Commentary: Hebrews, Psalms


Hebrews appears to be so formidable that many do not begin to study it in detail and benefit from its riches. An easy introduction would be Donald Guthrie’s contribution to the Tyndale series (1983) or Raymond Brown’s commentary in the Bible Speaks Today series (1982).

The recent commentary by R. McL. Wilson in the New Century Bible series (1987) is a step up from these briefer works and is not too technical. Wilson brings forward some of the insights of recent scholarship and presents their conclusions in a very precise and readable way.

The two most comprehensive and helpful commentaries in English at present are those by F.F. Bruce (NICNT, Eerdmans, 1964) and Philip Hughes (Eerdmans, 1977). Bruce provides a detailed examination of the text, with discussion of the Greek mainly restricted to the footnotes. His greatest contribution is to show how the writer of Hebrews uses the Old Testament in the development of his argument. It is a scholarly book but contains exposition that can lead to exciting preaching. Hughes also offers a scholarly approach but tends to focus particularly on insights of early commentators on Hebrews rather than those of contemporary writers. Nevertheless, he wrestles with some theological questions more thoroughly than Bruce does.

The old commentaries by B.F. Westcott (Macmillan, 3rd Edition, 1903) and J. Moffatt (ICC, 1924) still offer helpful insights to students of the Greek text. The definitive commentary in English is likely to be the work of W.L. Lane in the Word series, which is due for publication soon.


Commentaries on the Psalms tend to be idiosyncratic. There are so many theories about the origin and purpose of the psalms that it is important to know the views of an author in order to understand his commentary. For an overview of modern approaches and an illuminating study of themes I recommend L.C. Allen, Psalms, Word Biblical Themes (Word, 1987). Far more thorough, but much heavier going, is H.J. Kraus, The Theology of the Psalms (Augsburg, 1986).

I warmly commend D. Kidner’s two volume Tyndale commentary (IVP, 1973, 1975). As usual Kidner combines careful conservative scholarship with deeply Christian insight.

J.H. Eaton’s Torch Bible Commentary (SCM, 1967) is written from the viewpoint that the ‘I’ in almost all of the psalms is the reigning Davidic king. The theory is developed in Eaton’s Kingship and the Psalms (SCM, 1976). A. Weiser, The Psalms (SCM, 1962) believes most psalms were composed for an annual covenant renewal ceremony in Israel. Weiser often provides helpful theological insights to the text. More detailed is H.J. Kraus, Psalms 1-59 (Augsburg, 1988), which has a similar general perspective to Weiser. M. Dahood’s three volume Anchor Bible commentary (Doubleday, 1965-70) is devoted to discovering new meanings for Hebrew words: definitely for the scholar only. A.A. Anderson’s two volume New Century Bible Commentary is a careful verse by verse commentary, a reliable source of information, but limited in interpretive comment. The Word Biblical Commentary, with its attention to both technical detail and Christian interpretation, is coming out in three volumes by three authors. P. Craigie has written on Psalms 1-50 (Word, 1983): a useful work, but with rather too much attention to supposed liturgical backgrounds for my liking. L.C. Allen, on Psalms 101-150, is particularly interested in analysing literary structure. The third volume is yet to appear.

C. Westermann has developed important insights in Praise and Lament in the Psalms (T. & T. Clark, 1981). They are put into a more popular form in The Psalms: Structure, Content & Message (Augsburg, 1980). A stimulating new approach to psalm interpretation is found in W. Brueggemann, The Message of the Psalms (Augsburg, 1984).

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