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The Shape and Shaping of the Book of Psalms

The Shape and Shaping of the Book of Psalms: The Current State of Scholarship

Edited by Nancy L. deClaissé-Walford
  • Book Info
    The Shape and Shaping of the Book of Psalms
    Book Description:

    A new and innovative way to approach the Psalter that moves beyond form and cult-functional criticism

    Drawing inspiration from Gerald H. Wilson'sThe Editing of the Hebrew Psalter, this volume explores questions of the formation of the Psalter from the perspective of canonical criticism. Though called "canonical criticism," the study actually employs a number of historically traditional and nontraditional approaches to reading the text including form criticism, historical criticism of individual psalms as well as of the whole Psalter, and redaction criticism.


    Exploration of collections of psalms, theological viewpoints, sovereignty, and the shape and shaping of PsalmsExamination of the impact of canonical criticism on the study of the PsalterSixteen essays from the Book of Psalms Consultation group and invited scholars

    eISBN: 978-1-62837-002-7
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  2. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Nancy L. deClaissé-Walford
  3. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  4. The Canonical Approach to Scripture and The Editing of the Hebrew Psalter
    (pp. 1-12)
    Nancy L. deClaissé-Walford

    Early in my ph.D. studies, I came across an article by Robert polzin in the journalSemeiaentitled “‘The ancestress of israel in danger’ in danger.”¹ The article examines the three stories in the book of genesis about abraham and isaac passing their wives off as their sisters. polzin addresses the work of source and form critics who were attempting to, according to polzin, “resurrect the original story behind the three versions,” with little “concern for how stories fit into their present literary context.”²

    one sentence in the article seized my attention and has stuck with me over the years....

  5. The Editing of the Psalter and the Ongoing Use of the Psalms: Gerald Wilson and the Question of Canon
    (pp. 13-20)
    Harry P. Nasuti

    It is useful to begin this reflection onThe Editing of the Hebrew Psalterwith a reminder of its opening chapters on comparative material from the ancient Near East and Qumran. I suspect that contemporary scholars who are now used to research on the Psalter as a whole often bypass these chapters in favor of the two final chapters (and Wilson’s later works) on the Psalms and the shape of the Psalter.¹ One should, however, note the importance of these earlier chapters both for the development of Wilson’s thesis and for this later shift in Psalms scholarship. Especially significant in...

  6. Changing Our Way of Being Wrong: The Impact of Gerald Wilson’s The Editing of the Hebrew Psalter
    (pp. 21-26)
    J. Clinton McCann Jr.

    I am going to keep it simple and use two words to describe my perception of the impact of Gerald Wilson’sThe Editing of the Hebrew Psalter—shock and awe. if this response seems a bit over the top, let me explain. Everything is contextual, of course, and my context is this: I am a teacher in a small, church-related school in a staid Midwestern suburb. Things are pretty routine— some might say “boring”—so it does not take much to create an atmosphere of excitement. In fact, one of the most exciting things i do every year is to...

  7. The Dynamics of Praise in the Ancient Near East, or Poetry and Politics
    (pp. 27-40)
    Erhard S. Gerstenberger

    Just as general anthropologists have a hard time intelligently defining the nature of human beings, various specialists in human speech have been challenged by an intrinsic exigency to understand and describe the essence of human vocal or verbal articulation and communication. Should we regard language as the unique divine gift that elevates humans above all other creatures? Can it be seen as the prime vehicle of interpersonal or intergroup communication? Is it perhaps only one type of countless systems of participation, be it in the physical, chemical, or organic world, a functional array of sounds, melodies, signifiers transporting information from...

  8. Philosophical Perspectives on Religious Diversity as Emergent Property in the Redaction/Composition of the Psalter
    (pp. 41-52)
    Jaco Gericke

    There is a humorous Zen story that alludes, among other things, to the philosophical problem of religious diversity in relation to the question of truth:

    in a monastery, two monks argued about one point regarding their master’s teaching. one said yes and the other said no. Finally, they came in front of their master telling their understanding of the teaching. After the first monk explained why he said yes, the master nodded his head and said that he was correct. The first monk was then very happy and went away. The other monk, of course, was not happy. He also...

  9. Let Us Cast Off Their Ropes from Us: The Editorial Significance of the Portrayal of Foreign Nations in Psalms 2 and 149
    (pp. 53-70)
    Derek E. Wittman

    The Hebrew Psalter’s second and penultimate psalms (pss 2 and 149) contain the collection’s first and last words portraying god as a royal figure and its initial and final references to foreign nations. The juxtaposition of these topics in the introduction and conclusion of the psalter is striking, particularly when one considers that both Pss 2 and 149 contain unflattering portrayals of foreign nations that specifically feature the humiliation of their kings. To the extent that one considers emphasis on god’s kingship to be a key feature of the canonical Psalter’s final shape, the vivid portrayal of the nations and...

  10. The Message of the Asaphite Collection and Its Role in the Psalter
    (pp. 71-86)
    Christine Brown Jones

    The Asaph Psalms are located in a pivotal place in the Psalter. Not only are they the first Psalms of book 3, the middle book of the five-book Psalter, but they are also located in the numeric middle of the Psalter. They also seem to react to a very critical point in Israel’s history, the exile.¹

    Is there, though, any insight to be gained by understanding how these Psalms of assorted genre are arranged? Following the examples of Wilson, who suggests there is purposeful arrangement in the final Psalter,² and McCann, who has begun to look at arrangement within the...

  11. Instruction, Performance, and Prayer: The Didactic Function of Psalmic Wisdom
    (pp. 87-104)
    Catherine Petrany

    In Ps 34:12, the pedagogical implications of the psalmist’s declaration are explicit.

