Psalms 37:1) - a figure which at least assumes that what is represented is not impossible to the wonder-working power of God, which is true to His promises. But also in the latest psalms the perception of salvation nowhere appears to have made such advance, that these words of prophecy foretelling the resurrection should have been converted into a dogmatic element of the church's belief. The hope, that the bones committed, like seed, to the ground would spring forth again, finds expression first only in a bold, but differently expressed figure (Psalms 141:7); the hopeless darkness of Sheôl (Psalms 6:6; Psalms 30:10; Psalms 88:11-13) remained unillumined, and where deliverance from death and Hades is spoken of, what is meant is the preservation of the living, either experienced (e.g., Psalms 86:13) or hoped for (e.g., 118:17) from falling a prey to death and Hades, and we find in connection with it other passages which express the impossibility of escaping this universal final destiny (Psalms 89:49). The hope of eternal life after death is nowhere definitely expressed, as even in the Book of Job the longing for it is never able to expand into a hope, because no light of promise shines into that night, which reigns over Job's mind, - a night, which the conflict of temptation through which he is passing makes darker than it is in itself. The pearl which appears above the waves of temptation is only too quickly swallowed up again by them.
Also in the Psalms we find passages in which the hope of not falling a prey to death is expressed so broadly, that the thought of the final destiny of all men being inevitable is completely swallowed up by the living one's confidence of living in the strength of God (Ps 56:14 and esp. Psalms 16:9-11); passages in which the covenant relation with Jahve is contrasted with this present life and its possession, in such a manner that the opposite of a life extending beyond the present time is implied (Psalms 17:14., Psalms 63:4); passages in which the end of the ungodly is compared with the end of the righteous as death and life, defeat and triumph (Psalms 49:15), so that the inference forces itself upon one, that the former die although they seem to live for ever, and the latter live for ever although they die at once; and passage in which the psalmist, though only by way of allusion, looks forward to a being borne away to God, like Enoch and Elijah (Psalms 49:16; Psalms 73:24). Nowhere, however, is there any general creed to be found, but we see how the belief in a future life struggles to be free, at first only, as an individual conclusion of the believing mind from premises which experience has established. And far from the grave being penetrated by a glimpse of heaven, it has, on the contrary, to the ecstasy of the life derived from God, as it were altogether vanished; for life in opposition to death only appears as the lengthening of the line of the present ad infinitum. Hence it is that we no more find in the Psalms than in the Book of Job a perfectly satisfactory theodicy with reference to that distribution of human fortunes in this world, which is incompatible with God's justice. - Ps 7, Ps 49, Ps 73 certainly border on the right solution of the mystery, but it stops short at mere hint and presage, so that the utterances that touch upon it admit of different interpretation.
(Note: Vid., Kurtz, ibid. II: The doctrine of retribution in the Psalms, ibid. S. 316-352.)
But on the other hand, death and life in the mind of the psalmists are such deep-rooted notions (i.e., taken hold of at the very roots, which are grounded in the principles of divine wrath and divine love), that it is easy for the New Testament faith, to which they have become clear even to their back ground of hell and heaven, to adjust and deepen the meaning of all utterances in the Psalms that refer to them. It is by no means contrary to the meaning of the psalmist when, as in passages like Psalms 6:6, Gehenna is substituted for Hades to adapt it to the New Testament saint; for since the descent of Jesus Christ into Hades there is no longer any limbus patrum , the way of all who die in the Lord is not earthwards but upwards, Hades exists only as the vestibule of hell. The psalmists indeed dread it, but only as the realm of wrath or of seclusion from god's love, which is the true life of man. Nor is it contrary to the idea of the poets to think of the future vision of God's face in all its glory in Psalms 17:15 and of the resurrection morn in Psalms 49:15; for the hopes expressed there, though to the Old Testament consciousness they referred to this side the grave, are future according to their New Testament fulfilment, which is the only truly satisfying one. There is, as Oetinger says, no essential New Testament truth not contained in the Psalms either νοΐ́ (according to its unfolded meaning), or at least πνεύματι . The Old Testament barrier encompasses the germinating New Testament life, which at a future time shall burst it. The eschatology of the Old Testament leaves a dark background, which, as is designed, is divided by the New Testament revelation into light and darkness, and is to be illumined into a wide perspective extending into the eternity beyond time. Everywhere, where it begins to dawn in this eschatological darkness of the Old Testament, it is the first morning rays of the New Testament sun-rise which is already announcing itself. The Christian also here cannot refrain from leaping the barrier of the psalmists, and understanding the Psalms according to the mind of the Spirit whose purpose in the midst of the development of salvation and of the perception of it, is directed towards its goal and consummation. Thus understood the Psalms are the hymns of the New Testament Israel as of the Old. The church by using the language of the Psalms in supplication celebrates the unity of the two Testaments, and scholarship in expounding them honours their distinctiveness. Both are in the right; the former in regarding the Psalms in the light of the one great salvation, the latter in carefully distinguishing the eras in the history, and the steps in the perception, of this salvation.
