Almost half the psalms bear a headline including the name of David: in the Hebrew canon 73 of the 150 psalms, and in the Septuagint an additional 14, including the 151st psalm which is “out of count.” The superscriptions vary remarkably, but what all have in common is the phraseThe exact meaning of this formulation is contested. It appears to be a rather formulary phrase that can be used by itself, as well as in different combinations with other words or phrases or even sentences. It appears thirty-five times in the formula usually translated “a psalm of David.” This formula can be extended to a sentence, for example, “when he fled from his son Absalom” (Ps 3:1“0”), or “when he was in the Wilderness of Judah” (63:1 “0”). In these cases is obviously understood as naming David to be the author of the psalm. This is even more evident in cases like Ps 18:1(0), where is followed by “who spoke to Yhwh the words of this song.”
In later tradition David is seen to be the author of the psalms in general. 2 Mace 2:13 mentions the “writings of David,” and according to the large Qumran scroll (HQPsa col. 27) David “wrote” and “spoke” no less than 3,600 psalms () and 450 “songs” ( ). In the New Testament several times psalms are quoted as spoken by David “by the Holy Spirit” (Mark 12:36, cf. Acts 1:16) or “in the book of Psalms” (Luke 20:42, cf. Act 2,25, 4:25, Rom 4:6, 11:9). In rabbinic literature David as author of the “five books of Psalms” is compared to Moses as the author of the “five books of the Torah” (Midr. Tehillim to 1:2, cf. b.Baba Batra 14b, 15a; b.Pesachim 117a).
But what David is it who could be seen as the author of psalms1 and even as “the sweet singer of the songs of Israel” (2 Sam 23: l)?2 Is it
1 “An essay on a subject like 'The David of the Psalms' ¡s a sign of what is
going on in biblical studies in our time.” (J. L. Mays, “The David of the Psalms,”
¡nterp 40 “1986” 143-155, here 143)
2 The NRSV understands this verse differently.