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
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.