James H. Fraser









                       Submitted in partial fulfillment of requirements

                              for the degree of Master of Theology in

                                        Grace Theological Seminary

                                                       May 1984



          Digitized by Ted Hildebrandt, Gordon College, Wenham, MA 2007



Author:           James H. Fraser

Degree:          Master of Theology

Date:               May 1984

Advisers:        Dr. Wayne Knife and Dr. Donald Fowler


            Introductory notes or psalm titles are found in the

text of many of the Biblical Psalms. These notes have been

maligned and given a place of secondary importance by

critics and translators alike in recent generations. The

majority of critical scholars consider them to be late addi-

tions to the text which in many cases are based upon ques-

tionable exegesis or just plain conjecture. Such criticisms

are unfounded in light of the Biblical and extra--Biblical

evidences which point to their antiquity and credibility.


            It is uncertain whether or not the titles were

attached to the psalms at the time of composition. However,

there is ample evidence to show that they have long been a

part of the Psalter text. Both the manuscript evidence and

Biblical evidence outside the Psalter support the view that

they have always been a part of the canonical text of the

Psalter. Some of the terms used in the titles had lost

their meaning by the time the LXX translation was made indi-

cating that the liturgical instructions of the titles had

been in disuse for years. Also, several examples of this

literary pattern may be gleaned from the Bible and extra-

Biblical literature. They show that it was a well-known

practice to attach either a title or colophon to poetic com-

positions long before the post-exilic period.


            The titles are valuable guides to the interpretation  

of the Psalter. They give accurate and reliable information

concerning the authors, historical settings and liturgical

use of the psalms in question. When l; is used with a

proper name authorship is implied, although in the case of

Asaph and the "sons of Korah" it is a generic designation.

The support of other Scripture together with the internal

agreement of the contents of the psalms with the titles

shows that there is no justifiable reason for doubting the

authenticity of the psalm titles.













                  Accepted by the Faculty of Grace Theological Seminary

                      in partial fulfillment of requirements for the degree

                                                Master of Theology



                                                    D. Wayne Knife

                                                       Donald Fowler
                             TABLE OF CONTENTS


ACCEPTANCE PAGE                                                                                              iv

TABLE OF CONTENTS                                                                                           v

LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS                                                                                     viii


            I. INTRODUCTION                                                                         1

                        General Character and Content of the Titles                                  3

                        Divergent Views on the Value of the Titles                                    4

                        The Inspired Scripture View                                                 4

                        The Authentic-Tradition View                                                          5

                        The Critical-Tradition View                                                 6

                        The Psalter-Compilation View                                                        7

                        The Midrashic-Exegesis View                                                         7

                        The Cultic-Setting View                                                                   8

                        The Higher-Critical View                                                                 9

                        The Scope and Purpose of the Thesis                                              11

II. THE ANTIQUITY OF THE PSALM TITLES                                          12

            Textual Evidence for Their Antiquity                                                          12

                        Hebrew Manuscripts                                                                         13

                                    The MT                                                                                   13

                                    The Dead Sea Scrolls                                                            15

                                    Qumran Cave 4 Manuscripts                                                16

                                    Qumran Cave 11 Manuscripts                                              18

                                    Manuscripts from Other Areas                                            21





                        Ancient Versions                                                                               22

                                    LXX                                                                                        22

                                    The Aramaic Targum                                                             24

                                    The Syriac Peshitto                                                               25

                        Linguistical Evidence for Their Antiquity                          26

                        Literary Evidence for Their Antiquity                                             29

                                    Biblical Examples                                                                 30

                                    A Hebrew Inscription                                                            31

                                    Ancient Near Eastern Parallels                                            32

III.       THE CREDIBILITY OF THE TITLES                                                         37

            The Designation of Authorship in the Titles                                               38

                        Problems Relating to Interpretation                                                38

                                    The Usage of l;                                                                      38

                                                Possession                                                                 39

                                                Dative                                                                         39

                                                Subject or Serial                                                        41

                                                Genetive of Authorship                                            42

                                    The Usage of Proper Names                                                45

                                                David                                                                          45

                                                            Davidic King                                     45

                                                            Commander                                                   46

                                                            Davidic Collection                                        46

                                                            King David                                                     47

                                                The Levitical Musicians                                           49

                                                            Asaph                                                              51

                                                            Ethan and Heman                                           54

                                                            The Sons of Korah                                        57



                                                            Moses                                                             60

                                                            Solomon                                                         61

                                                            David as Author                                             63

                                                               Historical Views of David the Psalmist 63

                                                            Objections to Davidic Authorship               67

                                                Historical Notices in the Titles                               72

                                                            General Character of the Historical Notes 72

                                                            Objections to the Credibility of the

                                                                        Historical Notes                                74

                                                            Positive Arguments for the Credibility of

                                                                        the Historical Notes                         80

                                                Summary Statement on the Credibility of the

                                                            Psalm Titles                                                   82

IV.       THE ORIGIN OF THE PSALM TITLES                                                     83

V.        CONCLUSION                                                                                              87


.           .           .           .           .           .           .           .           .           .           .           .



                            TITLES                                                                                           89


                            PROPER NAME                                                                           92

BIBLIOGRAPHY OF WORKS CITED                                                                   93


                                   LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS


AJSL               American Journal of Semitic Languages and


ANET              James Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern


BA                   Biblical Archaeologist

BASOR           Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research

Bib                  Biblica

BDB                Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, C. A. Briggs,

                        Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament

CBQ                Catholic Biblical Quarterly

ExpTim           Expository Times

ICC                 International Critical Commentary

IEJ                  Israel Exploration Journal

JBL                 Journal of Biblical Literature

JSS                  Journal of Semitic Studies

OTS                 Oudtestamentische Studien

RB                   Revue Biblique

VT                   Vetus Testamentum

VTSup Vetus Testamentum, Supplements

ZAW                Zeitschrift für die Altestamentliche Wissenschaft







                                   CHAPTER I




            In recent years there have been no works of major

significance dealing with the psalm titles. Thirtle's book,

The Titles of the Psalms, published in 1904 and considered by

some to be the standard work on the subject is no longer of

much help in dealing with the real issues. As has been

pointed out by Nestle, Thirtle's theory that the musical por-

tions of the superscriptions should really be subscriptions

to the preceeding psalms is of little consequence.1 In

addition to his theory of subscriptions, Thirtle also dis-

cusses and applies the meaning of the terms found in the

titles but is of little help in responding to the critics who

question their authenticity.

            It is largely due to the influence of these critics

who have minimized the value of the psalm titles that there

has not been more written on the subject. For the most part

the critical scholars have dismissed the titles as secondary

additions, which contain no reliable information that may be


            1E. B. Nestle, "The Titles of the Psalms," Exp Tim

23 (May 1912):383. For a more complete evaluation of

Thirtle's work see Roderick V. Smith, "The Titles in the

Psalms" (M. Div. thesis, Grace Theological Seminary, 1974),

pp. 45-51.



used to determine the authorship or background of the various

psalms.1 While this may be the general trend among the crit-

ical scholars it has been pointed out by such reputable

scholars as K. A. Kitchen that "this attitude rests on no

particle of respectable evidence and has much against it."2

            On the contrary side there is much evidence to verify

the traditional view that the psalm titles are authentic.

From the standpoint of textual criticism it can be shown that

they do belong to the canonical text of the Psalter. Then as

they are examined linguistically, it becomes apparent that

many of them must have been written long before the exile,

making the probability of their authenticity more likely.

The possibility that they may have been a part of the orig-

inal composition or at least added soon after is seen by the

fact that compositions from the ancient Near East as far back

as the time of Abraham have been found with similar patterns

of superscriptions or subscriptions.

            These evidences along with the Biblical materials

which support the testimony of the titles concerning such

matters as authorship and historical backgrounds weigh in

favor of the authenticity of the titles.



            1Brevard S. Childs, "Psalm Titles and Midrashic

Exegesis," JSS 16 (Autumn 1971):137.

            2Kenneth A. Kitchen, "The Old Testament in Its Con-

text: 3 From Joshua to Solomon," Theological Students'

Fellowship Bulletin 61 (Autumn 1971):11.



               General Character and Content of the Titles

            The value of this study of the authenticity of the

superscriptions may be seen in reviewing the general charac-

ter and content of the titles. Of the 150 Biblical psalms

there are 116 which have some type of title.1 These titles

have often been ignored by English readers of the psalms

because most English versions relegate them to a position of

secondary importance by placing them at the head of the psalm

in small print or leaving them out altogether. The Hebrew

Bible, on the other hand, incorporates them into the text of

the psalm so that when the verses were numbered in the six-

teenth century they were counted as the first verse or part

of the first verse.2 Thus, indicating that in the Massoretic

tradition of the Hebrew Bible they were regarded as an

integral part of the text.

            Following Bullock's outline, the information con-

tained in the titles may be divided up into five categories:

(1) authorship, (2) historical origin, (3) literary features,


            1That means that there are 34 psalms which in the

Talmud are referred to as "orphan Psalms." This number may

be reduced even further if the opening h.yA Ull;ha of the

Hallel psalms is considered as a title rather than a part of

the composition. Delbert R. Hillers' "A study of Psalm 148,"

CBQ 40 (July 1978):325 favors the view that they are edito-

rial, thus fitting into the category of a title. However,

for the purpose of this paper they will be considered as a

part of the actual psalm composition. This is the view

favored by Kemper Fullerton, "Studies in the Psalter," The

Biblical World 36 (1910):326-27.

            2Cristoph Barth, Introduction to the Psalms (New

York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1966), p. 6.


(4) liturgical use, and (5) musical notations.1 The primary

concern of this paper is with the first two categories of

authorship and historical origin. Not only are they the

crucial areas of controversy, but they also provide vital

information which should serve as foundational guidelines

for any study of the psalms. The other three areas will be

discussed primarily from the standpoint of their antiquity

and therefore their contribution in helping to establish the

trustworthiness of the material pertaining to the first two



                Divergent Views On the Value of the Titles

            Most scholars would agree that there is at least some

value in the titles, though a few reject them as altogether

worthless. Since no one knows for sure how or when the ti-

tles came to be a part of the psalms, speculations on their

origin have abounded. This then has paved the way for a wide

diversity of views concerning their value. The following

seven views are representative of some of the attitudes of

scholars toward the psalm titles either as a whole or toward

certain parts of them.


                        The Inspired Scripture View

            The belief that the titles should be considered as a

part of the inspired text of Scripture was the general


            1C. Hassell Bullock, An Introduction to the Old

Testament Poetic Books (Chicago: Moody Press, 1979), p. 124.



concensus among those whom Callan refers to as "the older

Catholic authorities."1 Included among these older Catholic

authorities are such notable early church writers as Augus-

tine and Theodoret.2 This view is not widely held or at

least not expressed among scholars today even though it can

be defended from the standpoint of tradition and canonicity.3

Based upon the available textual evidence today, they have

always been a part of the Scriptural text.


                       The Authentic-Tradition View

            In general those who hold to this view believe that

the titles are reliable and accurate traditions, though not

necessarily a part of the original text. Examples of adher-

ents to this view include Wilson, Leupold, Green and Unger.

Wilson, who has made one of the most significant contribu-

tions to the subject by his two-part series in the 1926

issue of The Princeton Theological Review, concludes on the

bases of objective evidence that "the headings of the psalms

are presumptively correct."4  Leupold suggests that they


            1Charles J. Callan, The Psalms (New York: Joseph F.

Wagner, Inc., 1944), p. 7.

            2C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, 3 vols.

reprint ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House,

1966), 1:25.

            3The popular radio preacher Charles Swindoll, WBCL,

"Insight for Living," 2 August 1983, has referred to the

psalm titles as being inspired.

            4R. D. Wilson, "The Headings of the Psalms," The

Princeton Theological Review 24 (January 1926, July 1926):



were added by trustworthy leaders in Israel such as Ezra who

wanted to preserve a "valuable and well-authenticated tradi-

tion."1 Green2 and Unger3 both conclude that as ancient

traditions the titles should be accepted as true except in

individual cases where there is adequate proof to the con-

trary. The implication of both writers' conclusions is that

such proof may not exist.


                      The Critical-Tradition View

            The proponents of this view, such as Kirkpatrick4

and Perowne5 of the nineteenth century and Sabourin6 more

recently, accept the titles as ancient traditions which may

or may not be trustworthy. Therefore, their value must be

weighed and tested by the usual critical processes. This

critical process may in some cases simply result in a


            1H. C. Leupold, Exposition of the Psalms (Grand Rap-

ids: Baker Book House, 1959), p. 6.

            2Henry W. Green, "The Titles of the Psalms,"

Methodist Review 72 (July 1890):506.

            3Merril F. Unger, Unger's Commentary on the Old

Testament, 2 vols. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1981), 1:740.

            4A. F. Kirkpatrick, The Book of Psalms, Book I, The

Cambridge Bible for Schools and Collages (Cambridge: at the

University Press, 1897), pp. xxix-xxx.

            5J. J. Stewart Perowne, The Book of Psalms, 2 vols.

in 1, 4th ed. (Cambridge: George Bell and Sons, 1878;

reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976),

pp. 97, 101-103.

            6Leopold Sabourin, The Psalms: Their Origin and

Meaning (Staten Island, New York: Alba House, 1974),

pp. 16-17.



different interpretation of what has traditionally been held

to be the authors of the psalms (dvidAl; etc.), rather than a

complete rejection of the title.


                  The Psalter-Compilation View

            This view completely rejects the psalm titles as

reliable traditions which indicate the author, date, or

character of the original psalms. However, they are consid-

ered of some value in determining how the psalms were used

and how they were collected together into their present

form.1 According to this view the various parts of the ti-

tles indicate smaller collections of psalms which the indi-

vidual psalms were a part of at one time. Each time then

that a psalm was taken from one collection and put in another

the name of the previous collection would be prefixed to it.2

With this view the titles would be of no value in interpret-

ing the text of the psalms themselves.


                         The Midrashic-Exegesis View

            The midrashic-exegesis view is concerned primarily

with the historical data in the titles and in some cases with

the area of authorship. Proponents of this view include


            1Charles Augustus Briggs and Emilie Grace Briggs, A

Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Psalms,

vol. 1, ICC (New York:. Charles Scribner's Sons, 1906),

p. lviii. See also J. W. Rogerson and J. W. McKay, Psalms

1-50, The Cambridge Bible Commentary (Cambridge: Cambridge

University Press, 1977), p. 3.

            2George R. Berry, "The Titles of the Psalms," JBL

33 (1914): 199.


Childs, Slomovic, and Bruce. Childs1 and Bruce2 deal only

with the historical portions. They propose that these are

derived from the text of the psalm reflecting the work of an

early Jewish exegete rather than an independent historical

tradition. Slomovic carries the theory even further to in-

clude the identity of the authors as being derived from a

form of rabbinic midrash.3 The principle value of the psalm

titles according to this view is found in the area of herme-

neutics. They represent early attempts to interpret the

Biblical psalms.


