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Recommended Resources on the Psalms, Part 3: Academic Commentaries

After recommending some excellent videos and MP3s on the Psalms, in my last post I directed our readers to my favorite commentaries for preachers on the Psalms.  In today’s post I’d like to muse briefly on my four favorite academic commentaries on the Psalter.

But before I do, a couple preliminary comments are in order.  First, as you’ll see, none of these commentaries are in the uber-scholarly category.  There are several uber-scholarly commentaries on the Psalms, some of which I’m certain are excellent, but I have not relied upon these as I’ve preached through the Psalter.  While I have a natural bent toward very scholarly studies and I certainly recognize the need for uber-scholarly commentaries for those writing journal articles or Bible translators, truth be told, I’ve struggled to see their place in busy local church pastoral ministry.  Most of us only have so much time.

Second, it’s helpful to be aware that liberal academic commentaries on the Psalms are legion.  I’m not entirely sure why this is the case (perhaps it’s because of their constant use in mainline liturgies), but non-evangelical biblical scholars seem to be infatuated with the Psalter and will devote hundreds of pages to discussions which assume certain words or verses or entire stanzas in the Psalms are not the inspired Word of God (this is especially the case in the imprecatory Psalms).  Maybe just stay alert to this and realize that whether or not you believe the Bible is inerrant has an enormous impact on how you write a commentary.  This isn’t to say liberal scholars can’t teach us anything, but just be discerning and don’t unwittingly adopt conclusions which contradict your view of Scripture.

Now, here are my four favorite academic commentaries on the Psalms, all with very creative, original titles:

9780830842155mPsalms 1-72 and Psalms 73-150 (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries) by Derek Kidner – Kidner’s little volumes on the Psalms (as well as his ones on Genesis and Proverbs) have become something of modern day classics.  They’re conservative, concise, exegetical, thoughtful, pastoral, and consistently trustworthy.  Kidner has that very enviable skill of being consistently profound in few words.  He also has one of the better defenses of the inspiration of the Psalm titles I’ve read.

Psalms (Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary) by Geoffrey W. Grogan – Grogan was a specialist in the Psalms and this commentary, while very helpful, doesn’t put his expertise on full display due to the somewhat awkward format of the series.  His comments are clear, concise, and conservative but you wish the commentary were about three times the length.  Grogan’s remarkable theology of the Psalms should also be consulted.

indexPsalms (Expositors Bible Commentary) by Willem VanGemeren – VanGemeren’s tome on the Psalms is probably the closest thing evangelicals currently have to a “go-to”, must-have Psalms commentary (sort of like Fee on 1 Corinthians or Moo on Romans).  As you would expect from VanGemeren and the EBC in general, it is undergirded by the most careful scholarship but pitched to the busy pastor committed to expositional preaching.  While it’s often weak on application, some of VanGemeren’s paragraphs are downright poetic.

Psalms Volume 1 (Psalms 1-72): A Mentor Commentary and Psalms Volume 2 (Psalms 73-150): A Mentor Commentary, by Alan Harman – I’ve saved my favorite for the last.  Harman, Research Professor of Old Testament at the Presbyterian Theological College in Melbourne, Australia, and author of commentaries on Deuteronomy and Isaiah, has given us a commentary which, while lesser known, is truly outstanding all-round.  It’s clear, staunchly evangelical and Calvinistic, supported by careful scholarship, attuned to contemporary application, interestingly written, and about perfect length.  While ideal for the pastor, it could be profitably read by any serious layman.  This has become my “will-always-read-even-if-I’m-super-busy-and-behind-on-sermon-prep-commentary.”  It’s one you really should check out.

In my next post, Lord willing, I’ll conclude this miniseries by briefly reviewing a handful of books on the Psalms.  I close by reiterating my invitation.  If there are resources on the Psalms (i.e., lectures, commentaries, books, etc.) you’d like me to review or would recommend yourself, leave them in the comments below.

Timothy Raymond is an editor for Credo Magazine and has been the pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Muncie, Indiana since April 2006. He received his MDiv from the Baptist Bible Seminary of Pennsylvania in 2004 and has pursued further education through the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation.

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