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PREFACE TO THE GERMAN EDITION.
These are the feelings with which I have undertaken this Commentary, to which the prayers which accompany them correspond. If I had known, when I began this volume, that the theologian who seems especially qualified for the execution of a work of this kind, would so soon publish a Commentary on the Psalms, I should not have published mine. I have seen the first volume of Dr. Hengstenberg's Commentary, and entertain the hope that my work, owing to its peculiar construction, will not prove superfluous, but that both works will join to meet the existing want.
I have still briefly to advert to the critical position I occupy in my Commentary. The authenticity of the titles has, with a few exceptions, been taken as established. I declare from the outset, that I have been far from making of this acceptation an article of faith, or from attaching to it any special religious importance. Every candid theologian will admit that, in the case of some of the titles, there may be entertained by no means unfounded misgivings respecting their authenticity. But I feel constrained to confess that the manner in which the titles have in modern times been treated, appears to me nothing short of the highest degree of critical arbitrariness. Instead of winnowing where necessary the historical traditions, supported by · weighty reasons, they are now from the outset set aside, for the purpose of substituting in their place the utterances of the most unbounded subjectivity. What confidence can be placed in a criticism, the judgments of which present among themselves such powerful contradictions ?* Are we not entitled to the demand, that the critic—to say the very least-should look at these titles, as the Commentators of the New Testament regard the diplomatically constituted text of Lachmann, which they are bound to adhere to in all instances except those where unmistakeable external or internal reasons render a deviation from it absolutely necessary?
This is the position which I have adopted; from this point of view I have endeavoured to understand and to historically explain the Psalms, according to the hints furnished by the titles. I think that in this manner objections which had been started have in more than one instance been set aside, and that the authenticity of the titles has been verified; but even if this were not the case, it was necessary that some one should put forth
* E.g. Köster and Maurer observe, ad. Psalm li. that the Psalm contains nothing which contradicts its title, that David is the author, and that verses 20. 21, are an addition of a later date. Ewald, on the other hand, states that v. 20 throws the clearest historical light on the whole Psalm, and that it belongs to the period shortly after the destruction of the Temple! Krahmer remarks, ad. Psalm xxxii. that the authorship of David is altogether to be called in question, that its tone is milder, more polished and soft, than the Psalms of David; while Ewald observes, “The song is clearly ancient, thoroughly primitive, the mark of a strong mind.” According to Hitzig, Psalm ii. “is one of the latest.” Maurer refers it to the time of Hezekiah; and according to Ewald it cannot belong to a period later than the days of Solomon, etc.
PREFACE TO THE GERMAN EDITION.
xv. the effort and make the attempt. The critics, therefore, who start with different views, cannot regard my method as blameworthy.
The translation is that of Luther, from which, however, I have deviated in those instances where the sense was incorrect or the connexion dark. I fancy that I am not mistaken in thinking that the printing of the text in separate lines and paragraphs, will materially facilitate to laymen the understanding of the Psalms and their connexion with the context.
Halle, January 1st, 1843.
THE PSALTER IN THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH.
The Book of Psalms should be approached with feelings of reverence. The saints of the Jewish community and the Christian church have, from the earliest times, found in its words the expressions of their most secret feelings. Appropriating its complaints and promises, they have struggled before God in prayer. The Psalter was the earliest prop of christian worship. The present liturgies of most christian churches are greatly indebted to the Book of Psalms for a large number of their sublimest sentiments, which now, at every service, in prayer ascend anew to heaven. Piety, Jewish or Christian, if genuine, and not formal, has derived more nourishment from the Psalms than from any other source. The Council of Toulouse prohibited (A.D. 1229) the use of the Bible to laymen, the Book of Psalms excepted. We may account for the diligent use of the Psalms for devotional purposes from the fact, that more than any other book of the Scriptures, they contain the effusions of subjective piety, and meet on that account in a more immediate manner the wants of christian devotion. Luther says, “Other books talk much of the works of saints, but little of their words. The noble virtue and manner of the Psalter is a pattern of another kind. Its perusal is so delightful, because not only are the works of saints recounted, but the words given in which they spoke and prayed to God.” In our day, the Psalms most thoroughly enter into the religious life of Christendom. They are the prayers of the Roman Catholic Mass Service, and of the Liturgy of the Church of England. In the greater portion of reformed churches they serve as spiritual songs : the Catholic priest daily prays them in his breviary, and, bound with many editions of the New Testament, they form now the book of devotion of many Protestants.