                            The Cultic-Setting View

            The form-function approach to the study of the psalms

as advocated by Gunkel and Mowinckel led to the proposal by

Mowinckel that the titles have a cultic meaning. Though the

historical notes are considered later additions by editors

who misunderstood the meaning of dvidAl; the rest of the

material including dvidAl; are really technical terms associa-

ted with the use of the psalm in the cult." Weiser, who


            1Childs, "Psalm Titles," p. 143.

            2F. F. Bruce, "'The Earliest Old Testament Interpreta-

tion," in The Witness of Tradition, OTS 17 (Leiden: E. J.

Brill, 1962), p. 52.

            3Elieser Slomovic, "Toward an Understanding of the

Formation of Historical.Titles in the Book of Psalms," ZAW

91 (1979) :380.

            4Sigmund Mowinckel, The Psalms in Israel's Worship,

2 vols. in 1, trans. D. R. Ap-Thomas (Nashville: Abingdon

1962) , 2:99, 210-17.


pretty much follows Mowinckel's view of the titles, explains

that dvidAl; means "for the Davidic ruler" who exercises cer-

tain functions in the cult.1 The chief value of the titles

for the adherents of this view is to support their theory

that the psalms were actually composed for and used in the

cultic services of the temple rather than derived from real

historical experiences.


                       The Higher-Critical View

            The early opinion of the higher critics was that the

psalms were composed much later than the time of David.

This led to the belief that the titles must be spurious ad-

ditions of the text based on groundless and erroneous con-

jecture. The end result being that they were rejected as

untrustworthy. Toy, writing in 1886 said: "The statements

of the titles are worthless; that is though they may in some

cases be right, they may always be wrong, and are therefore

of no use as critical guides."2 This was the view of Driver3

and Cheyne4 as well as many others at that time.


            1Arthus Weiser, The Psalms, trans. Herbert Hartwell,

The Old Testament Library (Philadelphia: The Westminster

Press, 1962), pp 96-97.

            2C. H. Toy, "On the Asaph-Psalms," Journal of the

Exegetical Society 6 (1886):73.

            3S. R. Driver, An Introduction to the Literature of

the Old Testament (1897; reprint ed., Cleveland: The Word

Publishing Co., 1956), p. 378.

            4Thomas Kelly Cheyne, The Origin and Religious Con-

tents of Psalter (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, &

Co., 1891), p. 190.


Interestingly enough this was the view of Calvin who regard-

ed them as marginal glosses which were of little value in

interpreting Scripture.1

            This extremely low view of the psalm titles has

seemingly fallen right along with the higher critical theory

which placed most of the psalms in the post-exilic period.

The discoveries of Ras Shamra, along with literary research

in Egypt and Babylon has brought to light an advanced

hymnody in vogue before and during David's time, with some

amazing parallels to the Biblical psalms.2 These finds,

together with the evidence from Qumran has caused most crit-

ics to push the date of the origin of the psalms back into

the pre-exilic period and reconsider the testimony of the


            These many views along with minor variations which

will be interacted with further at appropriate places in the

thesis, point out the present state of confusion concerning

the real purpose and value of the psalm titles.


            1John Calvin, Commentary on the Book of Psalms, vol.

2 trans. James Anderson (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans

Publishing Co., 1949), p. 27.

            2R. Laird Harris, "Psalms," in vol. 2 of The Bibli-

cal Expositor (Philadelphia: A. J. Holman Company, 1960),

pp. 35-36. See also Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the

Bible, s.v. "Psalms, Book of," by J. B. Payne; and William

Foxwell Albright, Archaeology and the Religion of Israel

(Baltimore: The John Hopkins Press, 1942), pp. 125-29.



                    The Scope and Purpose of the Thesis

            The purpose of this paper is to provide objective

evidence to support the thesis that the psalm titles are

authentic. They are trustworthy witnesses concerning the

authorship, age, purpose and occasion of the various psalms

concerning which they give such information either implicit-

ly or explicitly.

            The format of the paper will be first of all to pre-

sent evidence arguing for the antiquity of the titles as

they are found in the MT. Then to examine the credibility

of the titles in matters relating to authorship and histori-

cal data. Having then presented the evidence certain deduc-

tions and conclusions will be drawn concerning the origin of

the psalm titles and their benefit to the present day








                                 CHAPTER II





            There is considerable evidence that the psalm titles

have always been a part of the canonical text of the Old

Testament Scriptures. This in itself would argue in favor

of the authenticity of the titles because of the very nature

of Scripture as God's inspired Word. Further evidence seems

to indicate that they can be dated back much earlier even

than the time when the OT canon was completed around 400

B.C.1 Thus, not only placing their authenticity on sound

footing textually and theologically but also historically as



                    Textual Evidence for their Antiquity

            In their effort to discredit the validity of the

psalm titles some critics have pointed to the lack of agree-

ment among the ancient manuscripts when it comes to the


            1Although many critical scholars would disagree with

this early date for the completion of the canon, it does

harmonize with the well-established tradition that the

spirit of prophecy departed from Israel after the days of

Ezra. For a full discussion of the canonization of the OT

see R. Laird Harris, Inspiration and Canonicity of the Bible

(Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1957), pp. 154-



psalm titles.1 These discrepancies are cited as evidence

that the titles at least in part are late additions. While

this may be true concerning some of the titles found in the

LXX and the Syriac Peshitta, the majority of the titles as

they are found in the MT find substantial support for their

antiquity in nearly all of the ancient Hebrew manuscripts

and the ancient primary versions which are available to us



                                 Hebrew Manuscripts

The MT

            Prior to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in

1947, virtually all of the known Hebrew manuscripts were

based upon the work of the Masoretes, who sought to stan-

dardize and preserve the text of the OT. The oldest of

these manuscripts still available today come from the tenth

and eleventh centuries.2 Besides these early editions of

the Psalter numerous other editions based on earlier manu-

scripts are available for comparison. In examining these

many manuscripts, there is near unanimous agreement on the


            1Frederick Carl Eiselen, The Psalms and Other Sacred

Writings (New York: The Methodist Book Concern, 1918), p. 43

Otto Eissfeldt, The Old Testament an Introduction, trans.

Peter R. Ackroyd (New York: Harper and Row, 1965), p. 451.

            2The oldest ones being the Alleppo Codex from the

first half of the tenth century and the Codex Leningradensis

(L), which is dated around A.D. 1008. Ernst Würthwein, The

Text of the Old Testament, trans. Errol F. Rhodes (London:

SCM Press Ltd., 1979) pp. 34-35.


text of the headings. R. D. Wilson concludes from his study

of these manuscripts that "the text of the headings of the

Psalms in the Textus Receptus is almost perfect so far as

the evidence of the Hebrew MSS. and printed editions of

Kennicot and DeRossi is concerned."1 From this, it is evi-

dent that the headings of the psalms were part of the stan-

dard text which the Masoretes so meticulously sought to

preserve in the second half of the first millennium, A.D.

            The standard text, however, appears to have been

established already by the end of the first century A.D.

with the result that all other variant lines of tradition in

Judaism were destroyed.2 This in the past has made the work

of OT textual criticism much less conclusive since there

were no Hebrew texts available which were not derived from

the MT tradition which was standardized around A.D. 100.

With the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls beginning in 1947,

numerous ancient manuscripts were made available which had

not been subjected to the standardization process which lies

behind the MT. This is evident in that all three text types

are represented at Qumran: The Hebrew texts lying behind


            1R. D. Wilson, "The Headings of the Psalms," The

Princeton Theological Review 24 (July 1926):372.

            2Bruce K. Waltke, "The Textual Criticism of the Old

Testament," in vol. 1 of The Expositors Bible Commentary,

ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing

House, 1979), pp. 216-17. A date in the early second cen-

tury A.D. under the leadership of Rabbi Akiba is suggested

in William Sanford Lasor, David Allan Hubbard, and Frederic

Wm. Bush, Old Testament Survey (Grand Rapids: William B.

Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1982), pp. 32-33.


the Textus Receptus, the Samaritan Pentateuch, and the LXX.1

Thus, the Dead Sea Scrolls have become crucial in the study

of the OT text and in determining the validity of the psalm

titles as they are found in the MT.


The Dead Sea Scrolls

            Numerous fragments and in some cases substantial

portions of manuscripts containing the Biblical psalms have

been found in the Dead Sea area in the past thirty-five

years. Perhaps the most significant of these finds was the

Psalms Scroll (11QPsa) from cave 11 at Qumran, which has

been dated by Sanders in the Herodian period between A.D. 30

and 50.2 In addition to the Psalms Scroll several other

text portions containing psalm titles have been found in

Qumran Caves 4 and 11, in the Nahal Hever region, and on

Masada.3 As these texts are examined they are found to be

in essential agreement with the MT in the assignment of ti-

tles to the various psalms they contain except for a few

minor variations.4


            1Waltke, "Textual Criticism," p. 214.

            2J. A. Sanders, The Dead Sea Psalms Scroll (Ithaca,

New York: Cornell University Press, 1967), p. 6.

            3For a catalog of all the pre-Masoretic Psalms manu-

scripts known before 1965 see J. A. Sanders, "Pre-Masoretic

Psalter Texts," CBQ 27 (April 1965), pp. 114-17.

            4For a comparison of the Dead Sea Scrolls psalm

titles with the MT titles see Appendix A.


Qumran Cave 4 Manuscripts

            One of the more interesting texts from Qumran cave 4

contains part of a commentary on Psalm 45 (4QpPs45). It is

significant to the present study because it contains the

psalm title along with an explanatory note before the con-

tents of the psalm with its commentary are given. Allegro's

translation of the title and explanatory note is as follows:

"To the choirmaster: according to the (Lil)lies. (A maskil

of the Sons of Korah, a song of lots). They are the seven

divisions of the penitents of Is(rael). . . ."1 This is then

followed by the text of the first verse of the psalm itself.

            The inclusion of the title in the commentary would

seem to indicate that the writer considered it an essential

part of the psalm text. As Smith has pointed out, "the ma-

terial he wanted to deal with was in the text of the psalm,

but he could not quote the text without giving its proper


            The explanatory note on the title may be a further

indication tat the writer considered the title a part of

the sacred text and therefore worthy of comment.

            Two other texts from Qumran cave 4 have been pub-

lished lished which contain one psalm title each. The first,

4QPsb, contains part at least of Psalms 91-118 with Psalms


            1John M. Allegro, Qumran Cave 4, vol. 5: Discover-

ies in the Judaean Desert (Oxford: At the Clarendon Press,

1968), p. 45.

            2Smith, "The Titles in the Psalms," p. 36.



95 and 104-111 omitted. The only title or part of a title

that is preserved from these psalms is d[vdl] from Psalm

103, which agrees with the MT.1 The parts of the manuscript

which should contain the other titles have deteriorated.

            The second of these published texts from cave 4 is

4QPsq. It contains Psalm 33 (which immediately follows the

last verse of Psalm 31) and Psalm 35:4-20. In it, Psalm 33

which does not have a title in the MT is given the title

rvmzm ryw dvdl.2 Though different than the MT, this

does agree with the LXX in attributing the psalm to David.

            The rest of the relevant texts from cave 4 have been

assigned to Monsignor P. W. Skehan, but have not yet been

published.3 The longest of these, 4QPsa, has, however, been

dated by Skehan in the Hasmonean period, placing it in the

latter half of the second century B.C." This date is con-

firmed by Cross.5

            Skehan has also let it be known that 4QPsa "arranges

the Psalms and their titles as they still appear in the


            1Patrick W. Skehan, "A Psalm Manuscript from Qumran

(4QPsb)," CBQ 26 (July 1964): 318.

            2J. T. Milik, "Deux documents inedits du desert de

Juda," Bib 38 (1957): 245-68.

            3Sanders, "Pre-Masoretic Psalter Texts," pp. 114-17.

            4P. W. Skehan, "The Qumran Manuscripts and Textual

Criticism," Volume du congres in VTSup 4 (Leiden: E. J.

Brill, 1957), p. 154.

            5Frank Moore Cross Jr., The Ancient Library of

Qumran and Modern Biblical Studies (Garden City, New York:

Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1958), p. 122.


Masora," adding further that "there is no special separa-

tion between title and text."1 From this arrangement Cross

concludes that the collection of canonical psalms was al-

ready fixed by Maccabean times.2 It may be further conclud-

ed that the psalm titles were an integral part of that text

back in Maccabean times.


Qumran Cave 11 Manuscripts

            Two of the manuscripts from cave 11 have been pub-

lished so far. They are the well-known Psalm Scroll

(11QPsa) and 11QPsb.

            Like the Psalm Scroll, 11QPsb has also been dated in

the Herodian period in the first half of the first century

A.D.3 It contains one psalm title which is in agreement

with the MT and is included as a part of the text (the first

verse of the psalm itself continues on the same line).

Thus, the second line of script taken from Psalm 133 reads:

. . . bv]F hm hnh dyvdl tv[lfmh ryw.4

            The Psalm Scroll from cave 11 has yielded by far the

most material for comparison with the MT. In addition to

the forty-one Biblical psalms given in part or in whole, the

scroll contains eight apocryphal compositions including


            1Skehan, "The Qumran Manuscripts," p. 154.

            2Cross, The Ancient Library, p. 122.

            3J. Van Der Ploeg, "Fragments dun manuscrit de

psaumes de Qumran (11QPsb)," RB 74 (1967):408.

            4Ibid., p. 411.



seven non-Biblical psalms and one prose piece about David.1  

The scroll is unique not only by the inclusion of the apoc-

ryphal compositions but also by the arrangement of the

psalms which differs from the traditional order. This has

led Sanders to conclude, contrary to Cross (see above), that

the Psalter was still open-ended in the first century, and

that the Psalms Scroll represented a "local Palestinian text

with its own internal problems of limited fluidity."2 He

does allow however, on the basis of the materials from cave

4, that Books I and II of the Psalter may have been fixed

much earlier.3

            Sanders theory of an open-ended Psalter in the first

century A.D. however, has not been accepted by textual crit-

ics as a whole. Goshen-Gottstein gives some convincing evi-

dence that the scroll was never intended to be more than a

"liturgical collection."4 A view which is adopted by

Würthwein.5 Likewise Skehan makes several observations con-

cerning the scroll which seem to indicate that 11QPsa is

dependent upon "the complete collection of Psalms as we


            1Sanders, The Dead Sea Psalms Scroll, p. 6.

            2Ibid., pp. 157-58.

            3Ibid., pp. 13-14

            4M. H. Goshen-Gottstein, "The Psalms Scroll

(11QPsa); A Problem of Canon and Text," in vol. 5 of Textus

(Jerusalem: At the Magnes Press, The Hebrew University,

1966), pp. 29-33.

