Bibliotheca Sacra 104 (Oct. 1947) 426-40

               Copyright © 1947 by Dallas Theological Seminary. Cited with permission.    

 

                                             Department of

                               Semitics and Old Testament

 

                      THE DATE OF THE PSALMS

 

                      BY CHARLES LEE FEINBERG, TH.D., PH.D.

 

The question of the date of the Psalter or of individual

psalms in the collection has for long been a most vexing

one. Confusion has been the result of many discussions of

this problem. It is not our aim to settle the matter dog-

matically for all time, but we shall present the respective           

views with their support and our own conclusions on the sub-

ject. It is generally admitted that on the whole the Psalms          

have very little to identify them with any special event or

occasion. Critical treatments of the date and authorship of

the Psalms have been chiefly concerned with the two great

questions, one as to the presence of Davidic psalms and the       

other as to the inclusion in the collection of Maccabean

psalms. Views have been propounded that run the entire

gamut of the period just indicated. T. H. Robinson points

out that on the one hand we have the traditional dates de-

rived from the titles found at the head of many of the psalms;

on the other hand, there are those, like Cheyne and Duhm,

who attribute many psalms to a late period. Now the view

is shifting so that we find men like Gressmann and Mowinckel

placing the Psalms in the pre-exilic period, howbeit for dif-

ferent reasons.1 There are now those who are prepared to

say that there may be a good deal more pre-exilic material

in the Psalter than the past generation was willing to con-

cede. H. H. Rowley notes, “That many of the actual psalms

were written in pre-exilic days is much more widely agreed

today than it would have been a generation ago. Neverthe-

less, it is still generally believed that the majority of our

psalms come from the post-exilic age, and the compilation of

 

[1] “The God of the Psalmists,” in D. C. Simpson (ed.):  The Psalmists, p. 23.



The Date of the Psalms                    427

 

the Psalter is certainly to be placed in that age. Few schol-

ars today would assign large numbers of psalms to the Mac-

cabean age in the way that was common at the beginning

of the century.”2

What has been responsible for the change in viewpoint

as to the date of the Psalter? Unquestionably the light that

archaeology has afforded us on the subject has been the de-

ciding factor. Breasted shows how the hymns of Egypt were

a thousand years earlier than those of the Hebrews. He ad-

duces proof to reveal that not only was psalmody possible at

such an early date in the history of the world, but that it

actually existed in great abundance. Montgomery notes that,

since we cannot deny that a monotheism was possible in the

fourteenth century B.C. in Egypt (following Breasted), then

we have little ground to question the early existence of the

Hebrew Psalms. Contrary to Wellhausen's former dictum

that “it is not a question whether there be any post-Exilic

Psalms, but, rather, whether the Psalms contain any poems

written before the Exile,”3 there are now scholars who claim

there is no limit backwards for this type of literature.4 Gun-

kel and Mowinckel, whose views we shall consider in detail

later, agree in dating the Psalms as far back into monarchical

times as possible. For them the royal psalms are royal litur-

gies after the analogy of the Babylonian and Egyptian, which

we find in abundance. Buttenwieser, who has written a veri-

table tome on the Psalms, concludes that the Psalms manifest

a progressive development from the time of Joshua, the date

of the oldest psalm, down to the middle of the third century

B.C., at which time the entire collection, in his opinion, was

completed. He finds the Psalms valuable for information con-

cerning the political history of Israel from early pre-exilic

times to 300 B.C.5 S. R. Driver notes that Hebrew poetry,

as with that of so many other nations, was probably the

 

2 The Re-Discovery of the Old Testament (Phila., 1946), p. 178.

3 J. Wellhausen, The Book of Psalms, p. 163.

4 J. A. Montgomery, “Recent Developments in the Study of the Psalter,”

      Anglican Theological Review, Vol. VI, July, 1934.

