Review of F. Hartenstein and B. Janowski, Psalmen

Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 13 (2013) - Review

Hartenstein, Friedhelm and Bernd Janowski, Psalmen (BKAT, XV/1, Lieferung 1; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 2012). Pp. 80. Hardcover. €17.99. ISBN 978-3-7887-2212-8.

This is the first fascicle of a new Psalms commentary for the Biblischer Kommentar series. Hartenstein and Janowski's volume will replace the classic two-volume commentary of H.-J. Kraus,[1] and it is projected as a three-volume work. Though this first installment treats only Pss 1–2, these are a critical pair for the interpretation of the Psalter in its present form, which St. Jerome likened to a large house. Janowski has most recently developed this metaphor in an essay wherein he outlines the “theological architecture” of the Psalter as a spiritual temple constructed not of stones, but of words.[2] In the present volume, Janowski continues the metaphor by drawing an analogy to Gothic cathedrals, whose entrances are often decorated with key scenes of biblical salvation history that initiate visitors to the secrets of faith (p. 51). Psalms 1–2 are these “Schlüsselszenen” at the door. One exits the Psalter through the final chorus of praise for a God who saves in Pss 146–150. The movement from the entrance through the exit imbues one with hope in God and with the quality of “Glück” spoken of in Ps 1:1 (p. 54).

The commentary opens with Janowski's treatment of Pss 1–2 as the prelude of the Psalter. While Jerome's image of the main door to the house of the Psalter applied only to Ps 1, Janowski emphasizes that Pss 1–2 together make up its preface. He rejects Beat Weber's view that Pss 1–3, not Pss 1–2, are the Psalter's “Ouvertüre.”[3] Janowski appeals to 4QFlorilegium, Acts 13:33 (Codex Bezae), and b.Ber. 9b–10a as witnesses to the unity of the two psalms, but one should probably not make too much of these. The verbal and thematic connections he notes are stronger evidence that the psalms were shaped so that they would work together. Furthermore, as Hartenstein points out later, their common lack of superscriptions divides them from Pss 3–14 (p. 61). This does not mean, however, that Pss 1 and 2 were composed at the same time. Janowski views Ps 2:7–9 as an older piece of traditional material that was later expanded (see also Hartenstein, p. 76), while Ps 1 was created for the express purpose of introducing the Psalter.

Janowski's commentary on Ps 1 is rich and full, and in it he gives a great deal of attention to the theology of the Psalter as a whole. He views Ps 1 as a late postexilic wisdom psalm that may be divided into three parts (vv. 1–3, 4–5, 6). This psalm serves a model for life by presenting general types, where the ʾîš in v. 1 represents the paradigm of a righteous person who has achieved a satisfying, meaningful life (ʾašrê). Psalm 1, like Ps 37, opposes the lone righteous one and the multitude of the wicked. This points to social and religious tensions behind the text, and Janowski cites Jürgen van Oorschot's description of “proto-Hasidic” groups characterized by eschatologically-oriented piety that distance themselves from the wicked. Noting that Ps 1 describes no concrete act of the wicked, he draws on Ps 41 as a programmatic cue for differentiating the wicked and the righteous in terms of their care for the poor. Contrary to most interpreters, Janowski does not view the three actions (hālakʿāmadyāšab) of the ʾîš in v. 1 as climactic; rather, hālak is a general expression, while ʿāmad and yāšab are its practical consequences. Psalm 1 describes a torah-piety that is both personal and individual, wherein the righteous person flourishes through an “identifizierendes Lesen” (p. 27 and n. 50) of torah. The distinction between “Yhwh's torah” (tôrat yhwh) and “his torah” (tôrâtô) in v. 2 does not signify two different corpora (e.g., Targum: nymwsʾ and ʾwrytʾ), but two different aspects of one torah. For Janowski, as for many others, Yhwh's torah in Ps 1:2 is not the Mosaic torah, but something as broad as “[die] Gesamtbekundung des Willens Gottes,” as Weber says (p. 30).[4] It includes the entire developing canon and is not simply identical to the Psalter. Janowski gives a great deal of attention to the poem's central image of a flourishing tree, drawing especially on Egyptian iconography and texts (Amenemope VI, 1–12), and he questions the view that Ps 1 is dependent here upon Jer 17:5–8.[5] Even in light of biblical and ancient Near Eastern parallels, Janowksi is cautious about speaking of temple theology in Ps 1. It is nonetheless clear that the tree represents life. The allegory of the tree and the chaff introduces the idea of two different fates—one of connection between tree and torah, the other of division between kernel and husk. These are developed in a juridical sense in v. 5. Janowski notes the eschatological interpretations of vv. 4–6 in early Jewish tradition, especially in the Septuagint. Thus torah is not only a key to life in the present, but to future life as well, where the Greek translation likely points to a resurrection for judgment. Finally, he returns to the role of Ps 1 in the whole Psalter, noting that the movement from the beginning to the end is one of broadening and universalizing. He cites Egbert Ballhorn to this effect: “Diese Einsicht in das Gesamtgefälle des Psalters ist theologisch wichtig, denn: ‘Wer bittet, geht von sich und seiner Welt aus. Wer lobt, geht von Gott aus. Das Gotteslob bleibt offen, denn es spricht von dem her, was kommt’” (p. 53).[6]