            5Würthwein, The Text of the OT, pp. 32-33.



know it."1

            If indeed, the Psalms Scroll is simply a liturgical

collection, the presence of the psalm titles in thirteen of

the Biblical psalms used is even more significant. It would

indicate that the compiler considered the titles an integral

part of the text which should not be left out, even though

they did not apply specifically to the liturgical purpose of

the collection.

            Unfortunately, many of the psalms contained in

11PQsa are "orphan psalms" or are missing the first verse

and therefore, are irrelevant to the present study. However

there are fourteen of the psalms which can be compared to

the MT (see Appendix A). Eleven of these have essentially

the same titles as the MT (Pss. 121, 122, 126, 127, 129,

130, 133, 138, 140, 143, and 145).2 The only substantial

differences are found in Psalm 144 where dvdl is omitted

from 11QPsa and in Psalms 104 and 123 where dvdl is added.

            It should also be noted that two of the apocryphal

psalms contain headings. Psalm 151A is designated: hyvllh

ywy Nb dyvdl, "A Hallelujah of David the Son of Jesse;"

and Psalm 151B begins: xybn vHwmwm dy []l hr[]bg tlHt

Myhvlx, "At the beginning of David's power after


            1Patrick W. Skehan, "The Biblical Scrolls from Qum-

ran and the Text: of the Old Testament" BA 23 (September


            2Two minor differences involving one letter are

found in Psalms 121 and 145.



of God had anointed him."1 Neither one of these titles

can be described as characteristic of the Biblical titles.

This may be an indication that they were written much later

than the Biblical psalms which may be why they were never

included in the MT though they are found in the LXX.


Manuscripts from Other Areas

            There have been two other texts or fragments of a

text discovered in the Dead Sea area. The first of these

which dates to the latter half of the first century A.D.

was found in the Nahal Hever region and contains the end of

Psalm 15 and the title of Psalm 16 as it appears in the MT.2

            The second is a much larger manuscript portion from

Masada containing Psalm 81:3-85:10 in the same order and

with the same titles as the MT.3 Yadin has given a first

century A.D. date for this manuscript as well.4

            These manuscripts along with the Psalter texts from

Qumran show that the psalm titles were respected as a vital

part of the canonical psalms in the first century A.D. and

even as far back as the second century B.C. The essential

agreement of these texts with the MT as far as the titles


            1Sanders, The Dead Sea Psalms Scroll, pp. 88-89.

            2Y. Yadin, "Expedition D," IEJ 11 (1961):40.

            3Y. Yadin, "The Excavation of Masada - 1963/1964,

Preliminary Report," IEJ 15 (1965):104.

            4Ibid., p. 103.


are concerned tends to confirm the great antiquity of the

titles as a part of the established OT text.


                                 Ancient Versions


            The Greek translation of the Psalter has for some

proven a valuable source of evidence in favor of the authen-

ticity of the psalm titles, while for others it has been

used as evidence against their authenticity. The problem

for the latter group is in the fact that the LXX while basi-

cally presenting a literal translation of the psalms them-

selves has taken the liberty to make changes in the psalm

titles. This has been interpreted to mean that the trans-

lators did not have the same respect for the titles as they

did for the psalms themselves.1 However, as the critical

text of the LXX is examined it is discovered that these dif-

ferences have been greatly exaggerated.

            In Rahlfs' edition of the Greek Psalter one finds

an essential agreement with the traditional Hebrew text ex-

cept that there are several additions.2 These additions

involve: adding David as the author of thirteen anonymous

psalms (33, 43, 71, 91, 93-99, 104, and 137), adding Haggai

and Zachariah to Psalms 146-148, plus several additions of


            1Eiselen, The Psalms, p. 44.

            2Alfred :Rahlfs, ed., Septuaginta, 9th ed., 2 vols.

(Stuttgart: Würtembergische Bibelanstalt, 1935).


liturgical or historical notes.1

            R. D. Wilson who has done extensive research into

the different Greek manuscripts and secondary versions of

the LXX Psalter summarizes his work as follows:

            The Greek Septuagint omits one author mentioned in

            the Hebrew, and one Greek manuscript or another adds

            the author's name in about 20 cases. Most of this

            testimony of the variations of the manuscripts of the

            Septuagint from the Hebrew is rendered doubtful by

            the fact that one or more of the ancient versions

            from the Septuagint are found in almost every case

            to differ from the Greek original as preserved in B

            and A and to agree with the Hebrew original.2

            This seems to suggest as Pietersma has shown that

there are many inner-Greek additions to the titles of

Rahlfs editions of the LXX which almost certainly do not

rest on a Hebrew Vorlage.3 The fact that in some cases there

is near unanimous manuscript witness for these extra--MT

titles "may mean no more than that the ever expanding Davidic

tradition totally eclipsed all other witnesses."4

            Kooij, meanwhile, attributes at least some of the

extra-MT titles to the influence of a Palestinian origin of

the LXX Psalter. Thus, he seems to imply that the additions

were original with the translators themselves or taken from

liturgical notations which had been added to the Hebrew


            1For a complete listing of all the variations in the

various LXX manuscripts and secondary versions see Wilson,

"The Headings of the Psalms," pp. 380-89.

            2Ibid., p. 391.

            3Albert Pietersma, "David in the Greek Psalms," VT

30 (April 1980): 225-26.

            4Ibid., p. 219.



            Having responded briefly to the problems raised by

the LXX psalm titles a word needs to be said concerning

their value. As DeWette has pointed out in response to

those who argue against the genuineness of the titles on the

basis of the LXX, the titles were translated by the LXX

translators.2 That means then that their existence goes

back well before the second century B.C. when the Psalter

was translated into Greek. Furthermore, in looking at some

of the nonsensical translations of some titles, it appears

that the translators respected the titles enough as part of

the various psalms that rather than omitting them it was

better to at least attempt to translate them.


The Aramaic Targum

            Wilson has also done an extensive study of the var-

ious editions of the Targums. He concludes that the Hebrew

text they used for their translation of the headings must

have been the same one that is available today.3 He also

notes that the translators must have had a great reverence

for the text of the titles because of the "ludicrous"


            1Arie Van Der Kooij, "On the Place of origin of the

Old Greek of Psalms," VT 33 (January 1983):73-74.

            2DeWette, "Introduction to the Psalms," trans. J.

Torrey, The Biblical Repository 3 (July 1833):468-69.

            3Wilson, "The Headings of the Psalms," p. 373.


results of their efforts to be accurate in the translation.1


The Syriac Peshitto

            It is in the Syriac Peshitto that a significant

variation of the psalm titles occurs. Bloemendaal points

out that in the manuscripts and printed editions of the

Peshitto the psalms are "either without titles or have ti-

tles which differ completely from those in the Hebrew and

Greek texts."2 It appears that the original translators may

have left them out and that they were subsequently replaced

by others. No one knows for sure why they were left out


            Wilson suggests that it was because of the influence

of the school of Antioch represented by Theodore of Mop-

suestia and Theodoret that the Peshitto departed from the

Hebrew text in the case of the psalm titles.3 He then goes

on to cite several passages from the writings of both of

these men to show that the titles were present in both the

Hebrew and Greek texts of their day and should not be ig-

nored.4 Wilson's conclusion, then, is that the headings

were omitted for liturgical, dogmatic, or utilitarian



            2William Bloemendaal, The Headings of the Psalms in

the East Syriac Church (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1960), p. 1.

            3Wilson, "The Headings of the Psalms," p. 377;

Bloemendall, The Headings of the Psalms, p. 12, agrees with

this view.

            4Wilson, "The Headings of the Psalms," pp. 377-79.


reasons and replaced by other headings considered to be more


            It is thus, unfair to use the Syriac Peshitto as an

argument against the antiquity of the titles. Nor is there

any real proof that the Hebrew text from which the transla-

tion was made did not contain the titles.

            In addition to the above versions, Wilson has eval-

uated the Greek versions of Aquila, Symmachus and Teodotian

from the second century, and Jerome's Latin translation

from the late fourth century.2 He has found that they al-

ways agree with the Hebrew in the titles except in one case

in Symmachus and Theodotian.3

            The predominate agreement of the ancient Hebrew manu-

scripts and ancient versions of the Psalter with regards to

the titles is a strong argument in favor of the antiquity

and genuineness of the titles. From the second century B.C.

on, all the evidence shows a genuine respect for the titles

as an integral part of the Psalter text.


                  Linguistic Evidence for their Antiquity

            Another convincing argument for attributing an early

date to the psalm titles--perhaps even pre-exilic times--is

the difficulty which the early translators had in translating


            1Ibid., pp. 379-80.

            2Ibid., pp. 373-75.

            3Ibid., pp. 390-91.


some of the terms. It appears that by the time the LXX was

translated in the second or third century B.C. the meaning

of some of the terms had already become obscure, indicating

a lengthy period of disuse in order for them to be forgotten.

            A prime example of this phenomena is found in the

early translations of the term Hacenam;la which occurs fifty-

five times in the titles. Today it is generally understood

to mean "for the director of music" (NIV), based upon the

usage of the root HcAnA in the Chronicler.1 However, in the

LXX version of the titles it is translated ei]j to> te<loj,

"unto the end" or "forever," as if it were Hcan,lA. Mean-

while in Habakkuk 3:19 the LXX translates Hacenam;la as tou?


            A quick look at some of the other ancient versions

shows that the confusion over the meaning of Hacenam;la was not

just a local problem to the translators in Alexandria. The

Targums give the translation xHbwl, "to praise." Aquilla

Symmachus, Theodotian and Jerome read t&? nikopoi&?, "to

the conquest-maker;" e]pini<kioj, "of victory;" ei]j to<

ni?koj, "for the victory;" and victory, "victor" respec-

tively.2 In each case the translators attempted to render


            1Mowinckel would disagree with this interpretation.

In The Psalms in Israel's Worship, 2:212, he takes it to

mean "for the merciful disposition (of Yahweh)" or "to dis-

pose (Yahweh) to mercy" as if the psalm was designed to

propitiate Yahweh.

            2B. D. Eerdmans, The Hebrew Book of Psalms, OTS

4 (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1947), p. 54.


as near as possible a literal translation of the title; but

because the word had gone into disuse years before, the

meaning had been lost.

            Besides the term Hacenam;la there are several other

liturgical and literary features given in the titles whose

meanings have been lost. In some cases their meaning is

still a matter of conjecture even as they were in the time

of the early translations.

            As to when or how the meanings were lost it is

impossible to say for sure. Eerdmans has suggested that

following the exile (during which the temple singers could

not practice, Ps. 137:4) when the musicians returned to Jeru-

salem they had to seek other work and even though there was

a brief revival of the temple music under Ezra it did not

last. Thus, the liturgical use of the psalms as it was prac-

ticed in the first temple never really took hold and the

meanings of several technical terms were lost.1

            The antiquity of the titles is also supported by the

fact that the language of the titles reflects the early

Hebrew writings rather than late. It would be expected that

if the titles were late additions they might use words bor-

rowed from Aramaic or Greek such as the terms for musical

instruments in Daniel 3.2 Yet in the titles a large pro-

portion of the words are not found in later Hebrew or in any


            1Ibid., pp. 46-48.

            2John F. A. Sawyer, "An Analysis of the Context and

Meaning of the Psalm-Headings," Transactions of the Glasglow

University Oriental Society 22 (1967-1968):26.


Aramaic dialect.1 According to Wilson's Analysis, "the

roots of many of these words have closer analogies in Baby-

lonian than in any other language.”2

            The linguistical evidence would thus seem to suggest

that the origin of these titles must go back at least to the

time of Ezra and very possibly much earlier. If this is the

case it is very probable that they were a part of the pro-

phetic tradition and therefore have rightfully been preserv-

ed in the Biblical text.


                 Literary Evidence for Their Antiquity

            It is well-known by Biblical scholars that the Old

Testament was not written in a vacuum. While it is true

that the theology of the Hebrews was unique, their writing

style and expressions were often analogous to that of their

ancient Near Eastern neighbors. Such an analogy can be seen

in the case of the psalm titles. Thirtle mentions that tab-

lets and cylinders have been found from Mesopotamia contain-

ing hymns and prayers with both superscriptions and subscrip-

tions: the superscriptions giving the author and the sub-

script lines intimating that the document was a temple copy

of a state original.3


            1R. D. Wilson, A Scientific Investigation of the Old

Testament, revised by Edward J. Young (Chicago: Moody Press,

1959), p. 154.


            3James William Thirtle, Old Testament Problems

(London: Henry Frowde, 1907), p. 83.


            In addition to these pieces of comparative litera-

ture from without, there are also both Biblical and non-Bib-

lical compositions from within Israel. Together they show

that the practice of attaching either a heading or a colo-

phon to a piece of literature was in vogue in pre-exilic

times at the time the various psalms were composed or earlier.


                                Biblical Examples

            The best-known Biblical example (if such a title out-

side the Psalter comes from 2 Samuel 22:1. Here the narra-

tive introduces the following psalm attributing it to David

at the time when Yahweh delivered him from the hand of all

his enemies and from the hand of Saul. This is significant

because the psalm which follows is also recorded as Psalm 18

in the Psalter with essentially the same title. The only

difference is that in Psalm 18 the style is characteristi-

cally "title style" (. . . dvidAl; hvAhy; db,f,l; HacEnam;la), whereas

in 2 Samuel 22 it is narrative style (dveDA rBeday;va. . . hOAhyla).

The Samuel Text then confirms the validity of the Psalm 18

title as well as sets a precedent for identifying the

author and occasion of such writings as being pre-exilic.

            From the Pentateuch written in the fifteenth century

B.C. comes the example of Moses' song in Exodus 15:1 and

Miriam's song in Exodus 15:21. In both instances the author

or singers are identified. Further examples from the books

of Samuel include Hannah's prayer (1 Sam. 2:1) which is set

in poetic form, and David's lament from 2 Samuel 1.

            There are also two key examples from the seventh and


eighth century prophets Habakkuk and Isaiah. In Isaiah 38:9,

Isaiah introduces the psalm of Hezekiah with these words

which are in characteristic "title style," –jl,m, UhyA.qiz;hil; bTAk;mi

Oyl;HAme yHiy;v OtloHEBa hdAUhy;. Then in Habakkuk 3 both a superscrip-

tion and a colophon are given to Habakkuk's prayer. The

superscription reads: tOnyog;wi lfa xybinA.ha qUq.baHEla hl.ApT;; and the

colophon:  ytAOnygin;Bi HacE.nam;la.

            After studying the above examples in relation to the

psalm titles, Tur-Sinai came to the conclusion that the

psalms were originally part of an historical narrative.

Consequently, the psalm titles merely represent a portion of

that narrative. This would imply then to him that there is

an element of truth in the psalm titles, though in some

cases the psalms attributed to David may just be poetical

enlargements of David's sayings.1 Such a theory is very un-

likely to be proven true, but the psalms set in the narra-

tives of Scripture with appropriate titles or introductions

do establish the fact that other Biblical psalms from pre-

exilic times had comparable titles.