5 J. Buttenwieser,  The Psalms (Chicago, 1938), p. vii.



428                             Bibliotheca Sacra

 

earliest form of literary expression. He points to such pas-       

sages as Genesis 49; Numbers 21:17f., 27-30; Judges 5; and     

others. Barton believes that the position of scholars like

Cheyne, Duhm, and Haupt, who held that all psalms which          

referred to kings were speaking of Persian, Hellenistic, or        

Hasmonean kings, is in error. There are other criteria      be,

which imply a pre-exilic date instead. Oesterley has given          

us certain general principles upon which we can proceed in       

the matter of dating the Psalms. The contents of a psalm

give no certain clue to the date. The religious character of         

a psalm, it is held, often helps to place it in a period in   

which it may have been written, whether it be the Mosaic,          

pre-prophetic, prophetic, exilic, post-exilic, Persian, Greek, or

the period of later Judaism. But if in other portions of the         

Old Testament there are similar modes of thought to those

found in the Psalter, and these thought patterns be assigned       

to pre-exilic times, then there is no presumptive reason to         

deny a like date to many of the psalms, except the psalm it-       

self give incontrovertible evidence otherwise. Indications of     

the period to which certain psalms may belong are these:           

(1) the pre-exilic period-mention of the king, references to                  

the northern kingdom, references to the Lord as King, and         

"individual" psalms; (2) exilic period-reference to the Dis-

persion (but not always), the mention of the hatred of Edom

(see Ezekiel 25:12-14; 35), affinity with prophetical teaching

(perhaps), and dirge-psalms; (3) post-exilic-those contain-

ing expressions of personal devotion to God, the problem of

the suffering of the righteous, psalms of a universalistic

tone, Wisdom psalms, acrostics, those having a reference to     

atheism (Greek period). Not all, to be sure, will be found

to agree with these criteria of Oesterley, but many proceed

upon these lines of judgment.6

Peters and Welch approach the problem from the angle

of liturgy. The former sees by a comparison with Egyptian

and Assyro-Babylonian hymns that the Hebrew hymnody

 

6 W. O. E. Oesterley, A Fresh Appraoch to the Psalms, pp. 37, 55-57.



The Date of the Psalms                    429

 

must be very ancient. Because of the lasting character of

ritual and liturgy, this oldest element in religion should be

found persisting among the Hebrews as with other peoples.

There is abundant proof of the existence in pre-exilic times

of a Temple psalmody for the ritual. This must surely have

been preserved so that it could be utilized when the ancient

Temple was restored, the ancient writings collected, and the

Temple service reinstituted. In general, Peters finds that

the collections in the Psalter must be treated as entities, the

first three books being earlier than the last books.7 Welch

takes the same position as just outlined for Peters; that is,

since hymns for rituals are old among other peoples, it at

least allows the possibility for Hebrew psalmody in relation

to Hebrew ritual in the Temple.

After these general observations on the whole theme of

Psalter dating, we do well to look more closely at the various

phases of this important problem. Buttenwieser sees a large

portion of the Psalter as pre-exilic, so we consider his views

first as to pre-exilic psalms. His position is in direct con-

trast to the inclination of the German critics to see the main

portion of the Psalms as late post-exilic. W. C. Graham feels

that Buttenwieser has counteracted many of the extravagan-

cies of a, criticism that has “run to seed.” Among pre-exilic

psalms he treats a portion of Psalm 68, part of Psalm 65,

Psalm 81, parts of 60 and 57 (called “two genuine Psalms of

David”), 45, 20, 21, 48, 76, 78 (the last three inspired by

the deliverance of Jerusalem from the invasion of Senna-

cherib), 29, 104, part of 19, 8, 51, 50, 15, and 24. At the

other extreme is Cheyne, who finds only Psalm 18 to be pre-

exilic. S. R. Driver posits a mediate, though not satisfactory,

position on this question. He holds, “It must be owned that

these criteria [which he has been employing to date the

Psalms] are less definite than might be desired, and that

when applied by different hands they do not lead always to

identical results. Nevertheless some conclusions may be fair-

ly drawn from them. It may be affirmed, for instance, with

 

7 J. P. Peters, The Psalms as Liturgies, pp. 15-17, 55.



430                             Bibliotheca Sacra

 

tolerable confidence that very few of the Psalms are earlier      

than the seventh century B.C.”8

How is the difference between the view of Buttenwieser

and, say, Cheyne to be explained? What reasons have      

brought about a change? Scholars now realize that there

must have been many psalms of the early period of the mon-

archy. There was the Temple with its elaborate services in

existence for three hundred years before the exile. It is not

reasonable to suppose that hymns and songs of praise were

lacking in the worship of the Israelites during that long

stretch of years, or even that only a scant handful of them

has been preserved. The Temple worship insistently demands

the concomitant element of praise. To say that all but a

few of the Psalms belong to the Second Temple somehow

does not fit the requirements of the case. Oesterley says it

is “unthinkable.” There are indications of singing with mu-

sical accompaniment as an act of worship in pre-exilic times.

