I recently ran across a theory that a portion of the superscripts of many psalms was intended as a postscript to the prior psalm. In that arrangement, לַמְנַצֵּ֥חַ (lamnaṣṣēaḥ; to the choirmaster) + optional prepositional phrase should be appended to the prior psalm, and the remainder of the superscript is correctly attached to the following psalm.

This argument is based in part on examples from other poetry that purportedly demonstrate that genre and author are the purview of the superscript, whereas the subscript usually includes technical notes about performance. (The prepositional phrase is something like “with stringed instruments”, “for the flutes”, or “according to the dove on far-off terebinths”[!]).

The key example within the Bible is Habakkuk 3 which ends:

לַמְנַצֵּ֖חַ בִּנְגִינוֹתָֽי
lamnaṣṣēaḥ bingînôtāy
to the choirmaster, with stringed instruments

Obviously, such subscripts have not been widely accepted in the Psalms — I know of no translation that arranges them that way — but people still talk about it, and I haven’t run across a good refutation.

Is this theory still considered a valid possibility? What are the arguments against it?

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    I immediately think of Psalm 18; the superscript presents it as written by David upon Saul's death. That corresponds to 2 Samuel 22, where the same song appears in just that context, with the same superscription. Unless there's no consistency, they make more sense as superscriptions to me.
    – user2910
    Commented Jun 16, 2015 at 17:30
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    @MarkEdward I think there it would only be למנצח, “to the choirmaster” (or however you want to translate that) appended to the previous one, not the part about David. (This postulated rearrangement never includes the part about David AFAIK; see the linked blog for a list of them.) The choirmaster doesn’t show up in 2 Sam I don’t think.
    – Susan
    Commented Jun 16, 2015 at 18:11
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    (Regarding “by David,” see also, Is David's name at the beginning of the Psalms intended as an attribution of authorship?)
    – Susan
    Commented Jun 16, 2015 at 18:13
  • @Davïd Of course! I was referring to the superscript's internal statement, that David sang the song 'when the Lord delivered him … from the hands of Saul'. (Though, now that you draw attention to it, I wonder if maybe the superscript is a sign of textual misplacement, because it doesn't have much to do with the preceding context in 2 Samuel.)
    – user2910
    Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 22:22
  • @MarkEdward - Ah, right. I read your comment about "2 Samuel 22, where the same song appears in just that context" as saying that 2 Sam 22 was the context of the death of Saul. But as you note, the superscription in the 2 Sam 22 setting doesn't cohere closely with the narrative flow at this point.
    – Dɑvïd
    Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 6:22

1 Answer 1


To answer your first question, yes the theory appears to be considered a valid possibility.

I found various other academic and semi-academic works supporting it either as a reasonable possibility or a preferable explanation.

On the second question, as near as I can tell, no one has published an academic critique of Waltke (or Thirtle for that matter). Rather, the idea has simply been ignored. (This textbook says likewise.) The only critiques of the argument I found (all by amateurs) suggested

  • The idea is speculative in nature with no documentary evidence
  • The LXX has everything as superscripts

were the only weaknesses of the argument.

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