The Psalms: Language for All Seasons of the Soul brings together essays from eighteen Old Testament scholars discussing the latest in Psalms scholarship and applying exegetical insights to the life of faith.
These essays explore the full range of emotion expressed in the Psalms—from elation to distress—while weaving together observations from biblical scholarship and theology. The reader will gain valuable insights into how the Psalms speak to his or her soul.
The book is divided into five sections that:
- Give an overview of Psalms studies in the 21st century
- Discuss psalms of praise
- Explore psalms of lament
- Look at the big picture of the Psalter as a book
- Present sermons on the Psalms that are models of evangelical engagement with the text.
A Select Bibliography for Psalms Study is included at the end of the book.
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About the Author
ANDREW SCHMUTZER (PhD, Trinity International University) is Professor of Biblical Studies at Moody Bible Institute (Chicago, Illinois). In addition to numerous articles and essays on the Old Testament, he has written the exegetical theology Be Fruitful and Multiply and two forthcoming commentaries on Ruth and Esther.
DAVID M. HOWARD Jr. (B.S., Geneva College; M.A., Wheaton College; A.M., Ph.D., The University of Michigan), is professor of Old Testament at Bethel Theological Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. He is the author of four books, including An Introduction to the Old Testament Historical Books, What Makes a Missionary, and The Structure of Psalms 93-100, as well as several dozen articles in scholarly journals and Bible encyclopedias. He resides in Shoreview, Minnesota.
Read an Excerpt
Language for All Seasons of the Soul
By Andrew J. Schmutzer, David M. Howard Jr.
Moody PublishersCopyright © 2013 Andrew J. Schmutzer and David M. Howard Jr.
All rights reserved.
Biblical Theology of the Psalms Today
A Personal Perspective
BY BRUCE K. WALTKE
The Consultation's steering committee has asked me to focus on the biblical theology of the Psalms, specifically consisting of three parts: "my story" with the Psalms, what I have especially learned about the Psalms, and my reflections on the future of Psalms studies. This paper has essentially these three parts, though the first receives the lion's share, and the last two are treated much more briefly.
MY STORY WITH THE PSALMS
The First Step: Teaching Exegesis
My story with the Psalms can be analyzed in nine metaphorical steps. I took my first step in 1963 when, upon my return from Harvard University to Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS), I began to teach second-year Hebrew students the science and art of exegesis. As is well known, exegesis consists of multiple spiral-like processes, beginning with the parts of a text entailed in the grammatico-historical method and ending with a reflection on the text's whole message, refined with each rereading of the text.
In short, a text's message depends on the parts (e.g., historical context, philology, figures of speech, prosody) and the message provides the literary context in which to interpret the parts. To develop exegetical skill the student must repeat that spiral exercise several times. Problematically, the extended nature of most of the Old Testament literature does not allow a second-year student, who has limited reading skills, to see the parts of a text in light of the whole. The psalms, however, are short, restricted texts, allowing the student to rework the text in light of the whole, and so they are ideal specimens for teaching the principles of exegesis.
The Second Step: A Plenary Lectureship
I took my second step in 1967. Knowing of my exegetical work in second-year Hebrew, the seminary administration asked me to teach the book of Psalms to the entire DTS family. Dallas Seminary annually devoted four plenary two-week sessions for the exposition of important biblical books. They did this so that students would "catch" the art of expository preaching. Usually DTS asked a well-known, popular Bible expositor to teach a book, but in the spring of 1967 the administration made an exception and asked me to give the plenary lectureship on the book of Psalms. In preparation for the lectureship I researched the relatively recent history of Psalms studies. From that research I analyzed the commentaries on the Psalms into five approaches:
1. The traditional-historical approach, which accepted the veracity of the superscription and is best represented by Franz Delitzsch (1813–1890).
2. The literary-analytical approach, which dated the Psalms to the second-temple period and is well represented in the International Critical Commentary by C. A. Briggs (1841–1913).
3. The form-critical approach, which, having rejected the credability of the superscripts, sought to reconstruct a psalm's Sitz im Leben by its genres (Gattungen), and is best represented by Hermann Gunkel (1862–1932), the originator of this approach.