                              A Hebrew Inscription

            In addition to the Biblical examples of superscrip-

tions outside the Psalter there has recently been discovered

at Khirbet el Qom an inscription in one of the tombs which

contains both a superscription and a colophon to what is


            1N. H. Tur-Sinai, "The Literary Character of the

Book of Psalms," OTS 8 (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1950), p. 265.


believed to be a prayer either by or for the man buried

there.1 According to Miller this inscription comes from "the

same social, historical, and geographical setting out of which

came many of the Psalms, i.e., Judah during the time of the

Divided Monarchy and the Exile."2 The transliteration and

translation of the text given by Miller is as follows:

            1. (1) 'ryhw  h‘sr ktbh

            2. brk ’ryhw lyhwh

            3. wmsryh 1’ srth / hws‘ / lh

            4. 1’ nyhw

            5.                                 wl’ srth

            6.                                             r h


            1. (for) Uriyahu the rich: his inscription. (Or:

                 has written it)

            2. Blessed is Uriyahu by Yahweh;

            3. Yea from his adversaries by his asherah he has

                 saved him.

            4. (Written) by Oniyahu

            5.                                             (. . . ?) and by his asherah.3

            The title or first line of the inscription gives

presumably the owner or author of the inscription who is

identified as "Uriyahu the rich." The colophon at the end

then identifies Oniyahu as the one who cut the inscription

and possibly composed it. The parallels with the psalm ti-

tles are self-evident.


                        Ancient Near Eastern Parallels

            Several of the Sumerian psalms from the time of

Hammurabi have been found which contain subscriptions.


            1Patrick D. Miller, "Psalms and Inscriptions,"

Congress Volume VTSup 32 (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1957),

pp. 315-19.

            2Ibid., pp. 311-12.

            3Ibid., p. 317.


These subscriptions give at times the author, purpose, god

addressed, tune, musical instruments, and other notes simi-

lar to those found in the Psalter.1 There are even techni-

cal classifications of psalms in these colophons such as

balbale, adab, tigi, and sagarru whose meanings are unknown

today.2 These classifications are comparable to the Hebrew

Miktam, Maskil and Shiggion.

            In the liturgical hymn to Sin the colophon gives

some liturgical instructions identifying the melody and in-

strument by which it was to be accompanied. Langdon gives

the following translation:  “It is a sagar melody. Sung on

the flute to Sin.”3 In a liturgy to Enlil the colophon

reads: "A prayer for the brick walls of Ekur, that it re-

turn to its place. A Song of Supplication."4 Here the

purpose of the hymn is given. An example of one which iden-

tifies the author is the colophon from another hymn to Enlil

which reads in part: "Copy from Barsippa, according to its  

original, written and collated. Tablet of Beliksur son of

Belishkunni son of Iddin-Papsukkal worshipper of Nebo."5


            1Wilson, A Scientific Investigation, p. 141.

            2Kitchen, "The OT in Its Context," p. 12.

            3Stephen Langdon, Sumerian Liturgies and Psalms

(Philadelphia: Published by The University Museum, 1919),

p. 279.

            4Ibid., p. 308.

            5Ibid., p. 329. For further examples of colophons

in Sumerian literature see James B. Pritchard, ed., Ancient

Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, 3rd ed.

with supplement (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University

Press, 1969), pp. 496, 637-45, 579-82.


While the latter may be a librarian's note, it nevertheless

shows the desire of the ancients to preserve such informa-

tion in the form of notes either at the beginning or end of

the psalm.

            Several of the Egyptian hymns and prayers from the

second millennium B.C. also contain such information as

author, god addressed and occasion.1 This information is

usually contained in an introductory statement which in some

cases is rather lengthy. They are not really comparable to

the psalm titles except for the fact that these Egyptian

hymns do sometimes have the author identified and/or the


            The analogy has also been drawn by Sawyer between

the psalm titles and the Akkadian ritual texts dating from

the third century B.C. He notes that these ritual text:

contain a combination of some or all of the following


            the cultic occasion when the composition is to be


            the official appointed to utter it;

            the type of composition (prayer, incantation, lamen-


            the title of the composition;

            the instrument(s) to accompany it;

            the mode of utterance (singing, reciting).2

While all of these elements (except for the last) are found

in the psalm titles, it may be significant that there is no

indication of author or historical background in the


            1Ibid., pp. 365-81.

            2Sawyer, "An Analysis of the Psalm-Headings," pp.




Akkadian texts. Sawyer suggests that this might be because

these two elements belong to a non-cultic background.1

            It should also be noted with regard to this analogy

that some of these texts were copied from older Babylonian

texts.2 Consequently, the analogy should not be taken to

imply a late date for the psalm titles.

            In addition to the presence of titles and colophons

in the psalms of other ancient Near Eastern peoples as far

back as the third millennium B.C. there is also ample evi-

dence for the need of such notes. Sarna points out that as

early as the third millennium B.C. professional singers and

musicians were a part of the temple personnel in both

Mesopotamia and egypt.3 All of these analogies at least

show the possibility that the psalm titles could come from

the period of David.

            It appears from the evidence thus far presented that

the psalm titles are indeed very old. There is no evidence

from the standpoint of textual criticism which goes back to

the second or third century B.C. that there was ever a time

when they were not considered a part of the text of Scrip-

ture. The nonsensical translations of certain words in the


            1Ibid., p. 29.

            2Pritchard, ANET, p. 334. For the full text of

these see pp. 331-45.

            3N. M. Sarna, "The Psalm Superscriptions and the

Guilds," in Studies in Jewish Religions and Intellectual

History, ed. Siegfried Stein and Raphael Loewe (Alabama:

University of Alabama, 1979), p. 287.



titles of the LXX would indicate that at the time of trans-

lation they were already "hoary with age." Furthermore, the

analogy from other writings both Biblical and non-Biblical

shows that the use of titles or colophons to give the type

of information contained in the titles was certainly not un-

known in the time when the psalms were written.

            While age alone does not guarantee that the titles

are authentic, it, certainly increases the possibility. A

careful study of the titles themselves in the context of the

Biblical revelation will determine whether or not they are

credible witnesses of all that they claim.







                                 CHAPTER III




            The principle reason for rejecting the psalm titles

among the critics of the old critical school was that the

titles attributed many psalms to David. According to their

theory of the development of religion, David was a man of

his age--primitive both ethically and morally--and therefore,

unable to write the kind of material found in the Davidic

Psalms.1 As Driver writes concerning these psalms "they

express an intensity of religious devotion, a depth of spir-

itual insight, and a maturity of theological reflection, be-

yond what we should expect from David or David's age."2

            However, with the discovery of both the Dead Sea

Scrolls and a fully developed hymnody with similar vocabu-

lary and form which was in vogue in David's time, this atti-

tude toward the psalm titles has changed. The trend in many

cases has been to retain the titles as they are but to re-

interpret them, at least in the matter of authorship. Thus,

it will be necessary in discussing the credibility of the

titles to establish first of all the meaning of the terms


            1Smith, The Psalms Translated, pp. 243-45.

            2Driver, An Introduction to the Old Testament, p.




which have traditionally been interpreted as designations of

authors. Once it has been established that these terms are

designations of authorship, a defense of their credibility

and that of the accompanying historical notices will be



          The Designation of Authorship in the Titles

            In the Massoretic Psalter there are a total of one

hundred psalms which are ascribed to authors by prefixing

the authors' names with the preposition l;. Seventy-three

of these are attributed to David, twelve to Asaph, eleven to

the Sons of Korah (including Psalm 88, which is also ascrib-

ed to Heman the Ezrahite), two to Solomon, and one each to

Moses and Ethan the Ezrahite.


                     Problems Relating to Interpretation

            One of the major problems in understanding the psalm

titles is the ambiguity of the terms which are used espe-

cially as it relates to the designation of authorship.

First of all there is the problem of how the l; which pre-

fixes a personal name is to be understood. Then, closely

associated with that is the question concerning the meaning

attached to the proper names.


The Usage of l;

            Since there are several different usages of the

preposition l;, its meaning must ultimately be determined by

context. Unfortunately with many of the psalm titles there


is not sufficient context to determine the meaning. The re-

sult is that many different views have arisen concerning its

meaning in the psalm titles.



            In some instances the preposition l; prefixed to a

personal name denotes possession and can be translated,

"belonging to."1 This usage is not only found in Scripture,

but is also quite common in seal inscriptions. Several of

these seals have been found in Palestine dating in the pre-

exilic period.2 For the most part they contain the owner's

inscribed design with his name prefixed by l indicating that

he is the owner of the seal. Thus, in some cases at least,

when the construction l; prefixed to a personal name stood

alone it denoted possession.



            The dative usage of l; translated "to" or "for" is

the most common in Biblical Hebrew.3 This is the usage

which the cult-functional school of interpretation applied

to the psalm titles. Mowinckel the leading scholar in that


            1BDB, p. 513.

            2Examples of these seal inscriptions can be found in

N. Avigad, "The Priest of Dor," IEJ 25 (1975):101; Carl

Graesser Jr., "'The Seal of Elijah," BASOR 220 (December

1975):63-66; Herbert G. May, "Seal of Elamar," AJSL 52

(1936):197; and M. Heltzer, "Some North-west Semitic

Epigraphic Gleanings from the XI-VI Centuries b.C.,"

Institute Universitario Orientale 31 (1971):183-92.

            3BDB, pp. 510-11.


regard says that dvidAl; means "for David" indicating that

the psalm was composed and designed for the Davidic king to

use in the festival cult as he represented the people.1

            The preposition l; is used this way in the titles in

some instances (Hace.nam;la ) but not with the personal names.

In fact its usage in this way with Hac.enam;la occurring in the

same titles as dvedAl;, JsAxAl; or Hraqo-yneb;l; helps to rule

out the possibility of the dative sense for l; with a proper

name in the titles.

            In a slightly different mode of thought Terrien

opting for the dative usage of l; suggests that dvidAl;  

should be taken to mean "Psalm dedicated to David," or

"Psalm written in the name of David."2 This view has re-

ceived little attention and finds no support in the psalms


            The dative sense of l; is also used in the LXX which

consistently translates dvidAl;, t&? Dauid in the Psalm

titles. However, Pietersma has pointed out that in the pro-

cess of textual transmission t&? Dauid was frequently

changed to tou? Dauid with the apparent purpose of clar-

ifying Davidic authorship.3 The usage of the dative in the

LXX is probably best explained by the efforts of the


            1Mowinckel, The Psalms in Israel's Worship, 2:98.

            2Samuel Terrien, The Psalms and Their Meaning for

Today (Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1952), p. 32.

            3Pietersma, "David in the Greek Psalms," p. 225.


translators to give a literal translation.


Subject or Serial.

            A third possible usage of l; in the titles finds

support from the notes which appear at the top of the clay

tablets from Ugarit. Some of these tablets which contain

epic poems have the name of the hero prefixed by the Ugarit-

ic preposition which is equivalent to l; (1-Aqht, 1-Krt and

1-B’l). In some cases the hero is a god (Baal) so it cannot

be an indication of authorship. Most likely it is designed

to identify the subject and should be translated "concerning

Aqhat," or “pertaining to Aqhat.”1 Another possibility sug-

gested by Sabourin is that these headings indicate the

"cycle" or literary serial to which the compositions are


            The possibility that the l; may denote the subject

of the psalm may be ruled out in that it does not fit many

of the psalms in which the only subject is Yahweh. There is

the possibility, however, that the l; could indicate the

literary serial or collection from which the psalm was taken.

If this is the case, however, the basis for the psalm being

in that collection is easier explained in terms of author-

ship rather than subject or function as would be the case at



            1Kitchen, "The OT in Its Context," p. 13.

            2Sabourin, The Psalms, p. 14.


                      Genitive of Authorship

            The most widely held view of the usage of l; in the

Psalm titles down through the years has been that it is a

lamed auctoris. Gesenius supports this meaning in the psalm

titles by noting that in other semitic dialects, especially

Arabic, this is a customary idiom.1

            That this is a possible meaning for l; can also be

seen from the use of l; in Ugaritic where both B; and l; can

mean "from" or "by."2 Normally, in Hebrew, one would expect

to find the preposition -Nmi when the sense of "by" or "from"

is intended. However, in Ugaritic (a predecessor of the

Hebrew language) the preposition -Nmi was unknown. Either

B; or l; was used instead. Thus, even after -Nmi was intro-

duced into Biblical Hebrew the prepositions B; and l; con-

tinued in many cases to retain the meaning "from."3

            The genitive use of l; in the psalm titles is well-

attested among scholars but many are reluctant to call it a

genitive of authorship. Holladay for instance, simply

refers to it as a genitive of relationship similar to its

usage in I Kings 5:15 (Heb.) where Hiram is called a friend


            1William Gesenius, Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar, ed. and

enlarged by E. Kautzsch. 2nd English ed. revised from the

28th German ed. by A. E. Cowley (Oxford: The Clarendon

Press, 1910), par. 129.

            2Cyrus H. Gordon, Ugaritic Textbook in Analecta

Orientalia 38 (Rome: Pontificium Institutum Biblicum, 1965),

p. 42.

            3Sabourin, The Psalms, p. 14.



of David (dvidAl; MrAyhi hyAhA bhexo).1 Various interpretations

have consequently arisen concerning the meaning of such ex-

pressions as dvidAl; and JsAxAl; based upon different inter-

pretations of the proper name.

            While it is true that each independent usage of l;

with a personal name in the titles cannot be proven to be a

reference to authorship, it can be shown that at least some

of them do. It is only logical then to assume that with the

consistency with which l; is used with personal names in the

titles that the same meaning should be attached in each case

unless there is sufficient proof to the contrary.

            The usage of the lamed auctoris is found in two in-

stances outside the Book of Psalms which are not questioned.

In Isaiah 38 the psalm of Hezekiah is introduced as bTAk;mi

Uhy.Aqiz;hil;, "the writing of Hezekiah." In this case the context

clearly indicates that Hezekiah was the author. Likewise

Habbakuk 3:1 introduces a prayer which is authored by Habba-

kuk with the words xybinAha qUq.BahEla hlApiT;, "a prayer of Habbakuk

the prophet."

            Assuming that each part of a psalm title was written

at the same time, the historical occasions connected with  

thirteen Davidic psalms show that the l; was intended to

indicate authorship. In fact two of these historical notes

claim that David sang or spoke the words of the psalm on a


            1William L. Holladay, A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic

Lexicon of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans

Publishing Co., 1971), p. 169.



given occasion (Psalms 7 and 18). The clear implication is

that whoever wrote these historical notices understood  dvidAl;

to indicate authorship.

            Additional proof for this meaning is supplied by the

colophon at the end of Book II (Ps. 72:20). Here it is

stated that the prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended.

