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Ruins of Rabbah of Ammon.
Snares for Catching Birds
Syrian. From Rosellini
Figures of the various Contents of
Egyptian Arches at Thebes
Jeremiah amid the Ruins of Jerusalem. (Frontispiece.)
In the Hebrew Bibles this collection of sacred songs bears the title of biom o SEPHER TEHILLIM,
Book of Hymns,' or ' Praises.' This title is not very appropriate, inasmuch as a very large proportion of the book is composed, not of songs of praise, but prayers and lamentations. Aware of this, probably, the Seventy avoided giving to the book the title of úpvot, which would have correctly represented the Hebrew word TEHILLIM, and chose rather to call the
book yalpoi, ' psalms,' or lyrical odes, which is sufficiently accurate and comprehensive. The name PSALTER, which is also a title of the book, is likewise of Greek origin—from yadrúpov, “psaltery,' the name of the stringed instrument, so often mentioned in the book, to which, it would appear, these sacred songs were generally sung.
In many of the versions the book is in the title ascribed to David, as "The Psalms of David. In a general sense the Psalms may be ascribed to him, because he was the author of a greater proportion of them than any other individual. Some indeed have thought him the author of the whole number, and conclude that those which are said, in the title, to be Psalms of Asaph,' or 'of Heman,' etc., should be rendered, to Asaph'--'to Heman,' etc.; and only denote that the Psalms were delivered to them to be publicly sung. There is plain internal evidence that this must be wrong. It is highly probable that some were written in the time of Moses, and it is certain that others are so late as the Captivity. They may therefore be taken to extend over a period of about one thousand years ; without believing, with some, that the oldest are as early as Adam, or, with others, that the latest are as late as the Maccabees. The present titles ascribe seventy-one of the Psalms to David; and the Septuagint gives him eleven others. It is probable that many of these are erroneously assigned to him; while it is still more probable that many of those to which no names are prefixed are of his composition. We shall not, however, enlarge on the authorship of the respective Psalms, intending, as we proceed, to make such observations on the subject as may seem necessary. It will be understood, where we say nothing as to the authorship of particular Psalms, that they are usually attributed to David on grounds which appear the most satisfactory that can be obtained.
By whom the book was compiled in its present form, is another question which has raised some discussion. Some of the Rabbins hold that this was the work of David, and seem to deny him any other share in the book than that of collecting into one volume the sacred songs of his predecesso and contemporaries. But this is too absurd to need refutation. Neither do we think that there is any foundation for the opinion which ascribes the compilation to Ezra. But there seems no objection to combine the two statements, and infer that David did form a collection, for the sacred service, of the Psalms written by himself, and of others that were composed in and before his own time. This formed, probably, the psalm book that was used in the services of the first temple: and to which were afterwards added, most likely by Ezra, such divine songs as had since been written, down to the time of the return of the Jews from captivity and the foundation of the second temple.
To all the Psalms, with the exception of thirty-four, titles or inscriptions are affixed. Those which are without title, are called Orphan Psalms in the Talmud. The titles either designate the authors, or the superintendents of their music, or their subjects, or their historical occasions, or their style of poetry, or their style of music. The authority of their titles is a matter of much doubt. By many they are all unconditionally rejected as spurious, by others only in part; and those who receive them without reservation are very few. Of their antiquity there is no question. They exist in the Septuagint, and it is argued that they must have been of much earlier date than that version, as there are
many of them which the translator was manifestly unable to understand, which was not likely to have been the case had they been then of recent date. To this argument we attach much weight; for although it has been urged that the Egyptian residence and education of the translator may have left him ignorant of the temple music, and therefore unable to comprehend inscriptions which demanded a knowledge of it, it is incredible that under the oppression of such a difficulty, he should not have sought information on the subject from some competent person from Jerusalem, where, according to this view, these inscriptions must have been understood. It must, however, be admitted that the argument, from the ignorance of the Seventy, cannot, in its utmost extent, furnish any absolute proof that the titles existed before the time of Ezra, supposing the collection to have been formed by him. That the titles are as old as the Psalms themselves, has been urged from its being customary with the poets of the East to prefix their names to their own songs. And to shew that this custom prevailed among the Hebrews, some writers point to Exod. xv. ; Deut. xxxii., xxxiii. ; Judg. v.; but although the poets are there named, it is only in connection with the narrative, and not, as among the Arabians, in a proper title ; so that no evidence for the existence of the custom can be pressed from these passages. It may be allowed, however, that Isaiah xxxviii. 9, and the custom of designating the predictions of the prophets by their names, are in favour of it.