Hartenstein's commentary on Ps 2 is much shorter, consisting of only twenty-five pages to Janowski's forty-seven pages on Ps 1. This imbalance, however, is largely the result of a difference in style; Hartenstein's treatment is still rich with detail. According to Hartenstein, the king's speech in Ps 2:7–9 is the oldest core of the poem, which is a Judean expression of “Königsprotokoll” attested also in Egypt and Neo-Assyrian Mesopotamia. This form-critical entity was expanded by vv. 1–6 and 10–12 in the postexilic period. The psalm in its present form dates to the 4th century b.c.e. or thereabouts and can be divided into two parts (vv. 1–6, 7–12), each consisting of two strophes (vv. 1–3, 4–6; 7–9; 10–12). It is theocentric in orientation and “enthält wie ein Kompendium alle entscheidenden Theolog[o]umena der Jerusalemer Tempeltheologie im Blick auf die Königsherrschaft Gottes” (p. 76). It is undoubtedly a royal psalm, but, according to Hartenstein, it also has connections with the late writing prophets and with wisdom. In this vein, his comparison of Ps 2:1–9 with the “späte Fortschreibung” in Mic 4:11–13 (p. 72) is helpful. The psalm opens with a rhetorical question, followed by a mixture of verbs in the suffix and prefix conjugations in vv. 1–2. These are resultative and iterative (or ingressive) respectively (see p. 67 for layout). Though Ps 2 as a whole originally introduced the so-called “messianic Psalter” (Pss 2*–89), the term māšîaḥ in v. 2b is closely related to Yhwh and does not yet signify a political savior. Hartenstein translates nāsaktî in v. 6a with “einsetzen,” and, citing Michel and Körting, suggests that it may be a present declarative. He also notes the possibility that it may be related to a noun *nāsîk II, which seems to refer to a chief or sheikh.[7] Contrary to the LXX, Yhwh speaks in v. 6, not the king. On the other hand, vv. 7–9 contain only the king's voice. He rightly expounds v. 7b as a declaration of Yhwh's giving birth to the king (“Ich habe dich heute geboren!”) and later raises the possibility that Ps 110:3 might also have originated as a mythic version of the king's birth (p. 71). This treatment is an advance on others which suggest adoption, not birth, as the means by which the king becomes the son of God in Ps 2:7 (cf. NIV).[8] He also offers a helpful discussion of the crux interpretum in v. 12a, nšqw-br, which Alfred Bertholet corrected to nšqw brglyw (cf. Luther Bibel; NRSV).[9] Hartenstein rejects this, however, as “sachlich ebenso schwierig wie die Beibehaltung von M” (p. 60), and he argues for the more common interpretation, “Kiss the son” (“Küsst den Sohn”). He treats bar as one of the text's Aramaisms (see p. 74), which is used as a fixed phrase or title (thus lacking the definite article). According to this interpretation, then, the king reports Yhwh addressing him as bēn in vv. 7–9 (v. 7), while the poet speaks of that same king as bar as the poet addresses the rulers of the world in vv. 10–12 (v. 12). Presumably, then, the use of bar in v. 12 reflects the milieu of the poet. If Hartenstein is correct in dating this portion of the poem to the end of the Persian period or the beginning of the Hellenistic period, this makes perfect sense; Aramaic was well-established as the lingua franca in the Ancient Near East by that time. Hartenstein also speaks of this address in vv. 10–12 as reflecting a more expansive scope that began to become ingrained in the Israelite perception of the world from the Persian period onward (p. 80). The address is characteristic of the psalm's didactic profile, as the poet seeks to offer insight into God's universal rule (p. 72). Hartenstein's treatment also includes a helpful illustration of the psalm's implicit conception of space (p. 68), as well as two drawings of Achaemenid reliefs which illuminate aspects of the poem (pp. 69, 79).

