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Seeing the Psalms [Paperback]

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Item Number 154609  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   256
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9" Width: 6.1" Height: 0.83"
Weight:   0.95 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Dec 1, 2004
Publisher   Westminster John Knox Press
ISBN  0664225020  
EAN  9780664225025  

Availability  142 units.
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Item Description...
William Brown introduces a new method of exegesis, particularly for biblical poetry, that attends to the metaphorical contours of the psalms. His method as proposed and demonstrated in this book supplements traditional ways of interpreting the psalms and results in a fresh understanding of their original context and contemporary significance. Brown's pioneering work explores the hermeneutical promises and challenges of interpreting the book of Psalms through the lens of metaphor. While form-critical analysis has been the staple of psalms research for over a century, scholars have by and large overlooked the Psalter's use of imagery at great theological cost. More than any other corpus in Scripture, the Psalter embodies "incarnational language," discourse that is as visceral as it is sublime. The psalmist's use of imager, Brown argues, has the power to captivate the imagination, edify the mind, and cultivate moral discernment and theological reflection.

Publishers Description
This work explores the promises and challenges of interpreting the book of Psalms through the lens of metaphor. While form-critical analysis has been the staple of psalms research for over a century, scholars have by and large overlooked the Psalter's use of imagery - at great theological cost. The psalmists' use of metaphor, the author argues, has the power to captivate the imagination, edify the mind and cultivate moral discernment and theological reflection.

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More About William P. Brown

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! RICK BROWN, ThM, is Executive Director of the Institute for Imago Relationship Therapy in Winter Park, Florida, and Past-President of the Association for Imago Relationship Therapy. He has over twenty years of clinical experience working with individuals, couples, and families, and is a clinical instructor in Imago Relationship Therapy. He has demonstrated Imago Relationship Therapy on the Oprah Winfrey Show, and speaks frequently at professional workshops and conferences nationwide.

TONI REINHOLD is a journalist and writer.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Stretching our theological understanding, Seeing in Psalmic Metaphors  Dec 31, 2006

"Bless the Lord, O my soul. O lord my God, you are very great.
You are clothed with honor and majesty,
wrapped in light as with a garment.
You stretch out the heavens like a tent." Psalm 104

The Psalter:
The Book of hymns, Sefer Tehillim, or the Psalter, as it is sometimes called, is a collection of prayers and songs of praise composed throughout Israel's history, was regarded as a second Pentateuch, the richest in content and most revered of the three large Ketubim. Their virtual composer was David, who resembles Moses in office and authority. The Book of Psalms may be described as the hymn-book of the congregation of Israel during the era of the Second Temple, although some psalms in the collection do not share the main character to which this designation may apply. Recently, biblical scholars have modified the view that the Psalms were hymns sung in the Temple either by the Levites or by the congregation, since the participation of lay people in Temple liturgy was marginal. Psalms recitation as a sacrificial functions is not probable, due to their different themes. In spite of earlier accepted views that king David was expressing his own feelings and relating his personal experience, it is more probable that, in some instances, the 'I psalms' may have their individual significance. Generally, this personal pronoun implies reference to the 'congregation of Israel' or to a group or set of congregants at prayer, the righteous, the pious, the meek.

Composition of the Psalter:
Ten men are given a share in the compilation of the Psalter, but the chief editor was David. The two variant lists of the ten names are given as: Adam, Moses, Asaph, Heman, Abraham, Jeduthun, David, Solomon, while Korah's three sons counted as one, and Ezra. Ethan ha-Ezrahi is substituted sometimes for Abraham. The division into five books known to the Rabbis corresponded with that observed in contemporary editions, and Psalms order was identical with that of modern translations. The Masorah divides the book into nineteen 'sedarim,' the eleventh of these beginning with Ps. 78. Rabbi Joshua Levi, a Palestinian authority, canonizes only 147 psalms, and was reported to have desired to make alterations, and Moses has been credited with the authorship of eleven psalms, excluded from the Torah, since their composition was not in the prophetic spirit!
The Coptic, Greek, Slavonic and Syriac Septuagint, all contain an extra psalm 151 by David, which has been always chanted on Easter Saturday in the Coptic Church, was found in a scroll of biblical psalms discovered in 1956 in the Dead Sea, Qumran Cave 11.

