The Book of Psalms. The Harvard Classics. 190914.
THE BOOK of Psalms is a great collection of the religious lyrics of the Hebrew people. of unknown authority, and of uncertain dates, these hymns were gathered and arranged, in part at least, for use in the services of the Temple at Jerusalem; but their profundity of feeling, their simplicity of expression, and the variety of the religious experiences with which they deal have found them a welcome in the hearts of devout people far beyond the limits of Judaism.
The Psalms as they have come down to us are divided into five Books, each ending with a doxology; but it is probable that these divisions are of a later date than the actual collecting of the poems. One hundred of them are attached to individual names; and these names were long supposed to indicate the authors. Thus to David are attributed seventy-three, to Asaph twelve, to Moses one, to Solomon two, to the sons of Korah eleven. These ascriptions are, however, later than the Psalms themselves, and are by no means to be relied on, many of them being demonstrably false. The only poems which are now universally ascribed to David are those in 2 Samuel, I and III; it is doubtful whether he wrote any of the Psalms.
The question of the dates of the Psalms is almost as difficult as that of the authorship. Some have been supposed to be as old as 900 B. C.; none is likely to be later than the beginning of the second century B. C.; and their composition probably extended over more than five hundred years.
The religious moods to which they give utterance are manifold. Adoration and thanksgiving, prayer and penitence and imprecation, history and prophecy, the general worship of a whole people and the intimate impulses of an individual soulall these and many more are represented in this supreme collection of sacred song.