Prayer, Praise and Prophecy: The Theology of the PsalmsPrayer, Praise and Prophecy: The Theology of the Psalms
Geoffrey Grogan
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Are the Psalms included in the Bible just a collection of varied poems, or do they have an overriding theological concern which guided both their selection and placement? And if there is a theological concern behind the Psalms, what is it? These are two of the important questions that Geoffrey Grogan set out to answer in his book, Prayer, Praise and Prophecy: A Theology of the Psalms.

Grogan has written a clear and understandable introduction to the entire Book of Psalms. He examines the history of its study, the diversity of its authors, the variety of its forms, and the characteristics of its poetry, tying them all together within a theological framework focusing on God's relationship with His people. Looking at the major themes of the Psalms, one is struck by the awesome and incredible God that appears there. Grogan presents us with a beautiful overview of the God of the Psalms and His interaction with His people, ranging from His creation of them and His rule over them to His speaking with and meeting them to His protection and blessing of them.

Grogan also looks at the structure of the Psalms, attempting to illuminate the purposeful design of whoever compiled the individual psalms into a cohesive whole. Each of the five books tell a certain part of the story of God's interaction with His people, and their order and placement is actually quite significant, according to Grogan. And though the Psalms can't be read together as a whole because of the incredible amount of information, they should, nevertheless, be viewed as a cohesive unit.

Finally, Grogan looks at the fulfillment of the Psalms in the person of Christ. He examines how Christ interpreted the psalms, and how the life and ministry of Christ is the archetype that the psalms pointed to. He then offers information on how we should read and use the psalms today.

Though not as detailed and descriptive as a traditional commentary, Prayer, Praise and Prophecy is a remarkably substantial book, combining Grogan's obvious devotion to God with his impeccable scholarship. This is not just theology, not just literary scholarship, not just history, but a wonderful combination of all three. Written with a light and enjoyable tone, but filled with illuminating information, this book will broaden your awareness of the beauty, cohesiveness and worship inherent in the Book of Psalms.

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From the introduction to Prayer, Praise, and Prophecy: A Theology of the Psalms, by Geoffrey Grogan

(to view a footnote, click on its number)

Please note the indefinite article in the sub-title of this volume! If you miss it, you may easily confuse the author’s aim and his claim. He aims, of course, to write The Theology of the Book of Psalms, but the result will certainly be A Theology...this is not only because of many limitations in the book’ s author, but also because the material is far too great and wide-ranging to be treated adequately in a comparatively small volume. Indeed at times the author felt he was trying to get an ocean into a pint pot.

There is however a third reason, and one that applies no matter who the author or his subject are: the fact that the subjective factor needs to be taken seriously. Modern thinkers have increasingly recognized this factor in every attempt to find truth, whether in philosophy (Kant, etc.), in history (Collingwood, etc.), in science (Kuhn, Popper, etc.) or in literature (Derrida, etc.). Recent literary theory, particularly the form of it pioneered by Derrida and known as Deconstruction, has often gone too far in this direction, but it at least warns us not to assume we have achieved absolute objectivity. It is important though for us to refuse to be deterred from the enterprise. The matter is far too important for that.

The proponents of Deconstruction, at least in its extremer forms, have raised a most radical issue. They argue that we cannot find objective truth in any literature, no matter what its nature or subject, for all our interpretation is conditioned by our social and cultural background. If we accept this point of view without qualification, there can be no theology of the psalms which has any general validity. Our projected enterprise is therefore doomed from the start.

Is it really true though that a meaning I find in a piece of literature, although it may be meaning for me, is not necessarily meaning for other people? As the pop group, Manic Street Preachers, put it: ‘This is my truth; tell me yours.’ Is there no such thing as Public Truth? Society has normally recognised--and insisted--that there is truth in written form that needs to govern both our thinking and our consequent actions. A judge in a law court can certainly insist that I find in the law the meaning he finds in it himself, and the Bible teaches me that I will have no excuse when I come before the judgement bar of the Almighty Creator and Judge of all.
Take the principles of Deconstruction to their logical conclusion and you destroy all meaningful human discourse or conversation. This would in fact spell the end of human civilisation as we know it, for without communication there can be no civilisation. In addition, such an outlook is self-contradictory and self-destructive. If I deny all possibility of objective truth, I will find myself having to deny my own denial, because even my denial is not objectively true. So then Christian believers need not fear that their belief in the objective character of Scripture faces a threat against which there is no answer.1

Certainly we can accept that absolute objectivity is unobtainable, but we need to be willing to be moulded by the Biblical text rather than to create a meaning for ourselves. We should seek to sit openly before it, willing to learn and to act on what we have learned, and to face unpalatable truths and their practical implications if necessary.

