It has been said that the Psalter is the prayer book of the Bible, as well as its songbook. In Prof. N.T. Wright’s course ‘Selections from the Psalms’ you are invited into worshipful study of the songs and prayers that shaped many of Jesus’s own teachings and prayers. 

You might wonder how, or even why, one might endeavour to study the Psalms, since they are often used for times of quiet contemplation and devotion rather than academic or theological reflection. Seriously studying Psalms, however, is important for fully understanding Jesus’s life and achievement. Jesus often referenced Psalms when teaching his followers, and echoed them in his own prayers, as recorded by the Gospel authors. 

This is an important course that foregrounds many of Prof. Wright’s teachings in our upcoming course on ‘The Gospel of Mark’. 

Consider Psalm 88, which has historically been used by Christians to give voice to cries of the heart when burdened heavily. When there are no words to express our turmoil or sorrow, some find that this passage expresses the experience of personal despair or abandonment. 

Prof. Wright asks us to consider ‘what it might it have been like between the night of Jesus’s hearing before Caiaphas and being taken to Pilate’, quoting Psalm 88 as a likely emotion. He demonstrates how Mark weaves many of the Psalms into his narrative as signposts to what is happening in and through Jesus.

‘Don’t Soften the Blow’ of Jesus’ Forsaken Moment

In our upcoming course, Prof. Wright illustrates how Mark picks up and carries forward some of the themes in the Psalms. You will learn how the Psalms foreshadow Jesus coming to take the place of utter darkness upon himself in order to establish God’s Kingdom. You will read Psalm 22:1, Jesus’s cry from the cross, with fresh eyes. And, you will reflect on how these ancient texts inform our view of God, and perhaps even revise your understanding of statements such as, ‘God is in control’.

As objects of contemplation, devotion, and of serious study, the Psalms ultimately help us navigate the gaps in and give voice to questions that theology cannot resolve completely. The Psalms assure us that the God of the Old Testament is the God of covenant love—the God in Jesus Christ, who, by the Spirit, is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. 

We extend a warm invitation to you to study these selections from the Psalms and hope you will join us!

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Jennifer Loop

Jennifer Loop is Content Developer for the Wisconsin Centre for Christian Studies. Currently, she is working towards her doctorate in the study of practical theology at Durham University, centering her research on forgiveness. Jennifer has served as a leader in Celebrate Recovery, a Christian 12-step recovery program. She is married to Gary and they live in West Bend with their twenty-year-old cat, Caleb.