Soundings in the Theology of Psalms

Soundings in the Theology of Psalms is a collection of eight essays focusing on the theology of Psalms. The theology of Psalms is distinctively different as it is a theology gleaned from words uttered to God rather than words from God. In this sense, it is more anthropocentric rather than theocentric.

The first article, ‘The Psalms and the Life of Faith: A Suggested Typology of Function’, is from the eminent scholar and writer Walter Brueggemann. Using Paul Ricoeur’s study on the role of language in the life of faith, Brueggemann categorises Psalms into: orientation (descriptive hymns), disorientation (laments) and re-orientation (declarative hymns - thanksgiving). Ricoeur viewed life as a movement not static, it is dialectic – a movement between orientation, disorientation and re-orientation. Brueggemann’s essay is an important piece of work which brings to fore the use and function of Psalms.

Another four articles in the book focus on the theology of Psalms. They use a particular theme or text as the centre of their theological formulation. The articles are (parts of the titles are highlighted to point out the centre of their theological formulation): ‘God at Work in the Word: A Theology of Divine-Human Encounter in the Psalms’ by Harry Nasuti, ‘The Destiny of the Righteous and the Theology of the Psalms’ by Jerome Creach, ‘The Single Most Important Text (Ps 82) in the Entire Bible: Towards a Theology of the Psalms’ by J. Clinton McCann and ‘”The Faithfulness of the Lord Endures Forever”: The Theological Witness of the Psalter’ by Rolf Jacobson. Choosing a particular centre gives a good insight into the theology of Psalm although the contents overlap. It also excludes other themes of Psalms.

‘The Theology of the Imprecatory Psalms’ by Nancy deClaissé Walford and ‘Saying Amen to Violent Psalms: Patterns of Prayer, Belief and Action in the Psalter’ by Joel LeMon are important works that deal with the most difficult questions of faith in the context of powerlessness. The imprecatory Psalms are laments of Psalmists who suffer injustice despite their faith and pray for vengeance on their enemies. Walford and LeMon give useful insights into the nature and function of these Psalms.

The final work ‘Rethinking the Enterprise: What Must Be Considered in Formulating a Theology of the Psalms’ by Beth Tanner is a concluding article which focuses on the question of how to theologise Psalms. Tanner argues that the historical and rationalistic study of Psalms have ignored that Psalms are essentially poetry. Studying Psalm in the matrix of poetry is natural and is part of our very soul.

The book is an important collation on the theology of Psalms, which I would very much recommend to anyone interested in the study of Psalms.