Previous | Next

Spring 2006 · Vol. 35 No. 1 · pp. 183–86 

Recommended Reading

On the Psalms

Douglas B. Miller


Bellinger, W. H. Jr. Psalms: Reading and Studying the Book of Praises. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1990.

Longman, Tremper III. How to Read the Psalms. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1988.

Both of these works are accessible at a college freshman level, reflect an Evangelical orientation, and give helpful overviews of scholarship regarding the forms and historical context of the Psalms. Both discuss specific sample psalms; Longman’s includes assignments with answers in the back of the book.

Seybold, Klaus. Introducing the Psalms. Trans. R. Graeme Dunphy. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1990 <1986>.

This work is more demanding (upper level college or seminary) but is also richer in its summary presentation of textual transmission (such as the Dead Sea Scrolls), culture, language, iconography, cosmology, worship materials from Israel’s neighbors, and history of interpretation.

Old Testament Introduction

Anderson, Bernhard W. Understanding the Old Testament. 4th ed. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1986.

Very helpful in its concise introduction (chap. 16) to Hermann Gunkel’s approach to literary types among the Psalms, and Sigmund Mowinckel’s thesis concerning the function of psalms in ancient temple festivals. The fifth edition is now available.

Gottwald, Norman K. The Hebrew Bible: A Socio-Literary Introduction. Philadelphia, PA: Fortress, 1985.

A notably different approach to categorizing types of psalms based on their modes of speech, adapting from the work of Gunkel. For example, in addition to lamenting-entreating and praising-thanking psalms—which the two approaches have in common—Gottwald adds performing-enacting and instructing-meditating types.

Paraphrase and Poetic Versions

Brandt, Leslie F. Psalms Now. St. Louis, MO: Concordia, 1973.

These creative paraphrases are a bit dated but still have the power to challenge and inspire.

Wieder, Laurance, ed. The Poets’ Book of Psalms: The Complete Psalter as Rendered by Twenty-Five Poets from the Sixteenth to the Twentieth Centuries. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.

The subtitle describes the project which makes the work of excellent poets available for reflection upon the text.

Devotional Commentary

Limburg, James. Psalms for Sojourners. 2d ed. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2002.

Limburg presents short expositions of nineteen psalms in five types (praise, lament, trust, creation, and pilgrimage), illustrating themes from his own life and the lives of others.

Homiletical Commentary

Mays, James L. Psalms. Interpretation. Louisville, KY: John Knox, 1994.

Waltner, James. Psalms. Believers Church Bible Commentary. Scottdale, PA: Herald, 2006.

Wilson, Gerald H. Psalms Volume 1. NIV Application Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002.

Each of these works reflects good scholarship and good engagement upon life issues in a way especially helpful for preachers and teachers. Waltner’s (due this summer) is notable for its Anabaptist perspective.

Technical Commentary

Craigie, Peter C. Psalms 1-50. Word Biblical Commentary. 2d ed. Nashville, TN: Nelson, 2005.

Tate, Marvin E. Psalms 51-100. Word Biblical Commentary. Waco, TX: Word, 1990.

Allen, Leslie C. Psalms 101-150. Word Biblical Commentary. 2d ed. Nashville, TN: Nelson, 2002.

An extremely valuable set from an Evangelical orientation, though a bit varied in style due to the diversity of authors. Very careful with textual and formal issues.

Kraus, Hans-Joachim. Psalms 1-59. Trans. Hilton C. Oswald. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg, 1988.

Kraus, Hans-Joachim. Psalms 60-150. Trans. Hilton C. Oswald. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg, 1989.

Highly recommended for its careful treatment of the text and awareness of issues raised by scholars.

Specialized Studies

Holladay, William L. The Psalms Through Three Thousand Years: Prayerbook of a Cloud of Witnesses. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 1993.

An intriguing study for its overview of Psalter interpretation across the millennia (esp. Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant), treatment of current theological issues with the Psalms, and its exploration of the role Psalm 23 has played in American culture.

Keel, Othmar. The Symbolism of the Biblical World: Ancient Near Eastern Iconography and the Book of Psalms. Trans. Timothy J. Hallett. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1978 <1972>.

Keel displays and assesses the value of ancient Near Eastern iconography in helping to interpret the Psalms. Excellent as a reference work through its thorough index of psalms cited throughout.

Lewis, C. S. Reflections on the Psalms. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1958.

The work of a literary specialist but nonbiblical scholar. A bit dated, but still very valuable, esp. for its explanations of praise, delight in the law, and imprecatory psalms.

Westermann, Claus. Praise and Lament in the Psalms. Trans. Keith R. Crim and Richard N. Soulen. Atlanta, GA: John Knox, 1981 <1961, 1977>.

The classic work on the value of discerning psalm types, particularly the major categories of praise and lament.

Zenger, Erich. A God of Vengeance? Understanding the Psalms of Divine Wrath. Trans. Linda M. Maloney. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 1996 <1994>.

Recommended for its helpful exploration of the imprecatory psalms (those which call for God’s wrath upon enemies) and demonstration that these are still important resources for the church.

Douglas B. Miller is Professor of Biblical and Religious Studies at Tabor College, Hillsboro, Kansas, and General Editor of Direction journal. He received his M.Div. from Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Elkhart, Indiana, and his Ph.D. in Old Testament from Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, New Jersey.

Previous | Next