Reading the book of Psalms in its original context is the crucial prerequisite for reading its citation and use in later interpretation, including the New Testament writings, argues Ben Witherington III. Here he offers pastors, teachers, and students an accessible commentary to the Psalms, as well as a reasoned consideration of how they were heard and read in early Christianity. By reading “forward and backward,” Witherington advances the scholarly discussion of intertextuality and opens a new avenue for biblical theology.
“It is important to bear in mind that the Psalms, unlike various other parts of the OT, served four functions at once: (1) as material for singing in the temple and elsewhere; (2) as Scripture to be read in the temple and later in the synagogue (and memorized); (3) as prayers that could be recited privately or in corporate worship; and (4) as a source for teaching and preaching.” (Page 4)
“Nevertheless, this study seeks to go beyond where even some detailed studies of citations of and allusions to the Psalms go, to show how pervasive the influence of the language, thought world, and subject matter of the Psalms is on the NT in general.” (Page 11)
“Studying the lyrics to songs as if they were literal theological treatises is a mistake, and yet many commentators on the Psalms over the ages have fallen into this trap.” (Page xv)
“He composed them all through the spirit of prophecy which had been given to him from before the most High.’ (11QPsa 27:4–13, emphasis added).” (Page 30)
“One note more before we start: the earliest Christians seem more apt to use the language and imagery of the Psalms to describe and explain the Christ event, rather than doing some sort of exegesis of a psalm at length or in context. They used key phrases, little excerpts, to present the story of Jesus for the most part, rather than doing extended commentary.” (Page 38)