Psalms Bible Commentary: Interview with C. Hassell Bullock

C. Hassell Bullock PsalmsC. Hassell Bullock (Ph.D., Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion) is professor of Old Testament studies at Wheaton College and former president of the Evangelical Theological Society. Dr. Bullock has served as both a professor and as a pastor in 10 different churches. He is the author of An Introduction to the Old Testament Prophetic Books, Encountering the Book of Psalms, and An Introduction to the Old Testament Poetic Books. Dr. Bullock resides in Wheaton, Illinois.

1. What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this two-volume commentary on Psalms?

I have taught the Psalms for many years at Wheaton College (IL), and led my students in singing them from the various Christian traditions. Many of these students have come to recognize and use the Psalms as a resource of faith and guidance for life. Additionally, during my thirty-six years on the Wheaton faculty, for thirty of those years I have served the church in pastoral and educational capacities, most of which involved preaching on a regular basis. In my last position I preached a sermon series on the Psalms as I was writing the commentary.

2. Who is the intended audience for the Teach the Text series? Would your Psalms commentaries benefit pastors? professors? students? lay Christians in the local church?

The intended audience is pastors and teachers in the church, but I have also written the commentary in such a way that it will be useful for the college and seminary classroom. I have also revised my introduction to the Psalms, Encountering the Book of Psalms (Baker, rev. ed., 2018), and brought it into a coordinate relationship with the commentary, dealing with some issues in the introduction that seem less appropriate for the commentary.

The format of the commentary consists of ten rubrics: Big idea, Understanding the Text, The Text in Context, Key Themes, Outline/Structure, Historical and Cultural Background, Interpretive Insights, Theological Insights, Teaching the Text, and Illustrating the Text. Pastors and teachers of the church will find helpful insights into the theology of each psalm, guidance for preparing a sermon on each psalm, and useful illustrations to reinforce the sermon or lesson. Professors of Bible will also find the canonical approach to contain many insights about how the book was compiled and the various thematic strands that weave their way through the many collections of psalms and the Psalter as a whole. Lay persons may also find the commentary a helpful way to study and rehearse the psalms on a continuing basis by reading the commentary as a devotional guide.

3. What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to studies of Psalms?

This commentary follows the canonical method and helps the reader to see the background against which each of the five books of the Psalter was collected and how the various themes of the book as a whole correlate. While there are multiple themes in the Psalms, some portions of the Psalter are dominated by specific themes and emphases that stretch through entire collections.

4. What section or passage of these commentaries was particularly memorable to research and write? Why?

Psalms from the Algonquian Bible

Psalms from the Algonquian Bible

Book 5 of the Psalter (Psalms 107-150) is composed of numerous layers of material, most of which reflects Israel’s return from the Babylonian exile and the rebuilding of the temple and restoration of worship. It is the most stylized of the five books, and deals with the historical and theological issues of Israel’s reconstitution as a people in the postexilic era. While Books 1 (Pss. 1-41) and 2 (Pss. 42-72) are composed largely of David psalms, his voice falls away significantly in Books 3 (Pss. 73-89) and 4 (Pss. 90-106), with only one David psalm in Book 3 and two in Book 4, but comes back strong again in Book 5, and that for a theological reason.

5. What personally edified you in writing these commentaries, increasing your affections for Christ?

I have been personally edified by discovering and rediscovering the loving and faithful character of God portrayed in the Psalms, and the unfaithful nature of humanity, and to learn that Paul’s lesson is so acutely taught in the Psalms, that where sin abounds, grace more abundantly abounds.

A second point of edification, among others too numerous to name, is that in biblical theology and the worship of the church, creation and redemption should stand alongside each other, and are the validating truths that the God of Scripture is worthy of our worship. The Creator God and the Redeemer God are the same God, and redemption, acclaimed and appropriated by the psalmists, can only be recognized in its full dimensions and power when the Redeemer is also the Creator. Indeed, only the Creator can redeem.

6. Besides your commentaries, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on Psalms?

1. John Calvin, A Commentary on the Psalms (5 vols.)

2. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible

3. Amos Hakham, Psalms, A Commentary, 3 vols. (Jerusalem Commentary series)

4. Konrad Schaefer, Psalms (Berit Olam series)

7. What is next for you? What project are you currently working on? How can people follow your work and ministry?

I am working on a theology of the Psalms. Also I just finished reading the galleys for the revision of my Encountering the Book of Psalms, that will appear in May 2018 (Baker Academic).

I am on Facebook and can receive messages there. Also LinkedIn.

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