Every individual interpretation of the psalms is a part of and builds upon a larger context of many such efforts. We begin, therefore, with a look at some of the main currents that are currently shaping the study of the psalms and at least in part the directions set forth in the pages that follow. No effort is made to cover the larger discussion exhaustively here. My focus will be on those issues that seem to me to be at the forefront, and of potential importance for persons whose primary task is the interpretation of the psalms within the life of the community of faith.
IN ANCIENT ISRAEL
Form-critical study of the psalms has dominated, if not controlled, the way in which this part of Scripture has been handled during this century—a fact that is as evident in popular treatments of the psalms and commentaries as it is in the scholarly literature. Attention to the type and character of the psalms, with an effort to understand how they functioned in the life and worship of individual and community, can offer either direct clues or heuristic suggestions for their continuing role in personal piety and public worship (see chap. 2). The very character of the psalms, however, as relatively brief individual units, for the most part now loosed from any context but the literary one, means that the many questions about the type and especially about the setting in life of the various types are uncertain of answer or open to various answers.
The basic schema set forth by Hermann Gunkel and Joachim Begrich