Psalms, part 2, and Lamentations (Forms of the Old Testament Literature Volume XV)

  • Jan P Bosman


Gerstenberger's commentary on Psalms 61-150 (Book 2-5) of the Psalter and Lamentations follows his 1988 commentary on Psalms 1-60 (Psalms, Part I; with an introduction to cultic poetry - FOTL XIV) which included a very important section on cultic poetry. The two volumes should ideally be studied together as Part 2 frequently refers back to especially the section on cultic poetry in Part 1. Part 1 also contains the general introduction to the Psalter where Gerstenberger discusses the growth and history of the Psalter and proposes his main premises. Part 2 is a form-critical commentary in line with the stated goals of the FOTL series to give a 'form-critical analysis of every book and each unit of the Old Testament ... [to] expose the exegetical procedure in such a way as to enable students and pastors to engage in their own analysis and interpretation' (xii). Gerstenberger successfully complies with these goals by giving an extensive (traditional) form-critical analysis of Psalms 61-150 and Lamentations, involving attention to theology and poetic language. He continues on what Petersen (1992:32) called his 'innovative course' and 'fresh approach to ritual.' Like in Part 1 Gerstenberger's main premise is that the 'final converging point of collecting and redactional activities' of the psalms should be sought in the 'worship ceremonies of the early Jewish communities of the sixth to second centuries B.C.E.' (xv). To him the God of the Psalter is therefore 'mostly the God of exilic and postexilic Israel' (xv). The cult, liturgy and ritual practice inform his research as well as the maxim that the social context of texts should be respected as 'texts are not freelancing autonomous powers, but belong to determined people' (xvi).