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Who Wrote the Book of Psalms?

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The book of Psalms is a source of inspiration and wisdom for most people. One of the most read and re-read books of the Bible, its biblical poetry, its hymns, and prayers show you the character of God and help provide shape to your prayers. Did you know that Psalms invites you to lift your hearts—in lament and joy—to the Creator and connects you to the continuous relationship between God and the people of God? 

In this post, we will discover the question of who wrote the book of Psalms. We will also consider both the traditional understandings of the authorship of the book and modern scholarly perspectives. We genuinely invite you to reflect on the book of Psalm’s origin together with us that we might get an even deeper appreciation for the wisdom it contains. 

Quick overview

Before we talk about the different perspectives surrounding who exactly wrote the book of Psalms, allow us to present a quick overview of this Old Testament wisdom book. Did you know that the book of Psalms is composed of creative prayers and poems intended to praise and glorify God? Discovering the highs and lows of a life of faith, the Psalms guide you in what it truly means to live a full life. 

What are the different types of Psalms? 

Scholar Hermann Gunkel explained that all psalms could be categorized into five types (those categories are very different from the five books into which Psalms are categorized).

  • Royal Psalms: These are the psalms focused on events of a king such as battle, marriage, and coronation, among others.
  • Individual Psalms of Thanksgiving: These are prayers of gratitude and praise following blessing or deliverance from God.
  • Individual Laments: It is by far the most common type of Psalm, highlighting sorrow in the wake of a tragedy. 
  • Communal Laments: These are the psalms lifting the sorrows and griefs of the community or nation after a disaster.
  • Hymns: These are psalms praising the work of God through time and creation. 

Take note that those “type” designations aren’t fast and hard rules. Instead, they are only intended to help readers to think about the interaction of the entire Psalter in general.

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So, who wrote the book of Psalms? 

Keeping in mind the general overview of the book, we now go back to the question of who wrote the book. Nonetheless, to speak of an author of the book of Psalms is erroneous, as Psalms is a collection of songs and poetry written by numerous authors over a substantial period. Who exactly those authors were is a concern of some discussion. 

You can find numerous traditional answers to the question. Most individuals believe that King David wrote all the Psalms. Meanwhile, Jewish tradition determines ten authors apart from King David, including Asaph, Jeduthun, Heman, Moses, Abraham, Melchizedek, Adam, and the three sons of Korah. 

Individual Psalms are attributed to one of those individuals, acknowledging them as a “Psalm of David” or “Psalm of Asap.” What’s more, there are other psalms that Solomon and Ethan the Ezrahite wrote based on that tradition. Ultimately, there are also those orphan psalms that are attributed to no one particularly. 

You see, there’s a bit of discussion that Numerous writers wrote psalms, but King David is still often perceived as the book’s main author. Nearly half of the Psalter is attributed to him as well, and there are some references in the scripture calling him “the sweet singer of Israel” (2 Samuel 231:1). 

Modern perspectives to consider

Nonetheless, modern Biblical scholars are far less confident of the accuracy of those standard views of authorship. Most scholars discuss that attribution doesn’t suggest authorship. Only because a Psalm is categorized as a “Psalm of David” does not indicate that David wrote them. They may have written for King David or been commissioned by him. 

You see, being the namesake of a particular text doesn’t automatically make one its Creator. For instance, consider the King James Bible. That Bible version was neither written nor translated by King James himself. Instead, the king only commissioned it. Similarly, it’s possible that not all the attributed Psalms were created by the person they are attributed to. 

In reality, the collections of pieces provided in the book of Psalms were made over a significantly long time, and compilation and revision took even longer. It’s possible that King David wrote at least some of the Psalms included in the book. However, we can’t say with confidence which particular psalms David—or Moses or Asaph—wrote. 

Conclusion 

Do you often feel unsure of how or what to pray? The words of the Psalmist could act as your starting point, structuring your thoughts and connecting you to the legacy of God’s relationship along with humanity. After all this time, Psalm’s wisdom encourages you to give thanks for the blessings you have received. 

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