Sing to the Lord a New(-ish) Song: The Psalms of the Egyptian Hallel across two Thousand Years

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dc.contributor.advisor Wright, David P.
dc.contributor.advisor Abusch, I. Tzvi
dc.contributor.advisor DeGrado, Jessie
dc.contributor.advisor Brettler, Marc Z. Harvey, Eric J. 2020-05-11T02:04:18Z 2020-05-11T02:04:18Z 2020
dc.description.abstract This dissertation shows, through a comprehensive analysis of manuscript and literary evidence, that any concept of the biblical Book of Psalms as a fixed and stable collection of 150 discrete compositions is illusory. Publication of the Psalms scrolls from the Judaean Desert has exposed the diversity of Psalms literature in antiquity, but narratives of the Psalms’ development too often end with the formation of an ostensibly univocal and monolithic Masoretic Text (MT). However, some important features of the Masoretic Psalms tradition also remained variable until the invention of the printing press and beyond. This dissertation, therefore, takes all of the manuscript and literary evidence together to create a holistic transmission history of the biblical Psalms, focusing primarily on the series known as the Egyptian or Passover Hallel (Pss. 113–118 according to the received text). Taking an empirically grounded approach rooted in evolutionary biology, book history, and material philology, it refrains from imposing the ideal concept of a singular Psalms text upon the manuscript diversity. Instead, it lays out the evidence in its entirety and proposes a new representation of the nature and history of Psalms literature that can accommodate the full diversity of the manuscript witness. Masoretic Psalters share more or less the same consonantal text, but divide it into different numbers of Psalms at a variety of different locations (i.e., variation in segmentation). No fewer than 60 distinct segmentations of the Egyptian Hallel alone occur within the population of medieval Psalms manuscripts, numbering between three and eleven Psalms. Segmentations found in manuscripts of the ancient translations into Greek, Coptic, Latin, and Syriac differ one from the other and all from the received Hebrew Psalter, but show uniformity within their separate lineages. Variable segmentation is also evident among the Dead Sea Psalms Scrolls, which further vary in the size, order, and contents of their Psalms collections and contain Psalms that were not included in the biblical Psalter. Finally, an analysis of parallels between Psalms in the Masoretic Psalter points to long histories of adaptation and reuse prior to the manuscript record. Considering this persistent and inalienable diversity in populations of Psalms manuscripts, this study suggests that it is time to abandon singular or ideal concepts of the Psalms in favor of definitions that portray them as a collective or categorical phenomenon, akin to a biological species. Like a species, the full potential of Psalms literature cannot be expressed in any single exemplar, and like a species the Psalms are constantly changing—co-evolving alongside material, technological, and socio-cultural factors in ever-changing contexts of transmission. Although every bit of text must have originated at some point in time, our manuscripts attest to no original and no final form, only a long process of reuse, revision, and reformulation.
dc.format.mimetype application/pdf
dc.language English
dc.language.iso eng
dc.publisher Brandeis University
dc.relation.ispartofseries Brandeis University Theses and Dissertations
dc.rights Copyright by Eric J. Harvey, 2020
dc.subject Hebrew Bible
dc.subject Psalms
dc.subject Manuscript Studies
dc.subject Egyptian Hallel
dc.subject History of Transmission
dc.title Sing to the Lord a New(-ish) Song: The Psalms of the Egyptian Hallel across two Thousand Years
dc.type Thesis
dc.contributor.department Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies PhD Doctoral Near Eastern and Judaic Studies Brandeis University, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

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