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548 THE JOURNAL OF RELIGION 

RECENT INTERPRETATIONS OF THE PSALMS 

It is with keen relish that one takes up a new work by Professor 
Smith. It is sure to be scholarly, sane, and illuminating. Even when 
we are pursuing a well beaten path, new vistas are opened out. There 
is always, too, the breath of pure air from the hills. 

The present book on the Psalms' is neither technical nor devotional 
in the strict sense of the term. " The effort is rather to present the mean- 
ing of the Psalms as it lay in the minds of their authors and earliest 
readers." But one carmot follow the train of their feeling, under the 
lead of so sure and sympathetic a guide as Professor Smith, without 
having one's own spiritual nature warmed and quickened. 

The Psalter is the hymn book of the Second Temple. As such it 
cannot stand on the poetic heights of Job or the greatest of the prophets. 
Still less may it be expected to blaze out bold new tracks of thought. 
The wonder is, "not that there is some poor poetry in it, but that there 
is so little of that kind," and that it expresses so successfully "those 
sentiments and attitudes of soul that are fundamental in worship." 

There are Psalms like the 13th, i6th, i8th, etc., that are clearly 
communal. But "as the Psalms were composed by individuals, they 
must almost necessarily be to a large extent the reflection of individual 
experience." A Psalm like the ii6th, for example, can hardly be 
understood in any other way. Even so, "the interests of the pious 
individual in Judaism were so closely and inextricably bound up with 
the interests of the community as a whole that in many cases it is prac- 
tically impossible to distinguish between personal and community 
songs." 

On the question of authorship Professor Smith occupies just as 
sound a position. He does not deny the possibility of Davidic elements 
in the Psalter. But he sees that the general tone of the book lifts it 
quite beyond the moral and religious world in which David lived. If 
there are Davidic elements, these have been so completely overlaid and 
transmuted in the process of revision that it is "Uttle more than a waste 
of time" to attempt to discover them. "The really important ques- 
tion, after all, is not. Who wrote the Psalms ? but. What are the meaning 
and value of the Psalms themselves ?" 

Like all great products of poetic art, the Psalms are mainly born in 
suffering. Of the 150 Psalms which compose the book, "about 90 con- 

» The Religion of the Psalms. By J. M. Powis Smith. Chicago: University of 
Chicago Press, 1922. ix4-i7o pages. $1.75. 



BOOK REVIEWS 549 

cem themselves more or less directly with some aspect of this problem." 
Professor Smith discusses with fine insight the various reactions upon 
suffering that are reflected in the Psalter — among others the fierce wrath 
of the Imprecatory Psalms — and justly celebrates the splendor of the 
faith that could endure so long the sickness of hope deferred. Two 
ways of escape offered themselves, messianism and personal immor- 
tality. The former hope Professor Smith finds on every page bursting 
forth "in one form or another .... like a fountain of pure water from 
the well-spring of life." The latter he restricts to Ps. 73 : 22-26, though we 
think a good case can be made at least for 49 : 5-20. " However that may 
be, the fact remains that there is practically no thought of life after 
death in the Psalter as a whole." But this is a matter of relative unim- 
portance, for the Psalmists counted their present fellowship with God as 
the supreme good. " With God at his side, the Hebrew was able to face 
all his foes, material and spiritual, and to triumph in the realm of the 
spirit even when routed on the field of battle." 

In the last chapter Professor Smith treats of the idea of God in the 
Psalms. When we remember that the ideas of the Psalter are "those held 
by the plain man," we need not expect to find here the most exalted 
speculative conceptions of God. But again "the wonder is that the 
thought of God in the Psalter is as noble and lofty as it is." And 
the wonder grows when we set the Psalter against the background 
of religious worship opened up to us by the Assouan papyri. From 
the Psalter "practically every trace of polytheistic thought has dis- 
appeared," and there rises in clear relief the image of the just and holy, 
good and gracious God, whom Jew and Christian alike can reverence as 
the Lord and Father of their spirits. Hence the universal popularity of 
the Psalter. "It has helped us to keep alive in our souls the sense of 
our divine kinship. It has brought the God of the universe down into 
the simple homes and loyal hearts of the plain people." 