Amos speaks of “the noise of thy songs,” “the melody of thy

viols,” and “instruments of music like David.”9 Isaiah makes

mention of the song and the pipe.10 Since certain composi-

tions in the Old Testament belong at the latest to the time of

the monarchy, there is at least the possibility of some psalms

fitting into the same period. There is the Song of Deborah

in Judges 5:1-31, which Moore considers the oldest piece of

Hebrew literature extant, and which may be compared with

Psalm 68:7 and 8 (Hebrew, 8, 9); the lament of David over

Saul and Jonathan (2 Samuel 1:19-27) is another instance;

certain ones occur in the prophetic books (Isaiah 6:3; Zepha-

niah 3:14, 15). These manifest the same type of literary

composition as many of the psalms in the Psalter. Oesterley

treats Psalm 17 as pre-exilic, especially in view of 2 Samuel

22:2-51 (particularly verses 43-50; Hebrew, 44-51); Psalm

68:27 (Hebrew, 28); and Psalm 89. This last has definite

evidences of the period of the monarchy—the mention of the

 

8 S. R. Driver, An Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament, p. 384.

9 Amos 5:23; 6:5.

10 Isaiah 30:29.



                                    The Date of the Psalms                     431

 

covenant with David, the throne, the anointing oil, the seed

of David, and the crown of God's king. Some modern com-

mentators try to explain away the force of these passages

quite ingeniously, but why must all the psalms belong to a

late date? We can hardly be asked to believe that when the

Temple was rebuilt and the worship of the sanctuary was re-

organized that all the earlier psalms of the past days had

been forgotten. All the royal psalms (2, 20, 21, 28, 61, 63,

72, 110) and even Psalm 132 are adjudged by Oesterley as

pre-exilic.11 The reason the last is placed in pre-exilic times

is his denial that only in post-exilic times did worshippers go

up to the mountain of Zion. Compare Isaiah 30:29.

Mowinckel comes to the belief in pre-exilic psalms from

an altogether different and new angle. He notes, as do many

others, that there is an antagonism in the Psalms between

the righteous and their enemies. He presents much Babylo-

nian material to support this contention, and feels that the

psalms of this character are very early. Somehow the argu-

ments of Mowinckel do not impress us here, for surely he

sees magical elements where others would never have sus-

pected them. The same passages and portions could well be

explained upon the supposition that the enmity between two

such groups arose from either religious or social causes.

O. T. Allis, in the Princeton Theological Review, adduces

the same three arguments for pre-exilic psalms as have al-

ready been set forth: the antiquity of hymnody witnessed by

the Babylonian and Egyptian parallels long before the He-

brew monarchy, the Temple worship with its requirements of

praise, and the presence of ritual which also demands it.

Gressmann stresses this last feature repeatedly. There could

hardly be, says he, religious festivals, sacrificial worship, and

rites, either public or private, without accompaniment by

psalms. His conclusion is that psalmody is as ancient as the

religion of Israel, indeed older than Moses. Interesting is his

view on the presence of psalms that mention the king. He

holds that “all the psalms in which the king is mentioned are

 

11 Op. cit., pp. 37, 38, 46, 47.

 



432                             Bibliotheca Sacra

 

important evidences of the pre-exilic date of Psalmody. The     

attempts made to date the royal psalms in the Maccabean           

period have been in vain. I am convinced that there are no           

Maccabean psalms whatsoever in the Davidic Psalter: it had      

been completed long before the middle of the second century   

B.C. Moreover the nearest parallels to the phrases of the royal 

salms are to be found in the worlds of ancient Egypt and

ancient Babylonia, not in the phraseology of the Court of the

Hellenistic age, and the differences between the phraseology

and style of these different ages are very great.”12 Welch,

too, feels that there are pre-exilic psalms but, briefly stated,

his reason is drawn from the prophetic tone and outlook of

the Psalms which, he thinks, must have been composed at a

time when the influence and work of the prophets were at

their strongest and when the prophets were denouncing mere

formal worship without the proper heart attitude toward God.

