Who Wrote the Psalms?

Authorship of many of the psalms is traditionally attributed to King David. Six psalms are attributed to King David in either the Acts of the Apostles, Matthew, Paul’s Letter to the Romans, and Hebrews. In the Psalter itself, 73 of the 150 psalms are attributed to David.

Many historical-critical scholars do not accept the premise that the psalms are from the period of the United Monarchy. Their reasons include the fact that there are no written records prior to the destruction of the Temple in 586 BCE. In addition, they argue from a form-critical point of view that the subject matter of the psalms appear to be more in keeping with the period of the Temple destruction and exile. For example, Julius Wellhausen (1844-1918) says, “Since the Psalter is the hymn-book of the congregation of the Second Temple, the question is not whether it contains any post-exilic psalms, but whether it contains any pre-exilic psalms.”

I should warn my readers that Wellhausen shoots from the hip more so than I do. As a counterpoint, I Chronicles chapters 22 to 26 describe the reforms of worship instituted by King David. Most conservative scholars, both Christian and Jewish, believe that the psalms were part of that reformed temple worship.

Virtually all scholars agree that the entire collection of psalms was not written in one generation. The psalms appear to have accumulated over time, with the final additions being made in the fourth or fifth century BCE. Evidence of this is the fact that the psalter itself is divided into five booklets, and the first booklet is traditionally considered older than the subsequent booklets. For example, 37 of the first 41 psalms are attributed to King David.

The German scholar Hermann Gunkel has divided the psalms into six genre: hymns, laments, royal psalms, thanksgiving psalms, wisdom psalms, and other forms. A classic example of a royal psalm is psalm 110, familiar to most Chritians and Jews. Note that in the first verses, the Lord says “take your throne at my right,” while in the last few verses, the Lord has switched position, and actually serves “at your right hand.” This isn’t merely a royal psalm. This psalm speaks of someone who has the Lord’s favor in an extraordinary sense. The last verse, where the Lord “holds high his head,” is a sign of victory.

A psalm of David.
The LORD says to you, my lord: “Take your throne at my righthand, while I make your enemies your footstool.”
The scepter of your sovereign might the LORD will extend from Zion. The LORD says: “Rule over your enemies!
Yours is princely power from the day of your birth. In holy splendor before the daystar, like the dew I begot you.”
The LORD has sworn and will not waver: “Like Melchizedek you are a priest forever.”
At your right hand is the Lord, who crushes kings on the day of wrath,
Who, robed in splendor, judges nations, crushes heads across the wide earth,
Who drinks from the brook by the wayside and thus holds high the head.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s