Home » A. Bible Studies » Christ in the Psalms: An Annotated Bibliography

Christ in the Psalms: An Annotated Bibliography

While my approach to Psalms is independently 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.

Topic

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.

Bibles

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.

Other Resources

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.

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.

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).

Pink, Arthur. An Exposition of Hebrews. Baker Book House: Grand Rapids, 1954.

Arthur Pink (1886-1952) of the Reformed tradition, was born in Great Britain, studied at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, pastored in four states of the United States, became an itinerant preacher, returned to Scotland in 1940, and continued writing until his death. Pink is widely respected today as a biblical scholar, and his book of 1,307 pages, An Exposition of Hebrews, is now a classic.

Why include a commentary on Hebrews in a bibliography about Psalms? Psalms is quoted in Hebrews at least 16 times. Citations from the Psalter form the backbone of the writer’s basic arguments in the first and second chapters of Hebrews, as well as elsewhere in the book. Most relevant to this discussion, the Letter to the Hebrews is a large and important piece of evidence in the reception history of Psalms in the early church.

Hebrews provides tremendous evidence that the writer of the letter and the readers in that day clearly understood that Psalms includes dialogue between Father and Son. While Pink authored his book on Hebrews long before Matthew Bates (see above) most likely was born, he himself uses Bates’ prosopological exegesis (this refers to a reading technique in which the reader understands that the psalmist writer has slipped into in-character-dialogue, often between Father and Son, within the text of the psalm) in his understanding and explaining the text of Hebrews in relevant portions (of course he did not use Bates’ unique term for this reading technique). Chapter 1 of Hebrews is replete with the biblical author’s use of prosopological exegesis to make his points to his readers. Pink recognizes these instances as matters of fact and expounds these psalmic passages for his readers in a completely unselfconscious manner with the portions of dialogue clearly explained.

Reardon, Patrick Henry. Christ in the Psalms, 2d ed. Chesterton: Ancient Faith Publishing, 2000, 2011.

Taken from the back cover of his book, “Patrick Henry Reardon is pastor of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago.” He has written several books, including The Jesus We Missed (2012) and Reclaiming the Atonement Volume 1: The Incarnation (2015).

Psalms is the book most often quoted in the New Testament. According to the authors of the New Testament, writes Reardon, Christ “walks” within the Psalms. (viii) “…to pray the psalms is to pray them in Jesus’ name, because the voice in the Psalter is Christ’s own voice. Christ is the referential center of the Book of Psalms.” … “Ultimately, the words of the psalms are the mighty name of Jesus broken down into its component parts. Thus has it always been.” (viii)

Reardon’s work contradicts the recent academic premise, introduced during the Enlightenment, that the Old Testament can only mean what its human authors and the listeners of that day may have thought it meant, as reconstructed by today’s scholars. The “radical premise” (viii) of Reardon’s approach to Psalms is the theological unity of the Old and New Testaments. Further, the foundation of the biblical unity is the continuity of the church with ancient Israel. (viii)

Reardon demonstrates that the Psalter, like many other parts of Scripture, includes dialogue in multiple voices. Reardon compares the dialogue to mini-dramas. When we pray the prayers of Psalms, we enter into the voice and character of Christ the Son of God, as he and the Father engage in dialogue with one another. We also enter into the conversation between the Church and God, Father and Son, that is audible in both Testaments. Reardon claims that it is the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts to teach us these things, “And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.” (1 Corinthians 2:13 ESV) Reardon labels his viewpoint concerning the unity of Old and New Testaments “radical.” (viii) I can heartily agree, as sadly, in today’s era, we do not find this viewpoint often encouraged.

Concerning divine dialogue within the Psalms, Reardon appeals to Justin Martyr. “‘The Divine Word,’ said Justin, ‘sometimes speaks as from the person [apo prosopou] of God, the Ruler and Father of all, sometimes as from the person [apo prosopou] of Christ, sometimes from the person [apo prosopou] of the peoples answering the Lord or His s

The remainder of Reardon’s book explores each psalm individually with Christ in view throughout. His presentation is both devotional and scholarly, including multiple citations from related portions of Scripture and occasional references to other authors.

For a casual audience, Reardon is vastly more readable than Bates (above), because Reardon does not include the prolific technical detail of the latter. Sadly, Reardon does not include an index.

Saphir, Adolph. The Divine Unity of Scripture. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1896. Public Domain. Available at https://archive.org/stream/divineunityofscr00saph/divineunityofscr00saph_djvu.txt. Accessed 3/08/2018.

Adolph Saphir (1831-1891) was born in Hungary of Jewish parents. The entire family converted to Christianity in response to the Jewish mission of the Church of Scotland. He became a Christian pastor and lived most of his adult life in Great Britain. https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Saphir,_Adolph_(DNB00).

This book is fresh air. While it is not about Psalms in particular, it is about Scripture from the perspective of one converted to Christianity from Judaism. Adolph Saphir captures the essence of the Reformation and marries Scripture and the Holy Spirit. His view is that Scripture, by means of the Holy Spirit, is available to all, regardless of education or “expertise.” While the pastor/teacher’s role in scriptural interpretation is genuine, that role is to present the “key” that allows readers to unlock Scripture for themselves, much as Phillip presented the key to the Ethiopian eunuch, who then went on his way without Phillip, the book of Isaiah happily in his hands. The key which both Phillip and Saphir present is Christ, whom they acknowledge as the center of Scripture.

Saphir writes, “The synagogue has given me the Old Testament, and am I therefore to deny that Jesus is the Messiah? Because the synagogue has given me the Old Testament, am I bound to interpret the Old Testament with their blindness? I am thankful that it has given me the Old Testament, but it has no authority to interpret to me the Old Testament. [See note below*.] And as for the Church that has given me the New Testament, I am thankful to the Church that has given me the New Testament. But the authority of the Church in interpreting the New Testament, specially [spelling in original]  when it says exactly the opposite to what is written in the New Testament, certainly no Christian can acknowledge, for the Scripture is very simple and plain.” (143-144)

*This author’s Note: Contra the mantra, The Old Testament can only mean what the original authors and readers of that day would have understood it to mean.

Saphir, Adolph and Cortesi, Lawrence. “Chapter 4. Christ Above the Angels (Hebrews 1:5-2:4)” in The Epistle to the Hebrews: An Exposition. Public Domain. Available at http://juchre.org/saphir/heb2.htm Accessed 7/30/2017.

Adolph Saphir (1831-1891) was born in Hungary of Jewish parents. The entire family converted to Christianity in response to the Jewish mission of the Church of Scotland. He became a Christian pastor and lived most of his adult life in Great Britain. https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Saphir,_Adolph_(DNB00).

In his exposition of the book of Hebrews, Adolph Saphir acknowledges the voice of Christ in all the psalms. He writes, “Christ is in all the psalms; they speak of Him.” To Saphir, not only do the psalms speak of Christ, but both Christ and the Father speak to one another from within psalms. One example is Psalm 102. Saphir writes, “Then it is that God the Father replies to Him, ‘Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands’ (Heb 1:10)… this suffering One is the Lord; He is the same, and His years fail not.” (Both of the above quotations can be found at https://juchre.org/saphir/heb2.htm.)

…………………….

The foregoing Annotated Bibliography is hardly a beginning. Hopefully, as time progresses, the list of authors who hear divine dialogue within the pages of Psalms will increase.

 

Link to first article for this series

Link to Contents for this series

 

 


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