If you are following this blog and you are like me, you are eager to go beyond introductory material and consider some actual Psalms.
While my approach to Psalms is my own, in the sense that I first recognized Christ’s voice in Psalms before I consulted other sources, over roughly the past eight years, I have looked for confirmation from other writers. My viewpoint is that the Psalms are about Christ, and even further, predominantly his own words, spoken prophetically through human authors by means of the Holy Spirit. Confirmation is difficult to find, both within Christian devotional and academic literature. Fortunately, as the Lord has guided my search, I have had some small success.
Because I will quote various authors in future posts, I want to introduce and briefly describe in advance the few books and authors I value.
My authorial intent in writing the series of articles in this blog is to encourage readers to seek the Lord’s own voice within the Psalter. For devotional purposes, hearing the Son’s voice through psalmic prophets carries great reward. With this intention in mind, the following few books have confirmed my own discoveries.
There are not many devotional books nor scholarly books available to the average reader who seeks either guidance or confirmation in hearing and identifying the Lord Christ’s voice in Psalms. I believe that the New Testament authors of the gospels, Acts, and letters did hear the Christ’s voice in Psalms and other books of the Old Testament. Christ himself, as recorded in several gospel locations (Matthew 22:44 and parallels; Luke 24:25-27; 44-47) perceived the Old Testament to have been written about himself. After his resurrection, he gave his disciples his own key to this understanding and helped them unlock the Scriptures for themselves (Acts 2:25-36). The author of Hebrews also wrote extensively about the Old Testament with the Christological viewpoint in mind.
The following annotated list includes authors favorable to the view that the Psalter and other biblical books contain a record of prayers and speech occurrences performed by Christ during all ages of his eternal existence and especially during his incarnation. These have been handed down prophetically through Old Testament authors by means of the Holy Spirit. In some of these speech occurrences, dialogue between Father and Son is displayed.
Discerning and dividing God’s Word in a manner that includes recognition of divine speech and dialogue in Psalms (and elsewhere in Scripture) is a rich and sorely overlooked field of study today. I hope this small list proves useful to those few who may be interested.
New International Version Bible (NIV)
The Holy Bible: New International Version®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica. All rights reserved worldwide. See also (New International Version Bible Online): http://www.biblestudytools.com/colossians/. See also http://www.biblestudytools.com/esv/psalms/.
I recommend the versions published before the 2011 revision. I do not recommend that version because the gender neutral language erased some of the direct references to Christ “the man.”
Although the NIV uses a dynamic equivalence method, the older editions adhere to the literal intention of the text and are not influenced by a heavily biased set of presuppositions regarding hermeneutic principles.
Psalm 1:1 Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. (NIV, 1983 Print Edition)
31 Days of Wisdom and Praise: Daily Readings from the Books of Psalms and Proverbs, New International Version. Arranged by R. Dean Jones. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990, by International Bible Society.
A small, pocket-sized NIV paperback arranged with five psalms per day, not in sequence. On a typical day, such as Day 25, for example, the reader would discover Psalms 25, 55, 85, 115, and 145. This edition provides a palatable way to read across the psalms and to finish the entire book in one month. Because of the unique arrangement, the reader is exposed to thematic connections within the psalms that otherwise might not be noticed in a strictly chronological reading. This is a very comfortable book in which to read and make small notations as in a daily devotional. There are few notes and no commentary.
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright © 2001, 2007, 2011 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. (ESV)
The ESV is a solid, clear, reliable, trustworthy, and consistent biblical translation based on literal hermeneutic principles. References include citations at the beginning of notes for a given passage, multiple citations are given, and the reader is not overly burdened by excessive notes.
Psalm 1:1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; (ESV)
For those who may have access to digital or printed Bibles in the original languages, I recommend the following (which is also available in print):
Brenton, Sir Lancelot C. L. The Septuagint Version: Greek and English. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1970.
