Monday, September 16, 2013

Book Review: The Psalter Reclaimed

I also just finished Gordon Wenham's The Psalter Reclaimed. Here are some more general thoughts on this book.

Obviously, like non-violence, the psalms are something of a soap-box issue for me. So, again, I am warmly disposed to the general topic of this book. The book is 8 chapters long, some of the chapters are papers written or presented elsewhere, but gathered together in this volume. This gives the book a slightly disjointed nature, as some of the structures of the individual chapters could have used more revision in being worked together into a unified volume. I found this particularly the case with the later chapters.

Here's the contents:
1. What are we doing singing the Psalms?
2. Praying the Psalms
3. Reading the Psalms Canonically
4. Reading the Psalms Messianically
5. The Ethics of the Psalms
6. The Imprecatory Psalms
7. Psalm 103: The Song of Steadfast Love
8. The Nations in the Psalms

I particularly felt like the last two were just kind of "things related to Psalms I'd presented that would go well in this volume", while the first four chapters form a much more tightly-connected unit. Wenham gives us a very good treatment of what's going on when we read/sing/pray that psalms, including a discussion of speech-acts and so forth. Chapters 3 & 4 complement this nicely by giving us a framework in which to read the psalms, which is ever so necessary if one is to sing and pray them! The broader 'resurgence' of canonical criticism is to be warmly embraced.

I found chapter 5 especially engaging, since as Wenham recognises this is a significant lacuna in both readings of the psalms, as well as treatments of Old Testament Ethics. Highlighting the predominance of hesed language in the Psalter was something I did not know and brought a moment of illumination.

Very recently I blogged off the back of chapter 6, which complements 5 nicely by dealing with what seems, on the surface, with the most difficult topic in the Psalms.

Overall a quite excellent contribution to the field of Psalms, from a respected OT author. 4.5 stars.

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