What category do the Psalms belong to?

Location and name

The Hebrew Bible contains the book of Psalms at the beginning of the third chapter, called Ketubim (Scriptures). In the LXX or Septuagint version, it is also the head of the section of books called didactics. Instead, the Latin versions have always placed it after the Book of Works.

The Hebrew Bible calls it tehillim or sefer tehillim, plural form of the name tehillah, which means psalm or praise. He also uses, at the beginning of 57 psalms, the word mizmor, which is used to speak of a poem sung and accompanied by stringed instruments (cheeks).

The LXX version calls them ψάλμοι or βίβλος ψάλμων, 8 although the Codex of Alexandria uses the term salterion, which is the name of the stringed instrument with which Jewish officials followed the praises of Yahveh or Jehovah. By extension, the term was later applied to the collection of Psalms and finally to the book that contained it.

Content

Apparently it was an official collection of songs used in the liturgy and used in Jerusalem during the Second Temple. There are a total of 150 hymns. 9 Now there are differences in division. All versions include exactly 150 hymns. The problem arises when comparing the Hebrew versions with the Septuagint and the Vulgate. Thus, discrepancies can be observed in the numbering and division of certain psalms. Although these discrepancies always refer to concrete and specific cases, they inevitably affect the general numbering.

The numbering in the Hebrew text corresponds only to LXX and Vulgate in the first 8 psalms and the last 3. The Greek Bible combines Psalms 9 and 10 into one and does the same with 113 and 114. Conversely, it divides 116 into two and names the resulting parts 114 and 115, and from the division of 147 gives Psalms 146 and 147.

As a memorial, it can be said that between Psalm 10 and 148, the Septuagint and Vulgate numbering is equal to the Hebrew numbering minus 1. However, it is generally when Psalm n is discussed, without further explanation. refers to the original Hebrew numbering.

The Psalms appear in the original Hebrew language, grouped into five books or collections, separated by doxologies that appear at the end of Psalms 41, 72, 89, 106 and 150. The latter consists of a doxology. The first mention of the collection that somehow allows dating it is found in the prologue of a translation of the ecclesiastical that was written around 117 BC. CC where it is stated that the Book of Psalms was already part of the Hebrew Bible at the beginning of the 2nd century BC C.

Subdivisions

The Book of Psalms is actually made up of 5 collections of songs that the ancient people of Israel used in their worship. Many of them are headed by annotations that refer to the author, their form or context in which they were written (the so-called “titles”). Many of them use an alphabetical order. The subdivisions would be the following, each part separated by a doxology:

  • Psalms 1 to 41
  • Psalms 42 to 72
  • Psalms 73 to 89
  • Psalms 90-106
  • Psalms 107 to 150

However, there are duplicate psalms (eg. 14, found in 54) .10 Another aspect that suggests the diversity of authors and moments or the existence of other previous collections is the lack of homogeneity in the use of words such as Yahweh or Elohim, and that the psalms that use Elohim to refer to God are generally considered older than the Yahvites.

Titles

Most of the Psalms contain a heading as a title. The LXX version includes more than the Masoretic text.11 The Hebrew version gives David the author of 73 psalms and the LXX, 84.

Some expressions are used to suggest the type of psalm:

  • mizmor (Psalm) 57 times.
  • shir (chants) 30 times.
  • tefillah (prayers) 3 times.
  • tehillah (hymns or songs of praise) on one occasion.
  • miktam (translated as “inscription poem” 12) on 6 occasions, eg in Psalms 16, 56-60).
  • maskil (piece made with art) 13 times (Psalms 32, 42, 44, 45, 52-55, 74, 78, 88, 89 and 142).
  • siggayon (Lamentation) on 1 occasion.

A lamed auctoris is a reference that provides information about the creator of the Psalm or his dedication. Its original affiliation with the Psalm has recently been questioned due to the multitude of its variants.

The titles also provide data on the musical instruments used or the accompaniment or even the use of well-known melodies: strings, sopranos, “Don’t Destroy” melodies. There are clues and even words that could not be clarified with certainty, such as the expression selah (“interlude”, in the LXX and “always”, in the Vulgate of Jerome of Stridon). In Psalms 8, 81, and 84, the Hebrew word guitit, which was used in ancient Israel, appears in the composition. The term is supposed to indicate an octave decrease. Finally, in Psalm 5, the neji‧lóhth has an uncertain meaning and is probably derived from ja‧líl or “flute” in Hebrew.

The titles also have some references on when they should be used: either on pilgrimages, either to celebrate the dedication of the temple, or on Saturdays, among others.

Finally, some psalms in the titles contain an explanation of the time the psalm is said to have been written: David’s flight from Saul, repentance after Uriah’s death, the war with Absalom, etc.

Many Church Fathers are in favor of considering these texts of the titles of the Psalms inspired because, in their opinion, they come from the same author. But also many argue not only about its origin, but also about its true content. Today most exegetes deny its canonical character.

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