Thus, we have tried to show how various scholars dealing           

with the problem from different angles have come to the

conclusion that in the Psalter we must look for some pre-

exilic elements. The point of interest, too, is that the trend

was begun and carried on upon the basis of the findings of

archaeological materials that dealt with similar phenomena

in other related lands at an even earlier period in the history

of the world.

            If there is the definite possibility, even probability, of    

pre-exilic psalms, is there any chance that the Psalter may

contain Davidic psalms? It is well known that the tradi-

tional opinion that prevailed until the eighteenth century

ascribed the Psalter to Davidic authorship. When the de-

structive higher criticism arose, this tenet was questioned

and rejected by all liberal critics. In the beginning only the

psalms with the name of David in their titles were assigned

to him. Later this position was also abandoned when critical

opinion decided that few, if any, of the psalms, were written      

by David. The majority of the psalms were placed in post-          

 

12 H. Gressmann, “The Development of Hebrew Psalmody,” in D. C. Simp-

      son (ed.): op. cit., p. 15.

 



The Date of the Psalms                    433

 

exilic times.13 W. T. Davison at the beginning of this century

took the ground that it could not be proved definitely that

David wrote any psalms whatsoever. The probability was

that he had written many, not all of which had been lost.

Some of those extant and ascribed to him are not inappro-

priate to him. If Psalm 18 be attributed to his authorship,

then it is probable that others should be also. The number

of these can be ascertained only by attention to contents,

style, allusions, and the like, but the opinion of critics differs

widely.14 Leslie argues for the high antiquity of Hebrew

psalmody, but decides that Davidic authorship of any of the

psalms can scarcely be maintained with absolute confidence.

Thus, Leslie and Davison express grave doubts as to Davidic

authorship of any of the Psalter, but they do not definitely

state that he did not write any of the psalms.

Certain authorities find no Davidic psalms in the Psalter.

Such are S. R. Driver, R. Pfeiffer, T. H. Robinson, and J. M.

Powis Smith. Driver contends that in the psalms ascribed to

David there are an intense religious devotion and deep spiri-

tual insight, together with a well developed mode of thinking

on theological questions, which are beyond what could be

expected of David or his age in Hebrew history. His con-

clusion is that the majority of so-called Davidic psalms are

not properly his. The supposed connection of David with

the sanctuary services could hardly account for his compo-

sition of more than a very few of the psalms attributed to

him by the titles in the Psalter.15 In his work on the Intro-

duction to the Old Testament Pfeiffer takes much the same

ground as Driver. He claims that none of the Psalms could

be Davidic because of language, style, and religious ideas

which are inappropriate for his time.16 T. H. Robinson, while

positing that scholars are becoming more reconciled to the

concept of much more pre-exilic material in the Psalter than

 

13 C. A. and E. G. Briggs, The Book of Psalms, Vol. I, pp. lvi, lvii.

14 W. T. Davidson, “The Psalms,” Hastings’ Dictionary of the Bible, Vol. IV,

       p. 151.

15 S. R. Driver, op. cit., pp. 377-379.

16 P. 627.



434                             Bibliotheca Sacra

 

was the consensus of opinion in the generation just past, feels

that we may never reestablish Davidic authorship for any

number of the Psalms.17 Smith argues, with reference to

the seventy-three psalms assigned to David, that, if we do          

place these hymns in David's time, we are forced to the al-        

ternative that the Hebrews saw practically no religious de-

velopment in their national history; that their religious con-

cepts were completely matured in all essential features in 

David's era, in the tenth century B.C. This he finds, work-

ing on the basis of the evolutionary principle in the religion      

of Israel, in direct contrast to all that has been conceived

thus far concerning the history of Hebrew life, thought, and

religion. He points out that all the great prophets and their

work came after the age of David.18 In essence, then, the

view of these scholars is that none of the Psalms can be

Davidic, because he lived too early in the development of the

Hebrew religion for the type of language, style, and religious

concepts that abound in the psalms attributed to him.