This colophon follows the benediction of Psalm 72:18-19 which

concludes Book II of the Psalter. Thus, the colophon has

been understood to refer to all of the psalms in Books I

and II. This raises some additional problems especially

since the last psalm in Book II--Psalm 72 is given the title

hmolow;li. There are also some psalms in this part of the

Psalter attributed to the sons of Korah and Asaph. The ma-

jority of them however, are designated dvidAl; and would fit

the general description of "the prayers of David son of


            One other example in which l; refers to the author

may be found in the inscription from Khirbet el Qom (see

above p. 32). The fourth line, according to Miller, is part

of a colophon referring to the scribe or author of the in-

scription using the phrase l'nyhw, "by Oniyahu."1 There is

also the possibility that a l stood before the initial name

Uriyahu and that he may have been the author since it is

identified as his inscription.2 Certainly there is ample


            1Miller, "Psalms and Inscriptions," p. 315.




evidence to show that the lamed auctoris is a valid possibil-

ity in the psalms and that the l; with a personal name was

intended at least in some instances to identify the author.


The Usage of Proper Names

            Along with the multiplicity of meanings attributed

to the l; have come several different interpretations of the

names contained in the titles. For instance dvidAl; has been

interpreted as David the son of Jesse, the Davidic king, or

the Davidic collection. Likewise, the names Asaph and the

sons of Korah have been understood as the names of musical

guilds rather than the individuals. The rest of the names

(Moses, Solomon, Heman and Ethan) have for the most part

been accepted at face value.



            Davidic King. One of the views concerning dviDA as

it occurs in the titles is that it refers to the Davidic

king--not necessarily David himself but any king from the

house of David.1 This understanding of David is based in

part upon some of the prophetic references in Hosea,

Jeremiah and Ezekiel2 in which the prophets anticipate the

time when the people of Israel will once again "serve the


            1Weiser, The Psalms, p. 96; Mowinckel, The Psalms

in Israel's Worship, 2:98.

            2Hos. 3:5; Jer. 30:9; Ezek. 34:23; 37:24.



their God and David their king."1 However, the prophetic

passages refer specifically to the Messiah not just any

Davidic king.

            Commander. A somewhat similar view of the meaning

of dvidA based upon the Mari texts is to translate it as

"commander."2 In the Mari texts the word dawidum at first

was interpreted as "general" or "commander," but as Kitchen

points out it was later discovered that dawidum was actually

linked to the Babylonian word dabdum meaning "defeat."3

Needless to say the view is no longer held by any reputable


            Davidic Collection. A view that is generally ac-

capted by modern scholars is that dvidAl; refers to the col-

lection of psalms from which these psalms were taken. It is

presumed that the collection may have had dvidA or dvidAl; as

the title for the entire collection. Such a theory does not

rule out the possibility that some or all of the seventy-

three Davidic psalms may have been authored by David, but in

many cases this view is adopted as an alternative to author-

ship for some psalms.4


            1A. A. Anderson, The Book of Psalms, vol. 1 in New

Century Bible (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing

Co. Inc., 1972), p. 44.


            3K. A. Kitchen, Ancient orient and Old Testament

(Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1966), pp. 84-


            4This is evident in Oesterley's discussion of dvidAl;.

W. 0. E. Oesterley, The Psalms (London: S. P. C. K., 1953),

p. 10.



            The fact that this theory cannot be completely re-

jected is apparent from the corresponding use of Hraqo-yneb;li.

It is unrealistic to assume that each of the psalms so des-

ignated were collectively authored by Korah's sons. The

title is better taken to mean that these psalms originated

among the sons of Korah and belonged to a collection by that

name.1  Even if dvidAl; is taken to be a reference to the

collection by that title it must ultimately indicate that

David authored the psalms in that collection.

            King David. The view that King David was the author

of these psalms finds ample support in the rest of Scrip-

ture. In the historical books David is pictured as a man

with great musical ability. Second Samuel 23:1 labels him

as the "sweet psalmist of Israel." He was chosen to play

his harp before King Saul because of his expertise in that

area (1 Sam. 16:16-23). Some of his compositions are even

recorded in the historical narrative of 2 Samuel and 1 Chron-

icles (2 Sam. 1:17-27; 3:33-34; 22:1-51; 23:1-7; 1 Chr. 16:7-

36; 29:10-13). In fact the psalln attributed to David in

1 Samuel 22 is the same one attributed to him in Psalm 18.

It is also ironic that Psalm 95 and parts of Psalms 105 and

106 are contained in the composition attributed to David in

1 Chronicles 16, yet, none of them have titles identifying

them as Davidic. Certainly if the titles were the work of

later editors they would not have missed the obvious.


            1Bullock, An Introduction to Poetic Books, p. 125.


            David also indicates in 2 Samuel 23:1-2 that he had

received a special annointing from God to sing and proclaim

God's Word in song. This fact is confirmed by the NT words

of Jesus and the apostles. The following list shows the

number of places in the NT where parts of a psalm are quoted

and in the context David is identified as the author.

            Psalm 2--Acts 4:25-26

            Psalm 16--Acts 2:25-28

            Psalm 32--Romans 4:6.8

            Psalm 69--Acts 1:16-20; Romans 11:9-10

            Psalm 95--Hebrews 4:7

            Psalm 109--Acts 1:20

            Psalm 110---Matthew 22:44; Mark 12:36-37; Luke 20:42-44;

                                  Acts 2:34

In all but two instances (Psalms 2 and 95) the titles of

those psalms contain dvidAl;, indicating that Christ and the

apostles understood it to be an indication of David's author-

ship and affirmed that assertion to be true.

            The other two psalms which the NT attributes to

David are anonymous in the Hebrew Bible.1 Some have taken

this to be an indication that the NT writers were simply

following the view of their contemporaries that David was

the author of the entire Psalter.2 In response to this


            1It should be noted that the LXX, which the writer

of Hebrews uses, does attribute Psalm 95 to David and in

some manuscripts of the LXX Psalm 2 is also attributed to

him. The inspired witness of the NT writers would indicate

that at least some of the additional titles found in the LXX

are based upon an authentic tradition.

            2Briggs, Commentary on Psalms, pp. lv-lvi; Josephus

considered David the author of the entire Psalter--Flavius

Josephus, The Works Flavius Josephus, trans. William

Whiston, vol. 2: Antiquities of the Jews I-VII (Grand

Rapids: Baker Book House, 1974), pp. 465-66.


Payne has pointed out that no psalm which claims other

authorship, or contains later historical allusions (e.g. Ps.

137) is ever attributed in Scripture to King David.1 This

is noteworthy in light of the fact that there are over sixty

psalms quoted or alluded to in the NT.

            Whether the intent of the writer who placed the ti-

tles at the head of the psalms was to indicate author or

collection the ultimate conclusion, based on the rest of the

Biblical evidence is that the psalms so designated were

authored by King David.


The Levitical Musicians

            While David is the most prominent author listed in

the psalm titles, the Levitical musicians also made a sig-

nificant contribution to the Psalter. According to the ti-

tles; twelve psalms are assigned to Asaph, eleven to the

sons of Korah, and one each to Heman and Ethan. As was the

case with dvidAl; there is considerable disagreement over

whom or what the names are intended to designate.

            The individuals named in these titles are generally

understood to be contemporaries of King David. According to

the Chronicler; Asaph, Heman and Ethan were assigned by

David as the leaders of music in the house of the Lord

(1 Chr. 6:31-46; 15:16-19; 16:31-42; 25:1-8), and the sons

of Korah were assigned to be gatekeepers (1 Chr. 9:17-19;


            1Payne, "Psalms, Book of," p. 927.



26:1-19). While it is true that in some cases the psalms

fit well the time and character of David's contemporaries,

it is also true that there are some glaring anachronisms

which have caused some like Perowne to discount the possi-

bility of all the titles being trustworthy.1

            These anachronisms have led other scholars to the

conclusion that these names do not refer to individuals but

rather to musical guilds named after the prominent leaders

from David's day. These guilds which were a common feature

of both secular and religious society in the ancient Near

East often followed a familial pattern of organization.

Sarna points out that it was not uncommon for certain skills

to stay in the same family generation after generation.2

            Evidence for such family guilds is found in the

Chronicler and the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. According to

1 Chronicles 25, David together with the commanders of the

army set apart some of the sons of Asaph, Heman and Jeduthun

for the ministry of prophesying, accompanied by harps, lyres

and cymbals. The sons who were appointed were under the

supervision of their respective fathers. In the case of

Asaph's descendants at least, this skill and responsibility

remained in the family clear up until the time of Ezra (Ezra

2:41; 3:10; Neh. 11:17, 22; 12:35, 46).

            However, there are some problems with simply


            1Perowne, The Book of Psalms, 1:96-97.

            2Sarna, "The Psalms Superscriptions," p. 287.


interpreting JsAxAl; as a reference to the guild named after

Asaph. Other suggestions have been given as to the inter-

pretation of JsAxAl; as well as the other titles in this


            Asaph. It is in these Asaphite psalms that the

anachronisms are most evident if David's contemporary Asaph

is taken to be the author. For example, both Psalms 74 and

79 are psalms of lament over the complete destruction of

Jerusalem and its sanctuary; an event which did not take

place until the destruction of 586 B.C. Likewise, Payne has

suggested that Psalm 83 is more suitable to the ministry of

the Asaphite Jahaziel in 825 B.C. than to David's contempo-

rary (cf. Ps. 83:5-7 and 2 Chro. 20:1, 2, 14).1

            If it is maintained that Asaph is the author of

these psalms, then they must be understood to be prophetic

psalms intended for use in the troublesome times that Asaph

foresaw by the Spirit of God. Spurgeon mentions this possi-

bility and sees no difficulty with it.2 In fact Asaph was

known as a seer (hz,Ho) who had recorded words suitable for

praise in the temple worship (2 Chr. 29:30). However, the

form is quite uncharacteristic of predictive prophecy else-

where in Scripture. The lament in both Psalms 74 and 79 is

from one who has personally experienced the disaster and not

just seen it from a distance.


            1Payne, "Psalms, Book of," p. 928.

            2Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, 2:272.


            Another possibility is that they were composed by

another Asaph at a much later date either during or after

the exile. Delitzsch points out that in Barhebraeus’

commentary on Job and in his Chronikon several traditions

are referred to "Asaph the Hebrew priest, the brother of

Ezra the writer of the Scriptures."1 Support for such a

tradition is still wanting.

            The view which is the most tenable, though not with-

out its problems, is that JsAxAl; indicates the family or

guild from which the psalm originated.2 Perowne rejects

this view because it makes the sons of Asaph guilty of lit-

erary imposture since JsAxAl; in a title would customarily

designate authorship.3 It may be further questioned in that

the post-exilic writers refer to the members of the Asaphite

family or guild as the JsAxA-yneB; (2 Chr. 35:15; Ezra 2:41;

3:10; Neh. 11:22). The question that is raised is this:

if the Korahite psalms are designated Hraqo-yneb;li in the

titles, why are not the Asaphite guild psalms designated in

a similar manner?

            The discrepancies between the titles and the post-

exilic writers in this regard may not be that significant,


            1F. Delitzsch, Psalms, vol. 1, trans. Francis Bolton

in Commentary on the old Testament, reprint ed. (Grand.

Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1975), p,. 12.

            2R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament

(Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1969),

p. 979.

            3Perowne, The Book of Psalms, 1:96-97.


for the Chronicler also differs from the psalm titles by

referring to the sons of Korah as Korahites rather than

Hraq-yneBi. In reality this is just another evidence that

neither the superscriptions or the Chronicler are dependent

upon each other. Sarna has carried this analysis one step

further to show that they both in turn contrast strongly with

the realities of the restoration period as recorded in Ezra

and Nehemiah. His conclusion is that "Psalms and Chronicles

must both represent genuine preexilic, if irreconcilable


            Another version of this view which associates the

Asaph psalms with the musical guild is that JsAxAl; designates

the Asaphite collection or repertoire of hymns from which the

psalm was taken. This collection may have been compiled and

named after Asaph with more psalms added by his descendants

in later years.2

            A similar view suggested by Briggs is that the Asaph

psalms were originally collected by an editor, not on the

basis of authorship or guild origin, but on the basis of

content and purpose.3 Indeed, the psalms do resemble each

other in character. Drijvers has characterized Asaph's

collection as "more didactic and historical with a strongly


            1Sarna, "The Psalm Superscriptions," pp. 285•-86.

            2A. Cohen, The Psalms in Soncino Books of the Bible

(London: The Soncino Press, 1969), p. 156.

            3Briggs, Commentary on Psalms, p. lxvi.


prophetic flavour."1 However, this could easily be

accounted for by unity of authorship or guild tradition.

Delitzsch attributes some but not all of these twelve psalms

to David's contemporary who according to Psalm 78:69 must

have lived until the early part of Solomon's reign. The

rest, he says, whether they were composed by Asaph's descen-

dants or someone else were added to Asaph's collection

because they are modeled after Asaph's psalms.2

            For the most part these are "educated guesses" based

upon the slightest amount of evidence. It must be admitted

that there are some real problems in simply interpreting

JsAxAl; as a single author from the time of David. The prob-

lem is best resolved by recognizing the solidarity of the

guild family in retaining the name of Asaph their founding


            Ethan and Heman. The identification of Heman and

Ethan whose names are given in the titles of Psalms 88 and

89 with the added designation "the Ezrahite" attached to

each poses some different problems. First of all there is

the problem of which Heman and Ethan is intended. Then

there is the added confusion caused by the double title of

Psalm 88. There both Hraqo-yneb;li and yHirAz;x,ha NmAyhel; appear in


            1Pius Drijvers, The Psalms, Their Structure and

Meaning (New York: Herder and Herder, 1965), p. 18.

            2Delitzsch, Psalms, 3:24.

            3This argument could also be used against actual

Davidic authorship except for the fact that there is no

evidence for a Davidic guild of musicians.


the title.

            If Hraqo-yneb;li appeared in the title with just NmAyhel;

there would be no problem since the Levite musician Heman

was a descendant of Korah (1 Chr. 6:33-37--Heb. vv. 18-22).

However, the added designation yHirAz;x,hA seems to link Heman

and Ethan to the great men of wisdom with whom Solomon was

compared in 1 Kings 4:31 (Heb. 5:11). The 1 Kings passage

lists these great men of wisdom as Ethan the Ezrahite, Heman,

Calcol and Darda, the sons of Mahol. The same four names

appear again in 1 Chronicles 2:6 as four of the five sons of

Zerah of the tribe of Judah. Delitzsch's conclusion from

this information is that the title of Psalm 88 contains two

different statements concerning the origin of the Psalm

which are irreconcilable.1

            In response to Delitzsch's conclusion it may first

of all be observed that the sons of Zerah (1 Chr. 2:6) of

the tribe of Judah lived in Egypt before the Exodus and need

not be the same men mentioned in 1 Kings. In fact the impli-

cation of the 1 Kings passage is that these wise men were

contemporaries of King Solomon. Secondly, the designation

"sons of Mahol" in 1 Kings 4:31 (Heb. 5:11) may actually

indicate membership in a musical guild. Albright interprets

it to mean "members of the orchestral guild" based on its

derivation from the root lUH. The meaning of lUH is much

like that of Greek o]rxe<omai, "to dance," from which the


            1Delitzsch, Psalms, 3:24.


