On Wednesday, I had a review of Psalms as Torah, looking at how it encourages deeper meditations on the Psalter. Yesterday, I offered a review of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, which is the first commentary I’ve reviewed on here. Today’s post is somewhat of a cross between the two and we’ll look at Allen P. Ross’ first installment of a three volume commentary on the Psalms.
Ross (along with Bruce Waltke) was kind of the godfather of Hebrew at Dallas. His introductory Hebrew textbook was standard fare in most 1st and 2nd semester Hebrew classes (mine being the exception since I took classes with Brian Webster) and his commentary on Genesis a required textbook in second semester preaching. That being said, I might be somewhat biased in my praise for this book. But, you could just look at it from the standpoint that I was exegetically trained to produce biblical commentary in the same way Ross does. Though not on the same caliber as Ross, my third semester Hebrew exegetical paper on Psalm 11 is formatted very similar to his chapter on the same Psalm in this commentary. All that to say: this is the kind of commentary I think of when I think of a commentary on the biblical text.
Being the first of a multi-volume commentary, this is where all the introductory matters are presented. After the preface, Ross has chapters on:
- The value of the Psalms
- The various versions of the Psalms
- How to understand the titles and headings of the Psalms
- How the Psalms have been historically interpreted
- A brief primer on biblical poetry
- The literary forms of the Psalms
- How the Psalms have been used in worship
- The underlying theology within the Psalms
- A short guide to expositing the Psalms
Only after covering all those bases does Ross move into expositing each individual Psalm. These opening chapters on their own would make an excellent introduction the Psalter. What is somewhat unusual to include is the last chapter noted above. In it, Ross more or less details his own exegetical method. He includes these steps:
- Preliminary observations of the text
- Resolution of critical matters
- The study of words
- Grammatical and syntactical analysis
- Analysis of the poetics
- Exegetical synthesis
- The theology of the passage
Under the synthesis section, there are these subpoints:
- Form the exegetical outline (summarize verses line by line, group the summaries, summarize the groups)
- Write an exegetical summary
- Develop an expository outline
- Write the expository idea
Space doesn’t permit explaining how all of this works, but the point is that not only is this Ross’ method for his own his commentary, but this is basically what you’re taught at Dallas Seminary. In third semester Hebrew, you learn everything up to “application” and in the preaching classes, you focus in detail on the sub points under “exegetical analysis” as well as “application.” What Ross does here in the commentary is what the average Th.M student at Dallas does in prepping for a sermon (though now a days the sermon will not sound like reading from a commentary, thankfully). The end result is that Ross’ commentary not only excels at expositing the Psalms, but he does a pretty good job of imparting his method as well. This work will then serve the reader who wants to not only read what Ross has to say about a particular Psalm, but who also wants to become a better interpreter of the Psalms in the process.
When it comes to the exposition of individual Psalms, each chapter is around 15-20 pages and all follow this general outline:
Here, Ross begins with his translation of the text. He notes any significant textual variants both in the Hebrew manuscripts as well as the LXX (Greek Septuagint version). He then moves to the composition and the context of the specific psalm, before providing exegetical analysis. The analysis presents his exegetical summary statement of the psalm and the exegetical outline.
Commentary in Expository Form
Using the outline from the previous section, Ross then provides more meticulous comment on each subsection. Those who know Hebrew will benefit from his parenthetical inclusion of Hebrew words under discussion, but those who don’t will still be able to easily follow along.
Message and Application
Each chapter then concludes with another summary of the message of the psalm (not a repeat of the previous exegetical summary) and a few possible applications. The applications are general enough to give a motivation for action, but not too general to leave you wondering “now what?”
This format continues on from Psalm 1 to Psalm 41, completing the first volume in Ross’ series and the first book within the Psalter (which has a total of 5, just like the Pentateuch). I would imagine the next volume covers books 2 and 3 (Psalms 42-89) and the final volume books 4 and 5 (90-150). Without having the extensive introductory matters to cover in the next two volumes, Ross will have plenty of space to cover more of the individual Psalms.
Overall, this is an excellent start to a commentary series on the Psalms, I will look forward to next two volumes, whenever they might be published. As my wife and I continue to read through the Psalms each month, I will keep coming back to Ross’ work here to explore and deepen my understanding of the text. His work is clear and extremely well organized, providing enough scholarly and pastoral insight to suit both the average reader and the pastor preparing for a sermon.
- Author: Allen P. Ross
- Title: A Commentary on The Psalms Volume 1, Psalm 1-41
- Publisher: Kregel Academic (February 29, 2012)
- Series: Kregel Exegetical Library
- Hardcover: 928pgs
- Reading Level: Bible School/General Reader
- Audience Appeal: Prophets looking for a commentary with kingly organization and priestly application
- Gratis Review Copy: Yes (courtesy of Kregel)
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