It must be admitted that a large proportion of the titles accord very well with the subject matter of the Psalms to which they are affixed, and yet there are a very large number in which no such agreement can be traced. It is asked, If the titles were annexed by later hands (as those who question their authority allege) from mere conjecture, how is it that all the Psalms are not provided with them? The circumstance that many of the Psalms have come down to us without any title, is merely a proof that nothing is given but what was found already existing. To this it is answered-we think not satisfactorily—that the argument drawn from this source, to prove the genuineness of the titles, possesses as little force as the argument which may be drawn from the same quarter to prove their spuriousness; and that the absence of titles to some of the Psalms, only proves that, with respect to them, the authors of the titles had no conjectures to offer. On the other hand, it has without ground been alleged against the genuineness of the titles, that they are found wanting or varied in many of the ancient versions—for instance, the Septuagint, the Syriac, and the Arabic. But the Septuagint originally translated these with the rest, as the manuscripts as well as the citations by the oldest fathers, prove. Hence they certainly existed long before the still later Syriac translators; and the intervening Arabic possesses no authority. Besides, the omission of the titles in the above-mentioned versions is merely a defect of particular manuscripts. Perhaps the strongest argument against the genuineness of the titles is the alleged fact that they often prove to be incorrect-the author being sometimes incorrectly specified, and sometimes the occasion. And it has been and will be asked, If any of the titles can be proved to be false, who shall answer for the genuineness of the rest? This circumstance exposes them all to the suspicion of being spurious. It must, however, be admitted that we may be in the habit of applying this test of agreement too severely. It is by no means necessary that there should be a very visible connection between the contents and the title of a Psalm. Who shall limit the range of inspired thought, or insist that it shall be in agreement with the small part which we know of the history or mind of the assigned writer? Why may not the state of the church, and the hopes, the trials, the aspirations of the pious, be represented in sacred song under images, which, if taken too literally, may seem inapplicable to the circumstances under which the writer himself lived ? Under the impression of such considerations, several recent writers of eminence, as Tholuck and Hengstenberg, are disposed to uphold the authority of the present titles, and to find in the inner sense of particular Psalms agreements with them, which have escaped the notice of those who rely too much upon the external marks. We are not prepared to go so far as the latter of these writers; but we apprehend that he has, in many cases, succeeded in establishing an agreement with the titles which others had been unable to discover. Most writers and expositors, however, take a middle course, and suppose that, by means of marginal glosses and interpolations, additions have been made to the original titles of others that are more recent and false. Rosenmüller and others regard the titles relating to music as, without exception, of late origin ; but the reasons he advances do not seem to us by any means conclusive. With respect to the titles of authorship, Gesenius suggests that the spurious titles sprung from the particular collections, which a parle potiori have the name of Psalms of David, Psalms of the children of Korah, etc., but contained also other Psalms. When they were incorporated in the great collection, each song was inscribed with the name of the author after whom the whole collection was named.
The difficulty with respect to some of the words which occur in the titles was, as we have seen, felt so early as the age of the Septuagint. It has, certainly, not decreased since. It was so much feit by the translators of the Authorized Version, that they have generally retained the Hebrew words. In explanation of these titles we say nothing here, having noticed them in the body of the book as they occur.
In the Hebrew the book of Psalms is divided into five sections; and as this division is also found in the Septuagint, it must have existed at least two hundred years before Christ, and was probably of much earlier date. These are now usually considered as indicating five independent and doubtless successive collections, whose ultimate junction, probably in the time of Ezra, forms the book of Psalms as it now exists. The first section, comprising Psalms i.-xli., is only composed of Psalms of David, and his name is prefixed to all of them except i., ii., X., xxxiii. This was, doubtless, the first collection, and some suppose that it was made in the time of Hezekiah. Compare Prov. xxv. 1; 2 Chron. xxix. 30. The second section is principally composed of songs by the sons of Korah, xlii. xlix., and by David, li. lxv. It is supposed, with some reason, that the divisions thus marked originally formed two separate collections, eventually united, which explains the words at the end of the present section, ' The words of David, the son of Jesse, are ended,' as referring only to the second of the two collections, although it now seems to refer to both of them, notwithstanding that the Psalms in the first of the two are in the titles assigned to the sons of Korah.' The third section, comprising lxxiii.-Ixxxix., appears to be similarly composed of two smaller collections—the one distinguished by the name of Asaph, lxxiii.-Ixxxiii. ; the other by that of the sons of Korah,' Ixxxiv.-Ixxxix. It is inferred from Psalm lxxxv., that this collection must have been formed during the Captivity. The fourth section, xc.-cvi, as well as the fifth, cvii.-cl., are made up chiefly of anonymous psalms, mostly of a liturgic character, and many of which appear to have been composed for the choral services of the second temple.
