Quick notes on the Psalms and Torah

12 Oct

Theological Introduction to the Book of Psalms by J. Clinton McCann: Book CoverRecently, I have been studying the first and second Psalms.  In what again seems to be like a “forever” process, (I have much material in which to browse through) I have found one book that I recommend (and have now in my possession) for those who have interests leaning towards mildly deeper theological discussions (or interpretations) of the Biblical text.  It is called “A theological introduction to the Book of Psalms” by J. Clinton McCann Jr. (Abington Press). In a very down to earth and easy to read approach, McCann comments at length on various specific elements regarding the textual nature of the Psalms in easy to follow, exegetical fashion.  Although some seem to have taken issue with his sometimes unexpected deviations from the actual text (basically to begin to preach) this I believe in no way takes away from his impressive studies.  (McCann, who is a professor at Eden Theological Seminary is also an ordained pastor, I think.)

Anyway, here is some of the notes that I have taken from his chapter that deals specifically with the Psalms and Torah.


  • The psalms are to be heard as God’s instructions to the faithful.
  • A proper translation of the Hebrew word “Torah” should lean more towards English words such as instruction, teaching or guide rather than the word “law” which evidently came about as the result of translators either heavily influenced or else solely relying upon the Greek copy of the Old Testament (LXX) rather than working directly from the Hebrew Manuscripts.
  • Psalms 1-2 is an introduction to the psalms as a whole, admonishing us “to be open to God’s instruction and the reality of [his] reign on the earth.”
  • “To be ‘perfect’, ‘blameless’ or ‘whole’ is not to be sinful, but rather to be open to the torah (the instruction or teaching) of the Lord on which human life constantly depends.”
  • Concerning Psalms 119 (also a Torah Psalm):  “For the Psalmist, the importance of the torah is overwhelming.  Apart from God’s instruction, there is nothing worthy to be called life!”  (Obviously other choices of words would perhaps make McCann’s point a little more clear, i.e. “Apart from God’s instruction, there is nothing worth writing about!”)
  • Happiness… ” has everything to do with orientating one’s life to being instructed by God.”
  • Some scholars believe that Psalms 1-119 may have been,in fact the original Psalter. “If so, this would mean that at one stage of it’s existence the Psalter itself was encompassed by what Psalms 1 and 119 affirm is all encompassing – the instruction [or Torah] of the Lord!”  Thus… “torah applies to everything!”
  • The fulfillment of the Torah is not so much a specific reward on earth but rather a result of being connected with the source of life!
  • The wicked are those who consider themselves autonomous, which being interpreted means “a law unto one’s self”.  Thus the wicked are “self instructed, self directed, and self ruled.”
  • “The fulfillment of the wicked is not so much a punishment as [it is] the result of cutting [off] of oneself from the source of life.”
  • “In short, wickedness contains the seeds of it’s own self destruction.”
  • “Wickedness is essentially the conviction that we are doing all right by ourselves.”

Although there is much, more I thought I would just whet your appetite – there was much to choose from.

Shalom and God bless.



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