Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Canonical Context of the Psalms

In a paper titled "Towards a Canonical Reading of the Psalms," Gordon Wenham asks and answers the question, "what is the canonical context in which we read each psalm?"

His answer, at least as a starting place, seems to me to be a very good answer. Here's what he says:
I tend to think three canonical contexts are more important than others. 
First, there is the canonical context of the whole Psalter. . . . [It] is imperative to read one psalm in the context of the whole collection and in particular in relation to its near neighbors.  
Second, there is reading the psalms in the context of the Jewish canon, the Hebrew Bible.  The psalms themselves invite this by their frequent reference to historical figures and episodes from the past. . . .  
Third, of course, the psalms need to be read in the context of the Christian canon of Old and New Testaments. The Psalms are the book of the Old Testament most quoted in the New Testament: it appears that the early Christians inhabited the thought world of the psalms, so that any biblical theology that would be Christian must read the psalms in this context. 
—Gordon Wenham, "Towards a Canonical Reading of the Psalms," in Canon and Biblical Interpretation (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006), 347–348.

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