So then is a theology of the Book of Psalms really possible? There are some further weighty objections to be considered. Some of these relate to individual psalms and others to the Book as a whole.

A theology of an individual psalm

The problem here is chiefly related to the devotional nature of the psalms. How can devotional material have any theological authority? In the Book of Psalms it is responsive, subjective and poetic. Surely this means it cannot be inspired and authoritative literature!

It has sometimes been assumed that the characteristic style of inspired literature is declamation, which is to be found notably in the prophetic books. B.B. Warfield’s magisterial exposition of the doctrine of inspiration2 is sometimes criticized as more appropriate to the prophetic books than to other types of Biblical literature. Legitimate comparisons may however be made between the prophets and the Mosaic Law (as divine requirement), the epistles (as divine truth applied to concrete situations), and historical and biographical narrative (as divine interpretation of events).3 As devotional literature, however, the psalms seem at first sight to be more response to revelation than themselves revelation, for true Biblical devotion is always responsive.
Further reflection, however, reminds us that much of the Bible involves response to previous revelation. So, for instance, the prophets call the people back to the God of the Exodus and of Sinai or remind them of his love or his law which were made known in these events. Also the epistles rest on the great historical revelation given in Christ and recorded for us in the Gospels, and this in turn rests on the Old Testament revelation.

In fact, just about everything in the Bible builds on an earlier revelation, for God has not left anybody without some disclosure of himself. Would even the earliest special revelation given in Scripture have been meaningful without the prior disclosure of God’s existence in the general revelation that is given in his creation? In this respect, the Book of Psalms is no different from other parts of the Bible.

Is the devotional nature of the psalms really a problem? Surely devotion, whether individual or corporate, should be promoted by thought and, in its turn, promote thought! How can we rightly worship God unless our worship has good theology in it? The great Christian devotional classics contain a great deal of theology. It is therefore a serious mistake, not absent from some modern pulpits and platforms, to polarize theology and devotion, usually to the debasement of the former. If this is done, there is a very real danger that much that passes for Christian devotion and worship will cease to be truly Christian because it will lose contact with its Biblical roots.

Have you noticed that every practical aspect of the Christian faith has a theology? There is a theology of preaching, of evangelism, of Christian witness, of Christian social concern, of prayer, and so on. If we believe that Holy Scripture is our final authority not only in matters of faith but also of practice, then this must be so.

What happens in personal devotion and in worship? In these activities, we direct our minds and hearts towards the God who made us and who has redeemed us, and so it is inevitable that our devotion and worship are shaped by the ideas we have of him. Good theology aims to make sure these ideas are Biblical. One of the most strongly theological passages in the New Testament is Ephesians 1:3-14, and yet it is essentially devotional, for Paul begins with worship, ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,’ and at several points this great passage is punctuated by references to the praise of God. It is almost as if we are overhearing an apostle at worship, and what worship it is!

We can over-emphasize the subjective character of the psalms. Kraus, commenting on 115:1, has well said:
Those who sing and pray are not proclaiming their spiritual experience, their personal or private destiny. Everything that they experience, suffer, and undergo becomes praise of Yahweh and proclamation of his name when they speak of their experience and suffering (Ps. 22:22)...The test of the objectivity of our theological work and its faithfulness to its subject matter is whether it really follows the witness of the text, the intention expressed in the language of praise and prayer.4
There is however another side to the matter. Much of the material in the psalms appears to be a response of an emotional kind. How would you like somebody to draw an authoritative theology from your own devotions?

When the psalmist says God has forsaken him, is he penning objective truth? If not, how can we say this is the revealed Word of God? Are the emotions shown in the psalms in every case legitimate? What about the imprecatory psalms, in which the psalmists call on God to judge those who are seeking their harm? Are we to say these are proper godly feelings or not?