If there is one thing that is lacking in this commentary, it is sustained attention to reception history beyond the Septuagint. While Janowski briefly mentions some Jewish reception of Ps 1, early Christian reception is entirely lacking. Still more surprising is this omission from Hartenstein's section on Psalm 2, which has a rich history of interpretation and reception.[10] Not every interpreter will want to attend to such matters at length, yet it is surprising to see such minimal attention given to reception history during a time in which more and more exegetical work has begun to include it. Perhaps future installments of their Psalms commentary will expand in this area.

Despite their different styles of commentating and different points of focus, Hartenstein and Janowski make a great team. From their previous joint efforts, such as their entries on the Psalms for RGG / RPP, this is not surprising.[11] Together they promise a bright future not only for Psalms commentaries, but also for the broader enterprise of Psalterexegese.[12] I look forward to all their future work on the Psalms with eager anticipation.

Scott C. Jones, Covenant College

[1] The seventh edition of Kraus' commentary appeared in 2003, with the original two volumes bound together: H.-J. Kraus, Psalmen (1–59 und 60–150). Studienausgabe (BKAT, 15; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener). The third edition of his Theologie der Psalmen appeared the same year. reference

[2] B. Janowksi, “Ein Tempel aus Worten: Zur theologischen Architektur des Psalters,” in E. Zenger (ed.), The Composition of the Book of Psalms (BETL, 238; Leuven: Peeters, 2010), 279–305. reference

[3] B. Weber, Werkbuch Psalmen III. Theologie und Spiritualität des Psalters und seiner Psalmen (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 2010), 50–54; idem, “‘HERR, wie viele sind geworden meine Beidränger …’ (Ps 3,2a): Psalm 1–3 als Ouvertüre des Psalters unter besonderer Berücksichtigung von Psalm 3 und seinem Präskcript,” in E. Ballhorn and G. Steins (ed.), Der Bibelkanon in der Bibelauslegung. Methodenreflexionen und Beispielexegesen (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 2007), 231–51; idem, “Buchouvertüre Psalm 1–3 und ihre Bedeutung für das Verständnis des Psalters,” OTE 23 (2001), 834–45. reference

[4] B. Weber, “Der Beitrag von Psalm 1 zu einer ‘Theologie der Schrift,’” JETh 20 (2006), 83–114 (87). reference

[5] For a brief but cogent argument to the contrary, see recently G. Fischer, “Jeremia und die Psalmen,” in E. Zenger (ed.) The Composition of the Book of Psalms (BETL, 238; Leuven: Peeters, 2010), 469–78. reference

[6] E. Ballhorn, “Die gefährliche Doxologie: Eine Theologie des Gotteslobes in den Psalmen,” BiLi 77 (2004), 11–19 (18). reference

[7] HALOT 2:702–703; cf. Official Aramaic nsyk (DNWSI 2:735; Ahiqar XI, 80) and Akkadian nasīku (AHw 2:754 s.v. nasīku II; CAD N/2, 27 s.v.). reference

[8] For a critique of the adoptionistic interpretation, see J. J. M. Roberts, “Whose Child is This? Reflections on the Speaking Voice in Isaiah 9:5,” HTR 90 (1997), 115–129. reference

[9] A. Bertholet, “Eine crux interpretum: Ps 2,11f.” ZAW 28 (1908), 58–59. reference

[10] For a recent study of the history of interpretation of Psalm 2 prior to 150 c.e., see S. Janse, “You are My Son”. The Reception History of Psalm 2 in Early Judaism and the Early Church (Contributions to Biblical Exegesis & Theology, 51; Leuven: Peeters, 2009), and my review of that volume in JHS 11 (2011). reference

[11] F. Hartenstein and B. Janowski, “Psalmen/Psalter,” in Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart (4th ed.; ed. H. D. Betz et al.; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2003), 6:1761–1777; ET “Psalms/Psalter,” in Religion Past & Present (ed. H. D. Betz et al.; Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2011), 10:489–499. reference

[12] On Psalterexegese, see recently E. Zenger, “Psalmenexegese und Psalterexegese: Eine Forschungsskizze,” in E. Zenger (ed.)The Composition of the Book of Psalms (BETL, 238; Leuven: Peeters, 2010), 17–65. reference