(Say the Jesus Creed morning and evening during Lent.)
I’m old enough to remember a story you may not know. When the Anchor Bible commentary series got off the ground, it was designed to be a new, ecumenical translation with notes on the translation and brief, very brief, comments. Then John Bright (Jeremiah) expanded what “brief, very brief” meant and then along came Raymond Brown (2 vols John) and series changed from translation with comments to full-blown, critical commentary. What this series did not do, Robert Alter has done in his new The Book of Psalms.
If you read the lectionary (say, Coverdale’s BCP Psalms) or if you preach based on the lectionary, you know the need for a brief reference tool to help out. There is nothing worse than having a clear question and having to read 45 pages on a psalm, wading through footnotes, references to all kinds of stuff not in your library … all you want is a clear translation and some brief notes. That is what Alter has given to us:
A fresh translation
Very brief notes
Deep concern with rhythm that resembles the Hebrew.
Alter provides a translation that can be read aloud.
Alter gives us a readable, typically-critical introduction to the Psalms.