Bounded by Obedience and Praise:
The Psalms as Canon
STANDARD APPROACHES to the Psalms, critical as well as liturgical and devotional, take diem up one at a dme. The primary unit for interpretation is the individual poem. Some attention has been given to die subgroupings or collections of psalms that have been brought together in die larger collection of die entire book, but no great progress has been made in diat regard.1 Even less attention has been given to die shape and intention of the book of Psalms as a literary unit.
Brevard Childs has freshly legitimated die question concerning the literary shape and tiieological intentionality of die book of Psalms as a whole.2 What gain can be made widi reference to die canonical question, however, remains far from clear. When one focuses on the literary shape of the entire book, one is soon faced with issues of theological intentionality and interpretation that go
1. See Claus Westermann, "The Formation of the Psalter," in Praise and Lament
in the Psalms (see chap. 1, n. 4), 250–58, and Patrick D. Miller, Interpreting the Psalms
(see chap. 2, n. 22), 3–28.
2. Brevard S. Childs, Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture (Philadelphia:
Fortress Press, 1979), 511–23. See also the detailed study of Gerald Henry Wilson,
The Editing of the Hebrew Psalter, SBLDS 76 (Chico, Calif.: Scholars Press, 1985), and
James Luther Mays, "The Place of the Torah-Psalms in the Psalter," JBL 106 (1987):
3–12, and idem, "Psalm 118 in the Light of Canonical Analysis," in Canon, Theology,
and Old Testament Interpretation, ed. Gene M. Tucker et al. (Philadelphia: Fortress
Press, 1988), 299–311.