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Psalm 151 (Greek) (Researcher: Alexander Samely):
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1.1 The text refers to itself as verbal entity (with implied or explicit boundaries): the superscription in v. 1 consists of two parts, one indicating that it is not part of the body of the text (mentioning that the Psalm is "outside the number", presumably of Psalms), see 1.1.5. However, the second component could be understood as presenting itself as a "heading" that is part of the body of the text, introducing the first-person speaker (David) and placing the Psalm's composition or performance (immediately?) after the narrative situation which it reflects upon and partly re-tells (namely, after the victory over Goliath). If that part of the superscription is understood as presenting itself as the opening part of the body of the text (rather than as something detached, wholly belonging under category 1.1.5), then it provides a narrative context for the creation of the text itself: see

Full profile (Bibliography at the bottom):
1.1 The text refers to itself as verbal entity (with implied or explicit boundaries): the superscription in v. 1 consists of two parts, one indicating that it is not part of the body of the text (mentioning that the Psalm is "outside the number", presumably of Psalms), see 1.1.5. However, the second component could be understood as presenting itself as a "heading" that is part of the body of the text, introducing the first-person speaker (David) and placing the Psalm's composition or performance (immediately?) after the narrative situation which it reflects upon and partly re-tells (namely, after the victory over Goliath). If that part of the superscription is understood as presenting itself as the opening part of the body of the text (rather than as something detached, wholly belonging under category 1.1.5), then it provides a narrative context for the creation of the text itself: see

1.1.5 Important text witnesses attest to a heading which is not integrated with the body of the text or with any introductory frame, implying one or more of the kinds of information under 1.1.1–4: there is a heading which marks itself as not belonging to the body of the text ("This Psalm was written itself (idiographos, a Septuagint hapax) by (literally, "to") David (or: by David himself), and is outside the number. When he had fought in single combat with Goliath" (v. 1). This heading appears to take for granted that the text is a "Psalm", and that there is a numerically limited collection of Psalms of which this one is not part, which corresponds to the manner in which the Psalm is transmitted in most manuscripts of the Septuagint (by contrast, codex Sinaiticus speaks of "151 Psalms").

1.6 The approximate word count or other indication of comparative size is: 116 words (Greek, acc. to the text in Rahlfs).

1.7 The text’s Inventory profile should be seen in the light of the following further information on completeness, thematic progression, aesthetic effects, etc.: For an Overview of Parts, see bibliography. The text shape here described is the one found in the Septuagint. This is, structurally speaking, significantly different from a related text found as part of the Qumran Psalm scroll, including but not restricted to the fact that the Qumran Psalm does not mention David's confrontation of Goliath as part of the same text (separating so-called 151A and 151B). There is no problem with reading the whole Psalm, as in the Septuagint text, as a unity.

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2.1 The information conveyed in the text defines the perspective of the governing voice in the following way:

2.1.1 [The text does not thematize how the governing voice comes to know the text’s contents (or its right to command obedience from the addressee), but suggests that its knowledge (or authority) is unlimited: there is an aspect of this in the claims about God, in verse 3, 4 and 5.]

2.1.2 The governing voice thematizes how it comes to know the text’s contents or its right to command obedience from the text’s addressee. Its perspective is presented as limited, referring either to evidence, or to personal experience (mere human knowledge). The governing voice suggests its information or advice is based on his or her own experiences, or on other knowledge filtered by reflections on personal experience: the first-person voice tells of events that happened to him, albeit also makes confident statements about God (e.g., "it is he who hears", v. 3; see 2.1.1).

2.1.7 [The governing voice (whether first or third person) is anonymous, that is, is not presented as tied to a specific personal identity (or to personhood in general): this is only true if the overlap with biblical narrative, which identifies the speaker as the character David, is not taken into account. There is, however, no proper name for the speaker mentioned in the body of the text (for the superscription, see 1.1.5).]

2.2 A first-person voice imposes its perspective on all (or almost all) knowledge or norms conveyed in the text: that first person is indirectly (and by the superscription) identified as David.

2.2.1 [The first-person governing voice is identified by an anonymous voice through a proper name or unique description: this is true only if at least part of the superscription is taken to present itself as part of the body of the text, see 1.1 and 1.1.5.] [The text is introduced as the first-person voice’s extended direct speech, having taken place on a unique narrative occasion: the superscription, v. 1, places the speaking of this "Psalm" into the narrative situation after the fight with Goliath: see 1.1.]

2.2.3 The first-person governing voice is not identified by name or unique identifier, but speaks of himself/herself in the first person at least once.

