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  • Writer's pictureScott Carr, Jr.

Review: Psalms by Tremper Longman III

Tremper Longman III's commentary on the Psalms is a recent entry in the popular long-running commentary series, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries [1]. This exegetical commentary provides a literary analysis of the Psalms in their historical context in light of the full canon of Scripture, all from a conservative evangelical view. His analysis is not detailed scholarship but is a useful introduction to interpretive issues in the Psalms for laypersons who want a deeper understanding of the Psalms and for pastors preparing Bible studies and sermons on the Psalms.

The commentary on each Psalm is arranged in three parts: context, comment, and meaning. In the context section, Longman introduces the psalm. He provides a basic summary of the overall psalm. He also comments on the literary genre of the psalm, the psalm heading, and a brief summary of its possible historical context. The comment section is the largest portion of the commentary. Longman breaks the psalm down into sections and comments on these rather than on individual verses. He comments on their literary features, focusing on parallelism, and clues to their historical context. He also highlights possible uses of the psalm in Israel's worship and traces the thematic progression of the psalm. Finally, in the meaning section, Longman summarizes the theological themes of the psalm in light of its context in Scripture. He relates it to other psalms and passages in the Old Testament. He also outlines the New Testament’s use of the psalm. Finally, he provides a Christological reading of the psalm.

I would highly recommend this commentary to laypersons seeking to study the Psalms. It does not provide technical explanations of the textual issues or grammar of the Psalms which would bog down the lay reader. Yet it provides a historical and cultural context for him or her to situate the Psalms within. It also places the Psalms in their canonical context and gives an opportunity for him or her to explore how the Psalm points to Christ and is utilized in other parts of Scripture.

Personally, I find the commentary too basic for regular sermon preparation. I would avail myself of a more technical commentary to study the historical and cultural context. I would also turn to a theological commentary for a more detailed analysis of the themes, Christological readings, and New Testament interpretations of the Psalm. Other commentaries provide fuller treatments of the basic issues covered in this commentary.

Yet the commentary can function as a useful guide for new preachers. The temptation for new preachers is to pursue the technical details of the text and its context and the theological meanings of the passage without paying attention to the needs of the congregation. Longman’s commentary can help new preachers organize their exegesis around concerns that would be most directly applicable to congregants. It also provides a helpful introduction to thinking through the Psalms christologically, another asset for young preachers who may find the Psalms more difficult to preach christologically than other portions of Scripture.

Longman’s commentary is an excellent introductory commentary for those who want to study the Psalms more carefully or who want to begin preaching them to congregations. While he does not offer new scholarship, his gift to the church is to make a lifetime of Psalms’ studies available to those who want to better understand the prayerbook God has given His people.

[1] Longman III, Tremper. Psalms: An Introduction and Commentary (TOTC), Downer’s Grove, IL: IVP, 2014.

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