Theology of the Psalms

By Hans-Joachim Kraus; Keith Crim | Go to book overview

7. The Psalms
in the New Testament

In the New Testament the word

(“psalm”) is found seven times and the verb (psallein, “to sing praise”) four times. These specific verbal references to the Psalms will be explored in the following discussion. In addition, this chapter will examine the quotations of Psalms in the New Testament. It should be noted that some of them are identified and some are not. The clearest identification is in Acts 13:33, “in the second psalm.” Quotations in Luke 20:42 and Acts 1:20 are introduced by the words “the book of Psalms,” and the quotation in Luke 24:44, by “in the psalms.” All other quotations—as will be shown, there are a great many—are not identified specifically, but with greater or lesser certainty they can be identified as quotations and arranged in groups. It is appropriate to begin by examining the New Testament quotations of such psalms as were of particular importance for the kerygma of the early church. These are Psalms 2; 22; 69; 110; and 118. Then, in a concluding section, we will examine other psalm texts that are explicitly quoted.

In the whole inquiry there is a primary exegetical task, the goal of which is to identify and explain the biblical-theological contexts in which quotations were used. It would hardly be in the interest of such a procedure to present the processes of understanding which are involved in the quotations behind the texts, but the intention that is contained in the texts themselves must be explicated. What are the steps that are to be followed? (1) The context of each psalm quotation is to be investigated to determine the intention of its kerygma. This includes a precise determination of the place of the quotation in this specific context. (2) From the New Testament context we should identify the purpose for which the psalm has been quoted. Then we must identify the kerygmatic scope of meaning which the Old Testament text has helped to advance. (3) We should also reflect on the character which the New Testament context has given to the quotation in its relationship to the way the text was understood in the Old Testament. This will lead us to investigate whether the early Christian kerygma has discovered in this new use made of the text anything of relevance for our understanding of the witness borne by the Old Testament itself.

Thus this chapter presents a contribution to the study of biblical theology, a contribution distinctive in the questions it raises and the goals it sets. The usual

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