Posts for Aug, 2008.

8/27/2008 1:57:00 PM

Psalms as a Book

Posted Wednesday, August 27, 2008 by Charlie Trimm
Categories: Psalms   Comments: None
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  1. Reading the Psalms as a whole

While it does not appear that there was much consideration into how the psalms were organized into a book, one trend seems to be noticeable. The first book contains a large number of laments, while the last book, and especially the last five chapters is full of praise. The trend seems to be one from lament to praise, similar to the lament psalms themselves. The last psalm ends with a universal call to praise God: not just Israel, but all the world is to praise him.


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8/14/2008 1:04:00 PM

Lamentations and Theological Interpretation of Scripture

Posted Thursday, August 14, 2008 by Charlie Trimm
Categories: Theological Interpretation of Scripture   Comments: None
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Robin Parry presents one of the better examples of theological interpretation of Scripture which I have read. He presents the idea of the ideal reader, who reads in the way expected by the text. Since the text does not know the NT, the canonical Christian reading will be unexpected, based on that definition. "Indeed, it is essential for a Christian theological reading of Lamentations that the reader is not standing in the shoes of the implied reader" (396). But the Christian theological reading must have an organic relationship with the expected reading: the expected reading is an important and necessary first step, but only the first step. The primary key for a Christian reading of Lamentations for Parry is Isaiah 40-55 (postexilic for him, hence after Lamentations). Second Isaiah takes Lamentations and injects hope into the book, particularly through the connection of the man of Lamentations 3 and the suffering servant of Isaiah 53. From there it is only a short step to the NT and Jesus. Building on N. T. Wright's view of Jesus as true Israel, Lamentations is the equivalent of Saturday in the Passion week. Bringing in the rule of faith, Parry wonders how the Trinity plays a role in Lamentations. Yahweh and Jesus have already been discussed, but how does the Spirit fit in? Parry finds the connection in Romans 8:17, where the Spirit groans with the church and creation. The Spirit thus groans with those who are suffering in Lamentations. The essay ends with the expected complaint: does this not rob Lamentations of its power? Lamentations is designed to be about bad news, not good news. The voice of Yahweh has been purposefully removed from Lamentations; how can we now insert that voice and still consider it a legitimate reading of the book? In response, he says that we must pay attention to both the canonical form and the canonical context: we must balance the good news and the bad news, in a sense. We must be sure to not move too quickly to Sunday from Saturday, but neither should we forget Sunday is coming.

For anyone interested in theological interpretation of Scripture, this is an excellent place to begin. Not only does he give a good example, he is self-conscious about what he is doing and helps the reader along the way with his thinking. But I remained somewhat bothered with his conclusion. The complaint he raises is precisely the complaint I have as well: Lamentations no longer lives up to its name. While I fully agree that canonically we have hope, I want to guard the places like Lamentations where that hope is not expressed. The author of Lamentations could have expressed that hope if he desired; in my thinking Second Isaiah already had been around for awhile, and even apart from that many of the other prophets had spoken of a future hope after exile. The author of Lamentations purposely does not include any hope because he wants to express the despair present at the time and hope would go counter to his desire. I agree with Parry's conclusions in a sense, although I get there a different way: I agree that we need to stay in Saturday for awhile but not forget Sunday is coming. But I would rather frame it as staying in Lamentations for awhile before moving on to Isaiah and the Resurrection. I do not want to level the various books of the Bible and make them all say the same thing; I want to preserve the diversity in them.

Parry, Robin. “Prolegomena to Christian Theological Interpretation of Lamentations.” Pages 393-418 in Canon and Biblical Interpretation. Edited by Craig Bartholomew, Scott Hahn, Robin Parry, Christopher Seitz, and Al Wolters. Scripture and Hermeneutics Series 7. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006.

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8/13/2008 6:58:00 PM

Confession, Vengeance, and Provision in the Psalms

Posted Wednesday, August 13, 2008 by Charlie Trimm
Categories: Psalms   Comments: None
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  1. Confession of sin

Another topic in many psalms is confession of sin (especially 51 and 32). While 51 is very individual, the last few verses of the chapter give it a communal aspect. The reference to the Holy Spirit in 51 is not to salvation, but to the calling to be king: David does not want to stop being king. Psalm 32 illustrates the importance of being forgiven rather than being perfect.

