oa Conspectus : The Journal of the South African Theological Seminary - A brief history of psalms studies

Volume 6, Issue 09
  • ISSN : 1996-8167



The purpose of this article is to provide and up-to-date review of the major periods in the history of psalms studies, with particular reference to the recent quest for the editorial shape and purpose of the Book of Psalms. The authors divide the history of interpretation into four major periods - pre-critical, historical-critical, form-critical and redaction-critical. Pre-critical interpretation (before 1820) generally considered the shape of the Psalter significant, but made no formal attempt to identify its purpose. During the historical-critical (1820-1920) and form-critical (1920-1980) periods, scholars treated the Psalter as an ad hoc collection of lyrics for use in temple worship; the focus was on the historical Sitz im Leben of the psalms. The modern interest into the editorial shaping of the Book of Psalms marks a renewed belief in the fact that the order of the psalms is significant and the first serious attempt to discern the editorial purpose or message of the Psalter as a 'book'.

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