Take the 2-minute tour ×
Mi Yodeya is a question and answer site for those who base their lives on Jewish law and tradition and anyone interested in learning more. It's 100% free, no registration required.

According to Wikipedia, Jewish tradition divides the book of Tehilim into five sections (1-41, 42-72, 73-89, 90-106, 107-150). This is unsourced there; the references at the bottom of the page include The Jewish Study Bible (which I don't have) and a bunch of non-Jewish sources. I had not heard this idea before seeing a question about it on Biblical Hermeneutics, but Google tells me it's a commonly-held understanding at least among non-Jews.

Is this idea of Jewish origin? If so, what is the source, and what is the purpose of these divisions?

share|improve this question
2  
    
related judaism.stackexchange.com/q/9253/759 –  Double AA Dec 18 '12 at 16:01
add comment

2 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

One of the best ways to tell if books are separate is by looking at the divisions in a scroll. Traditionally, a number of lines are skipped in between books to mark a separation (see my discussion here). Looking at the Aleppo Codex yields just that. Here is the end of Psalm 41:

enter image description here

You can clearly see the larger gap in the right column.

Textually we find strong conclusive verses placed at the end of each of the books which don't immediately mesh with the preceding lines. Book Two (72:20) even concludes with:

כָּלּוּ תְפִלּוֹת דָּוִד בֶּן-יִשָׁי.‏
The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended.

Perhaps this means that historically our Book of Tehillim is a compilation of 5 "Booklets" of Tehillim passed down from/to David and others.

share|improve this answer
    
Interesting though that the Rambam doesn't mention leaving gaps between books of Tehillim. So perhaps there is some dispute about the nature of the division, but certainly it is a Jewish and Old idea. –  Double AA Dec 18 '12 at 16:03
    
Thanks for the visual aid! My shul has most or all of Nach on scrolls but I wouldn't have thought to check for this. –  Monica Cellio Dec 19 '12 at 1:40
    
@Monica I would be surprised if they had any of the Ketuvim aside from the megillot as there isn't much liturgical use for them. –  Double AA Dec 19 '12 at 1:52
    
I would be too, but since we usually read haftarah from a book, not a scroll, those don't get much use either (but we have them). I don't know the history of these scrolls. Now I'm curious... –  Monica Cellio Dec 19 '12 at 1:55
add comment

Medrash (Tehilim) Shochar Tov says that Moshe gave us the 5 books of Torah and David gave us Tehilim which also has 5 books.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.