Psalm Types_1 - Dr. White Literary Types. Modern...

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Dr. White Literary Types. Modern scholarship is skeptical about two aspects of the traditional titles: authorship (hence dating) and setting. There is no hard evidence for Davidic authorship of any of the psalms. David’s reputation as a musician (1 Samuel 16.23; Amos 6.5) makes it reasonable to associate him with the psalms, but it is not possible to prove authorship. As regards the setting, modern scholarship is much more modest in its claims. The ancients were overspecific. Rather, one can only describe the setting in a very generic way: a lament of an individual or community, a song of praise in the Temple, and so on. In other words, literary classification has replaced the historicizing tendency that the titles display. Hermann Gunkel (1862–1932) originated the modern literary analysis of the psalter. His conclusions have been modified somewhat by subsequent scholars, but his classification of the psalms remains basic. Many psalms resist easy classification, but the following description is helpful. Hymns. The hymn, or song of praise, begins on a joyful note in which the psalmist summons self (Psalm 103–104) or a community (Psalm 117) to praise the Lord. Usually two reasons are given, and they constitute the heart of the prayer: God’s creative activity and saving intervention is Israel’s history. The pattern is: “praise the Lord, because….” As far as creation is concerned, one must be ready for the skilled and imaginative portrayal of the divine creativity, recorded throughout the Bible. One thinks of the majestic description of the effortless activity in Genesis 1, a creation by word, but there is also the picture of the divine potter in Genesis 2.7. Another mode of representation was the battle with chaos, personified in the redoubtable Leviathan (Psalm 74.14; Psalm 104.26; cf. Isaiah 27.1; Job 3.8; Job 41.1–34), or Rahab (Psalm 89.9–10; Job 9.13; Job 26.12–13), or characterized simply as “Sea” (probably to be understood against the background of Baal’s conflict with Yamm [“Sea”] in Ugaritic literature; cf. Psalm 74.13). Attention is not limited to the action of God at the beginning; creation is also continuous (Psalm 104). The Israelites obviously were able to relish and savor the creative activity of God. Another reason for solemn praise is the divine intervention in history on behalf of Israel, especially the Exodus (Psalm 78; Psalm 114; cf. Exodus 15.1–18). This sacred history could also be commemorated in such a way as to teach Israel a lesson (Psalm 78) or to move the people to penitence (Psalm 106). This “history” was not antiquarianism. It was re-presented in the liturgy and re-created in the hearts of the people, for whom it also guaranteed a future. The structure of the song of praise is simple: after the initial invocation, certain
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This note was uploaded on 07/01/2010 for the course LIT 3374 taught by Professor Staff during the Fall '08 term at University of South Florida - Tampa.

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Psalm Types_1 - Dr. White Literary Types. Modern...

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