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Author Topic: Numbering of the Psalms  (Read 2582 times) Average Rating: 0
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ytterbiumanalyst
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« on: July 09, 2007, 11:51:32 AM »

I have wondered for some time why the Psalms are numbered differently in the East than in the West. I'm sure there's a historical reason, but as far as I can tell both groups use the same Psalms, just in a slightly different order. It may not be a terribly important issue, but I'm curious.
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« Reply #1 on: July 09, 2007, 12:06:50 PM »

If you pick up a Douay-Rheims edition of The Holy Bible you will find it numbers the Psalms just as the Orthodox do.

The Church uses the Septuagint numbering for the Psalms not the Messoretic numbering which was established by people who denied Christ.
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« Reply #2 on: July 09, 2007, 12:13:24 PM »

The Psalms in the East (and previously in the West) were numbered according to the original ordering of the Septuagint. The 're-ordered' Psalms one finds in the West is due to almost all translations being put together by Protestants, who have followed the Masoretic (Babylonian post-Jamnian) ordering of the Psalms. It was the KJV, I believe, that first set the Psalms after the 'Hebrew ordering' - Psalters before that were after the ordering of the LXX/Vulgate.

For a history of the Western use of the Psalms, I suggest "The Annotated Book of Common Prayer" 1903,by Rev. John Henry Blunt, DD. His introduction there is accurate and in-depth. It is also included in the "Saint Dunstan Plainsong Psalter" published by Lancelot Andrewes Press (put together by AWRV clergy.)
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« Reply #3 on: July 09, 2007, 12:27:36 PM »

Unsure if there were any earlier ones but the Geneva Bible of 1560 then 1599 used the Messoretic numbering as one can see from the online PDF versions available here:
http://www.genevabible.org/Geneva.html
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« Reply #4 on: July 09, 2007, 12:29:59 PM »

I'm sorry if I sound clueless here, but what exactly is the Messoretic Psalms and why did it put the Psalms in a different order in the first place?
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« Reply #5 on: July 09, 2007, 01:23:18 PM »

The Massoretic text is the standard text for modern Jewish worship. It was fixed in its canon at the Council of Jamnia after the split with the early Christians, and the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. The Massoretes (scribes in Babylon), arranged the text as it stands today - including the vowel markings, and chant markings found in modern Hebrew Old Testaments. The Massoretic text differed from the LXX not only in the wording of many verses, but also in the ordering/numbering of the Psalms (and missing some chapters.)

St. Jerome had compared to the Hebrew, but from what we can tell his Hebrew texts were not the same as the Massoretic. Rather, they were likely Old Hebrew, like many of the 'Dead Sea Scrolls' which agree with the LXX.

The Geneva Bible, of course, is the Puritan bible and so has that corruption. It was never really used outside of extreme-Calvinist groups (in America, pretty much only amongst the Congregationalists, IIRC.) The King James Version, rather, became the American majority text from early on (it was published only 4 years after the founding of Jamestown.) 
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« Reply #6 on: July 09, 2007, 01:51:46 PM »

OK, so I understand why the Jews would want to create a rival text, but why then did Western Christians pick up the same text, which would of course have been more recent, as opposed to the LXX? Given the propensity of the West, especially of recent times, to look to science for evidences of their faith, and of the Protestants in particular to place special emphasis on the Bible in matters of faith--why would they choose the newer Massoretic text vs. the older LXX? Shouldn't the LXX logically be the more accurate, since it was not only older but contemporary with Christ himself (here I speak of "contemporary" in Protestant terms, assuming Christ's ascension removed him from the earth and that at the Second Coming he will return after an absence)?
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« Reply #7 on: July 09, 2007, 02:26:24 PM »

It was an ignorance amongst the Reformers that started things that way. Their primitivism was answered by contemporary Judaism who claimed to be 'exactly the same' as in the time of Moses. So, in using the Hebrew texts they could correct the 'Romish errors' and 'Greek errors' of the Vulgate and LXX. They had no idea at that time about the history of the Massoretic text. Those who insist on the Hebrew lettering now are either Hebraists (if its Jewish, its right) or tend to be traditionalists for Fundamentalist Protestantism. The trend for more educated Protestants is towards the LXX text (or, it was while I was at school in the '90s.)
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« Reply #8 on: July 09, 2007, 02:42:19 PM »

That makes sense. This has been quite helpful. Thank you all.
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« Reply #9 on: July 09, 2007, 02:57:07 PM »

The MT was not created as a "rival" text. It was a standardization effort to eliminate all the variations between Tanakh texts. In that, it succeeded; differences between MT-type texts are next to non-existent and the only important modern non-MT text is the Samaritan Torah.

