When I was asked about reviewing Zondervan's new NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible I was asked if I would choose a section to review. I chose the Psalms. As a new Religious Studies Instructor for high schoolers I was tasked with teaching both Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) and New Testament. The NT is far more familiar to me, but I adore the OT as well, especially the Psalms.
I have said a bit about the volume as a whole already. In gist, I think it is a solid volume. I respect the scholars who contribute to it. I do not jive with the evangelical presuppositions that go into discussions on certain topics such as authors, dates, and historicity, but I do have evangelical students to whom I would happily recommend this book and I am glad to have a copy of my shelf.
What of the Psalms though, specifically? The introduction addresses "Ancient Hymnody" and "Poetry and Genre" to help prepare the reader to understand the context of the Psalms. There blocks of information throughout on subjects such as "Psalms Titles", "Honor-Shame Cultures", and "Community Lament in the Ancient Near East", just to name a few of many. Ancient inscriptions, steles, and panels from the Levant are found in full colored pictures. The notes are extensive, clarifying many of the odd imagery and metaphors found in the various psalms. In the pictures below, I share a sample from Psalm 51. Throughout the text there is a bar in the middle that provides a variety of cross references.
This volume's take on the Psalms is helpful not only to my students, but I value it as a rookie instructor. It allows me to think about new ways I might teach the Psalms and connections to the ancient world I should make for my students. It's aesthetically pleasings and academically astute.
If you have any questions about this volume, please leave a comment!