The Book of Psalms is quoted as the Word of God, and so as revelation from him, quite frequently in the New Testament. Did its writers use only certain types of psalm, perhaps those which focus in worship on great truths about God, or did they use the highly subjective material? Verses like 116:10 (quoted as ‘I believed, and so I spoke,’ in 2 Cor. 4:13) and the imprecatory 69:22, 23 (quoted in Rom. 11:9,10) are certainly found in strongly emotional psalm contexts. How can the New Testament writers do this with any semblance of appropriateness?
These are important questions, but we are not yet ready to deal with them.5 We can at least point out at this stage that there is always objective truth to which any particular psalm relates. For instance, in 89:49 the psalmist asks an agonised question about God’s faithfulness to his covenant promise made to David.

O LORD, where is your steadfast love of old,
which by your faithfulness you swore to David?6

Elsewhere the terms of the Davidic covenant are made plain and this actually occurs in earlier parts of this very psalm, where this covenant is quoted and extolled. Even though the psalmist asked this question, he allowed his statements of faith earlier in the psalm to remain. He did not cross them out and start all over again. So we can assume that the (unexpressed) answer to his question would be something like, ‘Time will show that I have not forgotten.’ The imprecatory psalms assume that Yahweh, the Lord, is a God of justice who vindicates those who are persecuted on account of their faithfulness to him. There is always objective truth in a psalm or in the theological background to it. This is an important consideration.

We should note too that there is quite a lot of material in the book that is propositional in form, material that makes affirmations about God and his ways. So, writing of the acrostic psalms, Seybold says: ‘Their relevance to systematic doctrine and theory is indisputable. The individual proverbs are devised as pronouncements on a given theme....In the case of Ps. 119 it is possible to detect...a claim to a comprehensive theology of the Word of God.’7
Can we go further than this? Kevin Vanhoozer has made the point that our emotional responses need to be brought under the authority of God’s Word.8 There is certainly truth in this, although we will need to give very careful thought to the matter when we come to consider the imprecatory psalms.

Another possible problem is raised by the poetic character of the psalms. C.S. Lewis says,

Most emphatically the Psalms must be read as poems; as lyrics, with all the licences and all the formalities, the hyperboles, the emotional rather than logical connections, which are proper to lyric poetry.9
Poetry has an allusive quality, sometimes with studied ambiguity, and this feature is not absent from the psalms. Does this matter, though, if the allusions take us into truth or if the various senses conveyed are all true?10 If the writer himself intends his thought to embrace two or more ideas within one word or phrase, then he is doing what poets must be allowed to do, for it is one means they employ in conveying truth as they see it. If this happens in the psalms, we find ourselves confronted by a literary corpus that, in theological terms, is immensely rich. Remember too that just as doctrine is better illustrated from parables than derived from them, so some kind of control may be exercised by the fact that this kind of psalmic material often illustrates truth plainly stated elsewhere.

Of course, there is other poetical literature in the Old Testament beside the psalms. As Dumbrell says, ‘Some of the most theologically significant literature in Israel appears early in poetic form (e.g., the Song of the Sea of Exodus 15).11 We should remember too that the declamations of the prophets were often in poetic form, and yet we do not normally have difficulty in thinking of these as divinely authoritative.
Seybold has shown that many of the psalms have a character like the writings of the prophets and that some of them show clear theological intent. Concerning the hymns of the Book of Psalms, he says that they seek
to depict theological ideas objectively in ‘descriptive praise’, identifying them and giving them a precise definition. Since they generally deal with basic themes (creation, humanity, history, revelation), they are the medium of real theological work with a doxological character, a form of work which has become the pattern for all theological work (cf., Paul’s letter to the Romans).12
He gives 8, 19, 33, 90, 104 and 136 as illustrations of his point.

If we do conclude that we can gain theology from a psalm, how do we discover the essential theological viewpoint and special theological interest of each of them? Seybold has given thought to this and he stresses the importance of the opening of each psalm as indicating the aim and intention of the writer. He says that the ending too is important because the writer would be aware of its continued power as it remained in the reader’s mind.13 Raabe encourages us to look for thematic key words and phrases, which are prolific in some psalms. These observations are really simply detailed applications of the principle that the revelation occurs in the psalm as a total literary unit.

