Reviews Of Books -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 79:1 (Spring 2017)
Article: Reviews Of Books
Author: Anonymous

Reviews Of Books

David Willgren, Like a Garden of Flowers: A Study of the Formation of the ‘Book’ of Psalms. Lund: Center for Theology and Religious Studies, 2016. Pp. vii + 502. $150.00, paper.

The arrangement of the Psalter has garnered significant interest over the past several decades, and many works have been published that add to the ongoing discussion of the canonical organization of the psalms. Since Gerald Wilson’s seminal work The Editing of the Hebrew Psalter, scholars have endeavored to substantiate, rebut, or advance Wilson’s argument for seeing editorial intent behind the overall placement of the psalms in the MT. If there is indeed an editorial scheme behind the book’s arrangement, then understanding it may shed light on the overall purpose and message of the psalms. Understandably, this topic has caused much excitement in psalms studies and challenged basic assumptions regarding the (apparently) random placement of psalms. Doctoral dissertations in this field of study have increased significantly over the past fifteen years, and this trend will likely continue.

Nevertheless, one recent dissertation, Like a Garden of Flowers: A Study of the Formation of the ‘Book’ of Psalms by David Willgren, questions this trend by advocating the importance of researching the diachronic development of the psalms. Willgren sees an imbalance in scholarship by starting with the MT “Book” of Psalms and working backwards to understand its arrangement. In other words, there has been a heavy focus on the synchronic study of the Psalter (i.e., the study of its final MT form) with very little consideration of how diachronic development affected its arrangement. Therefore, Willgren attempts to provide answers to both the “how?” and “why?” questions surrounding the formation of the Psalter through diachronic investigation.

Willgren essentially begins by advocating against viewing the psalms as a “book,” and instead understanding it as an anthology (Part 1). Broadly speaking, an anthology is a “composition of compositions,” which distinguishes the book itself from its entries (p. 24). He develops his discussion by noting that within an anthology (given its very nature) there would be multiple “connections between the texts,” and “various levels of meaning evoked” by a text and its “relation with other texts in the same collection” (p. 28). However, “the decisive question would be whether there are features inherent in anthologies that indicate that some paths through it have been specifically designed” (p. 28). In other words, are there indications of intentional arrangement in order to influence the interpretation of the individual text? With this in view, he provides a metaphor to conceptualize an anthology: i...

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