3940Re: [lxx] Re: numbering the psalms
- Jan 19, 2013This is a great topic for further research (a dissertation, perhaps).
And thanks to all who have contributed thus far. Here I add a few very
1. The Qumran evidence needs to be reexamined, with reference to the use
of numbers regarding the Davidic corpus (he composed so many psalms,
etc., in various connections), and the variant order of materials in
some of the scrolls (apparently not in accord with the later 5
2. Justin's several references include numberings from psalms that would
be on different sections of the 5 book/scroll division (Psalms 49, 46,
98, 44, 95, and 21); does this mean that there was a single very large
Psalm scroll (or a specific Psalms codex) at his disposal?
3. Justin's quotations and numbering are in discussion (real or not)
with a Jewish audience, which may imply that they were also familiar
with the numbering in Justin's mind. And why not? Most of what early
Christians knew about Jewish Greek scriptures came from their Jewish
4. It is possible that the specific numbers were added to Justin's
original text by copyists to make the references more specific. This is
not an infrequent phenomena in the transmission of such materials, and
the textual base for Justin's Dialogue is exceptionally weak. Elsewhere,
Justin most often refers simply to "David" as a prophet or hymnist --
see the Apology, for example.
5. Other second century Christian materials need to be explored for
similar numbering -- a quick survey of Irenaeus Against Heresies shows
only a couple of such specifics, in book 4, sections 3 (Ps 101) and 17
(Ps 50 and its predecessor). But of course Irenaeus was not only
transmitted in the original Greek (now largely lost) but was translated
to the surviving Latin (and Armenian?).
Lots more can be done with this fascinating probe into such literary
habits and their transmission. My own take on it is that the "school"
context needs to be explored more closely, as in Justin's discussions
with Trypho's group. Clearly that (scholarly study, and polemics) is
another major area beyond group "liturgy" or private uses in which Jews
and their Christian offspring shared interest.
Bob Kraft, Emeritus UPenn
On 1/19/2013 1:49 PM, James Miller wrote:
> First an informational question: are you, Bill, the one who made the
> original inquiry? I ask because this is not clear owing to the differing
> e-mail address used in the last couple of postings. It would be
> helpful to
> me to know whether I am communicating with the original question's poser,
> or with someone else who shares an interest.
> On Sat, 19 Jan 2013, dr.beel wrote:
> > I am trying to account for the ubiquitous ancient Christian practice of
> > referring to the psalms by number in contrast with the utter absence of
> > ordinal reference to the psalms among ancient Jews.
> Thank you for clarifying further the nature of your inquiry. I am
> beginning to understand better the specific character of your query,
> is interesting. I hope Joel, who wrote his dissertation on number
> symbolism in patristic thought--I think with specific reference to
> Evagrius of Pontus--may have some input on this matter as well.
> I will also see if I can get Dr. Georgi Parpulov, who has done in-depth
> research on the Byzantine Psalters, involved in this discussion. He is
> a list member, but I have conducted an e-mail correspondence with him in
> the past and so can contact him to solicit his input. This seems a matter
> which might interest him.
> I will respond to parts of your response in this note, and others likely
> in some future note.
> > I think you may be right in suggesting that the Christian practice
> > resulted from several cultural influences. We might consider the
> > well-established Greek scribal practice of numbering sections of
> > literary works. Christians from the educated classes of Greco-Roman
> > society were familiar with the lyric epic tradition commonly featuring
> > numbered sections; it may be that the psalms were viewed as the
> > Christian lyric counterpart, complete with the gnomic values such
> > literature offered, and so the psalms took on numbers like the numbered
> > sections of Homer and Menander.
> About all I can say here is that these are interesting observations. I
> have not researched the lyric epic tradition in any depth, having only
> touched on it very superficially in my dissertation (which dealt with the
> Biblical Odes tradition). Do you see any significance that may be
> to the Christian tradition in the number 150?
> > In any event, you asked some questions, James, and here are my replies
> > for your consideration. You asked, "Can you point to some Jewish
> > liturgical manuscript from the period that lacks numbering?" Yes.
> All of
> > them. No machzor or siddur MS that I know of numbers any biblical psalm
> > despite the fact that psalms and portions of psalms comprise a good
> > of the content found in them. The earliest Hebrew psalter MSS also lack
> > numbers for the psalms. The earliest rabbinic sources lack numbers for
> > the psalms. Psalm-numbering is absent from the Jewish commentary
> > tradition altogether until later midrashim, and makes its first
> > appearance within an actual psalms MS only in the 11th century. It
> is on
> > the basis of its utter absence from the body of evidence that I submit
> > that during Antiquity Jewish liturgical use of the psalms did not
> > include ordinal (numbered) reference to them.
