HISTORY AND DEEPER LOOK AT THE PSALMS OF THE BIBLE - DR. GIL HAAS, ST. AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY EPISCOPAL CHURCH
The well known psalms are probably words to Jewish hymns. There are 150 psalms in Western Christian traditions, but as many as 173 in Orthodox and Jewish texts, implying that our psalms were selected from a larger group. Although seventy-three psalms are attributed to King David, there is no hard evidence for actual Davidic authorship. Instead, psalms were composed over five centuries from David’s monarchy and Solomon’s Temple to a much later time after the Jewish exile. The psalms were finally compiled into a hymnal at the time of the second Temple in 515 B.C. This hymnal was divided into five roughly equal parts, mirroring the Pentateuch - the first five Biblical books. Anglicans and Protestants number the psalms according to Hebraic manuscripts, while Catholic texts use a slightly different Greek numbering system. This lack of a universal form may be due to copyists’ mistakes. The 1928 Book of Common Prayer was the first to use asterisks as breath-marks to divide verses; the 1892 book used a colon. Prior to that, no breath-marks were used. The position of these marks is important, since the placement of a breath mark at different locations dramatically affects a verse’s meaning.
~Dr. Gil Haas, St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church
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