Psalms 1-50

series: Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible

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The biblical psalms are perhaps the most commented-upon texts in human history. They are at once deeply alluring and deeply troubling. In this addition to the acclaimed Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible, Ellen Charry offers a theological reading of Psalms 1-50, exploring the various voices in the poems to discern the conversation they engage about God, suffering, and hope as well as ways of community belonging. The commentary examines the context of the psalms as worship--tending to both their original setting and their subsequent Jewish and Christian appropriation--and explores the psychological dynamics facing the speaker. The book includes a foreword by William P. Brown.

The general editor for the Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible is R. R. Reno (editor, First Things). Series editors include Robert W. Jenson (Center of Theological Inquiry); Robert Louis Wilken (University of Virginia); Ephraim Radner (Wycliffe College, University of Toronto); Michael Root (Catholic University of America); and George Sumner (Episcopal Diocese of Dallas).

Volumes in the Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible

R. R. Reno
(editor, First Things) on Genesis
Thomas Joseph White (Thomistic Institute at the Angelicum in Rome) on Exodus
Ephraim Radner (Wycliffe College, University of Toronto) on Leviticus
David L. Stubbs (Western Theological Seminary) on Numbers
Telford Work (Westmont College) on Deuteronomy
Paul Hinlicky (Roanoke College) on Joshua
Laura A. Smit (Calvin University) and Stephen Fowl (Loyola University Maryland) on Judges & Ruth
Francesca Aran Murphy (University of Notre Dame) on 1 Samuel
Robert Barron (Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles) on 2 Samuel
Peter J. Leithart (Theopolis Institute for Bible, Liturgy, and Culture) on 1 & 2 Kings
Peter J. Leithart (Theopolis Institute for Bible, Liturgy, and Culture) on 1 & 2 Chronicles
Matthew Levering (Mundelein Seminary) on Ezra & Nehemiah
Samuel Wells (St. Martin-in-the-Fields Anglican Church, London) and George Sumner (Episcopal Diocese of Dallas) on Esther & Daniel
Ellen T. Charry (Princeton Theological Seminary) on Psalms 1-50
Jason Byassee (Vancouver School of Theology) on Psalms 101-150
Daniel J. Treier (Wheaton College Graduate School) on Proverbs & Ecclesiastes
Paul J. Griffiths on Song of Songs
Robert W. Jenson (1930-2017; Center of Theological Inquiry) on Ezekiel
Phillip Cary (Eastern University) on Jonah
Stanley Hauerwas (Duke Divinity School) on Matthew
David Lyle Jeffrey (Baylor University) on Luke
Jaroslav Pelikan (1923-2006; Yale University) on Acts
Kimlyn J. Bender (Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University) on 1 Corinthians
Kathryn Greene-McCreight (The Episcopal Church at Yale) on Galatians
Michael Allen (Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando) on Ephesians
George Hunsinger (Princeton Theological Seminary) on Philippians
Christopher R. Seitz (Wycliffe College, University of Toronto) on Colossians
Douglas Farrow (McGill University) on 1 & 2 Thessalonians
Risto Saarinen (University of Helsinki) on the Pastoral Epistles with Philemon & Jude
Douglas Harink (The King's University College) on 1 & 2 Peter
Joseph L. Mangina (Wycliffe College, University of Toronto) on Revelation


"It is a wonder and a gift to have a systematic theologian slow down and focus attention on the particularity of biblical texts. No one doing theology can do that more effectively than Charry, who considers the Psalms in their ancient orbit but draws them boldly toward contemporaneity for Christian readers. Charry's attentiveness to the recurring issue of suffering and hope is a welcome accent. Her book is a persuasive addition to the growing corpus of books that intend to bring the Psalter more fully into play in the life, faith, and practice of the church."

Walter Brueggemann, Columbia Theological Seminary

"This is a very thoughtful, theological reflection on the Psalter. Truly to be commended is the seriousness with which Charry takes up the settings provided by the psalm titles themselves as well as the questions raised by Jewish and Christian interpreters over the centuries. In this way, the commentary allows the theological depth of the Psalter to open up new vistas for the religious life."

