Book Reviews

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Book review: Psalms: A Pastoral and Contextual Commentary

Reviewed by Martin Paterson

Mission Round Table Vol. 17 No. 2 (May-Dec 2022): 35

 

Christians across all generations have returned time and again to the Psalms. Like shade on a warm day or views from a stunning vista, these songs provide rest for the weary, language expressing deep longings, and imagery granting a greater appreciation of God’s glory. Though there is no shortage of material on the Psalms, Villanueva’s two-volume commentary (Psalm 1–72; Psalm 73–150) holds a unique place.

A key reason is the balance between well-researched scholarship and pastoral application. In a move to address a weakness in Psalms scholarship from the West, Villanueva sets out to apply each Psalm to the world we live in today. Each Psalm commentary follows the pattern of application then detailed, though not overly technical, study. Real-world scenarios are addressed with sensitivity regarding the tone or mood of the psalmist, allowing the text to speak on its own terms.

Although Villanueva speaks from the Filipino context, his observations are not limited to this setting. Through regular use of Filipino language or idioms, he enables the reader to access a potentially unfamiliar culture and some of these insights open interesting avenues of discussion. For example, his use of the Filipino concept of Pagsusumbong is a particularly notable contribution to thought on imprecatory prayer.

Two further details are worth highlighting. First, the topical interludes interspersed throughout each volume are helpful and are a particular strength of these works. Not shying away from the challenges that the Psalms present, Villanueva handles the subjects of psychological depression, social justice, and colonialism in a considered manner. While these are brief treatments that could easily be expanded upon, they are helpful stimuli for further thought and discussion.

Secondly, there is excellent content assessing the lament Psalms. There are circumstances personally, locally, and globally that lead us to times of deep pain or darkness. How should we walk with others through these times? How do we navigate them ourselves? With a sensitive and perceptive voice, Villanueva leads the reader to see the value of rediscovering biblical lament in the face of personal struggle and global turmoil.

These volumes will have varied use and appeal. They will be a good reference tool for Bible teachers, whether in Asia or other parts of the world, as they seek to provide theological reflection with pastoral application. Some readers will find these to be helpful companions in reading the Psalms from a devotional perspective. Each Psalm is addressed, but in a manageable amount for daily use. For students at seminary across the world, they will provide a good way to engage with pastoral scholarship from another cultural context.

 

Psalms 1–72:

A Pastoral and Contextual Commentary

Federico Villanueva .  

Carlisle: Langham , 2016 . ISBN 978-178368-865-4. 343 pp.

 

Psalms 73–150:

A Pastoral and Contextual Commentary

Federico Villanueva .  

Carlisle: Langham , 2022 ISBN 978-83973-264-5. 420 pp.

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