Short Note to Psalm 150 and somewhat on Psalm 151: When we come to this psalm, we are coming to the end of the Canon as the Holy Spirit intended it to be. Not so, some scholars like Peter Flint and others try to argue. Let us first spent time on 150 and then make some comments on the apocrypha Psalm 151.

If anyone had any intention to claim that there is no Temple in Heaven, then you need to read Psalm 150:1 with care. In synonymous parallelism the psalmist undoubtedly stated that “God in His sanctuary [begadoshu] praise Him in the firmament [bireqiyu] of His power”. It is that simple. The Heavenly Sanctuary is a concept that this psalmist knew very well. It is not an invention by a post-exillic disillusionist since Moses also made his copy of the tabernacle according to the pattern shown in heaven. F. Delitzsch (1885) was quick to point out the heavenly sanctuary here. A host of other commentators wish to see it as the church or earthly and heavenly praise. Not so.

Praise should be for His mighty acts (150:2a). For His abundant greatness (150:2b).

A list of orchestra and music instruments followed: praise Him with timbrel, dance, stringed instruments, pipe, loudsounding cymbals, clanging cymbals (150:3-5). Scholars came to this verse and made comments about music instruments in church. Already in 1872 the issue was in other churches that “It may be added that those who discourage the use of all instrumental music in God’s worship do not adduce any Scripture prohibiting it under the gospel” (Plumer 1872: 1210).

Ellen White has a better message that also speaks to my heart. I come from a family with a humorous father and joyful mother and my own approach is full of laughter and sometimes jokes. But listen to her words: “One was seated at the instrument of music, and such songs were poured forth as made the watching angels weep. There was mirth, there was coarse laughter, there was abundance of enthusiasm, and a kind of insipiration; [what a mixture of everything!] but [here it comes now] the joy was such as Satan only is able to create. This is an enthusiasm and infatuation of which all who love God will be ashamed. It prepares the participants for unholy thought and action” (Ellen White CT 339). She could not have said it better.

Since the sanctuary of God is in heaven, and since praise in this Psalm started in heaven, it is maybe better to use Ellen White comments about music in heaven from Prophets and Kings 730 to understand the long passage of praise with musical instruments in Psalm 150:3-5, not as church music but as heavenly music, thus superimposing Ellen White’s picture of heavenly music over this psalm using Psalm 150:1 as link. Is that permissible?

“The ransomed of the Lords shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” …”As well the singers as the players on instruments shall be there”.

One cannot use this psalm for prooftext to use drums and electrical guitars in church with disco lights and equalizers manipulating the feelings of the audience exhorting them during the rhythm and harmony to let the feelings give free reign in the worship with hands raised high as shouts of hallelujah sporadically are released. It is not on earth but in heaven. Read 150:1 again.

So what about dance in music and dance in church? There are movements and networks trying to push for the art of dancing to be introduced to worship and especially the children are commandeered for this purpose since they like kinetics in worship. There is nothing wrong with kinetics in worship but it is probably not worship to use the popular or cultural narrative, add religious words to it and then dish it up as corporate worship. It is entertainment alright? But worship no. This dance is again in heaven (150:1) and not on earth. What that dance is going to be we have to wait and see. Nowhere in the life of Christ is it mentioned that Christ or His disciples danced or attended a dance. The cases of dance in the Old and New Testaments can be counted on two hands only. It is only mentioned in bypassing. This chapter is eschatological. When David was dancing in front of the ark it was personal. The dance is at the seventh Hallelujah and Delitzsch suggested that it will be a festive dance. He has his own reasons for saying so but it seems to be an eschatological future dance with the saints in heaven.

The point here is this, if I have to guard against my humor in sermons then dancers must guard in dancing in church. We transgress the same principle.

Just when we thought the Book of Psalm is closed, and indeed it is, some scholars jump up to argue for an extra Psalm 151 “left out of the Hebrew text”.

They found remnants of this psalm in cave 11 at Qumran dating to probably 130 BCE. It is called 11QPsa. The argument goes that because the versions like the byzantine preserved manuscripts of the Septuagint, later Syriac manuscripts have this psalm.

So what do we do about this? Simple. It was common in the days post-Antiochus Epiphanus at the Library of Alexandria to create this kind of imitations by compilations of texts. Since the psalm served as a hymn they would create compilations using 1 Samuel 16-17. They understood the Old Testament well, and then construe phrases together from passages that gives the impression it is a psalm that “dropped-out” of the Jewish Bible. Not so. Comparing the Greek texts and this Qumran text, one can see that the Greek text is an abbreviated form of this Qumran Hebrew text. There is evidence that the versions like Syriac, Targum, Vulgate, and Greek consulted the degenerative Hebrew texts from Qumran and reduplicated the errors contain therein, in their translations. Many times Qumran, Targum, Greek, Syriac and Vulgate all line up against the Masoretic Hebrew text with variants.

In Column XXVIII line 13 for example of this Qumran Psalm 151, there is a prefixed Hebrew preposition mesh- = “after” that is only used in later Rabbinic Hebrew. Misnaic Hebrew is the Hebrew from 100 BCE until 350 BCE and it is called Rabbinic Hebrew. The Qumran Psalm reveals that it is artificial, forced in its style. The Gottingen Edition of the LXX (300 CE and later) is a smoother text (so M Haran 1988). We must remember that Empires were library thieves and for the Rome library many books were copied and taken there from Alexandria. Cross-contamination and export of those variants happen. Josephus could have consulted the Alexandrian library that moved to Tarsus and then to Rome. Connections between Qumran and Josephus can be shown as well. When Harry van Rooy studied Psalm 151:14 and compared it to the Syriac versions of this psalm, he found that a Syriac manuscript 12t4 from the twelfth century A.D., approximating the date of the Lucianic manuscript n (1125 A.D.) compares the closest to 11QPsa or Psalm 151. He pointed out that what Psalm 151 in Hebrew and the Syriac manuscript 12t4 had in common, is that both were found in caves. The Syriac manuscript was discovered in 786/7 A.D. but the Hebrew one was discovered after 1948.

Archaeologists found oil lamps from the time of Origen (250 A.D.) at the entrances of cave 1, 4 and 11. Someone in time of Origen entered the caves, saw the library and then left the library undisturbed with the lamps at the entrance! Did he bring manuscripts, took some out or just left everything untouched?

Qumran research is much more complex than we anticipated and we must guard as scholars over the world to run away with our own mediocre observations. The manuscripts from Qumran are in a degenerative conditions with many errors, slips of all kinds, omissions, elaborations, compilations, abbreviated texts. Some texts were close to our Bibles like Daniel from cave four. Others were expansive with additions from other passages elsewhere in the Old Testament. Then there were paraphrases, commentaries, and also para-biblical texts. Psalm 151 is rather a para-biblical text in that it is a hymn just like our hymnal is a para-biblical text.