The Christological Interpretation of the Psalms

Psalms is a sacred book of the Old Testament. The book of Psalms consists of 150 psalms devoted to different religious values and norms. Each psalm is a song consisted of chants. Critics suppose that the Book of Psalms was composed by the Babylonians, from about 586 to 538 B.C. The authorship in the Book of Psalms is not agreed upon yet, but critics state that David is one of the possible authors of this book. The religion of the psalms is a communion, a sharing between the human and the divine. And the thing that lifts this communion, great as it is in itself, to something yet nobler and more potent is that it is communion with God in fellowship with other men. For always behind the experience of the psalmist, buoying it up, is the social fellowship of the congregation (Bouhoeffer, 1974). What the author of the “spiritual song” derived from the public congregation is inestimably great. The fellowship of public worship is the spiritual mother of individual religious utterance. Moreover, Sigmund Mowinckel’s brilliant and extraordinarily suggestive studies in the psalms have made it appear most likely that practically every psalm in the Psalter was intended for rendition in the regular and officially constituted worship of the Temple and is right.

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Understanding of the psalms is the recognition that their origin is to be found in the organized public worship, the cult. We move imperceptibly in Israel from the life situation which created secular songs to the cultic or worship situation which created Temple psalms. To ask the question as to its life or worship setting is to answer it (Bouhoeffer, 1974). In many a psalm, this is not so plain because it is not all of one type. Different literary types and worship settings are combined in it to form a richer but more complex whole. When this is the case, the psalm dates from a period when the different literary types had begun to meet, mingle, and influence each other. This period set in at approximately 500 B.C. When that life setting in worship that gives the psalm its most distinctive character has been discovered for every psalm of the Psalter, we can readily arrange the psalms in major groups. We have then learned where to take hold of a psalm because we know its most distinctive mark. The result of interpreting the psalms in accordance with their setting in Hebrew worship is threefold. In the first place, one is surprised by the rich diversity in the Psalter. The prayer of dedication to the work of God in its worldwide extent closes this varied worship ritual (Bouhoeffer, 1974).

A hymn that inspires in the congregation the mood of quiet receptivity is followed by that climactic moment when the minister, now as a prophet, brings the living word of “thus saith the Lord” to his people. This corresponds to the prophetic oracle in the psalms. The final hymn with its note of spiritual commitment follows, and toward its close comes the recessional of choir and ministers–how greatly beloved were such ceremonies in Israel-bringing the ministers to the rear of the sanctuary. a psalm first as the soul utterance of the unknown psalmist who created it, and then as a vehicle of the soul utterance, whether congregational or individual, of others. There was a time when that which a particular psalm tells us was an unwritten, unreported, living experience. In early Israel when the psalms were in the making, many a gifted individual sang forth in the Temple what God had done for his soul. The experience itself preceded its telling. The telling often preceded its literary formulation. The written psalm followed the living Temple witness. There must have been many instances in Israel when a religious-minded priest encouraged a gifted worshiper to put his own vital experience in literary form. Thus his blessing at God’s hands might be used to encourage other worshipers yet to come. And it is reasonable to believe, with Mowinckel, that many a psalm owes its origin to the Temple singers who knew music, who knew the needs of worshipers, and who knew God (Lewis, 2000).

Psalm 149 is a “new song,” and it belongs in the circle of ideas and rites associated with the enthronement of the Lord. A central idea in the psalm is God’s judgment upon the enemy powers. That judgment has already been decreed. But now with the enthronement of God as King consummated anew, the Israelites are inspired to the faith that this decreed sentence may through them be carried into effect. The occasion is significant and unites the spiritual and the military aspects of the congregation of the Lord in a unique synthesis. This summons to praise is based on the experience of Israel that God accepts His people and is Himself the source of the victory that comes to their arms (Longman, 1988). For instance, Psalm 150 is a general congregational hymn. It is a veritable paean of praise, most appropriate for the closing psalm of the Psalter, and no doubt created or chosen with that in mind by the final editor of the Psalms. Such a hymn was sung on many occasions but was particularly appropriate for great hours of the festal year when the Temple courts would be thronged with worshipers and the worship would be the richest and most inspiring (Longman, 1988).

Psalm 1 is described as a wisdom psalm that combines the two characteristic interests of postexilic Judaism, the trend toward legalism and the teaching concerning retribution. This latter problem, as Paulsen has said, is “the first great fundamental truth to which reflection on moral things has led all nations.”The psalm has a strong pedagogical interest that comes to focus in the congregation of the Lord. And the trend in the psalm toward the law and its study points to a time of origin after around 397 B.C. when the priestly law was introduced to the restored community in Jerusalem and Judah (Longman, 1988). Such a psalm would be appropriate in the congregation whenever the pedagogical interest which centered in the law was being stressed, and this, at least in later Judaism, would be at the Festival of Weeks (Harvest or Pentecost), which celebrated the giving of the law at Sinai (Longman, 1988). Psalm 2 is a king’s psalm, spoken in part by a Judean monarch himself at the moment when he is anointed, king. We are to think of some scenes such as is given in the report of the anointing of the young prince Jehoash. The king appears before his people in the inner court of the Temple and stands beside one of the two great pillars of the Temple porch at the entrance to the Temple, “as was the custom” (Psalms n.d.). Psalm 16 is a song of trust from a devout and deeply spiritual soul. The psalmist is in danger of death, a situation which causes him great concern, and he seeks earnestly and indeed trustfully the protection of God (. It would seem that he is among Arabs who are putting pressure upon him to participate in their pagan rites, to call upon their gods by name, and to pour out to them libations of blood. Psalm 23, is a psalm of individual thanksgiving rendered in connection with the presentation at the Temple of a thank-offering In verses 4-5 are mentioned the concrete experiences which gave rise to the psalm (Longman, 1988).

In sum, the Book of Psalms reflects universal values and moral principles of religion, attitude towards life, and other people. God is a Being, not of whom, but unto whom the psalmist speaks. The words of the Psalter are alive with the awareness of an Other. The life setting of such a psalm is the part of the ceremony of his enthronement in which the king is anointed and clothed with the insignia of his office.

Bibliography

Book of Psalms. N.d. Web.

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Bouhoeffer, D. 1974, Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible. Augsburg Fortress Publishers.

Lewis, C.S. 2000, Reflections on the Psalms. Harvest Books.

Longman, T. 1988, How to Read the Psalms (How to Read Series). nterVarsity Press.

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