The Book of Psalms: Composition and Reception

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

THE PSALMS IN EARLY SYRIAC TRADITION

HARRY F. VAN ROOY

The Psalms played a major part in the life of many communities in Jewish and Christian traditions. For example, more than 200 of the nearly 900 manuscripts found at Qumran may be classified as biblical scrolls. Thirty-six manuscripts from Qumran and three from other locations contain (parts of) the Psalter, the most of any biblical book.1 With regard to the Greek version of the Psalter, more translations have been made into Greek than for every other book of the Old Testament, and more than ten times the number of Septuagint manuscripts are available for the Psalter than for any other book.2

In the same way the Psalter played an enormous role in the history of the Syriac-speaking churches. The majority of the manuscripts containing the Psalms in the Peshitta are Psalters, that is Hymnbooks or books for ecclesiastical services.3 Of the forty-two manuscripts used for the critical edition of the Peshitta, only four are complete Bibles (7al, 8al, 9al and 12al).4 The remainder are all Psalters, representing different branches of Syriac Christianity.5 The place of the Syriac versions in the textual history of the Psalter is the subject of a separate contribution in this volume. The present contribution will deal with the translation of the Psalter in Syriac, the headings of the Psalms, commentaries on the Psalms and a small collection of Syriac Apocryphal Psalms.

1 See P. W. Flint, “Variant Readings of the Dead Sea Psalms Scrolls, against
the Massoretic Text and the Septuagint Psalter,” in A. Aejmelaeus & U. Quast
(eds.), Der Septuaginta-Psalter und seine Tochterübersetzungen (MSU XXIV;
Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2000) 339.

2 A. Pietersma, “The Present State of the Critical Text of the Greek Psalter,” in
Aejmelaeus & Quast (eds.), Der Septuaginta-Psalter, 25.

3 W. E. Barnes, The Peshitta Psalter According to the West Syrian Text
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1904) xxxv.

4 For manuscripts used in the critical edition of the Peshitta, the notation of that
edition is used, see Peshitta Institute, List of Old Testament Peshitta Manuscripts
(Leiden: Brill, 1961).

5 See D. M. Walter, The Old Testament in Syriac. Part II/3: The Book of
Psalms
(Leiden: Brill, 1980).

-537-

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