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Approaching the Psalms: The Psalm Headings in the Early Versions


This dissertation studies the history of the reception of the Psalm headings (also called the inscriptions, superscriptions, or titles) from the original Hebrew text into the main early versions of Greek, Latin, Coptic, Syriac, and Targumic Aramaic. This material has proven difficult for both ancient and modern scholars to fully understand, and the goal of this study is to see what ancient translators and copyists did when faced with such opaque texts—and, if possible, to ascertain what they thought of them. No similar study has yet been made, either in the scope of the versions used or the detail into which the evidence of the manuscript traditions has been described.

This study is organized into two main parts. Part One surveys the early versions, in sections organized by language (for most of these languages more than one translation or version was made). For each, relationships to other versions, notable figures involved in the translation or interpretation of the Psalms in that language, and the sources (important manuscripts and available critical editions) are delineated. The different scribal presentations of the actual text of the headings in manuscripts are discussed as well. This material provides both the context and the textual basis for the rest of the study. Part Two provides a synoptic edition of the texts of the Psalm headings themselves, organized by language and proximity to the original Hebrew. Specific English translations for the main text of all these versions are provided, as is a critical apparatus listing all important variants.

Two main treatments of the Psalm headings can be discerned in the early versions: accommodation or replacement. Accommodation, which seeks to maintain the headings inherited ultimately from Hebrew, can be either conservative (without additions or modifications) or free (the headings are flexible and may be amended). Replacement, the rarer treatment, involves the excision of the original headings from transmission and their replacement with theological material designed to guide the reader toward a proper understanding of the Psalm. These varied treatments attest to a range of opinion about the validity and function of the headings.

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