The Materiality of Ancient Hebrew Psalm Collections

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Drew Longacre


The Dead Sea Psalm scrolls have played a crucial role in ongoing scholarly debates about textual pluriformity, the nature of Hebrew psalmody, and ancient Hebrew book culture. In this article, I argue that the materiality of ancient Hebrew Psalm collections provides important clues for rightly interpreting textual diversity and resolving critical questions in the field. First, I propose two examples of how material limitations placed constraints on the compilation of Psalm collections. Second, I provide examples for how manuscript form and layout can yield valuable information for interpreting the intended functions of the Psalm scrolls and for reconstructing their production processes. And third, I argue that paleographic evidence offers further tools for classifying different types of manuscripts and how they functioned in textual history. The combination of this evidence recommends an explanation of the diverse Dead Sea Psalm scrolls that is thoroughly grounded in the material realia and the conventions evident in ancient Hebrew material book culture.

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