The Fifteen Songs of Degrees, or Gradual Psalm - Ps. 120-134
These songs are all inscribed שׁיר המּעלות . The lxx, according to the most natural signification of the word, renders: ᾠδὴ τῶν ἀναβαθμων ; the Italic and Vulgate, canticum graduum (whence the liturgical term “gradual Psalms”). The meaning at the same time remains obscure. When, however, Theodotion renders ᾆσμα τῶν ἀναβάσεων , Aquila and Symmachus ᾠδὴ εἰς τάς ἀναβάσεις (as though it were absolutely למּעלות , as in Psalms 121:1), it looks even like an explanation. The fathers, more particularly Theodoret, and in general the Syria church, associate with it the idea of ἡ ἀπὸ Βαβυλῶνος ἐπάνοδος . Ewald has long advocated this view. In his Introduction to Die poetischen Bücher des Alten Bundes (1839), and elsewhere, he translated it “Songs of the Pilgrim caravans” or “of the homeward marches,” and explained these fifteen Psalms as old and new travelling songs of those returning from the Exile. The verb עלה certainly is the usual word for journeying to Palestine out of the Babylonian low country, as out of the country of the Egyptian Nile Valley. And the fact that the Return from the Exile is called המּעלה מבּבל in Ezra 7:9 is enticing. Some of these Psalms, as Psalms 121:1-8, Psalms 123:1, Psalms 129:1-8, Psalms 130:1-8, Ps 132, Psalms 133:1-3, are also suited to this situation, or can at least be adapted to it. But Psalms 120:1-7, if it is to be referred to the Exile, is a song that comes out of the midst of it; Psalms 126:1-6 might, so far as its first half is concerned, be a travelling song of those returning, but according to its second half it is a prayer of those who have returned for the restoration of the whole of Israel, based upon thanksgiving; and Psalms 122:1-9 assumes the existence and frequenting of the Temple and of the holy city, and Psalms 134:1-3 the full exercise of the Temple-service. It is also inconvenient that מעלה , which in itself only expresses a journey up, not a journey homewards, is without any closer definition; and more particularly since, in connection with this form of the word, the signification of a something (a step, a sun-dial, rising thoughts. Ezekiel 11:5) is at least just as natural as that of an action. שׁיר העלים would have been at once palpable. And what is meant by the plural? The interpretation of the plural of the different caravans or companies in which the exiles returned, assumes a usus loquendi with which we are altogether unacquainted.
Relatively more probable is the reference to the pilgrimage-journeyings at the three great feasts - according to a later Hebrew expression, the שׁלשׁ רגלים . This going up to Jerusalem required by the Law is also usually called עלה . So Agellius (1606), Herder, Eichhorn, Maurer, Hengstenberg, Keil, and others, and so now even Ewald in the second edition (1866) of the Introduction to Die Dichter des Alten Bundes, so Kamphausen, and Reuss in his treatise Chants de Pèlerinage ou petit Psautier des Pèlerins du second temple (in the Nouvelle Revue de Théologie, i. 273-311), and Liebusch in the Quedlinburg Easter Programm, 1866: “The pilgrim songs in the Fifth Book of the Psalter.” But מעלה in this signification is without precedent; and when Hupfeld says in opposition to this, “the fact that a noun accidentally does not occur in the Old Testament does not matter, since here at any rate it is a question of the interpretation of a later usage of the language,” we may reply that neither does the whole range of the post-biblical Hebrew exhibit any trace of this usage. Thenius accordingly tries another way of doing justice to the word. He understands מעלות of the different stations, i.e., stages of the journey up, that are to be found in connection with the festive journeys to high-lying Jerusalem. But the right name for “stations” would be מסּעות or מעמדות ; and besides, the notion borrowed from the processions to Mount Calvary is without historical support in the religious observances of Israel. Thus, then, the needful ground in language and custom for referring this title of the Psalms to the journeyings up to the feasts is taken from under us; and the consideration that the first three and the last three songs are suited to the hymn-book of a festal pilgrimage, and that they all bear in them, as Liebusch has demonstrated, the characteristic features of the spiritual national song, is not able to decide the doubtful meaning of מעלות .