  1. Vengeance

A disturbing type of psalm for us today are the imprecatory psalms, the psalms in which the psalmist asks for destruction of enemies (137 and 109). These psalms are based on the Mosaic covenant, which promise destruction to those who oppose God’s people. However, some measure of use of these psalms today can be helpful in limited ways.

  1. Provision and presence

The psalmist trusts God for daily provision, which is the topic of Psalm 23. Green pastures is not a life of leisure, but the food necessary for life. God is also present in all places and all times.

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8/12/2008 8:24:00 AM

Left handed slander from Rashi

Posted Tuesday, August 12, 2008 by Charlie Trimm
Categories: Old TestamentHumor   Comments: None
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I was just reading Rashi's commentary on the Song of the Sea and came across some left-handed slander. Here is the text on which he (Rashi) is commenting: Your right hand, O LORD, glorious in power; your right hand, O LORD, crushes the enemy (Exodus 15:6). Rashi says on the verse, in a loose paraphrase: the two mentions of the right hand indicate that when Israel does the will of the Omnipresent one, the left hand is made into the right hand. I.e., a wonderful thing happens: one's useless left hand becomes a glorious right hand!Sorry to all you left-handers out there.

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8/10/2008 12:55:00 PM

The Importance of Psalm 1 and 2

Posted Sunday, August 10, 2008 by Charlie Trimm
Categories: Psalms   Comments: None
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  1. Psalms are to be understood as Torah

Psalm 1 is a different type of psalm than what is usual in the rest of the book. It is often called a wisdom psalm, using similar terminology to wisdom literature. Its location as the first psalm is intentional: it instructs the reader how to read the Psalms. They are not just emotional rants from unbalanced people, but they are to be viewed as Torah, as the divine word from God. We are blessed if we follow the Psalms. We are happy and blessed not because we do not have problems, but because we have a solid foundation. Psalm 19 and 119 also reflect this emphasis.

  1. God Reigns!

The second psalm is also placed intentionally. It speaks of the reign of the Lord even in the face of many nations rising against him. One of the main themes of the Psalms is that God is sovereign. Even when the people rage against God, God is still God.


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8/7/2008 5:44:00 PM

Emotion in the Psalms

Posted Thursday, August 07, 2008 by Charlie Trimm
Categories: Psalms   Comments: None
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The point of reading the Psalm is not to discover a new truth (such as the fact that God reigns over the whole world), although that is a process which can be done and which I do below. The point of reading the psalms is to read the psalms to express and to change one’s emotion. The Psalms help to us to truly understand our emotional situation. But the Psalms also help us to speak to ourselves emotionally and to challenge us to different emotions and different feelings. The Psalms help us to put into reality what was not present before. For example, the phrase “Yahweh is king” in the Psalms is not simply make a proposition about reality, it is to help the reader recognize that Yahweh truly is king in their life.1Some of the psalms (42-43, for example) advocate talking to yourself: reminding yourself of truth when the truth is not felt as true.


The psalms also helps us express our emotions to God when we are not sure they are appropriate. “On the other hand, Israel’s prayer is at the same time a guard and guarantee against an overpolite idolatry. Such an idolatry imagines that God is fragile, delicate, and easily offended. In much of fraudulent piety, God is too nice and so our prayers must be censored. The outcome of such deference, of course, is that there is never serious and effective address.”2 When we have strong feelings, we should talk to God about them. It is not as if we could hide them successfully anyway.


1. Walter Brueggemann, The Psalms & the Life of Faith, ed. Patrick D. Miller (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1995), 3-32.


2. Brueggemann, The Psalms & the Life of Faith, 58.





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8/3/2008 2:20:00 PM

The Tree of Life: An Exploration of Biblical Wisdom Literature

Posted Sunday, August 03, 2008 by Charlie Trimm
Categories: Old Testament   Comments: None
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Murphy, Roland E. The Tree of Life: An Exploration of Biblical Wisdom Literature. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002.


Roland Murphy has written a very helpful introduction to wisdom literature in the Bible and somewhat beyond. The book includes the usual discusses of the classis wisdom books of the OT: Proverbs, Job, and Qoheleth. Beyond these he also includes surveys of Ben Sira and the Wisdom of Solomon. He concludes the book by looking at wisdom’s echoes in other parts of the Hebrew Bible, the theology of wisdom literature, and Lady Wisdom. The book seems to be designed for those with a basic background in Old Testament who desire to know more about wisdom literature.

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