The pivot point in the Psalter: An exegetical contribution to the current canonical debate

Kenneth Share, Fordham University


Gerald Wilson and Walter Brueggemann each propose that the Hebrew Psalter has a dominant theological shape that was created by redactors. Wilson argues that the Psalter moves from reliance on human kings to reliance on Yhwh as king and that the Psalter pivots from the old position to the new after Ps 89. Brueggemann proposes that the Psalter moves from obedience to praise and that Ps 73 is pivotal. Other scholars maintain that the Psalter is characterized by variety and has no dominant theology. Peter Flint does not propose a Psalter theology, but argues that two competing Psalters existed until the first century C.E. Both were built on a common “Stage One” that might have ended with Ps 72 or Ps 89. To adjudicate between the Wilson and Brueggemann proposals, and to determine the endpoint of Flint's “Stage One,” this dissertation examines psalms surrounding the proposed pivot points (Pss 71–74 and 88–91) as well as other psalms linked to them by subject matter. This study concludes that there are signs of intentional editing in the Psalter, but that neither Wilson nor Brueggemann has identified the theology of the Psalter. The Psalter is too diverse to be characterized as having a dominant theology. Analysis of the Pss 88–91 sequence shows that those psalms are linked both theologically and linguistically. Since the editors used literary signs to bind Books I–III and IV–V together, Ps 89 is the likely endpoint of Flint's Stage One. This study also concludes that the Psalter has a different view of kingship than Wilson proposes. Examination of all king-related psalms throughout the Psalter reveals a trajectory that modifies the understanding of the Davidic covenant found in Ps 89 by placing that covenant under the authority of Sinai in Ps 132. The king remains as God's agent throughout the Psalter as shown by Pss 144–45. This study establishes the importance of sequence analysis for interpreting any individual psalm or theological concept.

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Recommended Citation

Share, Kenneth, "The pivot point in the Psalter: An exegetical contribution to the current canonical debate" (2002). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3045135.