Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Review of The Psalter Reclaimed

My two-year-old daughter loves  spaghetti. She will pound down an entire plate of the stuff. That is, if we cut the noodles up for her. It’s not that she’s too young to eat the noodles without choking--she’s got the slurping action mastered. But if all she has to deal with are really long noodles she will exhaust herself before she finishes her plate. So we cut the noodles up and she tears into them.

Some books are like chopping up spaghetti for a two-year-old. They are really good but might be a little exhausting for the average reader. It’s not that you’ll choke on it and not be able to understand it, it’s just that you might get so exhausted that you don’t get the full benefit of the book. More experienced readers need to read these types of books and know how to “chop them up” for others to enjoy. The Psalter Reclaimed is one of those books.

Gordon Wenham is a well-respected Old Testament scholar. What we have in The Psalter reclaimed is a collection of various lectures that Wenham gave from 1997-2010. Wenham looks at reading the Psalms canonically as well as messianically. There are also more practical chapters such as his chapter on praying the Psalms. Wenham also doesn’t shy away from the difficult imprecatory Psalms, devoting an entire chapter to thinking about how we ought to read them and use them in our day. Though tipping it’s hat to it’s more scholarly audience, the blurb on the back of the book summarizes it nicely:

[The Psalter Reclaimed] provides hermeneutical guidelines for interpreting the book—making accessible to us the transforming messages of the Psalms.

You can tell from the use of the phrase “hermeneutical guidelines” that the ‘us’ is probably a reference to more theologically experienced readers. Most of the chapters reflect the audiences in which they were given; namely, scholars and divinity students. It is not surprising then that a reader would need to be vaguely familiar with Old Testament scholarship.

Yet, this book does not read like a dry seminary lecture. It is a passionate plea for churches to recover the Psalms and use them for their original intent, as prayers to God. For that reason it is a book that needs to be read by everyone. Either chopped up by a seasoned reader or swallowed whole.

I should mention as well that Wenham’s treatment of the imprecatory Psalms is very helpful. For me that section would be worth the cost of the book. There are many gems throughout this book that the church needs to hear.

You can buy your copy here.

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