Although the number of translations of the Septuagint (LXX) into English (LXE) have increased recently, for biblical research I recommend Brenton’s as one which adheres fairly closely to the Greek text and has not been redacted, or edited, to match the Masoretic (Hebrew) tradition. Because New Testament authors used the Septuagint as their personal Bibles and most often quoted a Septuagint version in their writing, it is a useful and important version to have for textual comparisons. Further, the Septuagint, although written a few centuries before Christ appeared, seems to make his prophetically proclaimed presence in the Old Testament clearer than many English translations based upon the Masoretic text and influenced by a biblical hermeneutic that discourages what translators sometimes term reading backward into a text. The Septuagint translators cannot be accused of interpreting the Old Testament in view of light from the New, since events of the New Testament were still future when the Septuagint translations were written.
Psalm 1:1 Blessed is the man who has not walked in the counsel of the ungodly, and has not stood in the way of sinners, and has not sat in the seat of evil men. (LXE)
Note: For the purpose of hearing the voice of Christ in Psalms, most study Bibles will not help readers, and many may hinder. A good reference Bible that includes both forward and backward citations, word use references, and allusions between the Old and New Testaments is very useful. I do recommend the Bibles described above.
Bates, Matthew W. The Birth of the Trinity: Jesus, God, and Spirit in New Testament & Early Christian Interpretations of the Old Testament. Oxford University Press: Oxford, United Kingdom, 2015 and Paperback Edition 2016.
Matthew W. Bates, Ph.D., The University of Notre Dame is Assistant Professor of Theology at Quincy University in Quincy, Illinois.
To paraphrase E. B. White’s Wilbur the Pig, “It is not often that someone comes along who is a true Christian and a good scholar. Matthew Bates is both.” In The Birth of the Trinity, Bates has gifted his readers a treasure chest. This is a magnificent book replete with highly detailed bibliographic and substantive footnotes, end references, and beautiful biblical, topical, and primary, secondary, ancient, and modern bibliographic indices.
Everything Bates writes is thoroughly focused and impressively complete on the topic of divine dialogue between Father and Son, as evidenced in the ancient Jewish Scripture, i.e., the Old Testament. As he demonstrates the early concept of Trinity, Bates closely examines and dissects biblical passages from the Old Testament that evidence speaker shifts, or dialogue, between the Divine Persons. Then, just as thoroughly, he reviews the literary reception history of these passages that is found in the pages of the New Testament (by Jesus, Peter, Paul, Luke, the author of Hebrews, and others) and in extra-biblical, coeval literature by authors such as Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, and Origen. By these methods, he demonstrates that the Trinitarian God has “an unremitting personal concern for one another” (204) and that “the Christology of our earliest Christian sources is as high as that of our later sources.” (ibid.)
As concerns the topic of divine dialogue within Scripture, Bates performs the inestimably valuable service of structuring a framework of analysis, introducing a vocabulary (prosopological exegesis), and proposing a methodology for any reader to recognize and critically test such biblical speech. This book is a scholar’s prayer come true on the topic of divine dialogue in Scripture.
Bates, Matthew W. The Hermeneutics of the Apostolic Proclamation: The Center of Paul’s Method of Scriptural Interpretation. Baylor University Press: Wayco, Texas, 2012.
Matthew W. Bates, Ph.D., The University of Notre Dame is Assistant Professor of Theology at Quincy University in Quincy, Illinois.
While this book is about Paul’s use of kerygmatic proclamation, Matthew Bates’ central argument in exegeting Paul’s hermeneutic is Paul’s use of the reading technique Bates calls “prosopological exegesis.” He gives this topic three entire chapters, pages 183-355.
The book is excellent both for understanding this overlooked literary technique employed by the Holy Spirit through the prophets of the Old Testament and as a resource for further study of other authors writing on the same topic.
Archer, Gleason L. and Gregory Chirichigno. Old Testament Quotations in the New Testament. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock, 1983.
As the title suggests, this book is a “must have” for locating Old Testament quotations that appear in the New Testament.
Barclay, John. The Psalms of David, and the Paraphrases and Hymns: With a Dissertation on the Book of Psalms, and Explanatory Introductions to Each. Edinburgh: James Gall, 1826. Reprinted Digitally by Forgotten Books, registered trademark of FB &c Ltd., London, 2017. Available at http://www.ForgottenBooks.com, 2017.
