1. On the Methods of Ancient Commentaries
The notion that the psalms are prayers of allegorical significance is the conclusion of a prolonged and extensive interpretive process, but for the purposes of this introduction I shall sum up its chief highlights through the work of A. Simon. A detailed examination of four different approaches to the Book of Psalms7 reveals, I believe, what they have in common. Whether we see the psalms, as Ibn Gikatilla did, as prayers and non-prophetic songs, or as sacred prophetic poetry, like Ibn Ezra, or side with Saadia Gaon in his polemic against the Karaite view,8 the notion that the Psalms are allegorical is a repeated theme. Thus, Saadia Gaon thought the Book of Psalms was a supra-temporal manual – a “Second Torah,” as it were – and hence, too, his objection to the use of psalms to serve the fleet- ing needs of internal conflict.9 Simon also notes that the Karaites, by viewing the Psalmic literature as prophetic, and its authors as proph- ets of consolation, were presenting biblical prayer as superior to its rabbinical counterpart.10 In the case of Gikatilla, his reading of the Psalms as allegory is clear from his interpretation of the title of Ps. 30: “A Psalm and Song at the dedication of the House of David.” This psalm is problematic for two reasons: one is the anachronistic reference to the dedication of the Temple, the other is the discrepancy between the title and the body of the psalm, which is praise for recovery from illness. In his...
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