2.2.4 The number and gender of the first-person governing voice are as follows: The first person singular is used.

2.4 The governing voice defines a horizon of knowledge as shared with the projected addressee by taking for granted the following linguistic usages or references (in selection):

2.4.1 Persons or unique objects referred to by proper name or by technical expression: for persons mentioned or presented in narrative usage; as characters; or topics, for example: outside the superscription in v. 1, which names David and Goliath, only the proper name Israel (v. 7, for the people) occurs; the related Hebrew Psalm found at Qumran (11QPsa) also mentions by name Samuel, as well as David son of Jesse in the superscription)l the adversary is referred to as "the foreigner" (allophylos, used often for "Philistine" in the Septuagint) with definite article. for Gods/mythical figures/supernatural beings, etc., for example: "the Lord" is mentioned, and a messenger or angel (v. 4, angelos); the idols of the foreigner are mentioned as a means to curse the first-person speaker in v. 6.

2.4.2 circumlocutions, names or descriptions employed as “code” names: it is conceivable that "the foreigner" in v. 6, whose identity is marked as specific by use of the direct article, and obvious from the narrative overlap with 1 Sam. 16–17, is emphasizing its own avoidance of the proper name, Goliath. See

2.4.3 The text as a whole routinely employs the following language(s), knowledge of which is taken for granted: Greek. Biblicizing language, such that the text may be assumed to project itself as having a link to texts today known as biblical (see Other special linguistic usages: the Greek expression "(the) Lord" (kyrios) occurs as the exclusive manner to refer to God.

2.6 The text presents itself as speaking to certain persons, groups or entities, explicitly projecting a certain image of its addressee.

2.6.4 The governing voice directs questions at the projected addressee which are marked as rhetorical or as suggesting the audience assume a particular epistemic or moral stance: v. 3 "And who will declare it to my Lord? The Lord himself...".

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3.3 The text bears resemblance in length and theme to a biblical prayer, song, lament or psalm, and is thereby recognizable as constituting a single piece (3.2 does not apply).

3.5 The language of a text whose boundaries are determined by poetic formation or by contrast in adjacency (3.3–4 applies) exhibits poetic formation as follows:

3.5.2 There is pervasive use of parallelism.

3.5.3 There is pervasive use of other features that can be interpreted as defining poetic formation, such as heightened or figurative language, repetitions of key phrases, short or otherwise poetically defined lines, etc.

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4.1 [The text narrates events which are strongly emplotted, making reference to interlocking happenings, characters, motivations, causes, times or locations: it is doubtful that this point applies strictly speaking. The whole psalm can indeed be read a schematic first-person tale of how David came to be chosen and that he defeated Goliath (both unnamed in the body of the text). If read as telling a tale, however, the details are left exceedingly vague, and the resulting sequence of events is not only elliptical, but also somewhat different from that in 1 Sam. 16–17 (see bibliography). It appears to be more appropriate, in particular in the light of the question-answer of v. 3 which thematizes God, to see this piece not as so much as telling a story than as commenting upon one, or reflecting on events already known. This “contemplative” mode is to some extent known from other texts where narratives are interrupted by songs, prayers, or soliloquies in the voice of one of the characters (in both biblical and post-biblical texts, e.g., Ex. 15, 1 Maccabees, Tobit, Joseph and Aseneth, a feature defined as 4.13.2). The second part of the superscription in v. 1 (see 1.1) places the Psalm in precisely such a context, although this does not produce the textual combination of narrative and poetic speech envisaged in 4.13.2. In any case, it makes little sense to apply the remainder of points under 4 to such a sketchy “narrative”. Even before making the comparison with the narrative account in 1 Sam. 16–17, it seems clear that what we have here are radically foreshortened and allusive references to, rather than a straightforward telling, of events, most likely in a reflective and evaluative mode. Certainly, once the text is understood as presupposing an account such as it appears in 1 Sam. 16–17 (see, a relationship of textual interdependency is created which removes from this piece the appearance of a stand-alone narrative account.]

4.1.2 [All subordinate events are presented as preparing one crisis and its solution, or as addressing one unified timespan/location, or as telling the fate of one character or a group of characters. ]

4.1.3 [The narrative provides a clear closure, or dwells on the closure.]

