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The Psalms as Christian Worship: A Historical Commentary

Bruce K. Waltke & James M. Houston

Reviewed by: Bryan Estelle

Date posted: 01/15/2012

The Psalms as Christian Worship: A Historical Commentary, by Bruce K. Waltke and James M. Houston with Erika Moore. Published by Eerdmans, 2010. Paperback, 640 pages, list price $28.00. Reviewed by professor and OP minister Bryan Estelle.

Bruce Waltke and James Houston, with Erika Moore, have produced a treasure trove of a book that edifies the church and deepens the church's worship.

Waltke (a biblical exegete) and Houston (a professor of history and spiritual theology) team up to write the bulk of the commentary, which concentrates on the history of interpretation and detailed exegesis of selected psalms (Pss. 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 15, 16, 19, 22, 23, 51, 110, and 139). Moore (who teaches Old Testament at Trinity School for Ministry) writes a chapter on the Psalter's history during the Second Temple period. This is a serious tome that both captures the history of exegesis (the believing response of the church to these psalms) and engages the Hebrew text and the ancient sources interacting with these psalms.

The authors are rightly concerned that so much modern exegesis, with its critical assumptions and methodology, has produces bland readings that have "despiritualized" the Psalter, depriving it of its real glory, beauty, and significance. The authors seek to rectify this trend by employing an interdisciplinary response that they call "accredited exegesis" (explained in chapter 3) and by explaining the believing response of the church through the centuries. Their canonical-messianic approach respects responsible typology (over against allegory) and the normativity of the New Testament, ultimately finding the exaltation of Christ as the final object of the many voices in the Psalter.

Naturally, it is not surprising that one would disagree with some things in a book of this length. For example, this reviewer thinks that the treatment of the imprecatory psalms is in error. There is also some redundancy between the introduction of each psalm and the exegetical sections that follow. But these and a few other points do not take away from the overwhelmingly positive praise that this work deserves.

This new book comes in a timely manner for our own denomination, since the General Assembly has instructed the Committee on Christian Education to produce a Psalter-hymnal that will encourage the church to make greater use of the Psalter in worship. The singing of Psalms has fallen out of favor in many Reformed churches in recent decades. To read about the pride of place that the Psalter had in individual and corporate worship in centuries past can only lead the reader to conclude that the present sad state of affairs must be rectified in the generations to come.

Any pastor who intends to preach and teach from the Psalter will find in the pages of this book almost everything necessary to set a sumptuous banquet of edifying sermons on the psalms listed above. Reformed churches may be greatly strengthened by the proper use of this book, and we owe a great deal of gratitude to the authors and the publishers of it for working so hard on a significant piece of edifying scholarship.

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