English word "orchestra" comes.1 Norman, following a similar

thought suggests that it is "an appellative expression mean-

ing 'sons of the dance '"2 Thus, the possibility remains

open that the Heman and Ethan found in the titles and 1 Kings

may also be the musicians mentioned in the Chronicler.

            If this is true, the problem with the designation

"the Ezrahite" must be explained. Kidner assumes that it is

an equivalent of Zerahite, a clan of Judah (1 Chr. 2:6) and

that the clan adopted the Levites Heman and Ethan into their

membership.3 Albright rejects this identification with

Zerah and instead interprets it to mean "members of a pre-

Israelite family."4 This interpretation is derived from the

noun form hrAz;x, which means “a native,”5 and in Numbers 9:14

is distinguished from both the Israelite and the stranger.

            This meaning would suggest that both Heman and Ethan

were Canaanite proselytes who were adopted into the Levite

tribe so as to be able to use their musical abilities in the

worship of Yahweh. Wilson points out that there would be no

Scriptural reason against using Canaanite proselytes in the

musical guilds so long as they accepted the worship of the


            1Albright, Archaeology and Israel, pp. 127, 210.

            2The New Bible Dictionary, s.v. "Mahol," by J. G. G.


            3Derek Kidner, Psalms 1-72 in The Tyndale Old Testa-

ment Commentaries (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity

Press, 1973), p. 35.

            4Albright, Archaeology and Israel, pp. 127, 210.

            5BDB, p. 280.


true God, Jehovah.1

            Thus, it is best to understand the names Heman and

Ethan in the titles as David's musicians who were noted for

their wisdom in addition to their musical skills as leaders

of their respective guilds. The added ascription of

Hraqo-yneb;li in Psalm 88 may be an indication that Heman's

guild was named after Korah rather than himself.

            The designation NtAyxel; in Psalm 89 must be treated

in the same was as JsAxAl; (see above), since verses 28-51

describe conditions in Israel much later than Ethan's time.2

The other suggestion given by Kidner is that the psalm

originally ended with verse 37 and was composed by David's

contemporary Ethan.3

            The Sons of Korah. There are eleven psalms, includ-

ing Psalm 88 which are designated Hraqo-yneb;li by their


            1Clifford Wilson, "The Bible Was Right After All:

Part II--David and the Critics." Bible and Spade 1 (Spring

1972): 53-54.

            2In the book of 1 Chronicles the name Jeduthun

replaces Ethan after chapter 16, but both names evidently

belong to the same person (cf. 1 Chr. 6:31ff.; 15:17, 19

with 16:37-42; 25:lff.). The name Jeduthun also occurs in

the titles--twice with the preposition –lf (Pss. 62, 77) and

once as NUdyodyli in a Davidic Psalm (Ps. 3§). Herbert

Gordon May, "’ ‘AL. . .' in the Superscriptions of the

Psalms," AJSL 58 (January-October 1941): 83, suggests that it

may refer to the name of a melody rather than a person in

the titles. Nahum Sarna in Encyclopaedia Judaica, s.v.

"Psalms, Book of" suggests that it may be a musical instru-


            3Derek Kidner, Psalms 73-150 in The Tyndale Old

Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity

Press, 1973), p. 320.


titles. These include a personal lament (Ps. 88), two com-

munal laments (Pss. 44, 85), four songs of Zion (Pss. 46, 48,

84, 87), two secular-type wisdom psalms (Pss. 45, 49), an

enthronement of Yahweh psalm (Ps. 47), and personal psalms

relating to the Sanctuary (Pss. 42/43, 84).1 In the psalms

of the last category the author expresses his own personal

longing for or attachment to the temple. In fact,

Psalm 84:10 indicates that the author was a doorkeeper in

the house of the Lord.

            This then provides a vital clue to the identification

of the "sons of Korah." For in 1 Chronicles 26:1-19 some of

the Korahites (descendants of Korah) are appointed to be the

gatekeepers of the house of the Lord. This responsibility

remained with the family even after the return from the

Babylonian exile (1 Chr. 9:17-19; cf. Ezra 2:42; Neh. 7:45)

giving evidence of a distinctive group (guild) which per-

sisted for many generations. A part of their group may have

been involved in the musical aspect of worship as well, for

in 2 Chronicles 20:19 the Korahites are among the Levites

who stood up to praise the Lord in the days of Jehoshaphat.

Furthermore, it has; already been noted that the musical

guild leader Heman was also a descendant of Korah. This

may be an indication that the Hraqo-yneB; had double duty in the

priestly responsibilities of the temple, making them well


            1Martin J. Buss, "The Psalms of Asaph and Korah,"

JBL 82 (December 1963): 382-83.


qualified to compose the quality and type of psalms in this


            Another theory concerning the "sons of Korah" pro-

posed by Miller is that they were cultic leaders who lived in

the area of Hebron and supported the Zion cult and even made

occasional pilgrimages there during the period of the

Divided Kingdoms.1 The theory centers around the discovery

of an ostracon with the inscription Hrq ynb from Tel Arad.

This ostracon which was once part of a large bowl with the

names of several families or groups listed on it was found

in a royal, Yahwistic sanctuary in the ancient royal fortress

dating back to the period of the Divided Kingdom.2

            While it is possible that some Levite descendants of

Korah were assigned to the outpost of Arad and could have

written these psalms from there, there is no reason for

assuming as Miller does that the Korahites did not reside in

Jerusalem until the Chronicler's day. Nor is there any

valid reason for assuming that the Edomite (Gen. 36:16),

Calebite (1 Chr. 2:42-43), Benjaminite (1 Chr. 3.2:1-6), and

Levitical Korahites all represented “the same tribal group

which entered southern Palestine from the direction of Edom

and settled among the Calebites in the vicinity of Hebron.”3


            1J. Maxwell Miller, "The Korahites of Southern Judah,"

CBQ 32 (January 1970): 59, 66-67.

            2Ibid., p. 64.

            3Ibid., p. 67.


Such an assumption destroys the credibility of the geneo-

logical records of the Chronicler.

            The references within the Korahite psalms which

speak of the writers asspociation with the temple and in

particular the gatekeepers of the temple imply that the

"sons of Korah" were more than just the collectors of these

hymns. Rather these psalms were actually composed by one of

the descendants of the notorious Levite who rebelled against

Moses and Aaron.



            The meaning of hw,mol; has not been a major problem

in the area of interpretation since nearly all scholars

whether they agree with the title or not take it to be

attributing the authorship of Psalm 90 to Moses. For many

critics this is impossible and this psalm then is given as

a prime illustration of the unreliability of the titles.1  

Anderson calls this title "a late speculation" and concludes

that "this and similar ancient guesses imply that the head-

ings of the Psalms must not always be taken at their face


            Mowinckel's chief argument against Mosaic authorship

of Psalm 90 is that it does not reflect the primitive,

collective outlook of those ancient times when Israel was


            1Oesterley, The Psalms, p. 18.

            2Anderson, The Book of Psalms, p. 46.




ambitiously intent on conquest. To him the psalm is too

individualistic--concerned with the personal interests of a

community that knows it is under the wrath of God--rather

than looking forward to the fulfillment of God's promises to

the nation.1 However, the psalm is not written simply from

Israel's standpoint but from the viewpoint of mankind as a

whole standing before God.

            From the positive side, there are many similarities

between the language of the psalm and that of the Pentateuch

written by Moses. Green, who gives an exhaustive list of

these, points out that in many cases these coincidences are

too subtle to be the work of an imitator, but rather reflect

the operation of the same mind.2



            The identity of hmolow; in the titles of Psalm 72 and

127 is certainly understood to be King Solomon. The princi-

ple area of controversy is whether the hmolow;li in Psalm 72

should be translated "by Solomon" in the sense of authorship

or "for Solomon" in that Solomon seems to be the subject of

the prayer.

            That Solomon was well-qualified to write both of

these Psalms there is little doubt. First Kings 4:29-34


            1Mowinckel, The Psalms in Israel's Worship, 2:101-


            2Green, "The Titles of the Psalms," pp. 491-93; For

the answer to some other objections to Mosaic authorship see

Leupold, Exposition of the Psalms, pp. 641-43.


describes his great wisdom and says that he wrote as many as

a thousand and five songs. Psalm 127 especially befits

Solomon as a man of wisdom being written in the form of

wisdom literature like many of his other writings recorded

in the book of Proverbs.1 Psalm 72 on the other hand

reflects some of the experiences of Solomon's life--a pros-

perous reign, sovereignty over many nations, and receiving

gold from Sheba.

            Some have argued that Psalm 72 was not written by

Solomon but by someone else like David about Solomon. One

reason for this is that the prayer seems to have Solomon as

the subject, and it would be inappropriate for Solomon to

expect the people to use such a prayer prepared by himself

on behalf of himself.2 In response to this Leupold has

shown that the prayer could be Solomon's prayer for his son

or a prayer designed to instruct the people how to pray for

"the realization of the divinely appointed destiny of his

father's house."3 It may be compared to Solomon's prayer

in 1 Kings 3:6-9.

            Another reason for assigning this psalm to David

instead of Solomon is due to a misunderstanding of verse 20

which reads: "This concludes the prayers of David son of


            1Leupold, Exposition of the Psalms, pp. 890-91.

            2Ibid., p. 515.



Jesse." This statement was not a part of the original

psalm. Instead, it is a colophon which appears after the

doxology of Book II and summarizes the contents of Books I

and II of the Psalter. It was evidently added by the com-

piler or an editor. The note was designed to recognize

David as the chief author of these books; not the only

author, since there are also psalms by the sons of Korah and

one by Asaph besides this one by Solomon.1


                                  David as Author

            One of the most serious charges leveled against the

psalm titles is that they lack credibility in attributing 73

of the 150 psalms to David. As Davis has noted "the moral

character of Christ and the Apostles is at stake" if David

was not the author of at least the psalms attributed to him

in the New Testament (see above p. 48).2 In surveying the

views of scholars down through history David has always been

held in high esteem as a writer of psalms. It is only in

relatively recent history that Davidic authorship has been



Historical Views of David the Psalmist

            The earliest extra-Biblical references to David as

an author are found in the Apocryphal books of Ecclesiasticus


            1Ridner, Psalms 1-72, p. 254.

            2John J. Davis, "The Psalms, Studies in the Hebrew

Test" (Class Syllabus, Grace Theological Seminary, 1977),

p. 23.


and 2 Maccabees from the second century B.C. In Ecclesias-

ticus 47:7-11 David is described as a man of song and praise

who organized the musicians for temple worship.1 Second

Maccabees refers to "the works of David" as being among the

writings collected by Nehemiah when he founded a library

(2 Macc. 2:13).2

            The next reference is found in the prose insert in

column XXVII of the Psalms Scroll from Qumran Cave 4. The

pertinent lines of this insert are translated by Sanders as


            And david, the Son of Jesse, was wise, and a light

            like the light of the sun, and literate, and dis-

            cerning and perfect in all his ways before God and

            men. And the Lord gave him a discerning and enlight-

            ened spirit. And he wrote 3,600 psalms; and songs to

            sing before the altar over the whole-burnt perpetual

            offering every day, for all the days of the year, 364;

            and for the offering of the Sabbaths, 52 songs; and

            for the offering of the New Moons and for all the

            Solemn Assemblies and for the day of Atonement, 30

            songs. And all the songs that he composed were 446,

            and songs for making music over the stricken, 4. And

            prophecy which was given him from before the Most


            Whether or not this composition is based on a valid

tradition handed down from David's time or originated in the

Qumran community is impossible to say. However, it does

show that the Qumran community in the time of Christ thought


            1The Apocrypha, An American Translation, trans.

Edgar J. Goodspeed (New York: Random House, Inc., 1959),

pp. 317-18.

            2Ibid., p. 448.

            3Sanders, The Dead Sea Psalms Scroll, p. 137.



of David as the musical composer and author of many psalms.

            The Rabbinic writers for the most part assigned the

work of the Psalter to David though not necessarily the

authorship of every psalm. The second century A.D. Talmud

tract Baba Bathra (14b) states, "David wrote the Book of

Psalms with the aid of the ten ancients, with the aid of

Adam the first, Melchizedek, Abraham, Moses, Heman, Jeduthun,

Asaph, and the three sons of Korah,"1 Apparently David was

considered the author of some psalms, but the editor of the

entire Psalter.

            Very similar is the statement of the Midrash on the

Psalms from a latter date. On Psalm 1:2 is included the

statement that "as Moses gave five books of laws to Israel,

so David gave five books of Psalms to Israel."2 Then a

little later ten men are listed as authors of the Book of

Psalms; namely Adam, Melchizedek, Abraham, Moses, David,

Solomon, Asaph, and the three sons of Korah.3

            The opinions of several Jewish commentators between

the tenth and thirteenth centuries concerning the authorship

of the Psalms have been summarized by Neubauer and in each

case David is held to be the principle author of the


            1Briggs, Commentary on Psalms, p. liv.

            2William G. Braude, trans., The Midrash on Psalms,

2 vols., in Yale Judaica Series 13, ed. Leon Nemoy (New

Haven: Yale University Press, 1959), 1:5.

            3Ibid., 1:10.


Psalms.1 R. Saadyah Gaon (died 940) considered David the

author of all the Psalms and takes the other names as persons

responsible for singing them.2 Salmon ben Yeroham, Yepheth

ben Eli, Abraham ibn Ezra and David Qamhi (or Kimhi) all

accept multiple authorship according to the designations in

the titles.3

            It was also the view of some of the early Church

Fathers that David was the author of the whole Psalter.

Augustine for example considered the other names found in

the titles to be the individuals whom David, in composing

the Psalms, prophetically represented.4

            It was in the seventeenth century when Benedict

Spinoza began to expound the Second Temple provenance of the

Psalter that respect for Davidic authorship began to be

undermined. The final abandonment of Davidic authorship by

the higher critics came in the nineteenth century with the

rise of the critical-historical approach. At that time the


            1Ad Neubauer, "The Authorship and the Titles

According to Early Jewish Authorities," in vol. 2 of

Studia Biblica et Ecclesiastica, ed. S. R. Driver, et al.

(Oxford: at the Clarendon Press, 1890), pp. 10-28.

            2Ibid., pp. 1C-13.

            3Ibid., pp. 1P, 20-21, 25-27, 28; cf. David Kimhi,

The Commentary of Rabbi David Kimhi on Psalms CXX-CL,

ed. and trans. Joshua Baker and Ernest W. Nicholson

(Cambridge: at the University Press, 1973), p. 11.

