Contrary to critical scholarship, the church has long held that the Psalms are the book of Christ. In the introduction to his commentary on Psalms 101-150 in the Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible, Jason Byassee bemoans the tendency, even found among Christians, to read the Psalms and not find Christ. Rather, with the heart of a preacher, he states that “I read scripture in an effort to discover Christ, and having discovered him, I then try to present him anew to his people” (p. xxi).
Psalms 101-150 (Brazos Theological Commentary)
After a fairly brief introductory chapter, Byasse comments on Psalms 101-150 (though a volume devoted to 119 will be released later). Each psalm receives a few pages of treatment. Byassee’s comments are readable, wide-ranging, theological, and quick to jump to Christ and his church for application. One paragraph will speak of theosis, another of the practice of monks, another of Christ’s passion, and yet another will speak of anti-Semitism. Pastoral and theological rabbit trails are pursued.
Seeing Christ in the Psalms
Bruggemann praises Byassee for a “readiness and capacity to read the Psalms with a christological tilt.” It is indeed welcome to encounter a commentary that is willing to see Christ in the Psalms. However, with Byassee’s hermeneutic, he can find almost anything in them. What I mean is that Byassee reads the Psalms with a presupposition that any given psalm can be found to speak of Christ or his church. This is due to his appropriation of Augustine’s hermeneutic that makes it easy to “find Christ” in the Psalms. While Augustine’s work on the Psalms is excellent, much of it reads against the grain of the text (to this reviewer’s eyes). I don’t believe this hermeneutic is that of the Apostles (see Acts 2:22-32). I believe there are better christological approaches that do not require such overriding presuppositions but are grounded in the canonical shaping of the Psalter and the hermeneutics of the Apostles.
One looking for a recent Psalms commentary that faithfully follows an Augustinian approach would appreciate Byassee’s work. Though Byassee often consults recent scholarship, this should not be mistaken for a historical or exegetical commentary. Psalms 101-150 are a sustained attempt to recapture the christological and ecclesiological heart of the Psalms by returning to interpreters both ancient and modern for help. Much like Augustine, Byassee reads the Psalms pastorally, devotionally, and theologically for the benefit of Christ’s church. His insights are highly pastoral and devotional and most useful in these contexts—which was his aim.
Many thanks to Baker for providing a copy of this book for review.