But the position that certain psalms are Davidic is not

without its adherents among scholars of our day. O.T. Allis,

after discussing the parallels from Egypt and Babylonia, says,

“For we are not arguing that psalmody must have been an

ancient institution in Israel because this was the case in

Babylonia and Egypt, but merely that the facts which have

come to light; regarding the great antiquity of the religious

lyrics of Babylon and Egypt strongly support the claim of

the Old Testament itself that psalmody developed early in

Israel and that the time of David and not the post-exilian

period was its golden age.”19 With this position we are in

agreement. Oesterley and Peters come to the conclusion that

there are Davidic psalms from an entirely different stand-

point. The former authority points out that there is no ade-

quate reason to deny actual authorship to David of a num-

ber of the Psalms, even if not in the very form that we have

 

17 Op. cit., p. 27.

18 J. M. P. Smith, The Psalms, p. 243.

19 O. T. Allis, “The Bearing of Archaeology upon the Higher Criticism of

       the Psalms,” The Princeton Theological Review, Vol. XV, 1917, p. 317.



The Date of the Psalms                    435

 

it now, because the persistent tradition that he was a writer

of psalms must have arisen from some historical basis. He

goes even farther to say that any denial of Davidic author-

ship to any of the Psalms, to maintain that the idea was a

later innovation entirely, is a betrayal of a lack of apprecia-

tion of Semitic modes of thought.20 Peters finds fault with

some for dating the Psalms by their very latest elements, as

though there were not a period of some hundreds of years in

which the Psalms were being composed and compiled. For

him the tradition that David created Hebrew psalmody means

that during his time liturgy and ritual, which had existed

long before the period of David, took on a fixed form. Thus

he accepts the belief as indicating the commencement of the

Psalter, whereas its completion is to be sought for centuries

later. He points out also that the Septuagint embodies the

Davidic tradition, assigning to David many psalms which are

not so designated in the Hebrew text. In his further dis-

cussion of David's relation to Hebrew psalmody he states

that David's connection with Hebrew psalmody is very much

like his relationship to the government of Israel. Just as it

was he that established the Hebrew monarchy on a new and

settled basis, so he was the director of Hebrew worship.

Peters continues, “David was the real organizer both of the

Kingdom and of the Church, and as the organizer of the

latter the father of a new liturgical hymnody on the ancient

lines. To what extent he himself was the actual author of

Psalms it is impossible today to determine but in a very real

sense he was the author of Hebrew Psalmody, the founder

of the Psalmody of the Hebrew church, which yet had its

roots in a greater antiquity. That is the real meaning of

the tradition of the Davidic authorship of the Psalms, and

in seeking to date the Psalter we may very properly follow

that tradition in saying that David was its founder.”21 To

be sure, neither Allis, nor Oesterley, nor Peters (nor the

present writer for that matter) undertakes to identify the

 

20 W. O. E. Oesterley, op. cit., p. 63.

21 J. P. Peters, op. cit., p. 26; see also pp. 9, 11.



436                                          Bibliotheca Sacra

 

number of Davidic psalms in the collection, but they surely       

feel, and rightly so, that there are such present in our Psal-

ter. Peters concludes with the thought that when David or-         

ganized the Israelitish kingdom and inaugurated the Hebrew

worship in Jerusalem, there was a body of liturgical material

connected with the sacrifices and the Ark, and that Sirach's

statement as to David's composition of psalms, his organi-

zation of the worship at Jerusalem, his beautification of the

feasts, his ordering of the solemn occasions, and appoint-

ment of singers to sing Psalms at the sacrifices, is a fair

one.22

We know of no scholar who denies that there are post-

exilic psalms in the Psalter, but there is much division of           

opinion on the particular period in which certain psalms, or       

according to some the entire collection, should be placed. To

indicate that some of the psalms are post-exilic is so general

that it leaves us in doubt as to whether the time of the res-

toration is meant, or the Greek, the Persian, or the Macca-

bean age is in mind. Barton gives us a general word when

he declares that the Psalter was collected after the exile.23

We doubt if any will be found in disagreement with this po-       

sition. But post-exilic times cover a few centuries, and. au-

thorities have labored to date the Psalms more definitely

within this broad area of reckoning. Their efforts have re-

suited in a general change along certain lines, but we do not       

mean to imply that all subscribe to every conclusion, as we

shall presently see. For the sake of clarity and to facilitate

the discussion we shall treat of the Persian and Greek period

first, and then at a future tinge deal with a consideration of         a

the Maccabean age as a larger question. Cheyne gives as his

opinion that the Korahite, the Asaphite, and the Davidic

psalms in all probability belong to the Greek period. In

speaking of Psalm 68, once thought to be the most difficult

in the entire collection, he decides that it was composed

either at the close of the exile or at the time of one of the

 

22 Ibid., p. 51; cf. Ecclus. 47:8-11.

23 “The Present State of Old Testament Studies,” in E. Grant (ed.), The

      Haverford Symposium on Archaeology and the Bible, p. 68.