            4Dewette, "Introduction to the Psalms," pp. 456-




Davidic authorship was almost completely abandoned.1 Since

then with the aid of some key archaeological discoveries and

the rise of the form-critical school it has been shown that

there is good reason for at least viewing many of the psalms

as pre-exilic and thus answering the key objection to

Davidic authorship.2


Objections to Davidic Authorship

            Five reasons are given by Driver as to why the

majority, at least, of the seventy-three psalms ascribed to

David cannot be his.3 His first objection is that many of

these psalms are reminiscent of earlier psalms and lack the

freshness and originality expected from the originator of

Hebrew hymnody. Such an objection arbitrarily limits David's

poetic genius and fails to take into account the extenuating

circumstances out of which these psalms often arose.

            The second objection, involving the presence of

pronounced Aramaisms is much more objective. These Arama-

isms may be explained in part by transmission. Weiser says

concerning these late linguistic forms, they are "conclusive

only for the final form of the psalms in question, not for


            1Nahum M. Sarna, Prolegomenon to The Psalms, Chrono-

logically Treated with a New Translation, by Moses Butten-

weiser, in the Library of Biblical Studies, ed. Harry M.

Orlinsky (New York: KTAV Publishing House, Inc., 1969),

p. xv.

            2Charles Lee Feinberg, "The Date of the Psalms,"

BSac 104 (October-December 1947):439-40.

            3Driver, Introduction to the OT, pp. 374-77.


the date at which they came into existence."1 Oesterley

applies the same argument not just to word forms but even to

some of the later thoughts.2

            Wilson, meanwhile, has done extensive research on

each of these Aramaisms and comes to the following conclu-

sions: (1) There are only fifteen genuine Aramaisms in the

Psalms, and of these only nine occur in Davidic psalms;

(2) these Aramaisms may actually have originated from other

ancient Semitic languages; and (3) there is no reason why

David could not have used Aramaisms since he ruled over all

of the Aramaeans as far as the Euphrates.3 The most recent

blow to Driver's argument comes from the discovery of

Aramaic elements in the fifteenth-century Ugaritic texts

which in terms of language, poetic form and syntax are very

similar to Hebrew Poetry.4

            Driver's third objection is that some of these psalms

have stylistic affinities with psalms which are much later

than David's time. Such affinities, however, can not prove

any thing concerning the date of a psalm. Like the first

objection it tends to be very arbitrary and simplistic.

            The last two objections which are quite similar are


            1Weiser, The Psalms, p. 92.

            2W. 0. E. Oesterley, A Fresh Approach to the Psalms

(London: Ivor Nicolson and Watson, 1937), pp. 62-63.

            3Wilson, "The Headings of the Psalms," pp. 28-32.

            4Harrison, Introduction to the OT, pp. 983-84.


legitimate objections which must be answered. Here Driver

cites several instances of psalms which are unadapted to

David's situation or character and psalms which presuppose

the circumstances and character of a later age. A prime

example of this phenomena is the implication that the temple

has already been built (Ps. 5:7 (8); 27:4; 68:29 (30);

138:2). But the usage of lkAyhe in these passages need not

refer to Solomon's temple as may be seen from its usage in

1 Samuel 1:9 and 3:3. Furthermore, as Archer points out,

there is proof in Psalm 27 which uses lkAyhe that the psalm

could not have been written after Solomon's temple was built

because the sanctuary is also referred to as hKosu, "booth"

and OlAh;xA, "His tent."'

            There are also a number of psalms in which the

writer identifies himself with the poor and needy during

evil times when the wicked are established and the godly are

oppressed (Pss. 12, 25, 37, 38, etc.). Once again Driver

claims that these do not fit into the historical accounts of

David's life. Yet as Green has pointed out what better time

could be found for such compositions than the time when

David was being jealously pursued by Saul. At that time

David was God's anointed and Saul had been rejected by the

Lord. On one occasion Saul even massacred the priests sus-

pected of aiding David and Abiathar had to flee for his


            1Gleason L. Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Intro-

duction (Chicago: Moody Press, 1974), p. 441.


life.1 Here is fertile ground out of which such a psalm

could have arisen.

            Psalm 51:18-19, where a reference is made to building

up the walls of Jerusalem, is thought by Driver to be a much

later reference to the hope of restoration. Here it is a

matter of interpretation. The expression "building the

walls" can mean "to strengthen, enlarge, and fortify them"

(1 Kgs. 11:27; 12:25; 15:17, 22); or it can be used figura-

tively to mean "give prosperity" (Ps. 28:5; 89:4).2 The

latter meaning would maintain the synonymous parallelism of

the verse.

            The references to the king in the third person

rather than the first person may also seem strange coming

from David, however, it is a common phenomenon in ancient

literature. In fact many times in the OT Yahweh is quoted

and speaks of Himself in the third person.3 Thus, it may be

observed in these few examples that in most cases where the

critics object to Davidic authorship of a psalm it is

because not all of the possible interpretations that would

relate it to David's time have been exhausted.

            The argument of Sarna that the David of Samuel and

Kings was a man of his age who was ethically and morally

primitive and therefore unable to write with the depth of


            1Green, "The Titles of the Psalms," p. 505.

            2Ibid., p. 496.

            3Archer, A Survey of OT Introduction, p. 440.


spiritual insight and religious devotion reflected in the

Psalms is based on an evolutionary bias.1 Israel's reli-

gious and ethical concepts did not develop over a period of

years, but were given to them by God at Mt. Sinai years

before David's time. The psalms of David then reflect a

thorough knowledge of God's law. As to the argument that

David was not exposed to the succession of trials and afflic-

tions of the kind represented in the Psalms, it can not be

substantiated. On the contrary, Delitzsch summarizes David's

psalms as follows:

            They are the fruit not only of his high gifts and

            the inspiration of the Spirit of God (2 Sam. 23:2),

            but also of his own experience and of the experience

            of his people interwoven with his own. David's path

            from his anointing onwards, lay through affliction

            to glory. . . . His life was marked by vicissitudes

            which at one time prompted him to elegiac strains,

            at another to praise and thanksgiving; at the same

            time he was the founder of the kingship of promise,

            a prophecy of the future Christ, and his life, thus

            typically moulded, could not express itself other-

            wise than in typical or even consciously prophetic


            Space does not allow for all of the objections to

Davidic authorship in the individual psalms to be answered.

These, however, are treated in the commentaries on the Psalms

by such writers as Delitzsch, Kirkpatrick and Perowne.3


            1Sarna, "The Psalms Superscriptions," p. 287.

            2Delitzsch, Psalms, 1:9.

            3For an exhaustive treatment of positive evidence

for Davidic authorship see International Standard Bible

Encyclopaedia, s.v. "Psalms, Book of," by John Richard



               The Historical Notices in the Titles

            If there is one item from the psalm titles that is

especially helpful in interpretation it is the historical

notices, for they give the historical occasion which

prompted the psalmist--in each case, David--to write. Yet,

this is the one area in the headings which has received the

most criticism. Some of this criticism is based upon the

general character of these notices and some on specific

problems found in the psalms.


             General Character of the Historical Notes

            A total of thirteen psalms contain these historical

notices in their titles.1 Everyone of them are identified

as Davidic psalms (dvidAl;) and refer to events in David's

life. Most, but not all, of these events are recorded in

the books of Samuel. The following is a list of these thir-

teen psalms with the corresponding passage from the histor-

ical books of the OT as it was compiled by Driver.2

            Psalm 3--2 Samuel 15, etc.

            Psalm 7--allusion obscure

            Psalm 18--2 Samuel 22

            Psalm 34--l Samuel 21:13

            Psalm 51--2 Samuel 12

            Psalm 52--l Samuel 22:9

            Psalm 54--l Samuel 23:19

            Psalm 56--1 Samuel 21:11 (or 27:2f., 7-12)

            Psalm 57--1 Samuel 22:1; 24:3ff.

            Psalm 59--1 Samuel 19:11


            1This number may be increased to 14 if Psalm 30 is

included. The title there reads "A psalm, A song. For the

dedication of the temple. Of David." (NIV).

            2Driver, An Introduction to the OT, p. 370.


            Psalm 60--2 Samuel 8:13 (cf. v. 3 Zobah); 1 Chronicles


            Psalm 63--l Samuel 23:14ff.; 24:1; 26:2

            Psalm 142--1 Samuel 22:1; 24:3ff.

            In summary; Psalms 7, 34, 52, 54, 56, 57, 59, and

142 refer to the period of David's persecution by Saul;

Psalm 18 to the climax of his reign; Psalm 51 to his con-

fession of sin with Bathsheba; Psalm 60 to the Syro-Ammonite

war; and Psalms 3 and 63 to his flight from Absalom.

            In all but two instances these historical references

follow a set pattern of syntax. There is a noun clause

introduced by the temporal conjunction B; with the infini-

tive construct. Then the finite verb is used in the follow-

ing coordinate or subordinate clause.1 The two exceptions

to this stereotyped form are found in Psalm 7 and 18. In

each of these titles the particle rw,xE introduces a rela-

tive clause. The relative clause of Psalm 7 describes the

psalm as "that which he (David) sang to Yahweh concerning

the words of Cush, a Benjamite."2 With Psalm 18 the obvi-

ously different form is probably due to its adaptation from

2 Samuel 22:1. Similar to Psalm 7 the relative clause uses

the finite verb with the non-technical reference to "this

song." In all but Psalm 7 either the syntactical construc-

tion or a prepositional phrase indicates the time or


            1Childs, "Psalm Titles," p. 138.

            2Childs views this title as belonging to a litur-

gical setting since -lf in every other occurrence in the

titles refers to the manner in which the psalm is to be

rendered; Ibid., p. 138.


occasion with which the psalm is to be associated.

            An intriguing parallel to this stereotyped form of

historical note is found in the introduction to Hezekiah's

psalm in Isaiah 38. Like the historical notes in the psalm

titles it is introduced with the infinitive construct joined

to the preposition B;. The similarity is seen in the tech-

nical psalm classification and designation of authorship as

well. From this it may be concluded that by Hezekiah's time

a fixed form of psalm title was being used.


                  Objections to the Credibility of

                            The Historical Notes

            The stereotyped form of these historical references

has been used by Childs as evidence that they were part of

an exegetical process by ancient rabbis who desired to

supply a setting for these independent compositions.1 This

view is echoed by Bruce, although he is willing to admit

that some at least of the "historical" titles probably find

their origin in the time of the monarchy. He cites the

example of Psalm 18.2

            Another view with less respect is cited by Oesterley.

He sees them as the work of a redactor who wanted to draw

attention to certain words or episodes which came to his

mind from the historical books as he studied these psalms.3


            1Ibid., pp. 142-43.

            2Bruce, "The Earliest OT Interpretation," p. 46.

            3Oesterley, A Fresh Approach to the Psalms, p. 86.


Weiser is even more critical in calling them Second Temple

additions designed to establish Davidic authorship and thus

David’s authority for the cultic practices of the Second

Temple of which the psalms played a key role.1

            Glueck says that these notices have nothing to do

with the historical setting of the psalm. Instead, they

were added as a kind of mnemotechnic used by the director of

music to remind the people of this or that psalm.2 All of

these explanations seriously undermine the credibility of

these historical notes placing them in the category of con-

jecture or downright deceitfulness. Much of modern scholar-

ship has abandoned the view that these notes represent

ancient traditions for a variety of reasons.

            A common complaint is that the contents of the psalms

are inconsistent with their historical contentions.3 How-

ever, as they are individually examined it is found that

these objections are based upon a superficial understanding

of both the historical texts and the psalm texts. For

example, Eerdmans assumes that Cush, the Benjamite mentioned

in the title of Psalm 7 is the Cushite who reports to David

the death of Absalom, and then notes the difference of mood


            1Weiser, The Psalms, p. 38; cf. Edward R. Dalgish,

Psalm Fifty-One (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1962), p. 245.

            2J. J. Glueck, "Some Remarks on the Introductory

Notes of the Psalms," in Studies on the Psalms, in Die Ou

Testamentiese Werkgemeenskap in Suid-Africa (Potchefstroom,

South Africa: Pro Rege-Pers Beperk, 1963), p. 31.

            3Eerdmans, The Hebrew Book of Psalms, p. 37.


between the psalm and 2 Samuel 19:1.1 Such an assumption

cannot be substantiated, in fact, Eerdman is one of the few

who makes that assumption. Bruce conjectures that Cush may

be a "kinsman and emissary of Saul otherwise unknown," or

another name for Shimei.2 No definite identification can

be made from the Biblical information which raises the

question of where an "exegete" would have gotten his infor-


            Many of these apparent inconsistencies may be ex-

plained by the fact that the psalms express the thoughts and

emotions of David in various crisis and not simply the

historical facts. For example Eerdmans rejects the authen-

ticity of the title of Psalm 142 because in the psalm David

is pictured as a lonely man forsaken by all his friends.3

The title, meanwhile, identifies it as a psalm of David in

the cave; where, according to 1 Samuel 22, he was joined by

his family and about 400 men. David, in Psalm 142 was not

giving an indication of who was or was not with him in per-

son, but rather an expression of his inward feelings on that


            It is also possible that David may have recorded the

words of some of these psalms sometime after the experiences

as he reflected back upon them. Kidner suggests this



            2Bruce, "The Earliest OT Interpretation," p. 48.

            3Eerdmans, The Hebrew Book of Psalms, p. 399.


possibility in response to the objection that the polished

work of art represented by the acrostic of Psalm 34 could

not have been written in the life or death situation

described in the title.1 This could also account for the

strong statement of faith which some commentators find to be

inconsistent with the fear which led David to feign madness

before the king of Gath. Of course, these supposed incon-

sistencies may also be answered by pointing to David's

persevering faith and proficient poetic ability as he was

guided by the Holy Spirit.

            The lack of specific references within the psalms to

the events described in the titles should not be used as

evidence against their authenticity. On the contrary,

Harris sees a divine purpose in such titles which he express-

es with regard to Psalm 56.

            It expresses trust in time of trouble; but the

            Philistines, or Gath, or David's capture are not

            explicitly mentioned. The psalm very likely was

            written years after the event as David thought upon

            those desperate days. He did not write just for the

            pleasure of writing about his experiences. By the

            Spirit of God, he was moved to write a general psalm

            that would also be helpful to us when we are cap-

            tured by our Philistines in the twentieth century.2

            It is the above mentioned lack of specific ref-

erences within the psalms to the events described in the

titles which has led to Slomovic's view concerning the ori-

gin of these titles. He suggests that the rabbis used all


            1Kidner, Psalms 1-72, p. 44.

            2Harris, "Psalms," p. 38.


the midrashic-hermeneutical methods to determine the set-

tings for these psalms.1 For instance, he sees a linguistic

connection between Psalm 56 and the narration of 1 Samuel

21:11-16. The word llahA appears three times in the Psalm

and once in the Samuel narrative. Also, the expression of

fear, xrAyxi (Ps,. 56:4) is connected with the only mention of

fear on David's part in the Historical narratives (1 Sam.

