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Clarification re Psalm 83 in Ancient Book of Psalms
In this undated photo provided by the National Museum of Ireland an ancient book of psalms is seen at an undisclosed location.
DUBLIN, IRELAND.- In the press release issued by the National Museum of Ireland on July 26 the following reference was made to Psalm 83:

“While part of Psalm 83 is legible, the extent to which other Psalms or additional texts are preserved will only be determined by painstaking work by a team of invited experts probably operating over a long time in the Museum laboratory”

The above mention of Psalm 83 has led to misconceptions about the revealed wording and may be a source of concern for people who believe Psalm 83 deals with “the wiping out of Israel”.

The Director of the National Museum of Ireland, Dr. Patrick F. Wallace, would like to highlight that the text visible on the manuscript does NOT refer to wiping out Israel but to the 'vale of tears'.

This is part of verse 7 of Psalm 83 in the old latin translation of the Bible (the Vulgate) which, in turn, was translated from an original Greek text would have been the version used in the medieval period. In the much later King James version the number of the Psalms is different, based on the Hebrew text and the 'vale of tears' occurs in Psalm 84. The text about wiping out Israel occurs in the Vulgate as Psalm 82 = Psalm 83 (King James version).

It is hoped that this clarification will serve comfort to anyone worried by earlier reports of the content of the text.

This is the original press release:

Ancient Book of Psalms Discovered

In discovery terms this Irish equivalent to the Dead Sea Scrolls is being hailed by the Museum’s experts as the greatest find ever from a European bog. Fragments of what appear to be an ancient Psalter or Book of Psalms were uncovered by a bulldozer in a bog in the south Midlands. It is impossible to say how the manuscript ended up in the bog. It may have been lost in transit or dumped after a raid, possibly more than a thousand to twelve hundred years ago.

The Director of the National Museum of Ireland, Dr Pat Wallace, commented that “it is not so much the fragments themselves, but what they represent, that is of such staggering importance. In my wildest hopes, I could only have dreamed of a discovery as fragile and rare as this. It testifies to the incredible richness of the Early Christian civilisation of this island and to the greatness of ancient Ireland.”

Congratulating the Museum on the discovery, the promptness of its report, and the action of the finders, the Minister for Arts, Sports and Tourism, John O’ Donoghue TD, said “this most fortunate of discoveries testifies to the high achievements of our Early Christian civilisation and to the responsibility of the present generation in the preservation of our unparalleled legacy from the past”. He wished the Museum well in the conservation of the manuscript and looked forward to its display in the Early Christian gallery of the Museum where it will have a fitting place alongside the Ardagh chalice and the Derrynaflan paten.

Extensive fragments of what appear to be an Irish Early Christian Psalter, written on vellum, were recovered from the bog last Thursday. The manuscript was brought to the National Museum’s conservation laboratory on Friday by the Director (Pat Wallace), the Keeper of Irish Antiquities (Eamonn Kelly), and the Head of Conservation (Rolly Read). The pages appear to be those of a slim, large format book with a wraparound vellum or leather cover from which the book block has slipped.

Raghnall Ó Floinn, Head of Collections at the Museum, estimates that there are about 45 letters per line and a maximum of 40 lines per page. While part of Psalm 83 is legible, the extent to which other Psalms or additional texts are preserved will only be determined by painstaking work by a team of invited experts probably operating over a long time in the Museum laboratory.

Dr Bernard Meehan, Head of Manuscripts at TCD, has seen the discovery and has been invited to advise on the context and background of the manuscript, its production, and its time. He reckons that this is the first discovery of an Irish Early Medieval manuscript in two centuries. Initial impressions place the composition date of the manuscript at about 800 AD. How soon after this date it was lost we may never know.

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