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David M. Howard, Jr., Ph.D. The Face of Old Testament Studies Baker Book House May 1999 Recent Trends in Psalms Study Psalms studies at the end of the twentieth century are very different from what they were in 1970. There has been a paradigm shift in Biblical studies, whereby texts are now read as texts, i.e., as literary entities and canonical wholes. This is manifested in Psalms studies in several ways, the most important of which is the attention to the Psalter as a book, as a coherent whole. It is also manifested in many literary and structural approaches. What might be termed a paradigm shift has also taken place in studies of Hebrew poetry, where linguistic analysis, most especially based on syntax, now occupies an important—if not dominant—position. As its title suggests, this essay surveys the trends in Psalms studies since 1970, but more particularly in the last 10–15 years. Constraints of space do not allow for adequate discussion of the hundreds of books and thousands of articles produced in this period. Unfortunately, neither can we deal with the many works on the popular level, many of which are first-rate works produced by scholars, and which are important in their own right to the life of the Church and the synagogue. However, what is highlighted are the prevailing trends in the scholarly discussion of the Psalms. The essay begins by reviewing past overviews of Psalms studies, in order to establish a context for our period since 1970, and then considers developments in five categories: (1) The Composition and Message of the Psalter, (2) Hebrew Poetry, (3) Hermeneutics, (4) Form Criticism, and (5) The Psalms in the Context of the Ancient Near East. It is in these five areas that we find the most activity and change in Psalms studies today. PAST OVERVIEWS For many years, the Book of Psalms occupied a marginal place in Biblical studies. The major emphases in the 19th and early 20th centuries were on historical-critical approaches (dominated by the search for hypothetical sources behind—and radical reconstructions of—the text), and on reconstructions of Israel’s history and the history of its religion. In the first two volumes on the state of Old Testament scholarship commissioned by the Society for Old Testament Study (SOTS), there were no essays on any canonical corpus (e.g., Pentateuch, prophets, Psalms), but rather articles on Hebrew religion, history, and psychology (The People and the Book [1925]),1 or on the literature, history, religion, theology, and archaeology of Israel (Record and Revelation [1938]).2 1 Arthur S. Peake, ed., The People and the Book (Oxford: Clarendon, 1925). 2 H. Wheeler Robinson, ed., Record and Revelation (Oxford: Clarendon, 1938). David M. Howard, Jr.—“Recent Trends in Psalms Study,” in The Face of Old Testament Study—Page 2 However, the Psalms played almost no part in any of the essays in any case. Two other surveys that neglect the Psalms for the most part are The Old Testament in Modern Research (1954, 1966) and The Bible in Modern Scholarship (1965).3 ...

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