Some psalms are of considerable theological importance, especially in the narrower sense of the word ‘theology’, for they present a very full doctrine of God. Many worship psalms extol either his acts or his attributes. Some present quite a full and balanced view of him and they do so in the context of praise.

Psalm 145 is a good example of this, for here he is described as great, majestic, gracious, merciful, good, faithful, just, near and holy, and it makes plentiful reference to his actions. So many of his names and descriptive titles are in the psalms. We can see also that he is a God who does not always explain himself or his ways. There are puzzles, but the overall context is one of worship and trust, prayer and love.
A theology of the complete book

Does its multiple authorship rule out the possibility of a theology of the book as a whole? No, for a good case may be put forward for treating it as a theological unity. If we want to identify a theology in any literature, it must have points of unity which are central to it, and to be truly theological it must be concerned with God and his relations with his universe and with people. If the literature is written by many authors over a long period, there needs to be a unified view of God and some real historical continuity in the understanding of his nature and ways. As we shall see, this is certainly the case with the Psalter, and there is a further significant factor, for uniting everything in it is a common atmosphere of worship and prayer in which everything is brought into the presence of God.

This unified view of God common to the psalms is what was normative for the Old Testament writers as a whole. But, as Allan Harman says, ‘We should not think, though, that the type of understanding of God revealed in the Psalms was universal in Israel. The fact that the prophets had to direct condemnatory speeches against the people shows a different picture.'14 It is really a Baalised view of Yahweh, which some of the people had in defiance of his self-revelation, that is combated in 50, verses 12 and 13, where God says: ‘If I were hungry I would not tell you. Do I eat the flesh of bulls?’

Can we go further still? Is it possible that the material has been brought together by one person or by a group with a common intent? Have editors been at work with a theological motive either at the final stage of collection and arrangement or at earlier points in the process of the book’s growth?
Although, as we have seen above, Seybold is happy with the idea that individual psalms may be theologically significant, he maintains that the book in its final form, its totality, shows no real interest in bringing all the material together into a credal system.15 He has assumed however that such a scheme depends on some kind of editorial imposition, but does it? What if theological unity already existed in the body of material itself so that the work of editors simply served to make it more explicit? It is the historic Christian conviction that behind all the authors of the Bible, including the psalmists, there is one inspiring Spirit of God. This conviction gives both an impetus to produce such a theology but also the apologetic necessity to show the theological oneness of the material. This we will certainly attempt to do.

In discussing whether there can be a theology of an individual psalm, we considered the objection that the material is devotional in content. Strange as it may seem, this problem is reduced when we think of the theology of the book as a whole. This is because much modern psalm research suggests that the purpose of its final editors was that its readers should prayerfully reflect on the ways of God with his people as a whole. If this is so, this is a theological purpose and it is appropriate to seek a unified theology in it. Not only so, but it suggests that theology should be pursued in a devotional spirit and with a worshipful purpose and not as an end in itself. This is something we can easily forget and it is important to be reminded of it.
Recent studies have emphasised the importance of the canonical order of the psalms.16 It is increasingly recognised too that Psalm I was placed at the head of the book because of its emphasis on reflecting on God’s word, not only in the Law but in the word of God expressed in the Psalter itself.17 In this case, this would make clear that the book was intended to be understood theologically. Those who are interested in its canonical shape are pursuing a positive course of great theological and practical value, even though sometimes details of their studies may be open to question.18

Is the material truly unified? It would not be difficult to argue against its theological oneness and to quote passages which appear to contradict each other quite flatly. But even if the unification is not total we may still be able to speak of a theology. Some recent writers have seen polarity in the book, with two contrasting themes governing its content. Brueggemann, developing the thought of Paul Ricoeur, has promoted the idea of two theologies, not only here but in the Old Testament as a whole, theologies which act and interact with each other, producing full truth out of this interaction. There is a theology of orientation and one of disorientation or of protest or of suspicion, producing out of their clash a theology of reorientation.19

If he is right, this means that full truth is not normally to be found in one psalm but in a combination of psalms. Is this a rebirth of Hegelianism?20 Not really, for its main inspiration seems not to have been philosophical but to be due to careful Old Testament study. Brueggemann’s suggestion is in fact very fruitful, as we shall see later.
A further thought suggests itself. Suppose the Book of Psalms, and indeed the Old Testament as a whole, was not intended to be theologically complete? Suppose that, for real theological understanding of it, the whole Bible is needed? Certainly some psalms raise questions rather than give answers and in some cases these are not answered within the Psalter, nor even within the Old Testament as a whole, but only in Christ.21 In this case, we could still speak of a theology, provided we added that this is preliminary or incomplete. Of course, we have also to remember that all theology must be incomplete as God has not revealed everything about himself to his people.

