Non-canonical psalms (Psalm 150)

Bilderesultat for the watchtower at qumran

Illustration: The watchtower at Qumran

Among the ancient texts of the Bible, scholars sometimes encounter psalms not found in the Hebrew Bible. A Syriac medieval Psalter includes five Apocryphal psalms numbered 151 to 155. Psalm 151 also appears in numerous ancient versions (Greek, Latin, Ethiopic and others). Cave 11 of Qumran contained Hebrew versions of Psalms 151, 154 and 155, and several other non-canonical psalms were discovered in caves 4 and 11. This gives rise to the obvious question of whether these psalms were overlooked and should have been included in the Scriptures.

Psalm 151 is a pseudo-autobiographical account of the early life of David drawn from 1 Samuel, although the Hebrew version also includes some material not found in the Greek. The Hebrew of Psalm 151 includes, “The mountains do not testify to Him (the Lord), and the hills do not tell (of Him). The trees praise my words and the flocks (praise) my deeds.” Perhaps those lines were edited out of the Greek version on the grounds that they were unorthodox or simply made no sense. Some of the non-canonical psalm have borrowed from the Biblical psalms and maintain their poetic conventions. For example, Psalms 154 and 155 are pleas to God for help and are analogous to the Biblical Psalms 61, 62 and 63. Psalm 155 opens with the words “Lord, I have called to You; hear me,” in the tradition of Psalm 61:1 and 63:1.

The reason these psalms were not included in the Bible is simply that they were written too late. Their presence at Qumran and elsewhere indicates that liturgists continued to create songs of praise in imitation of the psalms after the canon had closed. In fact, we even see psalm-like songs of praise in the New Testament (e.g. Luke 1:46-55).


%d bloggers like this: