Comments on Psalms Commentaries by Steven Croft (Biblical Studies Bulletin, 1997)

Comments on Commentaries

An assessment of commentaries on a book of the Old & New Testament to keep you up to date with what will help in preaching and teaching in the local church.

OT: The Psalms

The Book of Psalms stands in the centre of the Scriptures but any commentary on the Psalms faces a number of problems. The text is long and diverse, sometimes with divers readings. The Psalms themselves cover an immense period of history and every theological issue. Most people think they understand what the Psalms are before they begin to read them (but don’t). The chance of finding a short, cheap, one volume commentary which does justice to the Psalter is remote.

The three volume Word commentary represents a substantial investment but falls into my ‘best buy’ category by a long way. The introductions are substantial; there is good coverage of textual problems, and there is no attempt to force the texts to fit individual reconstructuions of ritual or theology: Peter Craigie on Psalms 1-50 (Word, 1983); Mervin Tate on Psalms 51-100 (Word, 1990) and Leslie Allen on Psalms 101-150 (Word, 1983). Top of my list of monographs would still be Sigmund Mowinckel’s great work The Psalms in Israel’s Worship (Sheffield Academic Press, 1992).

Other substantial commentaries are those of H J Kraus, now available in English (2 vols; Augsberg, 1989) and L Jacquet, Les Psaumes et le coeur de l’homme (3 vols; J. Duculot, 1975). If you read French the latter is good for preachers. A A Anderson‘s 2 volume commentary in the NCB series is useful as a starter but doesn’t always answer the hard questions. It also doesn’t, in my experience, help much in preparing sermons. A Weiser (SCM 1962) is worth reading and is particular good at linking Psalms and hymnody but too many of the psalms are anchored to his reconstruction of the covenant festival. John Eaton‘s single volume Torch commentary (SCM, 1967) is as good as a small commentary can be and excellent at setting a context in ritual. His Psalms Come Alive (Mowbray, 1984) for more general readers is also good.

In the last fifteen years the work of Walter Brueggemann represents a shift away from the search for the original setting of the Psalms in the worship of Israel and back towards their underlying theology. See The Meaning of the Psalms (Augsburg, 1984) and The Psalms in the Life of Faith (Fortress, 1995) for a selection of his writings.

Steven Croft, Warden of Cranmer Hall, St. John’s College, Durham

From Biblical Studies Bulletin 4 (June 1997)

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