We have already referred to the agonised question which comes towards the close of 89. Is this in fact answered within the Old Testament? Yes, in the promises associated with the kingly child of Isaiah 9:6,7, in the words:
He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and for ever.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty
will accomplish this (NlV).
We may even find an answer, by implication, in the Book of Psalms itself when the king is also designated a priest ‘for ever’ (110:4).
A microcosm of Old Testament Theology

What contribution may a theology of the Book of Psalms make to a theology of the Old Testament? A very considerable one. Both the Old Testament and the psalms were written over quite a number of centuries.

Martin Luther called this book, ‘a Bible in miniature’. His germinal comment is particularly true theologically and especially in relation to the Old Testament. The great thematic variety of the Old Testament finds a measure of concentration here within the pages of one book. It is representative of various literary genres and various historical periods.

It has a great many thematic links with other parts of the Old Testament. The thematic variety of the psalms may be seen when creation psalms like 19, 104 and 136 are compared with Genesis 1 and 2, historical psalms like 105 and 106 with the narrative sections of the Pentateuch and with the historical books, problem psalms like 73, 77 and 89 with Job and Ecclesiastes, a marriage psalm like 45 with Song of Songs, wisdom psalms like 1 and 34 with Proverbs, and declamatory psalms like 95 with the prophets. Some echo many Old Testament passages; for example, in 135 there are echoes of Exodus 3:15; 18:11; Numbers 21:21 ff; 33; Deuteronomy 32:26; Psalms 115:3, 36, 8-11 and Jeremiah 10:13, and there are important links between it and 136.22
It is noticeable that the Book of Psalms even includes the wisdom theme and genre, which has often proved particularly difficult for Old Testament theologians to integrate with the remainder of the Old Testament. This makes the Book of Psalms unique both in the Old Testament and in the Bible as a whole.23 The nearest to it is the Book of Proverbs, where, if we accept the material at its face value, there is some plurality of authorship although less genre variety.

This means that in some ways the Psalter may furnish a model for Old Testament Theology as a whole. Murphy says, ‘Because these prayers are written over a period of some seven centuries they constitute a profile of biblical theology.’24 Such an Old Testament Theology might be similar in some ways to a theology of this book, although of course there could be some differences in topics and also in arrangement.

Biblical Theology is of course interested in the chronological sequence of the theological content of Scripture, and many individual psalms do present problems of dating, some of them probably insuperable. Contemporary study of the structure of the Psalter as a whole however suggests that its arrangement has a chronological aspect. This suggests not only that the books of the Psalter with higher numbers were put together later, but that the whole corpus was intended to teach particular theological lessons when its psalms were read in numbered sequence. We will be looking at this idea in our final chapter.
There are numerous thematic contacts between the psalms and particular Old Testament books. For instance, the historical psalms have obvious points of contact with the historical books, especially those, like 105 and 106, which deal with the Exodus and Entry, frequent themes in these psalms. Psalms of the word of God and especially 119 with its many synonyms, remind us of the records of the Mosaic Law. Wisdom Psalms, such as 37 and 49, remind us of Proverbs while some of the laments, like 79 and 88, recall Lamentations or Job. As we will see later, there are psalms which are prophetic in type, while there are passages in the prophets not unlike psalms (e.g., Isa. 12, Jonah 2 and Hab. 3).25 There are a number of links between the psalms and Jeremiah. These are quite strong for instance between 1 and Jeremiah 17:15-18. Haggai and Zechariah encouraged the people to build a new temple, where, of course, psalms were sung.