What sort of history would that be, which should record all the spiritual experiences, disclosures, and struggles, which holy men have in the course of time associated with separate passages in the Psalms, and should indicate their influence on the inward history of the heroes of the kingdom of God!
When our Lord instituted the holy Supper, he sung psalms with his apostles. He testified to his disciples that the traits of his fate were delineated in the Psalms. He referred his opponents to a prophetic Psalm as inspired by the Holy Ghost.5 The extent to which his humiliation and exaltation were, mirror-like, beheld by him in the Psalms, may be illustrated by the fact, that even on the cross, when expressing the desertion of his soul, he used not his own words, but adopted the language of his typical ancestor. 4 Paul and Silas, at dead of night, praise God in psalms from the dungeon."
(1) Matt. xxvi. 30. (5) Acts xvi. 25,
(2) Luke xxiv. 44.
(3) Matt. xxii, 43.
(4) Matt. xxvii. 46.
Paul exhorts the christian church to sing psalms.? Tertullian mentions, in the second century, that christians were wont to sing psalms at the Agapæ, and that pious husbands and wives repeated them antiphonically, i.e. by alternate responses. The Psalms have, ever since the first century, formed an essential portion of christian worship.
From some passages in the writings of Augustine and other authors, we gather that an entire psalm was sung (or partly sung and partly read) after the reading of a portion of the epistolary part of the New Testament. The order of the Psalms was adhered to. Then followed the Gospel lesson. The singing differed from the choral song of the later Roman Catholic Church. It was congregational, though the manner of its execution changed and varied. Hilary, Chrysostom, and Augustine state, that these Psalms were frequently sung by the congregation, sometimes recited by separate individuals, and repeated by the rest. The antiphonical plan was very common in the East, and since the days of Ambrose also in the West. The congregation, divided into two choirs, alternately repeated the verses. Sometimes the precentor sung one half, and the congregation responded, as e.g. Psalm cxxxvi. in the words, “For his mercy endureth for ever.”* We have said they were sung: this term must be qualified. Artistic singing, with unnatural variations and difficult notes, is altogether out of the question. According to our information on the subject, there obtained variations rising from solemn recitation to choral song. Athanasius had the Psalms (according to Augustine) recited with so slight a modulation of voice, as to resemble simple repetition: it appears to have been something like the chanting of the psalms in the Church of England. Many ancient christian churches, however, used to sing. We may indeed infer from several circumstances, especially from the strophic nature of the Psalms, that the singing in the African churches was not choral, but solemn cantillation : of this more hereafter. 4
Some Psalms answered particular ends. From the earliest times, e.g. Psalm li. was called, par excellence, The Penitential Psalm: an epithet which, since the days of Origen, became attached to seven psalms (Psalms vi. xxxii. xxxviii. li. cii. cxxx. cxlii.), reference being made to the Old Testament, where a sevenfold sprinkling took place at the purification of lepers, and Naaman the Syrian was ordered to wash seven times in Jordan. The morning service · opened with Psalm lxiii. the evening with Psalm cxli.: during Passion-week, Psalm xxii. etc. In the formation of the services of the Romish Church, the Psalter was introduced into the Mass. The oldest Mass books consisted of three parts: the sacramentarium, containing the prayers of the officiating priest; the lectionarium, containing portions of the Scriptures; and the antiphonarium, containing the Psalms and antiphonies, or verses from the Psalms and the Prophets, which served as the introitus, and was so called from the antiphonic method of singing. The graduale of the Mass reminds us of the place which the Psalms occupied in the ancient service. That psalm which was sung before the reading of the Gospel, was called, Responsorium graduale, because two choristers intonated it from an elevated place (the steps of the ambon), when it was taken up by the congregation. The Psalms are so distributed in the Liturgy of the Church
(1) Col. iii. 16; Eph. v. 19. (2) August. Op. vol. v. Serms. 176, 165, vol. iv. (3) August. Conf. 10, 33. Ep. 31. (4) See sec. ii.
* Both are comprised in the term Antiphonic.” The same variety in the manner of singing the Psalms obtains at present in the Roman Catholic services : a variety, not only affected by different festivals, but also by different localities. See, concerning the usages of the Romish Church, and antiquity in general, the Sections "De Antiphonis" and "De Psalmis," in Gavanti's Thesaurus Sacrorum Rituum, ed. Merati Romæ, 1738, vol. ii.