> All the materials you reference are fairly late if I'm not mistaken,
> they post-date the rise and flourishing of Christianity; correct? I know
> that the earliest rabbinic sources are thought to offer witness to much
> earlier practice and custom. But the era in which they were put to
> is probably no earlier than about 200 C.E., correct? I ask because, if
> that is the case, then it seems to me that, strictly speaking, we are
> discussing Jewish worship of the centuries C.E.; inferences can be
> made as
> to earlier worship practices, but they remain just that--inferences.
> Now, if we are speaking of Jewish worship from the era in which this
> material was reduced to writing, then must we not allow the possibility
> that these sources convey a tradition that is, to some degree, in
> against Christian practice (and its possible use of numeration)? In other
> words, Judaism in this era is attempting to distinguish itself as starkly
> as is possible from the novel sect that claimed to arise from it.
> This is an argument from silence and does not go very far toward
> conclusively proving anything. And, not being in any sense expert in
> Jewish worship practices in any era, I may be making some fundamental
> conceptual errors. It may, nonetheless, be worth considering.
> > You asked, "what do you make of the navigational materials, especially
> > the Epistle to Marcellinus and the "Canon of Psalms" prefaced at the
> > beginning [of A]?" The Eusebian Psalms-canon simply lists the
> > to each numbered psalm. I see nothing there particularly liturgical.
> > Your mention of the Epistle to Marcellinus actually demonstrates my
> > point: Athanasius constantly refers to psalms by their numbers, but in
> > no instance is the reference to anything liturgical; instead Athanasius
> > is recommending personal devotional application as therapy for the soul.
> I would disagree regarding the "Canon of Psalms" section and I believe
> are mischaracterizing it. That section is, to my understanding, patently
> liturgical, or at least devotional. It enshrines a monastic worship
> practice--not clearly communal, which is why I say it may be
> devotional--such as that practiced by monks in 4th century lower Egypt
> (Robert Taft discusses this monastic practice in his "Liturgy of the
> Hours," though he does not associate it with the referenced section from
> Codex A: so far as I know I am the only one who has thus far made that
> association). Perhaps you are confusing the "Canons of Psalms" with the
> Hypothesis of Psalms, which is a separate part of the preface? I recently
> photographed the pseudo-facsimile of Codex A (Baber) and can upload a
> photo of the column in question for your inspection, if you'd like: I
> would be happy to be proved wrong if I have somehow misconstrued it.
> > might have been known and used for these, too?" If you are talking
> > the psalms-division into five books, this is not peculiar to Christian
> > psalters; as you know, it is found also in Hebrew psalters yet with no
> > liturgical function attributed to it anywhere in the Jewish tradition.
> > What, then, makes it liturgical in the Christian Bible? If you are
> > talking about division into discrete psalms, obviously this is true
> > of the Hebrew psalter, and again without any liturgical function
> > attached to it in any Jewish source from antiquity. Same question
> > applies: what makes the numbering of discrete psalms a liturgical
> > practice?
> A question (as much for me as for you): when we use the term "liturgical"
> in reference to Jewish worship, are we speaking of communal worship as
> opposed to individual prayer (for the latter of which we would, instead,
> use the referent "devotional")? I admit to some fundamental unclarity on
> my part in this discussion regarding these terms. The elephant in the
> here with respect to Jewish worship is whether what is done in synagogues
> since about 70 C.E.--which I understand to be a barely adequate stand-in
> for what was formerly done in the Temple--really qualifies as liturgical.
> If that question be answered in the positive, then we approach comparing
> apples with apples with regard to the question of the presence or absence
> of Psalm numbering and its liturgical applicability in Christianity and
> Judaism. If answered in the negative, the comparison may well be
> In summary, it seems you would maintain that Psalm numeration is of a
> non-liturgical origin, and that the already-existing numeration was later
> (by the 4th century, as I am maintaining) adapted into liturgical use,
> correct? You seem to allow that the numeration played a role in worship,
> but you are inclined to search elsewhere for its origin, yes?
> > I am grateful for this exchange over the question of individual
> > psalm-numbering. I hope to learn more from it.
> Ditto. I did some research recently in preparation for writing an
> introduction to a Psalter and reviewed a bit of historical
> development, so
> it's still a subject fairly fresh in my mind. Hopefully I can continue to
> contribute and learn as well.
