Over the last thirty years I have studied and thought about the Book of Psalms quite a lot. In fact, my interest in them begins further back still. When I was seeking a dissertation subject for my degree in English Literature in 1981, my tutor steered me toward a collection of songs called Ye Gude and Godlie Ballatis (The Good and Godly Ballads) by two brothers called Wedderburn. This book, I discovered, played an important part in the revival of faith which took place at the time of the Scottish Reformation. Although some of these songs looked clumsy to me, still people went around singing them and the Christian faith spread more by singing than by preaching. This, I discovered later, was a pattern of many spiritual awakenings. In fact, dealing with these songs was something of a spiritual awakening for me. Around that time I began reading the Psalms quite a lot.
After undergraduate studies in theology, I became a teacher for six years in a boys school in Africa. There I began to teach myself Hebrew so I could study the Psalms better. One day, as I sat with my Biblia Hebraica open in front of me, I became deeply aware that they were ancient songs, and I fell into a profound reverie about what had happened to their music. Where had it gone? And could it ever be found? And where would one begin? Little did I know that day that the music of the Psalms was lying there in front of me, in the cantillation marks inserted in the Hebrew text by the Masoretes. But my reverie that day guided my steps over these many years. I went on to do a Masters in Biblical Interpretation (London School of Theology) with a dissertation on the Songs of Ascents. Then I went back to my homeland to do a PhD (1992-1995) in New College, Edinburgh, on the Psalms. My studies there led to a hypothesis that the Psalms were redacted to reflect a sequence of messianic and eschatological events, something like 'eschatological programme' found in Zechariah 9-14. This thesis was duly published in the JSOT Supplement Series as The Message of the Psalter: An Eschatological Programme in the Book of Psalms.
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