Alex. R. Gordon 
Peesbyterian College op Montreal 

Duhm's Commentary on the Psalms first appeared in 1899. This 
second edition' differs from its predecessor chiefly in its mechanical make- 
up. It is printed in larger and clearer type and the translation is taken 
out of the midst of the comments and printed continuously at the top of 
the successive pages, with the interpretative matter below. 

' Die Psdmen erklSrt [Kurzer Hand-Kommentar ziun Alten Testament], 2d edi- 
tion. By B. Duhm. Tubingen: Mohr, 1922. Pp. xxxvi-l-496. M. 120. 



5 so THE JOURNAL OF RELIGION 

The Introduction is reprinted with practically no change, except that 
the Bibliography is brought up to date. Here it is noticeable that the 
work of the last twenty-three years in England and America is ignored. 
The view that the Psalter is largely Maccabaean and post-Maccabaean, 
many of the Psalms being placed under the Hasmonaean Kings, is 
retained and in some cases carried further in its application. But the 
Commentary, like the Introduction, is identical with the first edition to 
a surprising degree. There are no important changes. Here and there 
a detail is modified. In Ps. i, for instance, vs. 6a is now transposed to 
follow vs. 3. This is done solely in the interests of strophic structure, 
which in and of itself is not a safe guide. Nor is there in the nature of 
things sufficient reason for changing "in his law" of vs. 3 to "therein," 
the repetition involved in the present text not being offensive. Simi- 
larly, for the sake of the needs of strophic structure only, 2 : 7a is trans- 
posed to follow 2:5, as was first proposed by Bickell. Such proposi- 
tions as these, of which there are many, are too subjective to command 
general assent. The general position of the commentary as set forth in 
the first edition is well-known to scholars and has been adequately dis- 
cussed in the literature of the last two decades. It receives no material 
reinforcement here. 

Dr. Peters' book on the Psalms' marks the close of a long and active 
career. In addition to his official duties as rector of St. Michael's 
church in New York, he found time to keep up an active interest in 
biblical and Semitic studies. His early work at Nippur and his report 
of his excavations there made him well known and honored among 
workers in cuneiform literature; and his Religion of the Hebrews had 
already entitled him to the respect of Old Testament scholars. 
Dr. Peters has long sought to associate certain Psalms with certain 
local shrines and published occasional articles in support of this interest. 
In this book he undertakes to treat the Book of Psahns as a Uturgical 
manual throughout. 

The book contains a long introduction discussing the usual questions, 
but drawing in much material from Babylonian and Egyptian rituals 
for illustrative purposes. Dr. Peters makes the Psalms of Korah to 
have belonged to an early collection of psalms in use at the temple of 
Dan; and, in like manner, the Psalms of Asaph are said to have origi- 
nated in the liturgy of the temple of Bethel The first three books of the 
Psalter arose before the Exile and all of Pss. 1-134 were written by 

■ The Psalms as Liturgies. By J. P. Peters. (Being the Paddock Lectures for 
1920.) New York: Macmillan, 1922. Pp. 494. $4.00. 



BOOK REVIEWS 551 

300 B.C., while the Psalter was complete before 180 b.c. This rules 
out of the question the existence of Maccabaean psalms in the Psalter. 
The introduction is followed by a commentary, in which each psalm 
appears both in the rendering of the Authorized Version and in Dr. 
Peters' own translation. The notes are very brief and chiefly concerned 
with the liturgical character of the psalms. 

The main proposition of the book to the effect that the Psalms arose 
in close association with and as a part of the ritual is certainly correct.' 
This fact has been insufficiently stressed thus far in the history of inter- 
pretation. But Dr. Peters, carried away by the enthusiasm of a new 
idea, has gone beyond the bounds of fact and has indulged too largely in 
the play of his fancy. To make Ps. 3 a morning hymn because of the 
words, "I laid me down and slept, I awaked," etc., and Ps. 4 an evening 
hymn because the Psalmist says, "I lay me down in peace to sleep," 
is to turn poesy into prose and deny the poet any figurative language. 
To assign vss. 36 and 5 of Ps. 6 to the priest is purely imaginative. 
Similarly it is a purely subjective procedure to make Ps. 14 (=53) a 
"Siege Psalm" on the basis of "God has scattered the bones of their 
besieger"; and it is but slightly less so to call Ps. 24 an "Ark Song" 
descriptive of the bringing up of the Ark into Jerusalem; here again 
poetry is turned into prose. 

