The Psalter as Living and Dynamic

I’ve posted a few times on the Psalter in the last week or so, noting how the psalms were written and slowly collected somewhere between the period 1400 and 400 BCE, give or take.  This might be sort of a new concept for many Christians, but rather than detract from our view of Scripture it adds to it, in my opinion.  Here’s one good point by Tremper Longman along these lines.

“The key is to see the Psalter as a living, open book during the whole Old Testament period.  The Psalter was in constant use individually and corporately from its very beginning.  In addition, new psalms were constantly added” (How to Read the Psalms, p. 43).

Though I think “constantly added” is an overstatement (150 psalms collected over 1000 years is not constant addition!), Longman’s point is well noted.  Bernard Anderson, in Out of the Depths (another great study of the psalms), said it this way.

“A closer look at the fivefold structure of the Hebrew Psalter reveals that this symmetrical organization was superimposed upon previously circulating collections of psalms, just as modern hymn books are based upon previous editions” (he cites and explains the “editorial notice” at the end of Psalm 72 here; it is found on page 11).

I’ll continue this thought later…

shane lems

sunnyside wa

3 thoughts on “The Psalter as Living and Dynamic”

  1. Shane, thanks you for these recent posts on the Psalms. I do think that Longman is speaking imprecisely in refering to “the Psalter” in that was there ever “the Psalter”? According to Peter Flint we can discern three literary editions of the Psalter: Edition I (Pss. 1/2 – 89), Edition IIa (Pss. 1/2 – 89 and 11QPs^a), and Edition IIb (Pss. 1/2 – 89 and Pss. 90-150). After looking at the Qumran MSS Dwight D. Swanson states that there is manuscript evidence for at least three Psalters existing simultaneously in late Second Temple Judaism: an MT-type, a Cave 11-type, and an LXX-type and suggests that it is not unreasonable to conclude that there could have been more. The MT Psalter then appears to be the latest edition of the Psalter and, he argues, that the MT-Psalter reached its final form in the late first century C.E.


    1. Thanks, Richard, that’s helpful. I’m barely tiptoeing on the surface of a huge iceburg, that’s for sure! Not only is the Psalter a “world” of its own, so is the scholarship on it. I’ll check out those sources you gave.



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