Gary A. Anderson, Hesburgh Professor of Catholic Theology, University of Notre Dame

"Charry's multilayered commentary focuses on the matters that are of most concern to those who pray--struggles with doubt and doubters, evildoers and the problem of evil, the absence and invisibility of God. Grounded in a close reading of the text, this widely useful volume steadily demonstrates how the psalmists discover and rediscover God's faithfulness."

Ellen F. Davis, Amos Ragan Kearns Distinguished Professor of Bible and Practical Theology, Duke Divinity School

"Bringing deep theological wisdom and human experience to reading and hearing the Psalms, Ellen Charry has given us a beautiful commentary in every way--exegetical, theological, and pastoral. While she pursues the meaning of the psalms and what is going on in them, her deep interest is in uncovering what they teach us theologically and anthropologically. In the process, she smoothly integrates the many voices through the ages--both Jewish and Christian interpreters--who have sought to understand the psalms."

Patrick D. Miller, professor of Old Testament theology emeritus, Princeton Theological Seminary

"Ellen Charry's exposition of Psalms 1-50 is in a class of its own as a theological exposition of an Old Testament book. As William Brown's foreword says, she mines the real theological and pastoral value of the Psalms for all they're worth. I shall often come back to this commentary when I am seeking further perspective on the significance of these inexhaustible praises and prayers."

John Goldingay, David Allan Hubbard Professor of Old Testament, Fuller Theological Seminary

"The Psalms are daily bread for the broken hearted. Ellen Charry reads them this way and in doing so opens her commentary for my Jewish eyes as well as the eyes of her many Christian readers. Her engagement with the Psalter's 'blistering honesty' is unblinking, attending to its negative emotions, including 'the experience of abandonment by God.' Hovering above all this is the lesson she learns from Psalms 1 and 2 and applies to her reading of all fifty psalms: Israel's faithfulness to God is a blessing both for the people of Israel and for all those who come thereby to know God's glory."

Peter Ochs, Edgar Bronfman Professor of Modern Judaic Studies, University of Virginia

"By asking how psalms relate to but also challenge later Christian theology, Ellen Charry reads them as part of the Christian's Bible without claiming they speak specifically of Christ. As a result, her commentary will interest--and truly guide--people of more than one faith. Charry often shows how movement among voices allows a psalm to engage various audiences. Interestingly, much the same can be said about her own commentary; she speaks on several levels in ways that a wide variety of readers will find relevant and compelling. Charry displays constant interest in uncomfortable moral or political issues in the psalms, providing original readings that work through these issues with depth, compassion, and honesty."

Benjamin D. Sommer, professor of Bible, Jewish Theological Seminary; editor of the forthcoming Jewish Publication Society Psalms Commentary

Praise for the Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible

"What a splendid idea! Many preachers have been longing for more commentaries that are not only exegetical but theological in the best sense: arising out of the conviction that God, through his Word, still speaks in our time. For those of us who take our copies of Martin Luther's Galatians and Karl Barth's Romans from the shelves on a regular basis, this new series in that tradition promises renewed vigor for preaching, and therefore for the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church in our time."

Fleming Rutledge, author of The Bible and The New York Times and The Seven Last Words from the Cross

"This new series places the accent on 'theological' and reflects current interpretive ferment marked by growing resistance to the historical-critical project. It may be that scripture interpretation is too important to be left to the exegetes, and so a return to the theologians. We will wait with great anticipation for this new series, at least aware that the outcomes of interpretation are largely determined by the questions asked. It is never too late to ask better questions; with a focus on the theological tradition, this series holds the promise of asking interpretive questions that are deeply grounded in the primal claims of faith. The rich promise of the series is indicated by the stature and erudition of the commentators. Brazos has enormous promises to keep with this project, and we wait with eagerness for its appearing!"

Walter Brueggemann, Columbia Theological Seminary

"The Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible makes a most welcome contribution to the church, the academic world, and the general public at large. By enlisting a wide range of Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox theologians who differ on much, but who agree on the truth of the Nicene Creed, the series also represents ecumenical activity of the very best kind. It is always a daunting challenge to expound the church's sacred book both simply and deeply, but this impressive line-up of authors is very well situated for the attempt."

Mark A. Noll, University of Notre Dame

"Preachers and teachers in particular, but thoughtful Christians more generally, have long lamented the slide of biblical scholarship into hyper-specialized critical studies of ancient texts in remote historical context. It is no wonder, therefore, that the Brazos Theological Commentary is being so warmly welcomed. The outstanding array of authors, beginning with Jaroslav Pelikan's splendid commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, is, at long last, reclaiming the Bible as the book of the living community of faith that is the church."

