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Categories of Psalms

Psalms are complicated for the interpreter because that they often prayers to God in an ancient context yet also God’s word for us in scripture. Hebrew poetry is drenched in emotional language speaking to the heart. Synonymous parallelism is a common device, which elaborates on idea in repeated textual units. They are often musical and intentionally metaphorical. There are seven categories of Psalms:

  1. laments;
  2. thanksgiving;
  3. hymns of praise;
  4. salvation history psalms;
  5. celebration and affirmation;
  6. wisdom;
  7. songs of trust.

Each has a formal structure and a function in Israelite culture. While each has integrity as unit, there are various patterns and devices within. For instance, Psalm 119 is an acrostic where each letter of the Hebrew alphabet begins an eight-verse structure. The chapter ends with a sobering caveat, “the psalms do not guarantee a pleasant life.” While they offer encouragement, they are not necessarily normative. In that regard, the wisdom literature is similar.

Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes are known as the wisdom books. The purpose of the twelfth chapter is to discuss what wisdom literature is and is not because it is a frequently abused and misunderstood genre. Wisdom is more a matter of right position with God than intelligence. The chapter gives background to the wisdom tradition and then focuses specifically on Proverbs. Summary guidelines are offered. Job’s central message is that “what happens in life does not always happen either because God desires it or because it is fair.” Ecclesiastes has a similar idea although it is even more difficult to discern. Song of Songs is a love song with a history of being allegorized. Fortunately, ancient near eastern studies have come a long way in correcting that state affairs. The imperative rule is to never take verses out of context and assign them meanings never intended. For instance, should one obey the command “Curse God and die” (Job 2:9) just because it is in the Bible? One should read the whole context and apply it appropriately. Even with the inherent pitfalls of the wisdom genre, the apocalyptic genre is probably the most difficult and controversial.

The book of Revelation is complex in many ways. Even its genre is multifaceted, a combination of apocalypse, prophecy, and letter. Of the three, it is primarily the former. Five characteristics of apocalypses are discussed: 1) its dependence on Old Testament prophetic literature; 2) as a form of visionary literature; 3) its imagery is more fantasy than reality; 4) as a formally stylized literary genre. Revelation is prophecy in the sense of the already/not yet paradigm in which John was speaking for God. It is an epistle in that it contained seven letters to seven actual churches. They state the main theme as, “The church and the state are on a collision course; and initial victory will appear to belong to the state.” Because of its unique genre, the authors guide the reader through the entire book. The interpretation is largely presented from a preterist perspective yet they acknowledge, “the pictures of 11:15–19 and 19:1–22:21 are entirely eschatological in their presentation.” There is value in understanding their point of view. Having summarized the book by Stuart, let us have a critical analysis of some its contents.

Critical Analysis

Exegesis is what many of us were taught in the seminary. This book echoes the same by showing the exegetical methods and examples that one can follow. The major strength is in teaching the us to think in terms of main ideas and blocks of text rather than isolated individual verses. The answer to a majority of skeptical objections and alleged bible contradictions can likely be found by following the advice in this book. Another essential concept is that a text usually cannot mean something the author or his readers could not have known. In essence, this book is like a while Bible interpreted.

There are objections and disagreements that one would raise and one is to do with how some Bible expositors misuse cultural relativism. Talk of same sex relationships as given in the last example. This is not Biblical even though some missiologist have their argument on the same. The book therefore ignites a reader’s mindset to true and accurate Bible interpretation.

It is transformative to one’s thinking on inerrancy and apologetics with the Gospels. The solution for many difficulties lies in grasping the layers of context. Where one could try to explain away every chronological consistency with a wooden understanding of inspiration, it is more helpful to address the genre of writing. The intention of the genre was never to provide an absolute chronology. Each Gospel author had particular reasons for arranging the material about Jesus in the way that he did. He was addressing a situation in his locality. Hence, the Gospel genre is not a strictly historical one and one should not expect strict chronology. Even so, this can be taken too far.

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