A new translation is always to be welcomed. To put familiar 
thoughts in a new dress is always worth while. A translation of the 
Psalms should combine accuracy and poetic style. Dr. Peters has made 
many improvements in both respects, for which we shall all be grateful. 
But the rendering is very uneven; and there are many things to mend. 
It is a little disturbing to find "thy club" instead of "thy rod" in Ps. 
23; "many steers" for "many bulls" in Ps. 22:12; "this is the ilk of 
his seekers" for "this is the generation of them that seek him" in Ps. 
24:6; and "He learneth sinners" for "teach" in Ps. 25:8, 12. There 
is no sufficient ground in Ps. 8:5 for changing "God" to "gods". In 
Ps. 18:35 the rendering "thy humihty" reproduces the Hebrew text 
but can hardly represent the Psalmist's thought. It would have been 
well to amend the text here, as Dr. Peters has done frequently elsewhere. 
It is apt to lead the unwary to wrong conclusions to find " Christ " taking 
the place of "anointed" or "Messiah." The interpretation of Ps. 82 
fails to recognize the fact that the "gods" there are deified kings whom 
the Psaknist derides. 

' See my article on this subject in the January (1922) issue of this Journal, pp. 
58-69. 



SS2 THE JOURNAL OF RELIGION 

The book shows a lack of careful and exact scholarship;' but its 
main contention is sound and it will stir thought upon many matters 
of detail. This is justification enough for any book. 

J. M. Powis Smith 
University op Chicago 



ARCHAEOLOGY AND THE BIBLE^ 

A tender interest attaches to the review of this book, one of the two 
last works of Dr. Peters. In an easy, intimate, but informing way the 
author talks to us of the "Ancestry of the Hebrews," "Cosmogony and 
Folk Lore," "History and Prophecy," "Hebrew Psalmody," all in the 
Hght of his own travels in Bible lands and the excavations in recent 
times. He then sketches for us a history of exploration in Palestine and 
closes with archaeological illustrations of New Testament times, with 
special reference to the Oxyrhyncus papyri. The book does not aim to 
be an exhaustive or precisely methodical discussion of the subject with 
which it deals, though it provides a good archaeological background for 
the study of the Bible. But its chief interest and charm is the auto- 
biographical and reminiscent note that sounds all the way through the 
lectures. He tells us, himself, in his chapter on " Cosmogony and Folk- 
Lore," that he is not attempting to give an exhaustive account of all 
the myths and stories in the first eleven chapters of Genesis. " I am more 
particularly noting those things which I have myself foimd or observed, 
or which have become especially my own through study and observa- 
tion" (p. 73). This sentence might be taken as the text for the book as a 
whole, and it is the point of view implied in it which not only lends to 
the book its special charm, but also gives it its special value. Dr. Peters 
stood somewhat outside the beaten paths of the critical study of the 
Bible. But he was a close observer, a man of imagination and of inde- 

' The following errors in proofreading have been noted: Page 55, line 7 from top, 
read "two" for "three"; p. 68 in note, read "Lammenazzeah"; p. 94, 1. s from below, 
read "sacrificial"; p. 95, 1. 16, read "4" for "3"; p. 131, delete last word "wall"; 
p. 143, 1. 14 from below, read "outburst"; p. 250, vss. 2 and 4 of Ps. 68 are in dis- 
order; p. 307, read "salvation" in vs. 12; p. 360, in vs. 76 insert "in"; p. 416, in 
vs. I transpose "of" to follow "servants"; p. 456, vs. 2 of Ps. 130 is in disorder; Ps. 
31, vs. 10, on p. 172 is badly disarranged; it should read: 

For my life is consimied by grief, 
And my years by groaning; 
By my guilt my strength is brought low, 
And my bones are wasted. 

'Bible and Spade (the Bross Lectures). By John P. Peters. New York: 
Scribner's, 1922. xii-f-239 pages. $1.75.