Saturday 14 September 2013

N.T. Wright on the Psalms

Not content with writing semi-devotional short commentaries on every book of the New Testament plus a major multi-volume project on Christian origins, Tom Wright now appears to be turning his attention to the Old Testament in a brand new publication, The Case for the Psalms: Why They Are Essential (New york: HarperOne, 2013).

Andrew Byers interviews him here for Christianity Today, and a few highlights are pasted below.

On the need to make a case for the Psalms in what he sees as their fading significance in parts of the church:

‘The Psalter is the prayer book Jesus made his own. We can see in the Gospels and in the early church that Jesus and his first followers were soaked in the Psalms, using them to express how they understood what God was doing. For us to distance ourselves from the Psalms inevitably means distancing ourselves from Jesus.

‘The Psalms contain unique poetry expressing the biblical faith in God as Creator, Redeemer, judge, lover, friend, adversary – the whole lot. There is nothing like them. The Psalms go right to the depths of the human emotions – they don't just skate along the top. They explore what the great promises of God mean and what we do when those promises do not seem to be coming true.’

On how Psalms can transform us:

‘Within the Jewish and Christian traditions, you get your worldview sorted out by worship. The Psalms are provided to guide that worship. When we continually pray and sing the Psalms, our worldview will actually reconfigure according to their values, theology, and modes of expression.’

On the significance of Jesus for our reading of the Psalms:

‘Since Jesus was raised from the dead, the first Christians understood that he was the expected Messiah. So their approach to the Psalms had to be reconceived. We have to assume that as good Jews, the first Christians were praying the Psalms day by day, but now with this wholly new and unexpected focus.

‘It was actually quite disorienting. Instead of the temple, Jesus is the place where God has decided to dwell on the earth. And since the Spirit has been poured out upon the church, somehow God's presence is everywhere, rather than concentrated in one place. The Psalter needed to be re-read from top to bottom and radically refocused around Jesus and the Spirit. This made the first Christians newly aware of Jesus' personal presence in their worship and prayer.’

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