I have always enjoyed reading Westermann for some reason or another. I just finished reading Westermann’s book entitled Psalms for the second time with the first time being a very long time ago back when I was in seminary. And, I would have to say that I would heartily recommend the book. It is a short, quick read written in an engaging, interesting style.
It is not so much that the content of the book is unchallenged. Some of the ideas in fact have been challenged with one example springing immediately to mind being the existence of Wisdom Psalms. Westermann discusses Wisdom Psalms; however, subsequent scholars have questioned this category on the basis that there are no firm criteria for placing a Psalm in this category other than vocabulary. Certainly some Psalms exhibit many of the characteristics of Wisdom literature, but do these Psalms merit their own category? In addition the whole idea of categories has been shown to be somewhat difficult to work with in every circumstance since some Psalms use mixed forms and do not fit well into any of the types.
With that said, some of the forms discussed by Westermann do still provide a helpful paradigm for discussing the Psalms as a whole, continuing to show up in places like Miller’s Interpreting the Psalms. In addition, for those unfamiliar with form criticism in general Westermann on the Psalms (as well as Westermann on the Basic Forms of Prophetic Speech) provides, in my opinion, an accessible and very practical example of form criticism at work. I am not strictly a form critic, as I do not think that anyone in today’s climate in Biblical Studies can be simply one type of critic or another; however, I do think that I have been able to glean a great deal from Westermann concerning in what ways form criticism can be helpful.
So, go ahead and read Westermann on the Psalms. It’s only 132 pages and worth the short amount of time.
Related – Check out some of my other Psalms posts from last week: