An Introduction to the Psalms

Written by Hermann Gunkel (completed by Joachim Begrich), translated by James D. Nogalski Reviewed By Philip Johnston

At last, 65 years after the German original, an English translation of one of the seminal works in modern Psalms study. This is a book which all students refer to but few ever read, and many tutors will be enormously grateful to Mercer for enabling them to direct their students back beyond the secondary literature to Gunkel’s own presentation.

The translation is generally very good. In particular, it succeeds (where many others fail) in rendering long and complex Germanic sentences into shorter and simpler English ones. Thus the move from one scholarly culture and time to another is greatly facilitated. Occasionally the translation contains quaint phrasing (as in the opening description of the psalter as ‘most beloved’), but only rarely is the original meaning obscure (as on p. 3, line 5). It is a great pity that the original page numbers are not indicated, as this would have enabled following up references in subsequent literature. Nevertheless, this is an essential resource for every library, and will allow many to appreciate the depth and nuances of Gunkel’s work within in its own scholarly context.

Philip Johnston

Wycliffe Hall, Oxford