4.2 [The event sequence is projected as related to the sequence of text parts as follows: ]

4.2.1 [The report sequence mirrors the projected chronological sequence of events mostly or wholly, not precluding 4.2.2–5. ]

4.7 Within a thematic (non-narrative) framework the text contains extensive telling of continuous and detailed events: the Psalm appears to be narrative (see 4.1), and yet there are strong indications that its mode is reflective rather than narrative proper (see 4.1). This impression, received even when the piece is considered on its own or as part of a collection of Psalms, becomes even stronger if it is considered to stand in a specific relationship of interdependence with 1 Sam. 16–17 (see If it is assumed that it presupposes the tale as told in 1 Sam., then its function is easy to understand as one of reflection or contemplation of events, in the perspective of the hero who recapitulates the amazing things that have happened to him (see 4.1 and the option, realized in other texts, of 4.13.2). In the light of a general increase in precision in recent scholarly understanding of forms of rabbinic literature, it appears to me now unhelpful to call Ps. 151, and the relationship it has to 1 Sam. 16–17, "midrashic", as was done by J. A. Sanders and others.

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7.1 Narrative or thematic correspondences, or overlap of specific wording, occur between a non-biblical text and one or more biblical texts in a manner that is prominent or pervasive.

7.1.1 Characters correspond between the non-biblical narrative and the narrative of a biblical text or texts. Some or all main characters of the text correspond to main characters in a biblical partner text: although no proper name is mentioned except Goliath in the superscription (see 1.1.5), the unidentified first person is clearly tied to the events knonw from 1 Sam. 15–17, and thus recognizable as David; this also identifies "the foreigner", in v. 6, as Goliath. The Qumran Hebrew version in 11QPsa also mentions Samuel as the person who anointed David. A main character shared with a biblical partner text is also the first-person narrator of the text.

7.1.2 Chronology, physical setting or emplotment correspond between the non-biblical narrative and the narrative of a biblical text or texts: The narrative’s chronological and spatial framework, as well as certain events, are co-extensive with that of a biblical partner text, or with some extended part of it. The text tends to narrate the story through events described in less detail or through fewer events than a biblical partner text: the Psalm give effectively a version that reduces the plot to the bare bones, and some specific selective emphases (in particular the menion of the harp in v. 2, and the handsome brothers in v. 5) which are not essential to the plot.

7.1.4 The text shares features of language with the Hebrew Bible, or exhibits tacit overlap with specific biblical wording, whether narrative or not. The text contains prominently, but not necessarily frequently, the wording of specific biblical passages such as whole sentences or unique biblical phrases, used in a tacit manner. See also this includes passages in 1 Sam. 16-17 (see Overview of Parts in the bibliography); and cp. also Ps. 78:70-72; 89:20. The tacit overlap of wording takes place across language boundaries, with respect to the current language of the text (this point does not apply to 6.13 cases): the Psalm is in Greek and, at least with respect to the Hebrew original of the biblical narrative, in contrast to the Septuagint version of it, the overlap has to be considered across the two langauges (but see the Hebrew version of Qumran cave 11).

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8.1.13 Declamatory sentence, confession, proclamation or affirmation: all setnences of the Psalm as a whole belong arguably in this category of speech act.

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11.2 The text is dominated by the reporting of emplotted events, whether or not in an overarching narrative format (4): see 4.7.

11.2.1 The reported events are those of a biblical past, or of a biblically foretold future.

11.3 The text is directly or indirectly addressed to God. Its specific contents are self-reflective regarding the governing voice, thematic in a diffuse manner or narrative (see also 3).

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12.1 Sampling of genre labels applied to the text in secondary literature: "Psalm" (already in the Septuagint superscription and widely adopted in the modern scholarship); concerning the related Hebrew version of the Psalm from Qumran cave 11, Sanders spoke of "a poetic midrash on 1 Sam 16:1-3" (see 4.7).

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A. Rahlfs, Septuaginta, vol. 2 (Stuttgart: Wuerttembergische Bibelanstalt, 1935), pp. 163–4; for the related psalm known from Qumran cave 11 (11QPsa), see in J. A. Sanders (ed.), The Psalms Scroll of Qumran Cave 11 (11QPsa) (Discoveries in the Judaean Desert, 4; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1965; repr. 1997), pp. 54–64.