4. The cult-functional approach, which, while employing form-criticism, sought to interpret the Psalms in light of the first-temple cultus, and is represented most notably by its founder, Sigmund Mowinckel (1884–1965).
5. The eschatological-Messianic approach, which interpreted the Psalms in light of Christ's first and second advents, and is best represented by Christ and his apostles.
As for the historical approach, philology, ancient translations, and ancient Near Eastern hymns support the notion that the superscripts are historically reliable. As for the form-critical approach, I nearly fell off my chair when, in connection with my researching for another project, I read 1 Chronicles 16:4. There the chronicler distinguishes what I had already judged as legitimate forms three of the five forms of psalms that had been identified by Gunkel: petition/lament, confession of answered petition, and praise of God as Creator of the cosmos and Redeemer of Israel. Of the many commentators since Gunkel using the form-critical approach, I found Claus Westermann's Praise and Lament in the Psalms most helpful. As for the cult-functional approach, the references within the Psalter to sacred personnel—especially the king—sacred sites, sacred seasons, and sacred institutions validated Mowinckel's correction of Gunkel's approach, albeit not his theory of an Enthronement Festival as part of Israel's cultus. As for the eschatological-messianic approach, the New Testament use of the Psalms validates this approach.
The Third and Fourth Steps in My Interpretation
In 1980 I advanced two steps in my interpretation of the Psalter. The third step came about through Brevard Childs' canonical approach, as argued in his Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture. My understanding of this approach was enriched in my writing the article on the canonical process approach for the Feinberg Festschrift (1980). In this article I argued that as the canon developed, the incipient Messianic Psalms were reinterpreted more precisely with reference of the Messiah.
James Kugel's work The Idea of Biblical Poetry: Parallelism and Its History pushed me to my fourth step. Unfortunately I read Kugel's landmark work while on an airplane, traveling to deliver a lecture on Hebrew poetry. When I stepped off the plane, I realized that my prepared lecture, which was founded on Lowth's analysis of Hebrew poetry, was wrongheaded and passé. When I later stepped behind the lectern, I jettisoned my prepared notes and précised Kugel's work.
The Fifth Step: Reading Alter's Biblical Poetry
The fifth step occurred as a result of reading The Art of Biblical Poetry by Robert Alter. His study prompted me to add the rhetorical approach to my exegetical toolbox, which now included a whole new vocabulary, including "inclusio," "janus," and "chiasm."
The Sixth Step: Understanding Anthologies like Psalms, Proverbs
The sixth involved two doctoral dissertations: the Yale doctoral dissertation by the late Gerald Henry Wilson, The Editing of the Hebrew Psalter, and the University of St. Michael's College doctoral dissertation by Raymond Van Leeuwen, Context and Meaning in Proverbs 25–27. These two dissertations convinced me that anthologies, such as the book of Psalms and the book of Proverbs, are intentionally arranged to give semantic depth to the individual psalm or proverb. According to this thesis, editors collected and consciously arranged songs or wisdom sayings to give them semantic depth. The notes by the late John Stek in the NIV Study Bible are at the cutting edge of this approach to the book of Psalms.
Wilson argued, convincingly to me, that the editors of the Psalter succeeded in achieving a sequential "theological intentionality" in the Psalter's current shape. According to this thesis, there is a historical movement reflected in the arrangement of the Psalter. For example, Books IV and V are a response to Psalm 89, a psalm that complains that the Davidic covenant failed, redirecting among things Israel's reliance on an earthly monarchy to the appreciation of I AM's eternal kingship, the message, for example, for Psalm 90.
The Seventh Step: Comparative Studies at Westminster
The seventh step was taken in connection with teaching a doctoral-level course on the Psalms at Westminster Theological Seminary (1989). My own comparative studies of the Psalms with ancient Near Eastern hymns convinced me that Thirtle (1904) rightly divided the so-called superscripts into both superscripts and subscripts. Thirtle based his argument on Habakkuk 3, a psalm in isolation. Here the editorial superscript at the beginning of Habakkuk 3, "a psalm of Habakkuk," pertains to genre and authorship, and the subscript at the end of chapter 3, "for the director of music," pertains to musical directions. I observed the same division of superscripts and of subscripts in ancient Near Eastern texts from Mesopotamia to Egypt. In the book of Psalms, however, there are no subscripts. Rather the editorial musical notations, "for the director of music," often with other musical notations, always precede the editorial notations about genre and authorship.