                                    The Date of the Psalms             437

 

dynastic wars between the Ptolemies in Egypt and the Seleu-

cidae in Syria for the control of the land of Palestine, more

specifically in the sixth century (before the defeat of Croesus

at Sardis in 529 B.C.) or the third (between 220 and 217 or

203 and 198 B.C.). The Persian age, in which there was no

native ruler of the dynasty of David, is said by him to be

the time of Psalm 89 with its many references to the covenant

of David. Psalm 72 is assigned to Darius who, says Cheyne,

was well worthy of such an eulogy, but he gives the alterna-

tive as Ptolemy Philadelphus.24 It is apparent, then, that

there is quite a good deal of latitude in dating psalms in the

Persian and Greek periods. Oesterley asks the question as to

whether there are psalms of the Persian period (538 B.C. to

331 B.C.). What evidence we have shows the age to have

been one of peace for the Jews, and with the rebuilt temple

there must have been the composition of new sacred songs.

He does not specify which psalms belong to this period. As

to psalms of the Greek period (300 B.C. and forward) we

know, although there is no direct evidence, that the Jews

lived in peace and were influenced by the Greek spirit. He

holds that the general trend of the age argues for the com-

position of some of the psalms in the fourth century B.C.25

Peters, in dealing with the psalms of Books IV and V of the

Psalter, which are found in liturgical or ritual settings as

in the Babylonian psalmody where the liturgies as a rule

consist of some ten psalms, finds that these psalms belong to

a time when the center of national life was the Temple and

not the kingdom. They do not depict a time when enemies

are surrounding them and destruction may be imminent, but

they portray rather a hope of deliverance from the designs

of unfriendly neighbors. In this they put us in mind of the

great religious revival under Haggai and Zechariah at the

time of the restoration of the Temple. Therefore, he thinks,

they are to be dated in the earlier days of the restoration

shortly after the rebuilding of the Temple about 500 B.C.

 

24 T. R. Cheyne, The Origin and Religious Contents of the Psalter, pp. 112,

      116, 144.

25 W. O. E. Oesterley, op. cit., p. 54.



438                                         Bibliotheca Sacra

 

He proceeds even farther by dating the liturgy known as the

Hallel (Psalms 111-118) to the time after Ezra's initial ef-

forts among his people, after 380 B.C. As for the Pilgrim

Psalter (Psalms 120-134), he takes the terminus ad quem

be set by the citations in Chronicles of Psalms 130 and 132,

not later than. about 350 B.C., while the terminus a quo could

be a century earlier for individual psalms. After the com-

letion of the Book of Chronicles and before the writing of

Ecclesiasticus the Psalter is claimed to have been concluded    

by adding Psalms 135-150.26

Pfeiffer's views on the Psalter are particularly interesting

in view of the comparatively recent date of his book and its

thorough treatment of the individual books of the Old Tes-

tament. During the period 400-250 B.C., the guilds of Tem-

ple singers were organized, he tells us, and the major portion

of our Psalter should be assigned to this time. He pre-

sumes that most of the Psalms were written during the pe-

riod of the collecting of the Psalter (the two limits being 400

and 100 B.C.). With him the real question resolves itself

into the query as to whether there are any psalms of a pre-

exilic character, and not whether it embodies Maccabean

psalms of the second century, because the Psalms reveal to

him the thought, faith, and worship of post-exilic Judaism.

He admits, as he must, that during the two most important

centuries in the forming of the Psalms (400 to 200) the his-

tory of the Jews is a “total blank” with the exception of

their rebellion against King Artaxerxes III Ochus in 353.

At that time Jericho was laid waste and a number of Jews

were deported. This renders difficult the dating with any

degree of accuracy of any Old Testament writings which may

be assigned by scholars to this period, especially the Psalms.