We will now put the later Jewish interpretation to the proof. According to Middoth ii. 5, Succa 15 b, a semi-circular staircase with fifteen steps led out of the court of the Israelitish men ( עזרת ישראל ) down into the court of the women ( עזרת נשׁים ), and upon these fifteen steps, which correspond to the fifteen gradual Psalms, the Levites played musical instruments on the evening of the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles in connection with the joyful celebration of the water-drawing,
(Note: Vid., my Geschichte der jüdischen Poesie, S. 193f.)
and above them in the portal (upon the threshold of the Nicanor-gate or Agrippa-gate)
(Note: It was called the Nicanor-gate in the Temple of Zerubbabel, and the Agrippa-gate in the Temple of Herod: in both of them they ascended to its threshold by fifteen steps; vid., Unruh, Das alte Jerusalem und seine Bauwerke (1861), S. 137, cf. 194.)
stood two priests with trumpets. It has been said that this is a Talmudic fable invented on behalf of the inscription שׁיר המעלות , and that the fifteen steps are not out of Ezekiel 40:26, Ezekiel 40:31 by reading the two verses together. This aspersion is founded on ignorance. For the Talmud does not say in that passage that the fifteen Psalms have taken their name from the fifteen steps; it does not once say that these Psalms in particular were read aloud upon the fifteen steps, but it only places the fifteen steps on a parallel with the fifteen Psalms; and, moreover, interprets the name שׁיר המעלות quite differently, viz., from a legend concerning David and Ahithophel, Succa 53a, Maccoth 11a (differently rendered in the section Chelek of the tractate Sanhedrin in the Jerusalem Talmud). This legend to which the Targum inscription relates (vid., Buxtorf, Lex. Talmud. s.v. קפא ) is absurd enough, but it has nothing to do with the fifteen steps. It is not until a later period that Jewish expositors say that the fifteen Psalms had their name from the fifteen steps.
(Note: Lyra in his Postillae, and Jacob Leonitius in his Hebrew Libellus effigiei templi Salomonis (Amsterdam 1650, 4to), even say that the Levites sang one of the fifteen songs of degrees on each step. Luther has again generalized this view; for his rendering “a song in the higher choir” is intended to say, cantores harum odarum stetisse in loco eminentiori (Bakius).)
Even Hippolytus must have heard something similar when he says (p. 190, ed. Lagarde): πάλιν τε αὐτοῦ εἰσί τινες τῶν ἀναβαθμῶν ᾠδαί, τὸν ἀριθμὸν πεντεκαίδεκα, ὅσοι καὶ οἱ ἀναβαθμοὶ τοῦ ναοῦ, τάχα δελοῦσαι τάς ἀναβάσεις περιέχεσθαι ἐν τῷ ἑβδόμῳ καὶ ὀγδόῳ ἀριθμῷ , upon which Hilary relies: esse autem in templo gradus quindecim historia nobis locuta est ; viz., 15 (7 + 8) steps leading out of the court of the priests into the Holy of holies. In this, then, the allegory in which the interpretation of the church delighted for a long time seemed naturally at hand, viz., as Otmar Nachtgal explains, “Song of the steps or ascents, which indicate the spirit of those who ascend from earthly things to God.” The furtmaier Codex in Maihingen accordingly inscribes them “Psalm of the first step” ( Psalm der ersten staffeln), and so on. If we leave this sensus anagogicus to itself, then the title, referred to the fifteen steps, would indeed not be inappropriate in itself (cf. Graduale or Gradale in the service of the Romish Church), but is of an external character such as we find nowhere else.
(Note: Hitzig, in his Commentary (1865), has attempted a new combination of these Psalms, in regard to the number of verses of 120 and 121 (7 + 8) and their total number, with the steps of the temple.)
Gesenius has the merit of having first discerned the true meaning of the questioned inscription, inasmuch as first in 1812 ( Hallische Lit. Zeitschrift, 1812, Nr. 205), and frequently since that time, he has taught that the fifteen songs have their name from their step-like progressive rhythm of the thoughts, and that consequently the name, like the triolet (roundelay) in Western poetry, does not refer to the liturgical usage, but to the technical structure. The correctness of this view has been duly appraised more particularly by De Wette, who adduces this rhythm of steps or degrees, too, among the more artificial rhythms. The songs are called Songs of degrees or Gradual Psalms as being songs that move onward towards a climax, and that by means of plokee' epiplokee'), i.e., a taking up again of the immediately preceding word by way of giving intensity to the expression; and they are placed together on account of this common characteristic, just like the Michtammim , which bear that name from a similar characteristic. The fact, as Liebusch objects, that there is no trace of מעלות in this figurative signification elsewhere, is of no consequence, since in the inscriptions of the Psalms in general we become acquainted with a technical language which (apart from a few echoes in the Chronicles) is without example elsewhere, in relation to poetical and musical technology. Neither are we refuted by the fact that this as it were climbing movement of the thoughts which plants upon a preceding word, and thus carried itself forward, is not without example even outside the range of these fifteen songs in the Psalter itself (e.g., Psalms 93:1-5, Psalms 96:1-13), as also elsewhere (Isaiah 17:12., Psalms 26:5., and more particularly in the song of Deborah, Judges 5:3, Judges 5:5-6, etc.), and that it is not always carried out in the same manner in the fifteen Psalms. It is quite sufficient that the parallelism retires into the background here as nowhere else in fifteen songs that are linked together (even in Psalms 125:1-5, Psalms 127:1-5, Psalms 128:1-6, Ps 132); and the onward course is represented with decided preference as a gradation or advance step by step, that which follows being based upon what goes before, and from that point advancing and ascending still higher.