This internal evidence from the Psalter, the external evidence of Habakkuk 3, and the extrabiblical data from the ancient Near East persuaded me that there was a massive, early textual error of the book of Psalms, namely, that in fifty-five psalms having the notice "to the musical director," the prose subscript of a preceding psalm became confounded with prose superscript of the following psalm. In an article entitled, "Superscripts, Postscripts, or Both" (1991), I argued the case that the superscripts pertained to a psalm's composition and its subscript to its performance. An anonymous external referee of that critical journal scrawled on the article, "Excellent," and no scholar since then, to my knowledge, has refuted it. Disappointingly, however, scholars since 1991 have mostly ignored it. Perhaps this is so both because of my reputation as an evangelical conservative who tends to accept the biblical claims of its own authorship until proven otherwise, and the article's strong inference that the superscripts are an integral part of a psalm and historically creditable.
The Eighth Step: Teaching Hermeneutics
I took my eighth step forward when in 1991, upon my return from Westminster Theological Seminary to Regent College, the college assigned me to teach hermeneutics, the only required course in the college. Until then I had not forged a reasonable link between spiritual discernment and scientific exegesis, though I knew experientially that both were necessary. I vividly recall, upon my return from Harvard to the Dallas classroom, a student asking me their linkage, and my inability to give a cogent answer. About thirty years later the Regent course on hermeneutics compelled me to forge a reasonable link between the role of the Holy Spirit's illumination and of the scientific method.
I found the linkage through reflecting upon Paul's succinct statement regarding the verbal, plenary inspiration of Scripture: "all Scripture is inspired of God" (2 Tim. 3:16, author translation). Let me explain the linkage that works for me.
Every object has a logic to its composition, and so to understand an object one must first discern that logic. For example, to study the stars, one must first perceive their distance from earth and in that realization craft a telescope to see them better. By contrast, to understand a microorganism, one must first perceive its smallness to realize the necessity of crafting a microscope to study the organism. Likewise to understand the Bible we must first understand its logic to craft a reasonable method for its study.
The subject, predicate, and modifier phrase of 2 Tim. 3:16, "all Scripture is inspired of God," provides an insight into the Bible's logic: (1) "of God," a genitive of authorship, identifies God as a text's Author; (2) "inspired" implies a human author; and (3) "all Scripture" denotes a text. Each of these three demands that the exegete craft the proper instrument (i.e., method) for understanding a biblical text, albeit they must be used together because the three components are combined in a unified text. The first two factors pertain to personal authors and so demand a spiritual commitment on the part of the interpreter, and the third demands approaching the text with the detached objectivity of a scientist. To understand the divine Author the interpreter needs the spiritual illumination of the Holy Spirit, an illumination contingent on the spiritual virtues of faith, hope, and love.
J. A. Ernesti, the product of the so-called scientific Enlightenment, pitted the scientific method against this spiritual method. He denied the proposition "that the Scriptures cannot be properly explained without prayer, and a pious simplicity of mind." By contrast, Augustine in his De Doctrina Christiana demarcates clearly that the principles of theological inquiry and the claims for truth are distinctive, when they are "Christian." Augustine contrasts Christian scholarship with classical scholarship in important ways, even when classical procedures for rhetoric are still imitated, and then modified. This quote by Hilary of Poitiers (ca. 320–367/8) illustrates vividly how the early fathers understood the necessity of a devotional approach to the Psalter, as indeed all Scripture: "God can only be known by devotion," he wrote. Elsewhere Hilary says that God requires "warmth of faith." According to this church father, the knowledge of I AM begins with the receptivity of the eternally precedent Being, God. Thus, "only in receiving can we know."