    Come, children, listen to me;

    I will teach you the fear of YHWH.¹

    This is an exhortation that passes between a human teacher and human students, with the teacher calling upon the students to receive the wisdom spoken to them through the act of hearing. It echoes a specific kind of address found in biblical wisdom literature, most prominently in the book of proverbs.² This verse represents but one example of wisdom elements scattered throughout the book of Psalms, elements that invite the faithful to reflect and learn...

  12. “Wealth and Riches Are in His House” (Ps 112:3): Acrostic Wisdom Psalms and the Development of Antimaterialism
    (pp. 105-128)
    Phil J. Botha

    “Materialism” is understood in this paper as the notion that wealth is more important than spiritual values; “antimaterialism” would then be a rejection of a money-oriented and greedy approach to life. At first glance it would not seem to make sense, therefore, to insert the above quote from Ps 112:3 in the title. The promise that “wealth and riches” are in the house of the righteous does indeed seem to represent a positive appraisal of material things. Yet i would like to argue in this paper that Ps 112, together with the other acrostic wisdom psalms, constitute a unified, authoritative...

  13. Perhaps YHWH Is Sleeping: “Awake” and “Contend” in the Book of Psalms
    (pp. 129-146)
    Karl N. Jacobson

    One of the key contributions of Gerald Wilson (and others) in the shape and shaping movement in Psalms study is in drawing the interpreter’s attention to the character of the Psalteras book, and not just a collection of individual Psalms (with the occasional paired psalms). This observation is one that is simple and perhaps obvious, but one that remains necessary, as it is so often undervalued. As Wilson noted when discussing the designation of the collection as a hymnbook, “the designation evidences our tendency over the last 150 years of Psalms study to focus almost exclusively on individual psalms...

  14. Revisiting the Theocratic Agenda of Book 4 of the Psalter for Interpretive Premise
    (pp. 147-160)
    Sampson S. Ndoga

    Reading particular psalms as detached compositions conceivably fails to take into account the redactional principle for organizing the material in the five books of the Psalter. As such, a number of studies have in the past been undertaken to underscore the evidence of logical arrangement of the Psalter.¹ Most of such studies² are dependent on the groundbreaking work of Gerald H. Wilson, in which he argues for editorial intentionality in the placement of the psalms.³ More recently, Koorevaar’s examination of the subscripts and superscripts as a treatise to understanding the Psalter as a whole provides fertile ground on which such...

  15. On Reading Psalms as Liturgy: Psalms 96–99
    (pp. 161-178)
    Jonathan Magonet

    Psalms 96–99 are familiar to synagogue goers from their liturgical use as part of the introduction to the Friday evening Shabbat service. This sequence, beginning with Ps 95 and concluding with Ps 29, was introduced by the kabbalistic circles in Safed in the middle of the sixteenth century. The custom is ascribed to Rabbi Moses Cordovero (1522–1570). The psalms are followed by the liturgical hymnL’cha Dodi(“Come my friend to greet the bride [the Sabbath]”), composed in the same circles. Immediately afterward come Pss 92 and 93, whose use can be traced back to temple times (m....

  16. The Role of the Foe in Book 5: Reflections on the Final Composition of the Psalter
    (pp. 179-192)
    W. Dennis Tucker Jr.

    In celebration of the twenty-fifth anniversary ofThe Editing of the Hebrew Psalter, the 2011 Book of Psalms Section of the Society of Biblical literature paid homage to the contributions of Gerald Wilson’s work and recognized his influence methodologically upon subsequent work in the discipline. The present article, however, is more modest in scope, limiting its comments to Wilson’s understanding of book 5 alone. Admittedly, this proves challenging due to the untimely death of Wilson and, consequently, the limited number of works he was able to complete on book 5.¹ Nevertheless, a few comments are in order.

    In response to...

  17. Gerald Wilson and the Characterization of David in Book 5 of the Psalter
    (pp. 193-208)
    Robert E. Wallace

    I first encounteredThe Editing of the Hebrew Psalterand Wilson’s followup research while in preparation for my preliminary exams. His research has shaped mine, though likely not in the way he might have expected. It struck me that even though Wilson was speaking of the early redaction of the Psalter, a sense of story, plot, and characterization began to emerge when Wilson looked at the Psalter. Though perhaps not purposely, Wilson was noting that although the psalter is not narrative material, as Robert alter noted, a narrative impulse exists in biblical poetry. That narrative impulse began to emerge across...

  18. The Contribution of Gerald Wilson toward Understanding the Book of Psalms in Light of the Psalms Scrolls
    (pp. 209-230)
    Peter W. Flint

    As of late 2013, forty-five psalms manuscripts or ones that incorporate psalms had been found (forty-one near Qumran, one at Nahal Hever, and two at Masada). The only book represented by a comparable number of copies is Deuteronomy, with forty-two scrolls (thirty-nine found near Qumran). As our earliest extant witnesses to the scriptural text of the psalms, these scrolls are important for understanding the psalms in the later Second Temple period and their finalization as a collection. Moreover, the prominence of the psalms scrolls at Qumran highlights the importance of the psalms among theYahador Essene movement, whose most...

  19. Imagining the Future of Psalms Studies
    (pp. 231-246)
    Rolf A. Jacobson

    I wish to thank the Book of Psalms Section steering committee for the invitation to contribute an essay to this volume on a look at the state of the study of the Psalter twenty-five years after Gerald Wilson’s groundbreakingThe Editing of the Hebrew Psalter. I was mulling over the fact that many others have much more wisdom to share on this subject that I do. Then it occurred to me that, precisely because they have more wisdom than I, they all declined to give a paper on the future of psalms study. As the great baseball player Yogi Berra...

  20. Contributors
    (pp. 247-250)
  21. Index of Ancient Sources
    (pp. 251-262)
  22. Index of Modern Authors
    (pp. 263-268)