UK Christian Bookshops Directory: Christian Book Reviews: Interpreting the Psalms
Interpreting the Psalms Interpreting the Psalms
Issues and Approaches

Philip S. Johnston and David G. Firth (Editors)
ISBN 9781844740772 (1844740773)
IVP, 2005

Category: Biblical Studies
Subcategory: Old Testament

This volume of articles was written by members and guests of the Tyndale Fellowship Old Testament Study Group. The contributors range from internationally known scholars to lecturers and post-graduate students. Drafts of the chapters were discussed in some detail at the Tyndale Fellowship Conference in June 2004.

This is an exciting time in Psalms study, there are a whole raft of different approaches being tried and new insights emerging all the time. This volume is not for beginners, it assumes some foundational knowledge of the Psalms, maybe gained during ministry training some time ago. The editors seek to guide readers through the current issues and approaches, aiming to help fill the gap between the many good introductions to the Psalms and the impressive volumes of learned articles which focus on minute detail.

This volume is divided into four parts:

Part A, Psalms Interpretation in Context, includes two chapters which give a brief overview of current academic approaches to Psalms study and the background of Ancient Near Eastern prayer respectively.

Part B covers The Psalms and Key Themes. The themes discussed are distress, praise, the king and the cult. Distress is perhaps the least studied of these to date yet as a theme it pervades the Psalter.

Part C looks at The Psalms and Interpretation Issues — approaches concerned with the content and final form of the Psalter. This section has chapters on the teaching of the Psalms, the ethics of the Psalms, body idioms and torah-meditation and the Psalms. Teaching is a central concern of the Psalms and much of it is ethical although the study of the ethics of the Psalms is another area which has been overlooked in the past. The chapter on body idioms with its detailed discussion of idiomatic language is the most technical but well worth reading.

Part D, The Psalms and Interpretative Traditions, includes chapters on the structure of the Psalter, Qumran, the Gospels and the Targum.

There then follow two appendices: Index of Form-Critical Categorizations and Index of Selective Psalm Commentaries, and a comprehensive twenty-five page bibliography.

The chapters vary between general overviews of their subject and more detailed investigation of the particular use of certain language or a concept. Several of the topics covered have not been studied in detail before. This is on the whole a very readable book which does not require any knowledge of Hebrew. It is highly recommended to those who want to find out what is going on in Psalms study today and refresh their enthusiasm for engaging with the Psalter.

Sue Groom, June 2006

The Revd Sue Groom is the Director of Deanery Licensed Ministry for the Kensington Episcopal Area of London. Before this she was Vicar of St Matthew's, Yiewsley and also served as the Reader Training Officer for the Willesden Episcopal Area. She is the author of Linguistic Analysis of Biblical Hebrew (Paternoster Press, 2003).


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