Psalms of the Faithful: Luther’s Early Reading of the Psalter in Canonical Context

Brian T. German

Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2017. Paperback. 217 pages. $25.99.

Reviewed by Jeffrey H. Pulse on 08/21/2018

In Psalms of the Faithful, German explores Luther’s approach and reading of various Psalms with an eye for the final form and canonical context, as opposed to a focus simply upon the historical development and isagogical statistics. This approach is a nod to more modern research and exhibits the influence of Brevard Childs as well as German’s doctoral father, Christopher Seitz. Since so much work has focused on the world “behind” the text of the Psalms, it is refreshing to read a work that focuses more upon the world of the text, and even more interesting, the world “in front of” the text.

German accomplishes his task by working with Luther’s early lectures on a select group of Psalms as he traces Luther’s understanding of the “faithful synagogue”. While others had previously supported the idea of “faithful synagogue” (Augustine; Cassiodorus), it was Luther who identified Christ as both content and speaker—Christ is the true literal sense of each and every Psalm. Thus, Luther identified the Old Testament readers of the Psalms as “faithful synagogue” for they heard and saw Christ in the words of the Psalter. German’s contribution here is made by examining Luther’s emphasis on the faithful synagogue in relation to the canonical shape of the Hebrew Psalter and how this has played an important role in the history of interpretation.

The author accomplishes his task well and provides an important reading of the Psalter and a window into Luther’s interpretive approach. German’s book is an academic treatment of Luther’s use of the Psalms and may be difficult to digest for the average layman, but it is quite helpful for those who would take a closer look at Luther’s use of the Psalms.