As for the human author, the author's personal dimension demands an appropriate psychology for understanding him. Superior intellectual talent and superb education, though not to be despised, cannot render one fit to interpret the Scripture. To understand an author, a reader must encounter the author with sympathy, not merely empathy.
As for the text, the interpreter must exercise the grammatico-grammatical method of interpretation. That scientific method demands various kinds of criticisms: historical criticism (in the derived [i.e., bastardized] sense of understanding a text's historical context), literary criticism, form criticism, rhetorical criticism, and so forth. These tools were unknown throughout most of the church's history, but Providence has given them to the contemporary exegete, and he or she has a responsibility to honor that Providence and not to ignore the tools God has given us.
Taking these three factors into consideration enabled me to see the connection between spiritual illumination and scientific exegesis and to modify intellectually my mostly lip service to spiritual interpretation in contrast to my de facto commitment to scientific exegesis.
The Ninth Step: Writing a Psalms Commentary
After taking these eight steps I now felt ready to take my ninth step and actually write commentary on the Psalms. The material appears in The Psalms as Christian Worship and in Psalms as Christian Lament by James M. Houston and Bruce K. Waltke. Professor Houston is the founder of Regent Collegeand formerly an Oxford lecturer on the history of geography and a recognized specialist in the history of ideas. I originally intended to write a commentary on selected psalms, but Professor Houston persuaded me that I should include for each one a history of the psalm's interpretation. I recognized the legitimacy of his concern and also my limitations in that connection. So I suggested we co-author the work with my hearing the voice of the psalmist and his hearing the voice of the church in response.
Our interaction profited me immensely. For the first time I listened to the voice of the church from apostles to the present and that voice enabled me to hear more clearly the prophetic voice of the psalmist in his hope for Messiah. Now I met firsthand such great churchmen as Origen, Hilary of Poitiers, the remarkable Herbert of Horsham (1120–1194), and Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274).
These pre-Reformation commentators, who center on Christ with piety and passion, are in fact more biblical than academics who dispassionately and scientifically explain the text both without considering its canonical context and without passion and devotion to Christ. The Christ-centered piety and devotion of these commentators before the recovery of the plain sense by the Reformers should be treasured, not trashed. Although some of their interpretations appear to moderns as ridiculous and silly, for the most part they stayed within the parameters of orthodoxy—that is to say, within the parameters of the apostolic traditions as they found later expression in the creeds of the early church, especially the Nicene Creed.
Excerpted from The Psalms by Andrew J. Schmutzer, David M. Howard Jr.. Copyright © 2013 Andrew J. Schmutzer and David M. Howard Jr.. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents:
Part I: Psalms Studies in the 21st Century: Where We Have Been and Where We are Going1) Biblical Theology ~ Bruce K. Waltke2) Literary Issues ~ Willem A. VanGemeren3) Faith and Tradition ~ C. Hassell Bullock
Part II: Psalms of Praise: Expressing Our Joys4) Psalm 46: Praise the LORD Our Helper ~ Francis X. Kimmitt5) Suppressing Myth: Yahweh’s Relationship to the Sea in the Praise Psalms ~ Robert B. Chisholm, Jr.6) Psalm 91: Power, Protection and its Use in the New Testament ~ Andrew J. Schmutzer
Part III: Psalms of Lament: Expressing Our Sorrows and Pain 7) Severe Delight: The Paradox of Praise in Confession of Sin ~ Michael E. Travers8) The Lament Genre in Lamentations and the Psalms ~ Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.9) Wert thou mine enemy, How wouldst thou worst than thou dost Defeat, thwart me? The ‘Thou’ Sections of Laments ~ Allen P. Ross10) “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing” (Psalm 30:11[Heb12]): The Transformation of Pain into Praise in the Lament Psalm ~ Daniel J. Estes11) He Who Saves from Discouragement and Tempest: Psalm 54 of the Septuagint Version ~ Randall X. Gauthier
Part IV: Considering the Canon: Psalter as a Book 12) The Psalter’s Introduction: Psalms 1 and 2 ~ Robert L. Cole13) Divine and Human Kingship as Organizing Motifs in the Psalter ~ David M. Howard, Jr.14) The Return of the King: Book V as a Witness to Messianic Hope in the Psalter ~ Michael K. Snearly15) From Weeping to Rejoicing: Psalm 150 as the Conclusion to the Book of Psalms ~ Tremper Longman, III
Part V: Communicating the Psalms: Bringing the Psalms into Present Day16) Confidence in a Cup (Psalms 16, 23) ~ Mark D. Futato17) How Lovely Is Your Dwelling Place (Psalm 84). ~ David Ridder18) Praising God in the Bad Times (Psalm 88) ~ David M. Howard, Jr. 19) Everlasting Truth for the Joy of all People (Psalm 117) ~ John Piper
What People are Saying About This
The Psalms: Language for All Seasons of the Soul is the product of a magnificent collaboration of evangelical scholars in their careful reading and exegesis of select Psalms of various genres, reading the psalter as a whole book, and profound reflection on the meaning and preaching of the Psalms. It is an impressive book that will serve well as a textbook for classes on the Psalms, exposing students to the best of scholarship in the field as well as the spirituality of the Psalter itself.
