Book Review: The Design of the Psalter: A Macrostructural Analysis

The Design of the Psalter: A Macrostructural AnalysisThe Design of the Psalter: A Macrostructural Analysis by Peter C.W. Ho
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fantastic study on the final Masoretic Psalter. Ho does a good job interacting with the extant scholarship on the arrangement of the Psalms and his view is within the realm of the canonical view over against the form-critical view. I find some benefits from the form-critical views of the Psalms, but it leads to isolating individual psalms and the strict liturgical/cultic reading of Psalms in the second temple sitz im leben ends up non-Messianic a lot of the time. On the more popular level, the result is the anemic view of Psalms as a hymnbook or devotional reading. The canonical view generally results in a more Messianic, theological, and eschatological reading of the Psalms.

The macrostructural aspects of Ho’s thesis is to view the Masoretic arrangement of the Psalms, with the superscriptions and selah’s, as more thematic in terms of theology and eschatology. He supports this thesis with analysis of individual psalms intertextually within different collections, i.e., Davidic, Korahite, and Asaphite collections, and the placement of those subgroups within the five books. Intertextual references and allusions along with structural elements such as alphabet acrostics, alphabet composition, and numeric nexus combine to support the arrangement of the psalms as a book, with flow, and beginning, middle, and end.

You don’t have to agree with all his conclusions to be benefited by his work. Ho obviously doesn’t think he’s written the final word in Psalm interpretation, and generally indicates some of his own guesswork, though informed guesswork, in the process. This is not the place to start on Psalms, though it is a place to see along the way. It may not be necessary to have read a lot of other Psalms scholarship, but I did find it helpful to have read many of the other works and authors he refers to in order to not hear only one side of the conversation. Also, this is a published version of the author’s PHD dissertation, so it reads academic, but I found it accessible and enjoyable.

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