A Biblical Theology Of The Royal Psalms -- By: Bruce A. Baker

Journal: Journal of Dispensational Theology
Volume: JODT 16:49 (Dec 2012)
Article: A Biblical Theology Of The Royal Psalms
Author: Bruce A. Baker

A Biblical Theology Of The Royal Psalms

Bruce A. Baker

Bruce A. Baker, M.Div., Ph.D. (ABD) student, Baptist Bible Seminary, Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania; and, Assistant Professor of Bible & Systematic Theology, Grace School of Theology, The Woodlands, Texas

The crux interpretum of a biblical theology of the royal psalms is the problem of definition. Is there such a thing as a royal psalm, and if so, what are its characteristics? Hasel was quite correct when he noted that

there is inevitably a subjective element in all historical research worthy of the name. . . . The historian will always be guided in his work by a principle of selection, which is certainly a subjective enterprise, and by a goal which gives perspective to his work, a goal that is equally subjective.”1

The subjective is readily seen in such works as Westermann’s Praise and Lament in the Psalms.2 By limiting himself to these two categories, he gave only a cursory response to the royal psalms, noting (without evidence) that they are concerned with the “‘re-presentation’ of history.’”3 The German words translated “re-presentation” express the ideas of “presenting to the mind” and of “actualizing or making relevant to the present.”4 Therefore, it is unacceptable for prophetic revelation about the Messianic King in this schema. Westermann’s principle of selection and pre-understanding of the nature of the royal psalms is a textbook example of the subjective element taken to extreme.

Definition And Methodology

While it may be impossible to remove the subjective element completely, any serious attempt toward establishing a biblical theology of the royal psalms must take concrete steps designed to mitigate its deleterious effects. Therefore, a well-defined set of guidelines must be

sought to provide as much objectivity as possible. Such guidelines, however, are more difficult to ascertain regarding the royal psalms than for other genres within the Psalter. For unlike more common genres, like praise or lament, there seems to be no common structure to the royal psalms.5 Anderson, for example, found two different forms in Psalm 89 (89:1–37 as hymn, and 89:38–51 as lament) even though he classified its overall message as a royal psalm.6

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