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Authors remain biblical mystery

In ancient times, the Old Testament was divided into three main sections: the Law (the first five books of Moses), the Prophets, and the Writings. The book of Psalms constitutes the major part of the third section.

Although there are superscriptions on many of the psalms with attributions to certain authors, there is great debate among biblical scholars about who actually wrote the various psalms.There are 18 psalms with no superscriptions; 70 psalms are attributed to David; two to Solomon; 12 to Asaph, a musician in David's court; 10 to the sons of Korah (Levites); one psalm each is attributed to Heman and Ethan (leaders of the temple music) and Moses; four psalms have song titles; 18 are Hallelujah Psalms; and 13 are Psalms of Degree. (See the Old Testament Student Manual, page 310.)

The authorship of the Psalms is one of the most difficult problems in the Old Testament, according to Sidney B. Sperry in The Spirit of the Old Testament. The superscriptions are sometimes not reliable, Sperry pointed out. Certainly not all the sons of Korah cooperated in writing the psalms attributed to them. Some authorities wonder if David actually wrote any psalms.

"In the midst of this confusion, what course shall we take?" Sperry asked. "When the doctors disagree among themselves perhaps the truth will be found between the extremes adopted by them. It is conceivable that one will not be found far wrong if he assumes that the ancient traditions are at least partly right, that David did write some of the psalms as did others also whose names are written in the superscriptions. Nor, on the other hand need we suppose that still others did not write psalms in the course of Israel's long history. Talent is not confined to any one man or age."


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Articles on this page may be used in conjunction with the Gospel Doctrine course of study.

Information compiled by Kellene Ricks.

Sources: The Church Educational System's Old Testament student manual; The Promised Messiah, by Bruce R. McConkie; Unlocking the Old Testament, by Victor L. Ludlow; and The Spirit of the Old Testament, by Sidney B. Sperry.