AUTHOR'S PREFACE

More than a decade has elapsed since FOTL XIV appeared from Eerdmans, representatives of whom I had a chance to talk to almost annually at the Frankfurt Book Fair. Also, the Claremont headquarters of the FOTL project held the line open to Germany by timely communications. So I kept in touch with general developments of the American theological book market and the destinies of the form-critical project in particular. The flow of literature on the Psalms and cultic poetry has acquired almost torrential dimensions. To my knowledge, no previous decade has brought forth so many full-fledged commentaries on the Psalter as well as all sorts of articles and monographs on detailed problems of individual texts and themes as the 1990s. New avenues are being tried out, for example, in some holistic or literary molds of interpretation, in terms of intercultural comparisons of sacred songs, or their spiritual and theological dimensions. All of these very different modern studies on ancient prayers prove the great need of our own time for communications with the Ground of Being (P. Tillich), the Holy One, the personal and communal God, the father of Jesus Christ, who—in the Psalter—is mostly the God of exilic and postexilic Israel. They certainly reveal overwhelmingly the unfathomable richness of the Hebrew Psalms. It is amazing how much these ancient texts can mean to so many different people. In all this extended ecumenical concert of psalm interpretations and notwithstanding the beauty, wealth, and perspicuity of other exegetical methods from which I gratefully acknowledge to have learned and profited enormously, I still think that a form-critical and social-historical analysis like the one begun with FOTL XIV may be helpful to recognize the multiple roots of psalmody in different types of human organization and ritual practice. It may enable us to discover the multilayered spirituality of generations of psalmists and psalm users of ancient times. The final converging point of collecting and redactional activities, as I see it, is the worship ceremonies of the early Jewish communities of the sixth to second centuries B.C.E. Use and re-use, oral and scribal tradition have shaped individual texts, intermediate collections, and the Psalter as a whole, and deserve specific attention. My emphasis, however, remains with distinct genres and the individual psalms that have survived

-xv-

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