Pfeiffer takes note of the fact that some able scholars ques-

tion such late dating of the Psalms as to place them in gen-

eral after 400 B.C., and singles out Gunkel particularly. The

latter finds the latest date for the Psalms at 200 B.C., but its

flourishing period about 750 until 500 B.C., when decline set

 

26 J. P. Peters, op. cit., pp. 358-360, 413, 463, 144.



The Date of the Psalms                    439

 

in. One of the chief arguments of Gunkel for his early dat-

ing is the mention of a king. He takes Psalm 89 to be writ-

ten in the Northern Kingdom before 721 B.C. (judging by

verses 12 and 18, Hebrew, 13 and 19). Pfeiffer sees no men-

tion of a king of North Israel but a reminiscence of Job and

parts of Isaiah. Royal psalms that Gunkel calls pre-exilic

are 2, 18, 20, 21, 45, 72, 101, 110, 132, 144:1-11. Apart from

Psalm 45 Pfeiffer considers none of these as pre-exilic. On

the whole, he favors the late dating of the Psalter after the

view of B. Duhm, who dates all the royal psalms in the time

of the Hasmonean rulers, rather than the time indications

of Gunkel. He denies that a reference to a king is an abso-

lute criterion for placing a psalm in the period of the mon-

archy, and since there is no objective evidence for assigning

a psalm to a time before 586 B.C., he has favored the position

given above, 400 to 100 B.C. He accepts the conclusion of

Driver that very few psalms are before the seventh century

B.C. The only psalms that he places before the exile, we

speak of Pfeiffer, are Psalm 24:7-10 (a hymn in celebration

of the entrance of the Ark into the Temple in Jerusalem

from Shiloh) and Psalm 45 (a poem used at a royal wedding).

Psalms 19:1-6 (Hebrew, 1-7) and 104 are early, but hardly

pre-exilic.27  Our chief objection to the views of Pfeiffer is

that he takes a position in complete contrast to much of the

findings of archaeology already touched upon, and yet does

not sufficiently treat of the objections to his view. It seems

to us that his standpoint is not much different from that of

Cheyne and Duhm about the turn of the century, a position

which most scholars have felt compelled to abandon by dint

of the new evidence from archaeological sources. This is

well stated by Sellin: “It is known how striking, in many

instances, is the relationship of the Babylonian songs to those

of the Bible; and this without detriment to the difference in

their deepest religious kernel. There surely must exist some

genetic connection. However, for Wellhausen, these parallels

do not at all exist. He takes into account only the possi-

 

27 R. H. Pfeiffer, op. cit., pp. 624, 629, 630, 631.



440                                         Bibliotheca Sacra

 

bility of further intra-Israelitish development, and comes to

a conclusion . . . that, on the whole, we do not possess in

the Hebrew canon a psalm dating from pre-exilic times. It

is most gratifying to be able to state that, in opposition to

this view, an unusually strong reaction has set in. While,

about the beginning of the new century, it had become almost

a dogma that the Psalter (of David) was a post-exilic book

–against  which assumption Koenig, myself, and a few oth-

ers protested in vain—a pronounced change of opinion has

taken place during the last two decades. This we owe partly        

to Gunkel and partly to the Norwegian, Mowinckel.”28  J. M.

Powis Smith does not dwell at length on the date of the

Psalter, but thinks it is most profitable to consider the book

as the hymn book of the Second Temple. He cites Daniel

8:11 and 1 Chronicles 9:2-34 among other passages in the

Psalms to show that they were used in the worship of the

Temple.29 Our own considered opinion in the matter of post-

exilic Psalms is that there are such, not quite so many in

number as some would posit, and that the datings of Pfeiffer,

for instance, are far too late. If similar compositions be

found thousands of years earlier among other nations, we

cannot on general principles deny such to the Hebrews.

 

Dallas, Texas 

 

 

 

28 E. Sellin, Archaeology versus Wellhausenism, p. 256.

29 J. M. P. Smith, op. cit., p. 247.

 

 

This material is cited with gracious permission from:

Dallas Theological Seminary

            3909 Swiss Ave.

            Dallas, TX   75204

            www.dts.edu

Please report any errors to Ted Hildebrandt at:  thildebrandt@gordon.edu

            Thanks to Carolyn Gibney for help with proofing.