The Creation Faith of the Psalmists -- By: Stacy R. Obenhaus

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 21:2 (Fall 2000)
Article: The Creation Faith of the Psalmists
Author: Stacy R. Obenhaus

The Creation Faith of the Psalmists

Stacy R. Obenhaus

Stacy R. Obenhaus is a lawyer, a graduate of Oklahoma Christian College, and a graduate student at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.

Believers intent on discerning the Bible’s view on Creation naturally turn to the first three chapters of Genesis, with their striking accounts of creation by the word of God, paradise in the Garden of Eden, and the Fall. This is no doubt in part because of these chapters’ position at the beginning of the Hebrew Scriptures and, in part, because the elaborate creation narrative therein has captivated artists and writers from John Milton to Michelangelo. Such a focus on the Genesis narrative as a source of creation theology is unfortunate, however, because outside the book of Genesis—mainly in Job, Proverbs, Isaiah, and the Psalms—there exists a more extensive and varied collection of writing on the significance of creation in Israel’s faith.1 The Hebrew Scriptures contain a plurality of theologies that coexist together,2 and a study of the Hebrew Bible’s literature on creation outside the Genesis narrative reveals that this plurality exists, to some extent, with respect to the theology of creation.3

Acknowledging the Hebrew Bible’s diversity with regard to the theology of creation, this paper focuses on the function of creation theology in the Psalms. I will argue that, although the Hebrew Psalter does not necessarily contain inconsistent views on creation, the Psalms do offer a variety of perspectives on its theological significance. This variety appears not only in the language and rhetoric that the Psalms use to describe the event of creation, but also in the functions that creation serves in the faith of the psalmists. As I hope to explain, creation serves in conjunction with and sometimes in subservience to other theological motifs, but it is nevertheless a fundamental element of the psalmists’ faith, appearing in a variety of psalm forms and in conjunction with some basic foundations of Israel’s belief.

I. The Rhetoric of Creation

Understanding creation theology in the Psalms begins with a study of the rhetoric—the language and imagery—that the psalmists use when they employ the creation motif. This language is often terse and occasionally quite indirect. Sometimes the terse reference is quite clear, as when the psalmist states: “My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Ps 121:2). Other times the terse ref...

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