The Book of Psalms: Composition and Reception

By Peter W. Flint; Patrick D. Miller Jr. | Go to book overview

PRAISE AND PROPHECY IN THE PSALTER
AND IN THE NEW TESTAMENT

CRAIG A. EVANS


INTRODUCTION

Quotations of and allusions to the Psalter abound in the New Testament. According to the Index of Quotations in the United Bible Societies Greek New Testament there are more than four hundred quotations and allusions.1 Of these some 130 are quotations, 70 of which are introduced with formulas. It is not hard to see why the Psalter was so important to early Christians.2 The Royal Psalms readily lent themselves to emerging christology, while the Lament Psalms clarified aspects of Jesus' Passion and the suffering and persecution many of his followers experienced. Psalms of praise contributed to the early church's liturgy and thankfulness to God for what had been accomplished in his Son the Messiah Jesus.

The Psalter was understood in early Christian circles as prophetic, much as it was at Qumran, whose scholars produced commentaries (or pesharim) on several Prophets and Psalms. Indeed, the Risen Christ in Luke 24 instructs his disciples concerning all that is written in “the Law and the Prophets and Psalms.” Luke's grammar here suggests that “Psalms” are closely linked with “the Prophets.”3

1 As compiled in K. Aland, M. Black, C. M. Martini, B. M. Metzger, and A.
Wikgren (eds.), The Greek New Testament (2nd ed., Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibel-
gesellschaft, 1968)906-909.

2 The most frequently used Psalms are 2, 22, 33, 34, 35, 39, 50, 69, 78, 89,
102, 105, 106, 107, 110, 116, 118, 119, 135, 145, and 147; cf. H. M. Shires,
Finding the Old Testament in the New (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1974) 131-35.

3 The Greek reads: Set


(“everything written about
me in the law of Moses and the Prophets and Psalms must be fulfilled”). The RSV
translates “… the Prophets and the Psalms …,” which is misleading. There is no
definite article preceding “Psalms.” We do not have here an instance of the
tripartite canon (i.e. the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings), but only the first
two divisions—the Law and the Prophets, the latter of which was understood to
include the Psalms. This is probably how the reference in 4QMMT should be

-551-

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