Heidegger's Bible Handbook: Psalms: Distribution of the Psalms

11. The distribution of the Psalms into five parts by the Hebrews, displeasing to Jerome and others. The division of Athanasius taken from the argument, and also of others from the inscriptions and Music.



This book is divided by the Jews in imitation of the Law, into a Pentateuch, or five books, the first of which runs from Psalm 1 to Psalm 41, the second from Psalm 42 to Psalm 72, the third from Psalm 73 to Psalm 89, the fourth from Psalm 90 to Psalm 106, and finally the fifth from Psalm 107 to the end. The first four of which are closed with the word אָמֵן/Amen: but not the last. Whence Epiphanius distinguishes the Psalter by calling it ἄλλην πεντάτευχον, another Pentateuch. There are not wanting those that assert that in the first book are sung matters sorrowful; in the second, matters cheerful; in the third, matters sorrowful; in the fourth, matters cheerful; and, finally, in the fifth, matters sorrowful and cheerful: which will with good reason be esteemed as frivolous by the reader of the Psalms. Even the very distribution of the Psalms into five books displeases Jerome, Hilary, and others. A distribution takne from the material or argument is certainly more useful. This brief, but perspicuous distribution Athanasius relates in his Epistola ad Marcellinum, in which he says that some are λεγομένους ἐν διηγήματι, narrator; some, ἐν παραινέσει, admonitory; some, ἐν προφητείᾳ, Prophetic; some, ἐν εὐχῇ, supplicatory; finally, some, ὡς ἐν ἐξομολογήσει, confessory. Others not incorrectly distribute the Psalms according to their inscriptions, in such a way that they are either תְּפִלּוֹת/prayers, supplicatory, of which sort are Psalm 17; 86; 90; 102; or אַל־תַּשְׁחֵת/Al-taschith, be not destroyed, and so deprecatory, of which sort are Psalms 57-59; 75; or לְהַזְכִּיר, for remembrance, and so ἀπομνημονευτικοὶ/commemorative/commonitory, of which sort are Psalm 38; 70; others עֵדוּת/eduth/testimony, or διαμαρτυρητικοὶ/obtestatory, of which sort is Psalm 80; others תּוֹדָה/confression, or εὐχαριστικοὶ/eucharistic, as in the case of Psalm 100; others תְּהִלָּה/praise, or ἐπαινετικοὶ, crying out praises, and which are inscribed הַלְלוּיָהּ, praise ye the Lord, Psalm 106; 111-113; 135; 146-150; others יְדִידֹת, of loves, or ἐπιθαλάμιοι/amatory, of which sort is Psalm 45; finally, others מַשְׂכִּיל/Maschil/learned, or διδακτικοὶ/didactic, or διδασκαλικοὶ/eruditory; of which sort there are many, of which Psalm 60 is said to be לְלַמֵּד, for teaching. With all which the Prophetic are mixed together. Finally, there is another distribution by singing or Music, which we explained in Section 8.

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