The Titles of the Psalms (II): Canonical?

A few days back, I posted on the topic of whether the Psalm titles are original.  The conclusion there was that they are not necessarily original to the particular psalm but were most likely added by a scribe at a latter date.  Now, we turn to a few reasons why Futato says they are canonical (i.e. part of the divine scriptures).

1) The NT treats the titles as scripture and cites them as such (Mk 12.35-37; Acts 2.29-35; 13.35-37).

2) The title of Psalm 18 is found in 2 Samuel 22.1.  We should take both together as canonical.

3) The title phrase “to/for the director of music” is found in Habakkuk 3.19; both Hab. 3.19 and this titular phrase (“to/for the director of music”) should be considered canonical.

Again, this is a widely discussed and debated issue.  Some scholars of differing schools/traditions agree that the titles might even be a sort of footnote to the previous psalm.  One thing is clear: the discussion of the titles in the Psalter is no simple issue!  Futato’s conclusions about his thesis (that the titles are not original but are canonical) are also helpful: 

“Therefore, we seem to be left with a certain ambivalence toward the historical information of the titles: it is canonical but cannot play much of a role in the interpretive process other than illustrating in a general way the kind of situation in which a given psalm arose.”

In other words, the psalms are in a way time-bound yet in another way are timeless.  Though I’ll save the details for a later post, we might start to think of the psalms as part of the wisdom genre.  The proverbs, for example, grew out of a particular situation but the ambiguity of that situation allows them to “make wise” the believer from any age, location, and circumstance of life.  Most likely, the wise authors anticipated this.  Perhaps we can say the same of the Psalter.

The above quotes can be found in chapter three of Futato’s introduction to the Psalter.

shane lems

sunnyside wa

2 thoughts on “The Titles of the Psalms (II): Canonical?”

  1. “…illustrating in a general way the kind of situation in which a given psalm arose….”

    I wonder if a better way of wording this is to say that they illustrate the way in which the Psalm was *received*. By using the word “arose,” Futato seems to still attach a historical particularity to the *creation* of the Psalm that might not be too self-evident. How the Psalm was received and used by the people of God (in this case, by the prophetic-Psalm-title-editor) is perhaps better illustrated by the titles.

    Still … wow – what a great sounding book!

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