Jun 20, 2016

A Review of A Commentary on the Psalms: Volume 3 (90–150)

Allen P. Ross, A Commentary on the Psalms: Volume 3 (90–150), Kregel Exegetical Library (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2016).

This volume is the third and final installment of Ross’ commentary on the Psalms. The author is professor of divinity at Beeson Divinity School. I first became acquainted with Ross’ through his helpful commentary on Genesis, Creation and Blessing. I have also benefited from his Introducing Biblical Hebrew and Holiness to the Lord: A Guide to the Exposition of the Book of Leviticus. At one time, he had a number of helpful studies on the Psalms at Bible.org but those have been removed probably because of the publications of these volumes.

Ross states his intended design of the volume clearly. “I have written with pastors, teachers and serious students of the Bible in mind. That has guided my choices in how to present the material and how much detail to include, knowing that not all who use this commentary will have expertise in the biblical languages or foreign language resources. The selections made for the bibliography included in the third volume were made with the same idea in mind–what resources will be helpful and practical for biblical expositors to use in their study of the psalms” (p. 11).

The commentary itself is divided into five basic parts: (1) The author’s own translation and text-critical notes, (2) composition and context, (3) exegetical analysis (summary statement and outline), (4) commentary in expository form, and (5) message and application (including the New Testament implication). These five elements are ideally suited for helping the expositor move from text to sermon or lesson.

In general, five aspects are particularly commendable. First, Ross’ attention to the text is commendable. This is not as much a commentary on commentaries but a commentary on the text. Furthermore, the author consistently deals with the very issues that preachers and teachers would have about the text. Second, the superscriptions, when present, are taken as reliable guides for the background to the psalm. This is all too rare in recent treatments on the Psalms. Third, both the exegetical and homiletical outlines are presented in complete sentences. Complete sentence outlines force one to complete a thought rather than phrasal outlines that can lack precision. Fourth, Ross shows how each Psalm relates to the New Testament. Many commentaries do this for some Psalms but Ross does this for every psalm. Five, I really appreciate the fact that Ross uses footnotes rather than endnotes. Also, the more technical information is relegated to the footnotes so that the material is available but it does not interfere with the basic flow of the explanation.

My criticisms of this volume are fairly minimal. First, I wish the “applications” were consistently actual applications. In a number of cases, a principle is merely identified with little help on how one should apply the principle. Second, while the word study index is a nice feature, it is not user friendly. There is no page number given and it is unclear as to whether the specific word study is in the explanation or a footnote. Third, in at least one case, the exegetical summary and message which are supposed to be different are not always so (see pp. 81, 89).

These criticisms aside, Ross has provided a valuable tool for preachers and teachers. His three volumes might be the best mid-level (between technical and devotional) resource for preachers and teachers. While not inexpensive at a retail price of $49.99, one can take comfort in the fact that one is getting significant bang-for-the-buck.

Thanks to Kregel for providing the review copy used in this unbiased review.

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