Genizah Psalms

Over the course of this academic year, the Graduate Colloquium in Biblical and Early Christian Studies (Markus Bockmuehl’s brainchild originally, but a meeting I now co-convene with him) has been considering hymns in ancient Jewish and Christian traditions. We meet every other week during term to discuss interesting Jewish and Christian texts, and have sampled a wide variety of texts: OT Psalms, late second Temple texts (Hodayot, PsSol, Tobit), putative NT hymns, LXX Odes, Odes of Solomon, the Didache, Ignatius, Pliny, Justin Martyr, Liturgy of St James, P.Oxy. 1786, the Syriac tradition (Ephraem, Jacob of Serug, and some later authors), Hilary of Poitiers, Ambrose, the te Deum, Prudentius, and some piyyutim (the El Adon, a long piyyut by Yannai on Genesis and the Az be-‘En Kol). This week we had the pleasure of hearing from Dr. David Stec, from Sheffield, about some apocryphal psalms which he has translated for the first time into English in his new book, The Genizah Psalms: A Study of Ms 798 of the Antonin Collection (or see here). These are remnants of four psalms – two complete, and two incomplete – that are strikingly messianic in tone. Intriguingly, Stec argues, from his expertise in classical Hebrew linguistics, that there is nothing in the language of the texts that necessitates a composition later than the 2nd c. CE, so they could be quite early (though one always wants to be careful about such datings). At any rate, his book should be available at any moment (at Brill’s library prices, to be sure) and specialists in Second Temple Judaism will certainly want to be aware of his work and engage with these texts, intriguing and mysterious as they are.

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