Richard John Neuhaus, author of American Babylon: Notes of a Christian Exile

"Contemporary application of the Bible to life is the preacher's business. But no worthy contemporary application is possible without a thorough understanding of the ancient text. The Brazos Theological Commentary exists to provide an accessible authority so that the preacher's application will be a ready bandage for all the hurts of life. We who serve the pulpit want a commentary we can understand, and those who hear us expect us to give them a usable word. The Brazos Commentary offers just the right level of light to make illuminating the word the joy it was meant to be."

Calvin Miller, author of A Hunger for the Holy and Loving God Up Close

"For pastors, wanting to get at the theological heart of a text, there is some good stuff. When I am preaching, I usually try to take a peek at the Brazos volume."

Nijay K. Gupta, Portland Seminary

The Author

  1. Ellen T. Charry

    Ellen T. Charry

    Ellen T. Charry (PhD, Temple University) is Margaret W. Harmon Professor of Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey. She is the author of numerous articles and several books, including God and the Art of Happiness. Charry has...

    Continue reading about Ellen T. Charry


"There is no better person to explore the doctrinal richness of the Psalms than Ellen T. Charry. . . . Charry is familiar with not only the history of doctrine but also the history of interpretation of the book of Psalms. Furthermore, she knows Hebrew quite well (and several times provides her own translation of key verses), has interacted carefully with recent Psalms scholarship, and is constantly attentive to the pastoral dimensions of the Psalms in terms of what they have taught and may continue to teach people and communities of faith. . . . Charry's volume is consistently in conversation with the doctrinal tradition and with major voices in the history of interpretation of the Psalms. . . . Charry's volume will have wide appeal and usefulness. It will certainly be of interest to biblical scholars, especially those who focus on the Psalms, along with those who view biblical interpretation as something more than an academic exercise. . . . This volume will undoubtedly be of great value to pastors, priests, rabbis, and religious educators whose vocation is all about theological pedagogy."

J. Clinton McCann Jr.,

Review of Biblical Literature

"Designed to serve the Church and further Biblical theology, the Brazos Commentary Series approaches Biblical texts, informed by doctrine from the Nicene tradition. Charry's book rises to the occasion, with frequent and elucidating references ranging from the Church Fathers . . . to modern commentators on the Psalms. . . . She also incorporates Jewish traditions richly. . . . Her sensitivity to religious traditions other than her own cultural background is evident. . . . Charry challenges the reader's assumptions and strives to broaden perspectives. . . . With an elegant writing style and many incisive insights from her own studies, Charry considers the Hebrew thoughtfully and closely . . . and makes various lively connections with other 'Older Testament' texts. . . . There is plenty of material here both to inspire afresh those who know the Psalms well, and to entice further those who would like to get to know them better."

Megan Daffern,

Expository Times

"I commend Charry's commentary for pastors, teachers, and those interested in Christian spirituality. . . . Charry's work uniquely contributes to the commentary literature on the Psalms. She focuses on the theology of the Psalms rather than their historical-grammatical context, as many other commentaries do. The commentary thus fills a theological gap within the body of commentary literature on the Psalms."

Wyatt A. Graham,

Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

"This poetically sensitive, theologically thoughtful commentary succeeds in interpreting Psalms for the twenty-first century church. . . . [Charry] honors the psalms' evocativeness by using linguistic and historical information to enrich, rather than constrain, our imagination about their relevance. . . . I applaud Charry's informed, open-hearted commentary and her recognition that there is more than one right way to read each psalm. I recommend her commentary as a useful companion for studying, praying, and preaching the psalms."

Marti J. Steussy,


"[Charry's] close reading of Psalms 1-50 results in literary insights and sensitive structural analysis. . . . The commentary would be particularly useful for the preacher on account of its literary, psychological, and historical insights. . . . The commentary is stimulating and worth consulting for a fresh perspective alongside technical commentaries."

Daniel C. Owens,

Trinity Journal

"A worthy example of contemporary theological commentary on the Bible, an approach that is gaining influence today."

Dianne Bergant, CSA,

The Bible Today