THE HEBREW PSALTER always has been a book of inspiration for communities of faith as well as for any thoughtful reader. There are myriads of commentaries, meditations, studies on the psalms and, last but not least, countless songs and prayers composed under their influence. What is the novel perspective of this present volume which might justify its publication? Besides using a formcritical approach, as outlined by the general editors, I have been trying to focus my attention on those liturgical situations and institutions which may have produced and transmitted the ancient psalms. Research in this field of “life-situations” (Sitz im Leben) of religious poetry still has a long way to go. Ethnologists and anthropologists all over the world contribute immensely to our knowledge of ritual procedures, not to mention the colleagues in the ancient Near Eastern fields of study who have been illuminating our understanding of Old Testament texts and ceremonies. As the latest stage of pre-canonical use of the psalms was in the early Jewish communities of the 6th to the 3rd centuries, all of the extant texts bear the stamp of this age. This fact does not preclude, however, the insight that many psalms are much older and that smaller collections of sacred songs—even in a rudimentary shape and composition—must have existed well before the exilic period.
I dedicate this first volume on the psalms to all those students in three continents who have been studying with me Israel's and our Treasure of Faith, students at
Yale Divinity School, New Haven
Faculdade de Teologia, Sao Leopoldo
Marburg, June 20, 1987
ERHARD S. GERSTENBERGER