John Barclay, a Berean preacher of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, determined quite against the established church to preach what he uncovered in Scripture alone, no matter where that Scripture might lead. Accordingly, he ranks among those who recognize the figure of Christ the Messiah present throughout the Psalter, including Psalm 1. Just as he hears the Son’s prayers, he also hears the Father’s reply. He is one of very few who delineates a two-part dialogue in Psalm 102, as cited in Hebrews 1. He labels Psalm 102 with the superscription, “A pray’r of God’s afflicted Son…”
Even though Barclay’s Psalter is paraphrased verse, its rendering is remarkably literal. He reserves his comments and the detailed defense of his view for the initial preface to Psalm 1, raising and answering many objections to the understanding that Christ prays all the Psalms, and to the shorter prefaces before each of the other psalms.
Belcher, Richard P. Jr. The Messiah and the Psalms: Preaching Christ from All the Psalms. Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, Ltd., 2006.
From the back cover of the book: Dr. Richard Belcher is Professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, North Carolina. He received an MDiv from Covenant Theological Seminary and a PhD from Westminster Theological Seminary. He is also an active pastor.
Richard Belcher’s book tends more towards scholarship than devotion; however, his Christian beliefs shine forth in this work. The book discusses the psalms topically, according to received categories, such as Royal Psalms, direct and indirect Messianic Psalms, Psalms of orientation, disorientation, and new orientation, among others. Only thirty of the one hundred and fifty psalms are covered in particular analysis.
Belcher does not overtly recognize “speech” as such in this book. For example, he labels as oracles what Bates (above) terms “reported speech” in Psalm 110. Belcher appears to take a “middle of the road” approach regarding Christ in the Psalms. While he freely proposes the Psalms to be about Christ and demonstrates how many might be applicable to him, he does not seem to go beyond what current, traditional scholarship might accept. Belcher includes an excellent set of notes and bibliography. While there is a biblical index, there is no topical index.
BibleWorks. BibleWorks 9 Software for Biblical Exegesis & Research. Norfolk, VA: BibleWorks, 2011.
BibleWorks is currently in its 10th edition. While not inexpensive, it is far less expensive than Logos, and its quality and user friendliness is supreme. Nearly all language translations are available, including photos of the original Dead Sea Scrolls. Users can design their own parallel columns with as many versions as they choose. BibleWorks contains all the digital and original language features any scholar or lay person might want. It does not contain commentaries. I highly recommend BibleWorks as being well worth its cost.
Bonar, Andrew A. Christ and His Church in the Book of Psalms: 150 Inspirational Studies. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1978.
Andrew Bonar, a nineteenth century (1810-1892) minister in the Church of Scotland and the Scottish Finieston Free Church, was a contemporary of Charles H. Spurgeon.
Bonar’s book on Psalms is a blessing to read, filled with the love, joy, and peace emanating from his devotion to Christ, as he is portrayed in Psalms and other Scripture, both Old and New Testaments. Bonar is an outstanding scholar who gives copious references to other works, which he cites in both text and footnotes, and who frequently cites both Hebrew and Greek.
Bonar is not ashamed to own Christ in the Psalms, yet he does so gently by biblical demonstration, never appearing strident or as though he has a point to prove. He recognizes divine dialogue. For example, he hears the plaintive voice of the suffering, incarnated Christ in Psalm 102, and he distinguishes the Father’s direct address to Christ as being one of reply: “From the Garden of Gethsemane…Sorrowful unto death, his soul cries, …” and, “It is here (compare Heb. i. 10-12) that the voice from the Father addresses him.” (303) Very few scholars, or even devotional writers, are able and/or willing to name Christ as the poor person in Psalm 102 and to hear the words of divine dialogue within that psalm. Bonar does.
Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible. Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1974 in paperback.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, best known perhaps for his being a willing martyr’s sacrifice at the hand of the Nazis, wrote his slim devotional book on Psalms in 1943.
Bonhoeffer writes, “And he [David] is not unaware of this, but ‘being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants upon his throne, he foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ’ (Acts 2:30 f.). David was a witness to Christ in his office, in his life, and in his words. The New Testament says even more. In the Psalms of David the promised Christ himself already speaks (Hebrews 2:12; 10:5) or, as may also be indicated, the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 3:7). These same words which David spoke, therefore, the future Messiah spoke through him. The prayers of David were prayed also by Christ. Or better, Christ himself prayed them through his forerunner David” (18-19).