Composition of the Book of Psalms


Approximate date: 1400s B.C.E. to 500s (Right, conservative-moderate; Left)

Time period: varied throughout the history of Ancient Israel

Author: various authors (Right, conservative-moderate, Left)

Location of author: varied locations due to varied authorship

Target audience and their location: people of Israel, later people of Judah and Southern Kingdom exiles (Right, conservative-moderate, Left)

Theological Summary: Psalms is the longest book in the Bible, and is frequently one of the most examined. Psalms differs substantially from any other book of Scripture, as some modern theologians have described it as Ancient Israel’s “hymnbook.” This is certainly justified as Psalms is composed of various songs, prayers, laments, cries of thankfulness, and pleas for vindication—all of which were used within the worship of Ancient Israel. Psalms actually consists as a collection of five groupings of material: Book One (Psalms 1-41), Book Two (Psalms 42-72), Book Three (Psalms 73-89), Book Four (Psalms 90-106), and Book Five (Psalms 107-150), all of which are usually designated in most English Bibles.

The Hebrew title of Psalms is actually Tehellim, meaning “praises.” Our English title is derived from the Greek Psalmoi or “twangings [of harp strings]” (Payne, NIDB). This is a good indication that many of the psalms were intended to be recited or sung to music. Psalms is placed first among the Writings in the Jewish order of the Tanach, and among the Wisdom books in the Christian theological tradition. Both Jewish and Christian theology generally give a very high place to the value of the Book of Psalms.

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reproduced from A Survey of the Tanach for the Practical Messianic

One of the major reasons that today’s Messianic movement has grown in the past decade is a significant interest by Believers in the Torah and the Tanach. In too many cases, the Tanach Scriptures were not probed in that great a detail in a Jewish Believer’s traditional Synagogue upbringing—and perhaps more serious, a non-Jewish Believer’s Christian experience often witnessed the Old Testament taking a back seat to the New Testament in the Church. With many of the ethical and moral controversies the greater Judeo-Christian religious community is experiencing in our age, a need for God’s people to return to a foundational grounding in the Tanach Scriptures is absolutely imperative. The Old Testament cannot simply be disregarded any more.

Many have stayed away from consulting the Tanach not because of a lack of interest, but because few want to have to deal with the controversies it addresses. Unlike the Apostolic Scriptures, constrained to the First Century C.E., the period of the Tanach stretches back all the way to the beginning of the universe itself. Questions like: Who was the Pharaoh of the Exodus? Did God actually condone the genocide of the Canaanites? and Am I the only one who thinks the Prophets are mentally disturbed? are debates that many people do not want to enter into. Even more significant is the effect of critical scholarship which has attempted to divide the Torah into non-Mosaic sources, question the inspiration and historical reliability of the text, and even regard much of the Tanach as Ancient Israel’s mythology. For a Messianic movement that claims to place a high value on the Tanach, it is time that we join in to these conversations.

A Survey of the Tanach for the Practical Messianic takes you through the Old Testament from a distinct Messianic point of view. It presents a theologically conservative perspective of the books of the Tanach, but one that does not avoid some of the controversies that have existed in Biblical scholarship for over one hundred and fifty years. The student, in company with his or her study Bible, is asked to read through each text of the Tanach, jotting down characters, place names, key ideas, and reflective questions. Each book of the Old Testament is then summarized for its compositional data and asks you questions to get a good Messianic feel for the text. This workbook can be used for both personal and group study, and will be a valuable aid for any Messianic Believer wanting to study the whole Bible on a consistent basis.

290 pages