There may even be some rather different links, where one passage is a deliberate parody of another in order to make a point. Miles sees the Book of Jonah, in its second chapter, parodying the psalm of thanksgiving for rescue from the pit. The real difference between a psalm like 69 and this Jonah passage is due to the fact that in the psalm the water and drowning imagery are figurative while here they are literal. He says:
The power of sea- imagery is only effective if it is in fact imagery and not direct description. If it is not to be merely bombastic, it cannot refer to real oceans and real water. In Jonah 2, it does....Jonah’s situation is not comparable to the situation of a man swallowed by a great monster. This is Jonah’s situation.26
Some literary links within the Old Testament are particularly valuable to students of the psalms. Tournay says:
If we wish to discover in the psalter a dominant theme over and above the great variety of literary genres or discern a possible liturgical setting, we must restore the psalms to their place in the religious life of the Jewish people. The books of Ezra, Nehemiah and Chronicles provide valuable information for us here even though they are too often neglected by commentators on the psalter.27
The Chronicler gives long psalm quotations, quoting 105:1-15; 96:1-13; 106:1, 47-49 in 1 Chronicles 16 and 132:8-10 in 2 Chronicles 6:41-42.

A microcosm of Biblical Theology

Biblical Theology is, perhaps, the strangest subject in the theological curriculum. A survey of its literature over recent decades would show very clearly that even its practitioners are not agreed as to what it is. The whole question of the possibility of Biblical Theology has exercised many minds in recent years, although a substantial number of scholars remains convinced that such an enterprise is appropriate.28

Basic to all theology is the doctrine of God and the material for this in the Book of Psalms, as we have seen already, is extremely extensive. There is much here, as, of course, in the remainder of the Old Testament, to give body to such brief but important New Testament statements as ‘God is light’ and ‘God is love’ (1 John 1:5: 4:8, 16). So much of this material is taken for granted in the New Testament. This can really be the only explanation for the comparative paucity of explicit Doctrine of God teaching in the New Testament.
We will argue later that the Book of Psalms as a whole is rather like Psalm 73 or like the books of Job and of Ecclesiastes in that it tells the story of a search, in which at certain stages there is bewilderment and all looks dark but which eventually issues in enlightenment from a divine source. In the case of the Psalter, this is a search by a whole religious community in which the individual searches of some of its members are taken up and which has its background also in the blessings and problems of the nation itself. This does not mean that the whole thing is humanly motivated. After all, if we take the New Testament doctrine of grace seriously, a human being’s search which ends in true faith in Christ has beneath it the deep gracious initiative of God, and such searches presented in the Old Testament canon are evidence that the operations of divine grace have points common to both Testaments.

The conclusion of the Book of Job is that we can live with questions if we have a great and constantly renewed view of God. All of us have questions, so that the book has an abiding message for us. The conclusion of Ecclesiastes is that reverence for God and obedience to his commands should be the controlling motives of life. This conclusion presents the same challenge to present-day readers The conclusion to the Book of Psalms certainly appears to be that after all the trials and tribulations of the life of faith there will come to those who continue to believe an unclouded vision and the purest praise of God. Is this not what the Bible as a whole is saying to us? If so, it is as appropriate that it ends with the Book of the Revelation as that the Book of Psalms ends with Psalm 150.

  1. For a thorough critique of Deconstructionism, see K.J. Vanhoozer, Is there a meaning in this text? The Bible, the reader and the morality of literary knowledge, Leicester: Apollos, 1998. The value of this book lies in the fact that Vanhoozer not only criticizes Deconstructionism sensitively (agreeing that it has something to teach Christians) but presents a most helpful positive approach to the doctrine of Biblical authority. (return to the text)

  2. In the collection of his writings on the subject entitled The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, London: Marshall, Morgan and Scott, 1951 (original date 1932). (return to the text)

  3. J.I. Packer says that the 'concept of biblical inspiration is essentially identical with that of prophetic inspiration,' and, while recognizing that diverse psychological processes must have been involved in the production of different Biblical genre under the inspiration of the Spirit, he affirms that 'the theological reality of inspiration is the same in each case' (in his chapter 'The adequacy of human language" in Geisler, N.L. (ed.), Inerrancy, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979, 197, 198. (return to the text)

  4. Kraus, 1986, 13. Derrida, the originator of Deconstruction, would find serious fault with Kraus here because he believes such following of the text to be impossible, as the intention of the writer can never be fully known. Vanhoozer, in his book mentioned above, deals effectively with this objection. (return to the text)

