The volume has one major aim, to make the reading of the Psalms an intelligible, interesting, and inspiring experience. Its appeal is to ministers, thoughtful laymen, and students, who know that the Psalter contains untold spiritual wealth, yet feel themselves to be in possession of but a small part of it. Its intent is to bring to the average reader of the Bible, in nontechnical terms, the sifted results of the most reliable scholarly study of these lyric expressions of Hebrew life and worship.
Acknowledgment of indebtedness to particular interpreters of the Psalms is due, and I record it here gratefully. Those who are familiar with Dr. Hermann Gunkel's commentary Die Psalmen übersetzt und erklärt and his introduction Einleitung in den Psalmen will recognize his influence along three lines: The first is the placing of the psalms of Israel side by side with the psalms of Egypt and Babylonia, both in similarity and in contrast. The second is the distinguishing of numerous literary types among the psalms, which owe their origin to the variety of functions the psalms had in the living worship of the Hebrews (Sitz im Leben). The third is his masterful guidance at points where the Hebrew text of the Psalter is manifestly imperfect. He gives a clear analysis of the difficulties. He surveys and weighs the value of the reconstructions suggested by the most capable scholars, then presents his own tentative solution. His suggestions, often starting from his classification of the psalm as to literary type, give evidence of an intellectual and spiritual intuition comparable to that of Martin Luther.
Those familiar with the six stimulating Psalmenstudien by Dr. Sigmund Mowinckel of Norway will likewise recognize the great indebtedness to him. His work has given a new insight into the meaning of the cult, the organized public worship of ancient Israel, and along with this a deepened appreciation of the primitive force of the covenantal religion which unfolds before us in the Psalms.
In Chapter X and the first part of Chapter XI there is great indebtedness to a careful study by Dr. Hans Schmidt of The Prayer of the Accused in the Psalms. Likewise the influence of his commentary Die Psalmen, with its sensitive knowledge of the folk life of Palestine, will be evident at many points.
Three features characterize this volume. First, there is a fresh translation of every psalm in the Psalter, on the basis of the third edition of Dr. Rudolf Kittel Biblia Hebraica (1937), with careful heed to the critical notes, in which are concentrated the sifted findings of textual study on the part of generations of Old Testament scholars. Students of the Hebrew text will readily recognize this in the translation, although the earnest desire to make the fruits of such study available to the nontechnical reader has necessitated the reduction of explanatory . . .