The words and images of the psalms are so rich, complex, and evocative that it is possible to become lost in them; one can lose track of where one is within a psalm, or of where the psalm is going. The psalms are, however, carefully plotted; they are designed to move the reader - the "prayer" of the psalms - both literarily and metaphorically. The problem is that their plots are often invisible to a modern eye, and it is all too easy to disregard, or fail to recognize, their sometimes subtle literary movement. One may grasp the words and savor the images, and yet lose the thread of the psalm as a whole. Clifford differs from other commentators on the psalms chiefly in his concern with the inner dramatic logic of the psalms: how the psalms organize the experience and desires of the "prayer" and bring them to a proper conclusion. His primary concern is to help readers see the pattern and progression within the psalms, while at the same time attending to the richness of their words and the texture of their imagery.
This commentary helps a modern "prayer" of the psalms to understand the connections of each psalm to the rest of the Bible and to discern how the great theological themes of covenant, divine mercy and justice, and human response play out through the psalms in prayer. It gives attention to Christian and Jewish reception of the psalms and seeks to resolve such troubling ethical issues as the ethnocentrism, hatred of enemies, and expressions of revenge that do occur in them. While interacting with classic and contemporary commentaries as it provides literary, theological, and ethical analysis of each psalm, this work distinctively seeks to make the psalms available as a true book of prayer for contemporary believers.
Richard J. Clifford
Richard J. Clifford, S.J., a native of Lewiston, Maine, is Dean of the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry and Professor of Old Testament. Prior to becoming Dean, he taught biblical studies at Weston Jesuit School of Theology in Cambridge from 1970 to 2008. He was ordained as a Jesuit priest in 1966. He is a graduate of Boston College (A.B., M.A.), Weston Jesuit School of Theology (S.T.L.) and Harvard University (Ph.D.). He was General Editor of the Catholic Biblical Quarterly and is a former President of the Catholic Biblical Association. As well as teaching and lecturing in scholarly circles, he also is active in adult education in various New England dioceses.