Psalms Literary Form:
In form the Psalms exhibit the charming beauty of Hebrew language and a wealth of poetical metaphor. The prevailing scheme is the couplet of two corresponding lines, that conveys the rhythm of thought, revealed in the variety of parallelism. The triplet and quatrain occur also, though not frequently. The refrain constitutes one of the salient verbal features of some psalms, every half-verse of which repeats, "and his goodness endureth forever." Some of the psalms (e.g. 119) are acrostic or alphabetic in their arrangement, the succession of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet occurring in various positions--the beginning of every verse, every hemistich, or every couplet; in the last-mentioned case the letters may occur in pairs, begining with the same letter. Ps. 110 has seven verses in all, beginning with the same letter. Occasionally the scheme is not completely carried out (Ps. 9)

Metaphors in Psalms:
The rich poetry of the Psalter has been widely studied and its many metaphors identified and explored, but normally considered as isolated vocabulary items. Brown's wide-ranging treatment examines the metaphors themselves, not just the vocabulary in which they are expressed, suggesting a distinguished occurrence of metaphor in essence within the Psalter. The author describes the Psalter as "the Old Testament theological center"; calling it "the Romans of the Old Testament," in the Lutheran sense.
Brown explores the Psalms, to uncover the metaphorical themes, and the way they influence the Bible's liturgical poetry, introducing the viewpoint that, "through the word, icon is made metaphor." Although Jewish canon laws forbid material images, he claims persuasively that, "The poetry of the Psalms achieves a verbal level of iconography that more than compensates for the prescribed absence of images on the material level of ancient orthodox practice."

Psalter's Iconography:
Brown pays little attention, to Calvin's iconoclastic fear that a focus on images for theological interpretation may breach the second commandment, and continues exposing the richness of the Psalter's iconography, with examples of some central metaphors of repeated usage to help to reflect on psalms that do not explicitly display that particular metaphor. The metaphors covered include themes I still remember as a Psalter chanter illuminating core words as my rock, my refuge, sun, way and several others. The focus on God human images for the Lord Almighty, as king, shepherd, deliverer and teacher, have had deep impact on Jewish and Christian piety alike. He narrows his focus onto the word, the metaphorical word. Brown's goal goes beyond the study of metaphors throughout the Psalter to clearly approaching a novel way to read into the psalms. Beyond Brown's reading, however, stands a long Alexandrine tradition established by Philo, preached by Clement, and perfected by Origen as the theological sense of scripture. Brown should be praised for revitalizing the mystical approach of the psalms in an imaginative simulation process.

'Seeing in' Methodology:
The author's decision to expand the range of his parallel study, by reading psalm's biblical metaphors in the light of those expressed in the last century discovered texts of Israel's neighbors, was at the bottom of my real enjoyment of Brown's comparative reading into the psalms, both pioneering and insightful. Carleen Mandolfo has expressed that in a masterful review, "The way in which he (Brown) demonstrates the web of associations related to the cosmic and solar imagery displayed in Psalm 19 is a particularly impressive case in point. The cosmic import that Psalm 19 maps onto Torah is thoroughly rehearsed, both in its simple 'natural' associations, as well as its cultic and iconographic ones: Torah is as lucid and firmly established in the heart of the community, as the sun is radiant and permanently fixed in the heavens"
I have been fascinated with the mystical telepathy of the Psalmist and Akhnaten's 'Hymn to Aten' which Psalm 104 vividly displayed. Brown's rehearsal of sun-worship, both inside and outside of Israel, as well as the imagery associated with it, "allows readers to understand how profoundly the sun, for ancients, was connected to issues of justice and law, and thus how 'natural' is Psalm 19's linkage of solar metaphors and torah. In addition, the use of related images--such as 'dawn' and 'light'--throughout the Psalter are given new force," as Mandolfo noted.

Book Reviews:
- "Brown gives psalms' readers new hermeneutical issues to care about. Whether or not one agrees with the degree of importance Brown pins on understanding psalmic metaphors, it would be hard to read Brown's book without it impacting all subsequent engagements with the Psalter." Carleen Mandolfo, Colby College
- "Brown's wide-ranging treatment stretches our theological understanding. At the same time, his presentation lacks a certain rigor. I wish he had offered a more thorough theory of metaphor and had distinguished metaphors from similes." William Holladay

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