As for why they didn't use the LXX: it's not Hebrew, and is therefore derivative. The same argument goes for the Vulgate. We can always have the same argument over LXX primacy again, but the fact remains that almost all modern English translations are composites of the MT, the LXX, the targums, and a few other assorted texts, including reference to the DSS (which are quite incomplete-- IIRC the only complete text is Isaiah). And we can have the same argument as usual over how much of a difference it makes as to which text one uses, but as far as I can see the translating group is far more important an influence than the texts. The only difference between the RSV and NRSV NT bases was the use of different editions of Nestle-Arand, but the the difference between the two is considerable.

As far as the numbering is concerned, one is constrained liturgically by the lectionary. In PECUSA the reference version is the RSV, so we are bound it its (protestant) numbering. (Technically, we are also bound to the text as printed in the BCP.)
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« Reply #10 on: July 09, 2007, 03:08:22 PM »

The MT was not created as a "rival" text.
I apologize for poor word choice. I am speaking about a subject I really know nothing about. My intention is to learn, not to stir up controversy.

As for why they didn't use the LXX: it's not Hebrew, and is therefore derivative.
Okay, I see your point. But isn't translating the Bible back into Hebrew even worse? I apologize if the question sounds ignorant, but I am trying to understand a part of Christian history that I never understood even when I was a Protestant.

We can always have the same argument over LXX primacy again, but the fact remains that almost all modern English translations are composites of the MT, the LXX, the targums, and a few other assorted texts, including reference to the DSS (which are quite incomplete-- IIRC the only complete text is Isaiah). And we can have the same argument as usual over how much of a difference it makes as to which text one uses, but as far as I can see the translating group is far more important an influence than the texts. The only difference between the RSV and NRSV NT bases was the use of different editions of Nestle-Arand, but the the difference between the two is considerable.
Please let's not turn this into that discussion again. I'm not here to debate which translation is better; I hardly know the difference myself. I simply want to know why there are two versions that are similar and yet have important differences, why those differences came about in the first place, and why they persist.

As far as the numbering is concerned, one is constrained liturgically by the lectionary. In PECUSA the reference version is the RSV, so we are bound it its (protestant) numbering. (Technically, we are also bound to the text as printed in the BCP.)
Again I apologize; I'm not familiar with some of the acronyms (I know RSV, but not the others).
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« Reply #11 on: July 09, 2007, 04:17:46 PM »

The MT is not a translation; it is an edition of the Hebrew texts of the time. They then suppressed the older texts in favor of the standardized MT. The positive effect is that any given MT text is extremely reliable as a representative of that particular text. The negative is that until the DSS showed up there was very little to go on in criticizing how good an edition the MT is. There are lots of sections where the Hebrew seems to have lots of problems, as for instance in spots all through 1 Samuel. Is the MT testifying to a source with those faults in it, or did the Masoretes introduce those faults? The latter seems more likely, as editors tend to "fix" things rather than break them. Looking at the other parallel versions, the LXX at times seems to make plain errors, and at other times gives hints of a different Hebrew text from the MT. The DSS show some of these differences, but that leaves us with the question of whether the MT/DSS differences date back to that period or are "corrections" from the Masoretes.
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« Reply #12 on: July 09, 2007, 05:42:02 PM »

This subject is quite interesting...

But like ytterbiumanalyst I do not know ANY of the acronyms.

Can someone please create a 'acronym guide' IE...USA = United States of America and so on. This way the discussion can conitnue without loosing any of us 'acronominically' challenged. I do not know what LXX means or DSS or any of the acronyms used.

Being and accomplished NYC architect I consider myself a person of reasonable capability; all thanks be to God. But I just never tried to learn these acronyms although I have heard them or read them before. This forum is the first time I really felt I needed to know what these abbreviations or acronyms stand for. Before I just disregarded them as protestant 'som-thin-erother' and was not worth my time.

Also; can someone please layout a idiot proof explanantion of the whole issue; maybe using a cronological list by date or something like that. It would help me alot so that I do do not get lost as I review competing views. I think that Aristibule's posts are a good base to lead the discussion. Not to dismiss any other views posted. I have gotten alot from each person thus far but I feel that Aristibule's posts are well explained.

I feel that this is a very good discussion. I have learned some important history from each person so far.

I have only known Orthodoxy as my religion and lifestyle. I am not a convert from Christian faiths and religions outside of the Church. But I am working in a mission church with mostly converts and have a need to learn a little about certain issues like this one.

Also for people like me protestant situations are intriguing and confusing. Such as how much these people have planted into some or most orthodox communities maybe without even realizing it which seems to be the case with the bible issue being discussed here.