There is scarcely any book of the Old Testament of which the divine inspiration and canonical authority are established by more satisfactory and complete evidence. The evidence from the New Testament alone is abundant; for the book is there quoted and referred to as divine, by Christ and his apostles, no less than seventy times. The divine authority of some of the other books of the Old Testament has, on various grounds, been impugned by persons who have admitted the inspiration of other books, and have not questioned the general fact of divine revelation ; but the authority of the Psalms has not been questioned by any who have faith in the sacred character of any part of Scripture, and we do not, therefore, feel it necessary here to produce the arguments by which that authority is sustained. The eminently practical character of the Psalmsmtheir beautiful and touching utterance of feeling to which every devout spirit responds, has rendered the book peculiarly dear to the pious in all ages; and we have ourselves known several persons who have been led to study the Hebrew language solely by the desire to be enabled to enjoy more perfectly the great refreshment which, in this precious book, the goodness of God has provided for his people.
The special interest thus attached to the Psalms has given occasion to a greater number of separate translations of it, and commentaries upon it, than of any other book of Scripture. There may, indeed, be an equal or a greater number of separate publications concerning the book of Job, but this number is partly made up by treatises upon particular questions connected with that book, or arising out of it, rather than of separate translations and commentaries, in which it is exceeded by the Psalms.
The following list includes nearly all in the English language, and the principal of those in the Latin and continental tongues. Copious as the list is, it exhibits no large proportion of the whole. Bugenhagii Adnotationes in Psalmos, 1524; Buceri Commentarii in Psalmos, 1526; Titelmanni Elucidationes in omnes Davidicos Psalmos, 1531; Calvin, Commentarius in Lib. Psalmorum, 1557, a translation of which by Arthur Golding was published in 1571, and a revised edition of this appeared in 1840 in three vols. 8vo.; Molleri Comment. in Psalmos, 1573; Genebraardi Comment. in Psalmos, 1577 ; Gesner, Commentationes in Psalmos Davidis, 1605; Bellarmini Explanatio in Psalmos, 1611 ; Lorini Comment. in librum Psalmorum, 1617; Ainsworth, Annotations upon the Pentateuch, Psalms, and Canticles, 1627; Viccars, Decapla in Psalmos, 1639, London; Gomar, Davidis Lyra, 1643; Dickson, A Brief Explication of the Psalms, 1653-54; Hammond, Paraphrase and Annotations on the Book of Psalms, 1659; Foord, Expositio in librum Psalmorum, 1646, London ; Leigh, Annotations on the Fire Poetical Books, 1657; Nicholson (Bishop), David's Harp Strung and Tuned, 1662; Amyraldus, Paraphrasis in Psalmos, 1662; Wright, Expositio in Psalmos, 1662, London ; Bythneri Lyra Prophetica Davidis Regis, 1650; Bakii Comment. Exegetico-practicus posthumus Davidis, 1664 ; Maldonati Commentarii in Psalmos, 1643; Geieri Commentarii in Psalmos Davidis, 1662; Bull, Commentary on the Psalms, 1675; Van Til, Het Bock der Psalmen, 1693; Carrieres, Commentaire Littéral sur les Pseaumes, 1709; Hare (Bishop), Psalmorum Liber, 1736, London; H. Michaelis Adnotationes in Psalmos, 1720; Mudge, An Essay towards a New English Version of the Psalms, 1744; Edwards, New English Translation of the Psalms, 1755; Fenwick, The Psalter in its Original Form, etc., 1759; Burkii Gnomon Psalmorum, 1760; Green, New Translation of the Psalms, 1762 ; Venema, Commentarius ad Psalmos, 1762 ; Vatabli Annotationes in Psalmos, 1767; Merrick, Annotations on the Psalms, 1768 ; Schulz, Die Psalmen, 1772; Knapp, Die Psalmen, 1773; Horne (Bishop), A Commentary on the