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Psalm Studies, Volume 1

Psalm Studies, Volume 1

Sigmund Mowinckel
Translated by Mark E. Biddle
  • Book Info
    Psalm Studies, Volume 1
    Book Description:

    Sigmund Mowinckel is widely recognized as one of the leading forces in Psalms research during the twentieth century. Indeed, the culmination of Mowinckel's thought and work,The Psalms in Israel's Worship, continues to play a significant role in Psalms scholarship today. Not as well known are the seminal studies that prepared the ground for Mowinckel's later work, the sixPsalmenstudienthat are translated here into English for the first time. In these studies Mowinckel explores with care and in detail such topics as: "'Awenand the Psalms of Individual Lament"; "YHWH's Enthronement Festival and the Origin of Eschatology"; "Cultic Prophecy and Prophetic Psalms"; "The Technical Terms in the Psalm Superscriptions"; "Blessing and Curse in Israel's Cult and Psalmody"; and "The Psalmists." Anyone interested in Psalms study, especially the possible role of the New Year's enthronement festival within Israel's cult and its relation to the Psalter, will find much to consider in these classic works.

    eISBN: 978-1-58983-509-2
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-x)
  2. Translator’s Note
    (pp. xi-xii)
  3. Psalm Studies 1: ʾĀwen and the Psalms of Individual Lament

    • Preface
      (pp. 3-4)

      I came to the understanding of the word און and the psalms of individual lament presented and substantiated here more than ten years ago, after reading Heinrich Zimmern’s translations of Babylonian psalms.¹ I had already presented this understanding orally for some years to my theological friends and students.² Here, for the first time, I test and substantiate it from all sides.³

      My understanding of the psalms, as can easily be seen, stands on the foundation of Gunkel’s works. As the reader will see, however, I consider it necessary to liberate what is new in Gunkel from its bondage to older...

    • 1 The Path to the Core of the Term
      (pp. 5-36)

      The treatment that Semitic and Hebrew lexicographers have so far given the word און , ʾāwen, or in the original pronunciationaun, so frequent in the psalms, is an outstanding example of the inability of the purely “linguistic” methods for dealing with such a “culturally saturated” word using modern scientific categories without truly and intimately inhabiting the thought and culture of a “primitive” people. The word’s entire content and soul are defined by a thought and culture that, above all, differs from our own. Linguists who utilize the methods of linguistic rationalism must necessarily fail with such a term. It...

    • 2 Development
      (pp. 37-62)

      The basic meaning of און is neither falsehood nor injury done to another but magical power, magic, sorcery. So must the word be translated unless the context, the parallelism, or other clear indicators demonstrate that another meaning is involved. In most of the passages treated above (§§1.1–10), the meaning “magic,” in one connotation or another, is more or less illuminating and required by the context or the parallelism. Even in isolated passages that permit no clear judgment, this meaning fits quite well. The many clear, concrete passages permit us to employ the same meaning even in the less clear...

    • 3 Magic in Israelite Popular Belief
      (pp. 63-80)

      Here is the place to give a brief definition of the term “magic.”¹

      First, the method that seeks to handle the problem through more or less unconscious value judgments or through modern religious classifications and categories must be rejected. This method has led, in part, to the postulation of a stage in the religio-historical development of humanity termed “prereligious” or “preanimist”² or to definitions such as those that maintain that magic seeks to achieve its objectives through the compulsion that the rites exert on the gods but that religion is present when personal prayer to gods able to do as...

    • 4 The Enemies in the Individual Psalms of Lament
      (pp. 81-138)

      A question much-debated by exegetes involves the enemies in the psalms. Are these enemies who oppress the pious (note the “collective” statement of the problem!) foreign enemies, pagans and foreign powers, or are they domestic enemies, apostate and nonbelieving Israelites? For Buhl, for example, this question consistently constitutes one of the major questions in the exegetical discussion.

      Even when we disregard the national psalms of lament, most critical scholars assume both foreign and domestic enemies.¹ The nature of the matter requires that proponents of the collective understanding of the first-person speaker incline more toward finding the foreign enemy as often...

    • 5 The Individual Psalms of Lament as Cultic Psalms
      (pp. 139-164)

      The preceding investigations have permitted us an insight not only into ancient Israelite superstition—as we who know other realities than ancient Israel would say—but also into its religion and cult.

      Religion deals with human realities. It is the means whereby one sustains oneself in the world of realities and maintains a firm footing. Wherever fear is the greatest reality in life, one of the greatest tasks of religion is to free from fear, to assist one to transcend it. In Israel, one did this through a new and different fear, the fear of God. Religion is fear of...

    • 6 The End of the Cultic Healing Rites
      (pp. 165-172)

      Our investigation would not be complete if we were not to say a word by way of addendum concerning the question of the later fate of the lament psalms. For the “collective” interpretation of the lament psalms, advocated by Smend in particular, is not new, as has already been frequently noted. It has not been noted, however, that it is already represented in the Old Testament.