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« Reply #13 on: July 09, 2007, 07:24:19 PM »

I don't know all the meanings, but LXX is septuagint.
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« Reply #14 on: July 09, 2007, 07:42:44 PM »

I believe DSS refers to the Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of ancient books found in caves at Qumran in the West Bank about 1945. Among them is the entire book of Isaiah. I think MT is Massoretic Text, though I confess I just learned about that earlier in this thread. It could be something else. But what are PECUSA and BCP? And what is the Nestle-Arand? I don't mean to put you off, Keble, but you seem to have a good knowledge of this subject. Please enlighten those of us not fortunate enough to have had such an education.
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« Reply #15 on: July 09, 2007, 09:02:04 PM »

Well, as a former Hebraist - I do maintain evidence is in favor of the Council of Yavne at Jamnia of being anti-Christian in character. The selection of texts, the fixing of the Canon - all came directly under the shadow of the destruction of the Temple (which the Pharisees were blaming on the Christian community.) It is also believed the other important development at the council was the addition of the curses against the 'Minim' (referring to Christians) into the Shmoneh Esrei (morning prayers.)

I should emphasize *there is no consensus among scholars* on when this all actually happened, or how. However, there is a strong case for a council at Jamnia under Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai having convened to define themselves against the 'heresies' occuring amongst them, and that immediately after the destruction of the Temple. (There is some folklore about ben Zakkai escaping the destruction by being carried out in a coffin by his followers.)
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« Reply #16 on: July 09, 2007, 09:07:50 PM »

I do not know what LXX means or DSS or any of the acronyms used.

LXX is not an acronym, its 70 in Roman numerals, referring to the 70 rabbis who translated the Old Testament from the original Hebrew into Greek.
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« Reply #17 on: July 10, 2007, 04:49:36 PM »

PECUSA is the acronym for the full name for the Episcopal Church in the USA (these days they've taken to using TEC, which I dislike). BCP is "Book of Common Prayer", the principal service book in the Anglican churches. Nestle-Arand is the standard edition of the Greek NT text.
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« Reply #18 on: July 11, 2007, 04:51:27 AM »

Might I please suggest reading St. Justin Martyr's Dialogue With Trypho for more information on how those who are called Jews changed the text of the Holy Scriptures.

It should be pointed out, even some of the LXX manuscripts were altered by Jews living abroad. The classic example is Psalm 95 (or 96) where the words "from the wood" (or "from the tree") have been completely removed from where it says, Say among the gentiles (or heathen), the Lord reigneth from the wood.
{As best as I'm aware there are no written copies of the Holy Scriptures which contain these words but as the word of God is oral and not written only (as it was before the time of Moses the Prophet), the fact that The Church knows they exist and still refers to them shows that the word of God has not passed away.}
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« Reply #19 on: July 16, 2007, 02:12:02 PM »

It should be added, for those wondering about the MT (Masoretic Text) that in Pre-Masoretic times the Hebrew texts (as actually written) did not include the vowels or accents (Aristibule refers to this in one of his early posts), hence the varying traditions of Hebrew text of the OT.  There were disagreements over the rendering of certain phrases and words, because sometimes a switch of one vowel would create a different word that could still be used in the context of the verse.  The system of oral tradition surrounding the Hebrew texts, while strong, was not without dissent (which helped to create different schools of thought, with the Pharisees being one branch {that had branches of its own, iirc}).  The standardization at Jamnia was not only to combat what many deemed to be heresies stemming from "inaccurate" translations (which were perpetuated by various Rabbinical schools), but also as a means for unity - one translation, completely spelled out, to unite all Jews.  So, theoretically, the MT drew from the Pre-MT text of the time (which was consonants-only, and thus easier to reproduce) and the agreed upon oral tradition (including the targums and whatnot) for the vowels.

The LXX was composed to service the Greek-speaking Jewish population living outside of Israel (which was quite sizeable at the time).  It was a translation from the Hebrew used in Alexandria, with the vowel choices being made by the scholars there.  It is only natural, then, that there would be disagreements between the LXX and MT over certain words, phrases, books names (the LXX has 1-4 Kings instead of 1-2 Samuel and 1-2 Kings), since it was a different rabbinical school inserting the vowels.

Not completely related, but helpful in seeing parallels between MT and LXX:

My Old Testament professor from Holy Cross (Fr. Eugen Pentiuc) recently published a book which examines the MT for its Messianic texts (since most Orthodox Fathers and authors have examined the LXX) - Jesus the Messiah in the Hebrew Bible.
http://www.amazon.com/Jesus-Messiah-Hebrew-Bible-Pentiuc/dp/0809143461/ref=sr_1_1/104-4874455-4559129?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1184609552&sr=8-1
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Tags: Psalms LXX Septuagint Massoretic Text Vulgate Jews Judaism Canon of scriptures 
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