21:13).2 Certainly if this was the explanation for the ti-

tles there would be good reason to question their authen-


            Another reason for discrediting these notes is that

in some cases they differ from the information given in the

historical narratives. For example, in Psalm 34:1 the king

of Gath is called Abimelech whereas in 1 Samuel 21 he is

called Achish. Another very conspicuous difference is found

in the title of Psalm 60. There it is said that David

fought the Aramaeans and Joab returned and struck down

12,000 Edomites in the Valley of Salt. By comparison,

2 Samuel 8 mentions David's defeat of the Aramaeans and

identifies David as the one returning from striking down

18,000 Edomites in the Valley of Salt. Then in 1 Chron-

icles 18:12 it is Abishai who struck down 18,000 Edomites in


            1Slomovic, "Formation of Historical Titles," p. 352.

            2Ibid., p. 372; Patrick W. Skehan, "A Note on

Ps. 34,1," CBQ 14 (July 1952):226, also sees the use of the

root llahA as the connecting link between Psalm 34:3 and

1 Sam. 21:14.



the Valley of Salt.

            These differences, however, need not be construed

as irreconcilable accounts of the same event. In the case

of Achish and Abimelech they both refer to the same person.

Achish is the king's personal name and Abimelech is his

title, similar to the Pharaoh of Egypt (cf. Gen. 20 & 26).1

As for Psalm 60:2, Green has shown how that the last part of

the title may simply refer to a separate part of David's

overall campaign against Edom which was carried out by

Joash.2 The obvious differences in the case of Psalm 60:2

from the historical narratives has led some like Butten-

wieser to consider this as a genuine heading.3 In fact this

is the only heading Buttenwieser considers to be genuine.

            Perowne questions the authenticity of these histori-

cal notices on the basis that they only occur in Davidic

psalms. He argues that the history of David is much better

known than of the other psalmists so it was easier to fit

his psalms into a particular occasion in David's life. This

is then confirmed by the fact that most of them are taken

almost word for word from the historical books.4 This argu-

ment does not stand for it is just as easy to attribute


            1Green, "The Titles of the Psalms," p. 499.

            2Ibid., pp. 499-500.

            3Moses Buttenwieser, The Psalms, Chronologically

Treated, with a New Translation, Prolegomenon by Nahum M.

Sarna, in the Library of Biblical Studies, ed. Harry M.

Orlinsky (New York: KTAV Publishing House, Inc., 1969), p.


            4Perowne, The Book of Psalms, 1:101.


these titles to someone like the author of the historical

books who was himself familiar with the events of David's



                Positive Arguments for the Credibility

                           of the Historical Notes

            Some of the reasons for rejecting the authenticity

of the historical notes may just as easily be used to sup-

port their authenticity. The variations and additional bio-

graphical details may be cited as evidence for the use of a

different tradition behind at least some of the titles from

what is given in the historical books.

            These different traditions do not necessarily mean

that the titles are authentic, but it does argue for their

antiquity. For example in the case of Psalm 7, there would

be no reason for introducing the unknown "Cush a Benjamite"

in the title unless it was a detail that had been passed

down with the psalm itself.1 The same could be said con-

cerning some of the details introduced in the title of

Psalm 60. They must have been valid traditions for as

Archer says, "A later editor would never have ventured to

manufacture new details not contained in Samuel and Chron-


            It may also be noted that the want of a clear


            1Kidner, Psalms 1-72, p. 46.

            2Archer, A Survey of OT Introduction, p. 443.


connection between the contents of a psalm and the psalm

title is best explained by a tradition connected with the

psalm from the time it was written. Meanwhile, some of the

other psalms in the Psalter which contain obvious historical

allusions have no such titles. If these historical refer-

ences are the work of a rabbinic exegete it seems strange

that he would pass over the obvious and make up an histori-

cal setting based upon such meager evidence in some cases.

            In summary, these notes which in thirteen instances

give the historical setting out of which the psalm arose

deserve serious attention. They give important clues con-

cerning the origin of many other psalms beside their own.

They show that many of the psalms arose out of the experi-

ences of the life of a man who walked with God. Therefore,

unless it could be proven that there is a conflict between

the claim of the title and the contents of the psalm they

should be accepted as trustworthy.1 As far as their origin

is concerned it must be admitted that there is no way of

knowing how they originally became a part of the text.

Kidner's remarks on this are especially appropriate.

            It should perhaps be left an open question whether

            some are the product of comparing scripture with

            scripture, and others the product of historical

            records. What matters is their truth, which there

            is no valid reason to doubt, and which finds


            1Many of the claims by critics that such conflicts

do exist have been shown to be unsubstantiated by Green,

"The Titles of the Psalms," pp. 494-504; and by Leupold in

his commentary, Exposition of the Psalms.



incidental confirmation in the light which they throw

on the psalms they introduce.1


                 Summary Statement on the Credibility of

                                 the Psalm Titles

            From the internal and external evidences examined

with regard to the credibility of the psalm titles it may be

concluded that they represent authentic traditions. As such,

they are to be taken at face value and may be used as accu-

rate and reliable sources of information concerning the

author, historical setting, and liturgical use of the psalms

where such information is given. The musical and liturgical

notes would apply to their usage in the First Temple, though

it is likely that some of them were still functionable in

the Second Temple during Nehemiah's day (Neh. 12).


            1Kidner, Psalms 1-72, p. 46.





                                CHAPTER IV



            It is impossible to discern with any certainty when

or how the titles came to be a part of the various psalms.

Several theories have been proposed, many of which have

already been discussed and shown to be faulty on one account

or another. The most acceptable view in light of the pre-

ceding material is that they are pre-exilic in origin and

very likely date back to the time of composition.

            The first line of argument comes from a comparison

of the psalm titles with the Chronicler. First Chronicles

16:7-36 gives a composite psalm consisting of Psalms 105:1-

15; 96:1-13; the closing prayer of Psalm 106:47; and the

doxological colophon of Book Four of the Psalms. This com-

posite psalm was committed to Asaph by David to be sung by

the Levitical singers on the day that the ark of God was

brought up to Jerusalem. Here it can be seen that the pres-

ent form of the Psalter including the titles must have been

established before the Chronicler wrote.

            This fixed form is indicated first of all by the

inclusion of the doxology which has been shown to belong to

the final redaction of the Psalter, serving a literary and



not a liturgical function.1 As far as the titles are con-

cerned it may be assumed that they were already established

at this time since Psalms 96, 105 and 106 remained anonymous

even though the Chronicler identified them as Davidic.

            One additional passage from Chronicles which

Fullerton uses to show that the Psalter reached its final

form before the Chronicler wrote is 2 Chronicles 29:30.2

According to it the Levites were ordered by Hezekiah to sing

praises to Yahweh with the words of David and Asaph. This

indicates that there were psalms recognized as belonging to

David and Asaph not only in the Chronicler's day, but also

in Hezekiah's day. It is not certain whether they were

recognized by their titles or a distinct collection, but

apparently David's and Asaph's psalms were distinguishable

a little over 200 years after they were written.3

            Further evidence for an early origin of the titles

comes from the arrangement of the Psalter. The Psalter is

divided into five books with the majority of the titles

being found in the first three. The fourth and fifth books

contain only four psalms which have any kind of musical

directions and these psalms are Davidic. Taylor sees this

as an indication of a First Temple provenance of these


            1Fullerton, "Studies in the Psalter," p. 192.

            2Ibid., p. 190.

            3By this time Jerusalem was known for its musicians.

This is confirmed by the Annals of Senacharib in which he

reports that male and female musicians were included in the

tribute paid by Hezekiah. See Pritchard, ANET, p. 288.


titles.1 In response to those who claim that these titles

are associated with the worship in the Second Temple he

asks, "why do we not find the most choice notes with the

later psalms?"2

            The Chronicler of course supports this arrangement

in that it was under David's leadership that the more elab-

orate service of song in the former Temple was organized.

Thus, it should come as no surprise that in the first three

books of Psalms sixty-five of the eighty-nine psalms have

musical directions. These are almost without exception

identified as being composed by David or his contemporaries.

It may also be noted here that the two Asaph psalms which

by their context must be considered exilic psalms (Pss. 74

and 79) have no musical directions.

            It is suggested then that all of the information

contained in the psalm titles finds its origin in the period

of the composition of the psalms. This does not necessarily

mean that the titles were affixed to the psalms by the

author, though that was undoubtedly true in some cases.

Most likely they were placed at the head of the psalms by

the editor or compiler as the Psalter was being formed.

There has been much speculation concerning how the title:

came into the text of the psalms. Nevertheless, the fact

remains that they are a part of the text of Scripture that

God has seen fit to preserve. All the evidence that has


            1Bernard C. Taylor, "The Psalms with Their Super-

scriptions," Hebraica 1 (April 1884):30.



been presented suggests that their origin lies squarely

within the prophetic tradition of the OT Scriptures which

makes their authenticity a foregone conclusion.




                                CHAPTER V




            The ultimate conclusion from the evidence that has

been presented is that the psalm titles are authentic. They

may not have been written by the authors of the various

psalms but they do represent ancient and reliable traditions.

This is shown in part by the antiquity of the titles. From

the standpoint of textual studies, there is no evidence to

show that there was ever a time when they were not a part of

the text. By comparing the titles with other portions of

Scripture it seems very probable that they were fixed well

before the exile. Even if some were added as late as Ezra's

time that would still place them within the "prophetic tra-


            As a product of the "prophetic tradition" they

deserve then to be respected, recognized and understood as

an integral part of the various canonical psalms to which

they belong. To omit these titles from the text, as The

New English Bible does in its translation, is a great

disservice to the reader.1


            1Driver gives the reasons why they were omitted as

follows. "Some are historical notices, obviously deduced

from the text and often unsuitable; all are of doubtful

value. . . ." Concerning the musical notations he says



            The information contained in the titles has been

shown to be accurate in the areas of authorship and histor-

ical backgrounds. When the preposition l; is used in the

titles with a personal name the author of the psalm is indi-

cated either personally, as is the case with David, or

generically, as with Asaph and the sons of Korah. When an

historical background is given for a psalm, it does not rep-

resent the speculation of some Jewish rabbi but the actual

historical context from which the psalm originated. The

other notes, which were not specifically discussed, repre-

sent actual instructions and factual information which were

important for the usage of the psalm in Israel's worship.

Thus, these latter notes provide important clues concerning

the role of psalmody in conveying God's Word to Israel in

their public worship.

            In summary, the psalm titles are trustworthy witness-

es concerning the authorship, age, purpose and occasion of

the various psalms concerning which they give such informa-

tion either implicitly or explicitly.


"they are now for the most part unintelligible." He goes

on to note the totally different notes found in the Syriac

version and concludes that "as such the headings are almost

certainly not original." See Godfrey R. Driver, Introduc-

tion to The New English Bible, The Old Testament (n.p.:

Oxford University Press, 1970), p. XIV.

                                     APPENDIX A

A Comparison of the MT Titles and the DSS Titles


Psalm              MT1                             Col. Line        11QPsa2

121                 tvlfml ryw            III 1                 tvlfmh ryw

122                 tvlfmh ryw            III 7                 same as MT


123                 tvlfmh ryw            III 15               tvlfml dyvd[ ]

126                 tvlfmh ryw            IV 9                 same as MT

127                 tvlfmh ryw     IV 16               hmvlwl [  ]


129                 tvlfmh ryw            V 4                  [           ]w

130                 tvlfmh ryw     V 10                same as MT

133                 tvlfmh ryw            XXIII 7           same as MT


138                              dvdl XXI 1 same as MT

140                 rvmzm Hcnml    XXIII 12         same as MT


143                 dvdl rvmzm           XXV 6            same as MT

144                              dvdl XXIII 12         no Title

145                 dvdl hlht      XVI 7              dyvdl hlpt


            1Taken from K. Elliger and W. Rudolf, eds., Biblia

Hebraica Stuttgartensia (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelstiftung,


            2Taken from J. A. Sanders, The Psalms Scroll of

Qumran Cave 11, vol. 4: Discoveries in the Judaean Desert

of Jordan (Oxford: At the Clarendon Press, 1965), pp. 19-49.



Psalm              MT                              Col. Line                    11QPsa

104                 no Title                       Fragment El1                  dvdl

Psalm              MT                                                                  11QPsa

133                 dvdl tvlfmh ryw          dvdl tv [         ]

                                                                                                4QPsb 3

103                 dvdl                           d[           ]


33                    no Title                                               rvmzm ryw dyvdl


45                    Mynww lf Hcnml           ] My [     ] lf Hcnml

                       lykWm Hrq-ynbl

                 tdydy ryw

                                                                                    Nahal Hever frg.6

16            dvdl Mtcm                     ] vdl Mt [       ]


            1J. A. Sanders, The Dead Sea Psalms Scroll (Ithaca,

New York: Cornell University Press, 1967), p. 160.

            2J. Van Der Ploeg , "Fragments d'un manuscrit de

psaumes de Qumran (11gPsb)," RB 74 (1967):411.

            3Patrick W. Skehan "A Psalm Manuscript from Qumran

(4QPsb)," CBQ 26 (July 1964): 318.

            4J. T. Milik, "Deux documents inedits du Desert de

Juda," Bib 38 (19.57):246.

            5John M. Allegro, Qumran Cave 4, vol. 5: Discover-

ies in the Judaean Desert (Oxford: at the Clarendon Press,

1968), p. 45.

            6Y. Yadin, "Expedition D." IEJ 11 (1961):40.




Psalm                          MT                                              Masada Scroll1

82                    Jsxl rvmzm                       "A Psalm of Asaph"

83                    Jsxl rvmzm ryw                   "A Song, A Psalm of Asaph"

84                    tytgh lf Hcnml                  "To the Chief Musician

                        rmzm Hrq ynbl             (upon Gittith, A Psalm for

                                                                                    the Sons of Korah) "

85                    Hrq-ynbl Hcnml                   "To the Chief Musician, A

                                                rvmzm                         Psalm for the Sons of



            1Y. Yadin, "The Excavation of Masada--l963/1934,

Preliminary Report," IEJ 15 (1965):104. Only the English

translations of the titles are given by Yadin.





                                    APPENDIX B


                               Possible Meanings of l;

                          Combined with a Proper Name1


1. "On (or: about) N.N."

2. "For N.N.;" "composed for N.N. (by someone else)"

3. Something is intended to be used "on behalf (for benefit)

            of N.N. "

4. "Belonging to N.N.," that is to say, to the property or

            the inheritance of N.N. or to what tradition has

            preserved concerning him

5. "At the disposal of N.N." The source and original

            intention of the matter in question are not given

6. Lamed auctoris, "(a work) of N.N."

7. "In the manner (style) of," and characterizes the work

            as "composed in the manner of N.N."


            1Taken from L. A. F. LeMat, Textual Criticism and

Exegesis of Psalm XXXVI (Utrecht, Holland: Kemink & Zoon,

1957), p. 34.











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