Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Sources for Introducing the Psalms

Today I'm especially grateful for the good service of our active duty military and of our veterans. Many thanks to my father, Frank H. Bellizzi, Jr., who honorably served in the United States Air Force for over twenty-six years.

For what it's worth, today veterans and active duty military eat free at Applebee's.

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Occasionally, I like to use this blog as a public archive, to store away things that might be useful to me later. It's important for any student to preserve the fruit of his or her study. And if what I'm saving might be useful to you as well, then I sometimes post it here.

Believers have always loved the Book of Psalms. A few statements and quotes that can be used for introducing the Psalms:

In a letter to his friend Marcellinum, the fourth-century bishop Athanasius said,

It is my view that in the words of this book the whole human life, its basic spiritual conduct and as well its occasional movements and thoughts, is comprehended and contained. Nothing to be found in human life is omitted.

In the early sixteenth century, Martin Luther, the great leader of the Protestant Reformation, said that the Psalms

might well be called a little Bible. In it is comprehended most beautifully and briefly everything that is in the entire Bible. It is really a fine . . . handbook.

In his Commentary on the Psalms, John Calvin wrote that in this book

there is nothing wanting which relates to the knowledge of salvation.

In Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who died at the hands of the Nazis, said that the Book of Psalms

occupies a unique place in the Holy Scriptures. It is God's Word and, with a few exceptions, the prayer of men as well.

Source: James Luther Mays, Psalms (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1994), p. 1

The Psalms continue to live and [to] grip the attention of needy humanity. Fads blossom and wilt, generations come and go, civilizations rise and fall, but the Psalms continue to serve the ages. No other book has been so fondly read and so freely commented on. The inescapable conclusion is—it has something helpful for [people] in every circumstance of life. . . . The Psalms are [a] common heritage, filling common needs. They contain guidance for the errant, power for the weak, courage for the trembling, rest for the weary, cheer for the despondent, hope for the fainthearted and comfort for the afflicted.

Source: Leroy Brownlow, Living with the Psalms (Fort Worth, TX: Brownlow Publishing Company, 1976), no page number.

The Hebrew psalms hold up a mirror to religious experience, to reflect with astonishing fullness and frankness its many moods. Exultation and doubt, pain, persecution and sorrow, passion and aspiration, fortitude, bitterness and despair, complaint, gratitude, and heartfelt praise--all find equally candid expression. The utter sincerity, the wide range, and the deep humanity of the psalms make them the voice of Everyman exploring the religious dimension of life.

The variety of circumstance and occasion covered by the psalms is truly amazing. Sickness and restoration, distress and the fear of death are frequently mentioned. So are the joy in nature and the moral instructiveness of history. Guilt-laden confession prompts some psalms; so do homesickness, nostalgia, and social and religious protest.

Source: R.E.O. White, A Christian Handbook to the Psalms (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1984), p. 4.


Anonymous said...

How about good ole Walter B, Luke Timmy J or some Jurgen M? Do you like any of those three?

Frank Bellizzi said...


I've heard lots of good things about Walter B.'s approach to the psalms. The overviews I've come across about his orientation-disorientation-reorientation program sound pretty good, a good paradigm.

Johnson's book about the Real Jesus and his Intro to the NT Writings are all I've read from him. Both are really fine. I go back to his Intro all the time.

Just know Jurgen M. by reputation, not from having read him.