Like a Garden of Flowers: A Study of the Formation of the 'Book' of Psalms

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


This is a study of the formation of the ‘Book’ of Psalms that attempts to provide 
answers to two fundamental questions: “how?” and “why?”. The first relates to the diachronic growth of the collection (how are these processes to be reconstructed, and on what grounds?), while the second relates to questions of purpose (to what end are psalms being juxtaposed in a collection?).

Proceeding from a review of the research on these intertwined issues (not least the ground-breaking work of Gerald H. Wilson), David Willgren argues that one fundamental 
aspect is still in need of consideration, namely to understand what is designated by the term ‘book’ in relation to the ‘Book’ of Psalms. What kind of collection does it imply?

By conceptualizing the ‘Book’ of Psalms as an anthology, and by inquiring into its poetics by means of paratextuality, Willgren reframes the current discussion, and relates the formation process(es) to ancient material and scribal cultures. After a chapter on comparative ancient anthologies, he provides an overview of the ‘psalms’ scrolls from the Judean Desert, followed by an analysis of possible paratexts (prefaces, superscriptions, colophons, doxologies, etc.). Then, he searches for traces of collections of psalms in texts ranging from the Hebrew Bible up until the second 
century CE.

Relating these observations to each other, Willgren provides a fresh reconstruction of the formation of the ‘Book’ of Psalms and concludes, in contrast to the canonical 
approach, that the ‘Book’ of Psalms does not primarily provide a literary context for individual psalms. Rather, it preserves a dynamic selection of psalms that is best seen not as a book of psalms, but as a canon of psalms.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Other Humanities not elsewhere specified


  • anthology, book of Psalms, psalms, paratextuality, peritexts, epitexts, Genette, Dead Sea Scrolls, 11Q5, 11QPsa, formation, canon, Canonization, pesharim, Pss 1–2, superscriptions, Ps 72:20, colophon, doxologies, Pss 135–136, Pss 146–150, Hallelujah, David, Davidization, scripturalization, Pss 1–119, Pss 1/2–135/136, Pss 1–150, LXX, citation, allusion, Hodayot, Zà-Mì Hymns, Sumerian Temple Hymns, Psalms of Solomon, Homeric Hymns, the Decad, Catalogues of Incipits, anthologization, scribal culture, material culture, scrolls
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
Award date2016 May 19
Place of PublicationLund
  • Centrum för teologi och religionsvetenskap, Lunds universitet
Print ISBNs978-91-87833-83-0
Publication statusUnpublished - 2016 May 19
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 2016-05-19 Time: 10:15 Place: Sal B237, LUX, Helgonavägen 3, Lund External reviewer(s) Name: Klein, Anja Title: DHabil Affiliation: University of Edinburgh Skottland ---

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Activity: Examination and supervisionSupervision of PhD students

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