The Psalms through Three Thousand Years: Prayerbook of a Cloud of Witnesses

By William L. Holladay | Go to book overview

6
Steps toward
the Status of Scripture:
The Psalms are Collected,
Annotated, and Translated

In chapters 2 through 5 we established with fair probability the period of time for the origin of roughly 70 of the 150 psalms. For a few more there might be clues similar to those I have employed, but at this stage of scholarly research it does not seem possible to reach any certainty for the origin of the remainder of the psalms.

Nevertheless, we can be sure that at a certain stage there emerged a collection of 150 psalms, more or less, which has come to be called “the Psalter.” In this chapter I shall treat of three activities clustering around the development of the collection of the Psalms: the collecting process itself, the annotations made on various psalms, and the venture of translating the psalms out of the Hebrew language. All these activities were taking place during a period of time when the collection of Psalms was on its way to being considered scriptural, and that process, too, needs our attention.


The Jews: The Fifth through the
Third Centuries B.C.E.

First, however, let us touch briefly on the history of the period after Ezra and Nehemiah. Judea continued to be part of the Persian Empire, and the Jews continued their existence there without interruption. Influences from Greek culture, marginal at an earlier time, must have become more pronounced in this period, but they exploded upon Palestine with the coming of Alexander the Great. Alexander defeated the last king of the Persian Empire, Darius III, at Issus at the northeast corner of the Mediterranean Sea in 333 B.C.E.; the Greek king then marched south along the Mediterranean and took Egypt in 332. In these months, then, Jerusalem came under his control. After campaigns that took Alexander all the way to northwest India, he died in Babylon in 323. After his death the territory of Egypt passed to the control of Ptolemy, one of his generals, while the territories of Babylonia and westward to Syria and eastward to Iran came under the control of another general, Seleucus. Both of them coveted Palestine, but for the first century or so after

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