III. The Superscriptions

III. The Superscriptions

Only thirty-four psalms lack editorial notation at the beginning. The precise meaning of many of these superscriptions appears already to have been a mystery to the LXX translators. The notations apparently relate to such matters as authorship, archival care, musical notation, and historical setting, though at almost every turn the precise meaning is difficult to ascertain and at some points only an educated guess can be made.

“Editorial” notation does not here mean “peripheral” or “incidental” to the main body of the Psalter, as the total omission of the superscriptions in the NEB implies. Rather these notes, thoughtfully added by the believing community in the course of the gathering and editing of the Psalms, now provide the canonical context in which the poems are to be read, individually and collectively. The role they play in understanding the Psalter as a whole is just beginning to be understood. On their significance see also V and VI below.