      If one looks at the Mishnaic comments on the cultic use of the Psalms in the last days of the temple, one notices how little they often correspond to the original sense of the...

  4. Psalm Studies 2: YHWH’s Enthronement Festival and the Origin of Eschatology

    • Preface
      (pp. 175-180)

      Hugo Gressmann’sDer Urspung der israelitisch-jüdischen Eschatologiegave me the initial impetus for the understanding of the “enthronement psalms” presented here.¹ Gressmann has a chapter on YHWH’s enthronement in which he derives the style of the enthronement psalms, in the more restricted sense, from an only half-understood imitation of those songs that were sung, for example, in Babylonia-Assyria celebrating the enthronement and accession to world rule of a new god. The precondition was that this new god had not previously been king of the world. Whether Gressmann connects this Babylonian concept with cultic procedures cannot be entirely determined from his...

    • Part 1: The Enthronement Psalms and the Festival of YHWH’s Enthronement

      • 1 The Enthronement Psalms and Their Interpretation
        (pp. 183-222)

        Traditionally one has understood the enthronement psalms to include Pss 47, 93, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, and 100. These psalms clearly constitute a unique group. The characteristic phrase in these psalms is “YHWH has become king” (Pss 47:9; 93:1; 96:10; 97:1; 99:1). YHWH is also celebrated as the king who has already acceded to his throne with other expressions (Pss 95:3; 98:6). The new king deserves a new song, so we find: “Sing YHWH a new song” (Pss 96:1; 98:1). In terms of content, the notion of creation is quite prominent (Pss 93:2–3; 95:4–5; 96:10; 100:3). In...

      • 2 YHWH’s Enthronement Festival
        (pp. 223-322)

        Above I have presented the more a priori and analogical considerations that led to the postulation of a festival of YHWH’s enthronement. I have also employed the precondition that the enthronement psalms are cultic songs and, consequently, must refer to cultic realities. It must be emphasized, however, that these a priori considerations do not rest on this assumption alone. They depend both on an insight into the essence of the cult in general that, under the given conditions, requires the assumption of such a festival and on ancient Near Eastern analogies that confirm them to a great degree.

        We cannot...

      • 3 YHWH’s Dominion (Kingdom)
        (pp. 323-364)

        In this chapter we will deal with the ideas and expectations associated with the festival, especially to the degree that they are expressed in the festival psalms and liturgies. We will have to treat the hopes and expectations connected to YHWH’s arrival and, based in the experience of it, the community’s prayers for the actualization of these expectations already anticipated in the cultic experience and the divine responses that promise the community all of the gifts and blessings already inherent in the cultic experience. We have already touched upon much in the above discussion of the festival’s cultic myth.


      • 4 The Age of the Festival
        (pp. 365-386)

        If one recalls the ideas and religious notions presented above as the content of the festival, one cannot doubt for a moment that they do not belong to Judaism, but to the national cultic religion of the people Israel.

        We have found an authentic, uncorrupted cult here. Jewish nomism no longer knows what cult is. For it, the cult consists only of some divine commandments among others that must be fulfilled because God once gave them. Judaism now has, at most, an obscure clue that the cult, per se, produces and gives something, as is grounded, logically, in its nature....

    • Part 2: The Origins of Israelite Eschatology

      • 1 The Problem and the Thesis
        (pp. 389-402)

        We will briefly summarize the results of part 1.

        The enthronement psalms, which are to be interpreted neither in terms of contemporary history nor eschatologically, presume a cultic day of YHWH’s enthronement, celebrated every year on New Year’s Day, perhaps on the first day of the grand fall festival. For ancient Israel, the kingdom of God was not an eschatological, but a current entity, a fact, whose reality and whose repeated reestablishment was experienced in the cult of the New Year’s festival. In the cultic experience, the foundational saving events, the basis of the existence and the salvation of a...

      • 2 Outline of the Argument
        (pp. 403-482)

        We will demonstrate here that the outlines of the eschatological tableau agree on the whole with and originate in the cultic myth and the circle of ideas associated with the enthronement festival.

        The evidence will only be briefly indicated here because, first, I have already given the fundamental presentation of the most important ideas in the portrayal of the enthronement festival, and, second, Gressmann’s work has contributed a foundational summary and arrangement of the details of the picture of the future. I do not mean to say that I do not differ with Gressmann on many points. Indeed, he almost...

      • 3 From Experience to Hope
        (pp. 483-492)

        The statements above (§2.15) concerning the origination of eschatology in the enthronement festival can be summarized as follows: the ultimate roots of eschatology are in the religious experience of reality and of YHWH’s presence at the great annual festival.

        Eschatology is faith and hope. Primary faith and hope are only based on experience. This is true in the intellectual life of human beings in general. It is also true of religion.

        Eschatological faith, however, is only rarely primary. It is most often a customary belief in tradition, a faith whose original connection with expression has been severed.

        Thus, the question...