> By the way, have you looked at the Psalms of Solomon to see whether they
> might shed any light on your numeration query? I can't point to anything
> specific regarding them apart from the fact that they can be viewed as
> perhaps transitional between Judaism and Christianity.
> > --- In firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:lxx%40yahoogroups.com>, James
> Miller wrote:
> >> On Fri, 18 Jan 2013, dr.beel wrote:
> >>> The liturgical-practice-explanation is persuasive only on the
> assumption that numbering the psalms is a practice that liturgical
> recitation and chanting of them makes necessary. But we know this
> isn't the case, because the chanting and singing of these same psalms
> in Jewish worship during antiquity doesn't seem to have required
> numbering them. If ancient Christians found it necessary to number the
> psalms in order to find their place in the liturgy, why didn't ancient
> >>> And: indeed the imperial codices like Sinaiticus include a 151st
> psalm, but with the superscription carefully pointing out that this
> psalm is "outside the numbering (arithmou)." Here again it is only in
> a Christian MS, not a Jewish one, that the psalter is even referred to
> in terms of numbering its chapters. For both communities the psalms
> were central to liturgical life, yet only one of them numbered the
> psalms. Does Christian liturgical use fully explain this phenomonenon?
> >> Some questions for you, Bill. First, what is the evidence upon
> which your
> >> assertion that "the chanting and singing of these same psalms in Jewish
> >> worship during antiquity doesn't seem to have required numbering
> them" is
> >> based? Can you point to some Jewish liturgical manuscript from the
> >> that lacks numbering? Some ancient testimonial about how Jewish worship
> >> was conducted that rules out such? I am curious to know that first
> of all,
> >> since such a dearth of evidence about worship practices of the period
> >> seems to me to obtain.
> >> Furthermore, surely you are aware that the Hebrew Psalms readily
> >> by internal indications, into 5 sections? The later chapter divisions
> >> coincide, in relevant areas, by the way, with those divisions. The
> >> diapsalma of the LXX Psalms--which sometimes correspond to a "selah" in
> >> the Hebrew text--could also be mentioned as other possible division
> >> points. Would you maintain that none of these larger-scale division
> >> schemes had any sort of liturgical significance? If so, on what basis?
> >> So, in answer to the question "If ancient Christians found it
> necessary to
> >> number the psalms in order to find their place in the liturgy, why
> >> ancient Jews?" I would ask: how do we know they didn't just have a
> >> differing numbering system for Psalms? One that involved, at the
> least, 5
> >> sections?
> >> The more important question I have for you is whether you've ever
> >> considered carefully the Psalms complex in the fifth-century imperial
> >> codex A(lexandrinus)? If so, what do you make of the navigational
> >> materials, especially the Epistle to Marcellinus and the "Canon of
> >> prefaced at the beginning? The clear purpose of both, it seems to
> me, is
> >> to direct the worshiper in finding the relevant portions for various
> >> devotional uses.
> >> Do you think those were composed contemporaneously? The Letter to
> >> Marcellinus seems to date to the 4th century, so at least that part
> of the
> >> complex certainly predates Codex A. Then again, another part of the
> >> complex, the Hypothesis, has been attributed to the 4th century
> >> Eusebius. Moreover, Codex A's Psalm divisions, so far as I am
> aware, match
> >> the divisions found in Codices S and B, which both date to the 4th
> >> century. Why would we, then, not interpret those earlier Psalm books in
> >> light of the more expanded one found in Codex A, assuming that all were
> >> liturgical in character? And why not assume that similar navigational
> >> texts, though not included in those manuscripts, might have been
> known and
> >> used for these, too?
> >> Granted, this does not provide irrefutable proof that the referenced
> >> divisions and numbering were introduced for liturgical purposes. But it
> >> does give strong indication that, by the 4th century, the divisions
> >> a liturgical or devotional function. And we have certainly not
> ruled out
> >> the possibility that the divisions were introduced for liturgical or
> >> devotional purposes--either the divisions seen in Christian
> >> or those inhering in the Hebrew text of the Psalms.
> >> I would be happy to learn more about this matter, so if you have
> >> evidence to present, please do so. I do not maintain, by the way, that
> >> other factors could not help to explain the Christian numbering of
> >> But I do think that dismissing the possibility of a liturgical or
> >> devotional role in the process is wrong. I cannot tell for certain if
> >> that's what you're trying to do.
> >> James
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