  5. See Chapter 13. (return to the text)

  6. The question the psalmist asks is a perfectly legitimate one, for the Bible is essentially an honest book in which real questions are faced. Considered simply in itself, it suggest that true faith is consistent with perplexity. (return to the text)

  7. 1990: 152f. (return to the text)
  1. In 'The Semantics of Biblical Literature' in Carson, D.A. and Woodbridge, J.D. (eds.), Hermeneutics, Authority and Canon (Leicester: IVP, 1986), 94, he asks, 'What kind of authority is shared by the Psalms, the Song of Moses (Ex 15), and Mary's Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55)? We may say that God is here using human Expressives to communicate something of the human response when confronted with the majesty and character of God. As C.S. Lewis rightly observed, the response speaks eloquently (in a qualitatively precise manner) about the person who evoked it. These Expressives thus constitute normative responses in which the reader is invited to share and participate. We too must respond to injustice with laments and prayers for justice. We too must respond to God's mercy and love with sincere praise. We too must have imaginations captive to the vision of the kingdom of God. Not only our minds but also our emotional responses are brought under scriptural authority.' J.I. Packer makes much the same point, in N.L. Geisler (ed.) Inerrancy, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979, p. 198, when he refers to 'the poems, whose giant-size delineations of adoration and devotion set worshippers in every age a standard for what their own praise and prayer should be.' (return to the text)

  2. 1958: 17. (return to the text)

  3. We can find instances of the same kind of thing in the epistles of Paul, e.g., in his use of katoptriómenoi ('reflecting' or 'beholding') in 2 Cor. 3:18. (return to the text)

  4. 1990: 153. (return to the text)

  5. 1990: 74. (return to the text)

  6. 1990: 180. (return to the text)

  7. 1998: 34. (return to the text)

  8. 1990: 140. He says, 'A theology of the Psalter would be a most confused affair; at best it could be constructed as a framework into which the whole collective witness of the psalms could be fitted' (1990: 152). (return to the text)

  9. See especially Chapter 15. (return to the text)
  1. For tora ('law,' v.2) means 'instruction' and may be applied more widely than to the Mosaic Law. (return to the text)

  2. Whybray (1997) is doubtful about the whole thesis of a reflective intent for the Book of Psalms, although he does not deny that it has reflective value. (return to the text)

  3. This idea is so central to Brueggemann's thought that it comes into most of his publications on the psalms. See the bibliography. (return to the text)

  4. The influential philosophical system of G.W.F. Hegel (1770-1831), who maintained that truth always progresses dialectically as a thesis and its antithesis collide, producing a reconciling synthesis. (return to the text)

  5. There is an interesting comparison with the Book of Job, which is explored, although at perhaps a somewhat elementary level, in G.C. Morgan, The Answers of Jesus to Job, London: Marshall, Morgan and Scott, 1950. (return to the text)

  6. R.P. Carroll in his chapter, 'Is Humour among the Prophets?' in Radday and Brenner (1990: 176) points out that Elijah gives a mocking parody of religious beliefs, echoing the psalms of lament (e.g., cf. 1 Ki. 18:26, 29 with Pss. 44:23-26; 89:46-51). (return to the text)

  7. Dumbrell says, 'The Book of Psalms is a compendium of biblical theology, and issues touching every aspect of Old Testament thought and life are taken up within it' (1989: 211). (return to the text)
  1. 1993: 115. (return to the text)

  2. Murphy compares 1 and 2 with Hosea 14:9 which he calls 'a wisdom tag': 'Let the one who is wise understand...Straight are the paths of the Lord, in them the just walk...' (1993: 9, 20). He might also have mention the interesting link with Hosea 14:8 where there is a reference to a green pine tree and its fruitfulness, and also other tree images earlier in the chapter, all of which reminds us of 1. (return to the text)

  3. 'Laughing at the Bible: Jonah as Parody' in Radday and Brenner (eds.) On Humour and the Comic in the Hebrew Bible, Sheffield: Almond, 1990: 208. (return to the text)

  4. 1991: 27. (return to the text)

  5. The series entitled New Studies in Biblical Theology currently being published jointly by IVP and Eerdmans is testimony to this conviction. (return to the text)