This volume of thoughts on the psalms emphasizes their informal nature. Lewis relates the psalms to their triple background: to the ancient Judaic religion which produced them, to the age of Christ when they took on new meanings, and to our daily experience in the modern world.This volume of thoughts on the psalms emphasizes their informal nature. Lewis relates the psalms to their triple background: to the ancient Judaic religion which produced them, to the age of Christ when they took on new meanings, and to our daily experience in the modern world.Read Less
I consider this one of Lewis? lesser works, or minor works, perhaps because it is not on one theme, so it is not as cohesive as other books. Lewis admits, at the beginning, ?I write for the unlearned about things on which I am unlearned myself.? He writes as a schoolboy discussing the topic with classmates, not as a teacher who knows so much he doesn?t understand the problem. In other words, it is not so much theology as reader?s reaction.
The problem is how to read the Psalms, how to interpret some of the statements. Lewis starts with the difficult themes, such as expression of hate. For instance, the cursing of Psalm 109, verses 7-11:
When he shall be judge, let him be condemned: and let his prayer become sin.
Let his days be few; and let another take his office.
Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.
Let his children be continually vagabonds, and beg: let them seek their bread also out of their desolate places.
Let the extortioner catch all that he hath; and let the strangers spoil his labor.
Lewis points out, for the contemporary Christian, this is not a justification for hatred. Rather we should recognize the sentiment to repent of, and the harm done ? the hatred caused ? by injustice. To quote Lewis, ?Take from a man his freedom or his goods and you may have taken his innocence, almost his humanity, as well.?
The next chapter, Death, emphasizes a recurring lesson: beware of reading the Psalms from the contemporary Christian perspective, take into account the context in which they were written. This relates to the chapter on death as Christians think of the eternal life that awaits. In the Psalms there is no eternal life after death.
There are two chapters on Second Meanings, which justify contemporary readings and the Christian perspective. Reading some of the verses as prophetic of Christ is not wrong. For instance, Psalm 45 anticipates the Nativity. But the Psalmist may not have known it was prophecy at the time of writing it. For Lewis it is not surprising that the words would take on more meaning with time as 1) he believes God guided the writers of the scriptures, and 2) he believes in the mythopoeic, a term he uses in other essays to describe the truths expressed in myths, including pagan and other religions. Christ not only fulfills Old Testament scripture, but the pagan by ?transcending and abrogating it.?
In the chapter, Scripture, Lewis writes a passage important to reading all of his works:
?I have been suspected of being what is called a Fundamentalist. That is because I never regard any narrative as unhistorical simply on the ground that it includes the miraculous. Some people find the miraculous so hard to believe that they cannot imagine any reason for my acceptance of it other than a prior belief that every sentence of the Old Testament has historical or scientific truth. But this I do not hold, any more than St. Jerome did when he said that Moses described Creation ?after the manner of a popular poet? (as we should say, mythically) or than Calvin did when he doubted whether the story of Job were history or fiction. The real reason why I can accept as historical a story in which a miracle occurs is that I have never found any philosophical grounds for the universal negative proposition that miracles do not happen.?
Jul 17, 2009
Written in the Lewis style thought provoking and informative insight into the psalms. Get a deeper meaning without having to study Hebrew.
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