Biblical Archaeology Review 39:1, January/February 2013

Strata: How Many?

How many of the Psalms are ascribed to David in the Hebrew Bible?

Answer: 73

Although King David is traditionally considered the author of the Book of Psalms, of the 150 Psalms accepted as canonical by Jews and Christians, only 73 begin with the Hebrew ascription le-David. This is usually translated “of David” and taken as an indication of Davidic authorship, but it could also mean “(dedicated) to David” or possibly “concerning David,” in reference to an event in the king’s life.a Most of these psalms (56 of the 73) appear in the first two sections of the Psalter (Psalms 1–41 and 42–72), which likely originated as two separate collections of Davidic psalms.

Psalm 151, a short psalm that is not included in the authoritative Masoretic text (MT) of the Hebrew Bible, can be found at the end of the Psalter in most copies of the Greek Septuagint and in Hebrew in the Dead Sea Scrolls. This psalm is considered canonical in the Eastern Orthodox Church but apocryphal for Roman Catholics, Protestants and most Jews. It, too, begins with an ascription to David.

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