Book Review: A Commentary on The Psalms by Allen P. Ross

Kregel Exegetical Library: A Commentary on the Psalms by Allen RossA Commentary on The Psalms, Volume 1: 1-41 by Allen P. Ross

I am a lay person who is a ‘serious (zealous) student of the Bible’, as this blog name suggests. I read the exposition of Genesis by Ross entitled Creation and Blessing and became a fan of him and his style. That exposition was perfect for me and my level of development as is this commentary/exposition of the Psalms. According to Ross it’s “for pastors, teachers and all serious students of the Bible.” This commentary isn’t quite as academic as Goldingay’s for example, but it’s also not for beginners. It’s very thorough, and didn’t leave me wanting at all. In fact, he answers questions I didn’t know I had. It would be a little much for a new Christian, especially the introduction. At nearly 900 pages for volume 1 of 3, it may also look a little intimidating to some. But I like big books.

I find introductions to commentaries extremely helpful. This one is fairly long and extremely informative, and even motivating. One of the most ‘valuable’ parts of the Introduction is The Value of the Psalms. He quotes quite a few people from different time periods, including Calvin, and writes about the importance of the Psalms, how this importance used to be realized, and how the church in general has lost their value and stopped using the Psalms as a model for prayer and use in worship beyond a cursory reading here and there. This has inspired me to spend more time with the Psalms and this is the type of commentary that can be used in sort of a devotional way, for lack of a better term.

There are quite a few subjects dealt with using just the right amount of words, a few of them being Literary Forms, Theology of the Psalms and a guide to Exposition of the Psalms.

Ross is experienced in teaching the exposition of the Psalms in the seminary classroom and expounding them in churches, and has gained a good sense of what needs to be explained in a concise way, which I think shows in this commentary.

As opposed to taking a verse or line from a Psalm for a message (or plaque?) Ross says, “the exposition should cover the entire psalm, and that it should not only explain the text verse-by-verse but also show how the message of the psalm unfolds section-by-section. After all, a psalm is a piece of literature and therefore has a unified theme and a progression of thoughts developing that theme.” He has “not included views down the history of interpretation” but mainly sticks to his own exposition except for various quotes from others used sparingly. This is definitely not a ‘commentary on commentaries’.

Some Hebrew words are shown and explained. There are no transliterations, which aren’t helpful anyway. For those who don’t know the language, he describes the words in a pretty understandable way. Footnotes deal further with Hebrew, Greek (Septuagint) and various English translations.

Each Psalm has his own fairly literal/formal translation along with textual variant issues dealt with in the footnotes. Then Composition and Context, Exegetical Analysis (an outline), Commentary in Expository Form, and Message and Application.

He seems to answer most or all of my questions as mentioned before. Ross explains many of the terms, phrases and Hebrew idioms that people like me can learn from. For pastors it can help in wording explanations. In Psalm 13 for example, Ross explains why it is a lament, how the text shows that the trouble is ongoing, what the significance of an asposiopesis is, and explains what remember means in this context.

I have been given a copy of the book by Kregel Publications for an unbiased review. I’m afraid I sound like it’s not very unbiased because the review is so positive. The only possible negative thing I can find at this point is that the typeface is a little on the large size for me, although half the people reading this would appreciate that. A bit smaller and the book wouldn’t be so large and wouldn’t have as much of a “rudimentary” look, because it’s not. The quality of the paper is very good and the cover design bound to the hard cover (no need for a silly dust jacket) is very classy.

I think this commentary would be valuable for nearly anyone. I would only rule out new Christians as mentioned before because they might get lost with many of the theological terms and subjects, especially in the introduction, even though it isn’t at a high academic or technical level. For those who are motivated though, I’m sure they would benefit in some way and it would be a good investment for the future.

Ross mentions that volume 3 will have an extensive bibliography and writes about how important it is to have more than one source. He emphasized that this isn’t the only commentary one should own. If I can afford it, I would like to acquire the other volumes. I haven’t gotten word yet when the they may be arriving, but if I find out, I’ll let you know. (See Vol. 2 and 3 of A Commentary on the Psalms by Ross for an update.)

Excerpt at

Publisher: Kregel Academic & Professional (February 29, 2012)
Hardcover: 928 pages
ISBN: 978-0-8254-2562-2

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