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Why Are The Psalms Numbered Differently?

Submitted by on Wednesday, 8 October 2008No Comment

Question
Why is it that some psalms in the Jerusalem Bible have two sets of number: one that is normally printed and another that is in the margins? E.g., “Psalm 74″ in bold and then right in the margins, “V 73″.

Answer
What you find printed “normally” in the Jerusalem Bible is the numbering of the psalm as it appears in the Massoretic text of the Hebrew. What you find in the margins as “V 73″ means “In the Vulgate (the official Bible of the Catholic Church), this is Psalm 73.”

One finds the same thing in the New Vulgate published under John Paul II. Beginning Psalm 10 until Psalm 147, two numberings are given, one “normal” the other in parenthesis; the one in parenthesis is the numbering as found in the old Vulgate.

The two-fold numbering for Psalms 10-147 is due to the differences in the Septuagint (Greek OT) and the Massoretic Text (Hebrew). The differences are illustrated as follows:

 Psalmnumber

One notices that psalms 9 and 10 in the Hebrew appear as one (Psalm 9) in the Greek, and so on. The old Latin Vulgate followed the Greek, but still indicated the discrepancy with the Hebrew by indicating this latter’s numbering in parenthesis. For some time, Catholic Bibles followed the example of the Vulgate by giving two numbers for psalms between and including Psalm 10 and 147. With the Jerusalem Bible, however, the numbering for the Hebrew was followed and the Vulgate-LXX numbering was indicated in the margins. Non-Catholic bibles do not have this feature since these have always followed the Hebrew numbering.

The discrepancy however should not make one think that the Greek tampered with the numbering of the psalms. If one would look closely at Psalms 9 and 10, for example, one will notice that both psalms when joined together form just one acrostic psalm.

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