B. M. Metzger (ed.), The Oxford Annotated Apocrypha: The Apocrypha of the Old Testament. Revised Standard Version. Expanded Edition (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977), p. 331; the related text from the Qumran Psalms scroll (11QPsa) is translated in Sanders (see above), and his translation is also presented in p. 330 of Metzger; J. H. Charlesworth and J. A. Sanders, "More Psalms of David", in J. H. Charlesworth (ed.), The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (New York: Doubleday, 1985), vol. 2, pp. 614–5. For the Qumran Psalm, see among others, M. Wise, M. Abegg Jr., E. Cook, The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation (San Francisco: Harper, 1996), p. 448; G. Vermes, The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English (London: Allen Lane/Penguin, 1997), p. 302; E. Schuller, "Apocryphal Psalms", in L. H. Feldman, J. L. Kugel and L. H. Schiffman (eds.), Outside the Bible. Ancient Jewish Writings Related to Scripture, 3 vols. (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society/University of Nebraska Press, 2013), pp. 2095–2097, translation with minor modificiations from J. A. Sanders, The Psalms Scroll of Qumran Cave 11, 11QPs.a (Discoveries in the Judean Desert of Jordan, vol. 4; Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1965).

Selected Studies:

A. Salvesen, "Psalm 151", in J. D. G. Dunn and J. W. Rogerson (eds), Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible (Grand Rapids, Mich., Cambridge: Eerdmans Publishing, 2003), pp. 862–4; M. Segal, “The Literary Development of Psalm 151. A New Look at the Septuagint Version”, Textus, 21 (2002), pp. 139-58; N. Fernandez-Marcos, "David the Adolescent. On Psalm 151", in R. J. V. Hiebert, C. E. Cox, P. J. Gentry (eds.), The Old Greek Psalter: Studies in Honour of Albert Pietersma (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001), pp. 203–17. Most of the following publications deal with Psalm 151 as known from the Septuagint (here profiled) in light of the related text in Hebrew found in Qumran cave 11: P. Flint, The Dead Sea Psalms Scrolls and the Book of Psalms (Leiden: Brill, 1997); M. S. Smith "How to Write a Poem. The Case of Psalm 151A (11APsa 28.3–12)”, in T. Muraoka, John F. Elwolde, (eds.), The Hebrew of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Ben Sira. Proceedings of a Symposium Held at Leiden University, 11-14 December 1995 (Leiden: Brill, 1997), pp. 182–208; P. W. Skehan, “The Apocryphal Psalm 151”, Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 25 (1963), 407–9; J. A. Sanders “Ps. 151 in 11QPss”, Zeitschrift für Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft, 75 (1963), pp. 73–86; M. Abegg, Jr., P. Flint, E. Ulrich, The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible (1999, HarperCollins, pp. 585-586; W. H. Brownlee, “The 11Q Counterpart to Ps 151,1-5”, Revue de Qumran, 4 (1963), pp. 379–87; J. Carmignac, “La forme poétique du Psaume 151 de la grotte 11”, Revue de Qumran, 4 (1963), pp. 371–8; J. Carmignac, “Précisions sur la forme poétique du Psaume 151”, Revue de Qumran, 5 (1965), pp. 249-52; J. Strugnell, “Notes on the Text and Transmission of the Apocryphal Psalms 151, 154 (= Syr. II) and 155 (= Syr. III)”, Harvard Theological Review, 59 (1966), pp 257-81; A. Dupont-Sommer, “Le Psaume CLI dans 11QPsa et le problème de son origine essénienne”, Semitica, 14 (1964), pp. 25–62.

Overview of Parts in comparison with 1 Sam. 16–17:

Chronology or sequence of mention of events in 1 Sam.:

1. God’s sending of Samuel to anoint a new king;

2. de-selection of David’s brothers (1 Sam. 16:6–10);

3. David introduced as the youngest being called from tending the sheep (16:11);

4. Selection and anointing of David (16:12–13);

5. playing the harp (but also mention that David had done so before) (16:18–23);

6. David’s mention of “taking away the reproach from Israel” by defeating Goliath (17:26);

7. Goliath cursing David by his gods (17:43); 8. combat with Goliath (17:48–50);

9. David using Goliath’s own sword to behead him (17:51);  


Psalm 151:

v. 1 being the youngest among his brothers/tending the sheep (no. 3 in 1 Sam. sequence);  

v. 2 making a harp (no. 5, but analepsis in 1 Sam.);

v. 3 “Who will tell it to my Lord…?” (nothing corresponding in 1 Sam.);

v. 4 a messenger being sent and anointing “me” (no. 4);

v. 5 rejection of brothers by God (no. 2);

v. 6 combat with “foreigner” (no. 8);

v. 6 cursing of David by the idols (no. 7);

v. 7 using of sword of Goliath to behead him (no. 9);

v. 7 removing reproach from Israel the sons of Israel (mentioned in speech as no. 6).

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