Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
TrinJ 25:1 (Spring 04) p. 103
James L. Crenshaw. The Psalms: An Introduction. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001. x + 187 pp. $18.00.
It is understandable that Eerdmans would request Crenshaw to set his hand to the task of introducing the Psalter since his famed 1981 introduction Old Testament Wisdom has been helpful to so many. In the present volume, Crenshaw demonstrates his skill as an educator to communicate sophisticated material to an unfamiliar audience. While Crenshaw’s work introduces many key terms essential to advancing the student’s progress in the Psalms, he omits Hebrew characters, follows the more simplified, non-academic system of transliteration, and keeps footnotes to a minimum. His Further Reading suggestions at the end of each chapter are carefully selected and helpful. Finally, his work is made even more serviceable by a thorough set of indices of subjects, authors, biblical references, and Hebrew and Greek words—although the glossary is so brief (only eight words) and basic that it seems out of place. More termini technici from the book should have been added.
After a brief introduction, the book is divided into three parts: Origins, Approaches to Psalms, and Some Readings. Part 1 (“Origins”) discusses the process through which the Psalter evolved and emerged as a book. Chapter 1 situates psalmic literature among the hymns and laments of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, surveys the various collections within the book, and concludes with an attempt to address the difficult issues surrounding the Psalter’s composition. Here he is quick to demonstrate that all explanations will, at best, “take the form of working hypotheses” (p. 40). Crenshaw is doubtful that the superscriptions are authentic; he argues that they “offer the oldest interpretive clue” and “provide a convenient way of introducing the various themes of the prayers.” As to the authorship of individual psalms, “the actual authors of the psalms in the Bible are unknown.. .. Most of them were probably written anonymously, like the preponderance of literature in the ancient world. The compositions eventually gained acceptance as expressions of communal concerns and were used in the cult of the temple and in synagogues” (p. 14). After tracing psalms attributed to David; songs of ascents; psalms of Asaph and the Korahites as well as those attributed to Moses, Solomon, and Ethan; and finally the hallelujah psalms; Crenshaw moves outside the Psalter in ch. 2 to discuss other psalms of the Hebrew Bible, e.g., 2 Samuel 22; Job 3; Jer 18:19-23; 20:7-12; Hab 3:1-19; Jonah 2:2-9; Isa 38:10-20, as well as those found in the Apocrypha, in the Pseudepigrapha, at Qumran, and in the NT. This section shows students how to identify the psalm genre in less expected places.
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