Richard E. Averbeck
Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages,Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois
The Psalter has always been an essential theological and spiritual resource for Christians seeking to live faithfully. Showcasing the best in evangelical scholarship this present volume not only orients readers to key issues in the recent study of the Psalms, but unpacks the power of these ancient poems for contemporary living. Whether you read and use the Psalter on a regular basis or avoid it through fear or confusion, this volume will capture your imagination for the potential of psalms for sharpening your theology and deepening your faith.
Mark J. Boda
Professor of Old Testament, McMaster Divinity College, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Schmutzer and Howard have achieved the rare feast of creating a book for “all seasons of the soul.” It reaches that rare equilibrium of rigorous scholarship, profound spirituality, and practical relevance, all the while without sacrificing the integrity of the Word as divine revelation.
Dan Aurelian Botica
Lecturer, The Emanuel University of Oradea, Oradea, Romania
This book celebrates the lasting significance of the Psalms for the church. Through the centuries, in seasons of pain and pleasure, the Psalms have testified to the faithfulnessof Yahweh and given Christians a voice for lament and praise. The volume supplies an effective guide and model that should serve both student and preacher and assist the church in recovering this biblical hymnbook.
Jason S. DeRouchie
Associate Professor of Old Testament, Bethlehem College and Seminary, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Books on the Psalter tend to fall into two categories. They are either wholly devotional, popular works that lack any real interaction with current scholarship or thoroughly scholarly monographs that say little to the church. Few books successfully bridge the gap between the two worlds. The Psalms: Language for All Seasons of the Soul, however, admirably draws together academic research and the life of faith.
John R. Sampey Professor of Old Testament Interpretation, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky
The Psalms: Language for All the Seasons of the Soul is a delightful and insightful combination of the academic and the exegetical. This volume is comprised of a fascinating series of articles that will feed both mind and soul, and it encourages reading the Psalter from beginning to end, i.e., with the “grain” of the book.
Academic Vice-Principal, Highland Theological College, Iverness, Scotland
These carefully chosen essays offer a smorgasbord served by some of the most distinguished specialists in Psalms studies. They apprise the reader of current trends in Psalms study and provide important keys to interpretation, theology, and pastoral care. I commend this volume to pastors and scholars alike, who will find it enlightening and useful.
John W. Hilber
Professor of Old Testament, Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Michigan
The Psalms offers exciting insights into the interpretation and texts of the biblical Psalms. It guides the reader into the twentieth-first-century study of the Psalms; shows the importance of reading the Psalms as a book; and makes the Psalms vivid for today. A library or classroom is not complete without this book.
Dirk J. Human
Deputy Dean Faculty of Theology & Head of Department of Old Testament Studies, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
This book is a wonderful reflection of the Psalms themselves, exploring in cascading waves the same fundamental issues: God and his people, confidence and praise, sorrow and lament, life and death. Each article like each psalm has different, complementary insights, and each author like each psalmist has a living, interrogating, proclaiming faith. From the opening essays on biblical theology to the closing sermons, by way of the created world, the tension of pain and praise, the role of the king, and the formation of the psalter, these leading evangelical academics write from the heart as well as the head. Biblical study at its best!
Philip S. Johnston
Senior Tutor, Hughes Hall & Member of the Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England
Understanding the Psalms is critical for recognizing the unique attributes of God in order for us to worship and obey Him properly. I am truly honored to recommend this work, which reveals the Almighty’s goodness and grace, wholeheartedly to every pastor, Bible student, and believer.
Saji K. Lukos
President of RIMI and Mission India
President of Mission India Theological Seminary, Nagpur, India
I read this book and it made me want to go and immediately begin a preaching series on the Psalms. Sometimes I measure books by how great a push theygive you to preach. I rank this book very high on that score! Let this excellent book serve as a guide so you can see how great His reign is.
Pastor for Preaching and Vision, Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Pain and suffering. Joy and delight. Frustration and lament. Worship and praise. The entire canvas of human emotions finds its expression in the Psalms. Yet this ancient hymnbook is rarely mined to its sublime depths. This valuable book, edited by Schmutzer and Howard, equips scholars and lay people alike to ‘rightly divide’ the psalter. Read from the masters and gain keen insights into this much loved portion of Scripture.
President, Moody Bible Institute, Chicago, Illinois
This is a valuable and delicious collection of essays on the Psalter. The holistic ethos underlying the essays—which seeks to overcome conventional scholarly separation of exegesis from tradition, individual piety from community, interpretation from faith and biblical theology from preaching—is both bold and ambitious but important and necessary.
Vincent K. H. Ooi
Lecturer in Old Testament, Malaysia Baptist Theological Seminary, Penang, Malaysia
Along with the Psalms themselves, God has blessed his people with keen and probing minds that continue to grapple with the longings, disorientations, and truths that the psalms express. These essays provide many wonderful introductions to that great conversation.
Senior Pastor, Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, Menlo Park, California
As one who serves pastors, church planters and other spiritual leaders, I highly recommend this work to all who love the Scriptures and love to teach. Its editors and authors sharea high view of God's Word and address contemporary issues related to the Psalms with wisdom, keen insights and a passion for God's glory.
President, Converge Worldwide (Baptist General Conference), Arlington Heights, Illinois
Without in any way slighting the very best of source criticism and literary analysis, The Psalms restores to us a much maligned but absolutely central aspect of Biblical psalmody: namely, good old-fashioned piety. It is good to have the Psalms back.
Senior Minister, Guildford Baptist Church, Guildford, England, U.K.
The combination in this collection of technical studies, theological emphases, application discussions, and sermonic examples is brilliant. If you really want to understand and/or explain how and why the Psalms are so important to Christian faith and practice, get this book.
Professor of Old Testament, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Hamilton, Massachusetts
These essays are written with a high view of the Psalms as the Word of God and a deep knowledge of the Hebrew text, motivated by a Christ-centered piety. This work is paradigmatic for an evangelical approach to the Bible, wherein the scholarship and spirituality intertwine with one another. This volume is a useful tool for every student of the Bible, pastor, and preacher alike.
Associate Professor of Old Testament Exegesis and Theology, Pentecostal Theological Institute, Bucharest, Romania
An important guide for our journey in life with the Psalms! I have been teaching the book of Psalms for years and have found it important to have a holistic approach to it. As one of the church's greatest treasures, the church needs to understand how it speaks to us today. Schmutzer and Howard’s book hits all these points!
Brian G. Toews
Provost, Cairn University, Langhorne, Pennsylvania
Being intimately involved with the Church in China amid the turmoil and violence of the Cultural Revolution, I witnessed the banning of Bibles as well as public Bible burnings. Believers could only draw strength from the Scriptures they remembered. And by far, more than any other books of the Bible, it was the Psalms that were most memorized, recited, and hand copied. This book will indeed speak new inspiration to God's people today!
President Emeritus, Asian Outreach
Founder, Hosanna Foundation, Hong Kong