Brueggemann, The Use of the Psalter

Brueggemann, Dale A. The Use of the Psalter in John’s Apocalypse. D.Phil.-dissertation, Westminster Theological Seminary, 1995. 303 pp., incl. a 53 page bibliography and 11 pages of 7 appendices.

Dale Brueggemann was advised by Tremper Longman, III. Vern S. Poythress was the second faculty reader.

Here are some notes on Brueggemann’s thesis: As the title indicates, Brueggemann compares Revelation to the Greek Psalter. The study of the use of the Psalms in Revelation “should produce increased understanding of the message of Revelation” (p. 4). Thus, one should avoid both focusing only on the Psalms and neglecting the Psalms (and other OT texts used).

One must therefore deal with the problem of definition (p. 4f) and methodology (p. 5). As to the problem of probability, Brueggemann follows the leads by G. K. Beale (here) and, especially, Jon Paulien (here and here). Methodologically, Brueggemann rejects extremes represented by L. P. Trudinger and Louis A. Vos. Again, Paulien is the middle course.

However, one must be able to identify the sources of allusions and echoes, i.e. not just to establish a parallel, or affinity. Criteria include external evidence (pp. 18-25) and internal evidence, again using Beale and Paulien, as well as other scholars (pp. 25-28).

Brueggemann then discusses a methodology for relating allusions. One must interpret the NT passage in its own right, then actualise the OT allusions in the NT passage, using a five step procedure: recognise the marker; identify the source; actualize the relevant contextual elements; put it all together; and fit new pattern into the alluding text (pp. 28-39).

Brueggemann’s summary

Brueggemann summarises his study as follows:

The most common feature of Revelation’s use of Psalms was a typological approach. The foreshadowed messianism in David’s court, which the Psalms had reflected, found its fulfillment in the heavenly courts where the Son of David sits enthroned at the right hand of the Father of all of David’s sons. Because the Psalter’s language was so often heightened, we found ourselves dealing with typico-prophetic language, which even at its outset contained the seeds of eschatological hope in its heightened expressions of hope for the beleaguered Davidic dynasty.

We saw a heavy and flexible use of Psalms in Revelation; however, John reliably reflected the Psalms’ original Cultic Sitz im Leben, making use of the Psalms to depict the eschatological cultus. Even more emphasized was the Psalms’ original Royal Sitz im Leben, mirrored in Jesus Christ’s expansive consummation of Israel’s messianic hopes.

What we saw in Revelation was the culmination of a world view exemplified in typical patterns, or “scriptural thought-models,” [note: Peder Borgen, “The Place of the Old Testament in the Formation of New Testament Theology,” NTS 23 (1976-77): 73. On seeing Revelation as the culmination of canonical themes, see William J. Dumbrell, The End of the Beginning (Sydney, N.S.W.: Lancer, 1985); see also Philip S. Alexander, “Retelling the Old Testament,” in It Is Written, 99-121] that had been already employed motifically throughout the Scriptures. Although the Old Testament was decisive for John’s thought, he did not merely continue that message at the same level on which the Old Testament authors had operated; John brought the motific symphony to its finale in Jesus Christ’s eschatological ministry.

Thus, the reader who cannot connect the “Christ” of Revelation to the psalmist’s mes­sianic hopes will perhaps not be misguided; but he will certainly be insufficiently guided as to the significance of Jesus’ messianic rule. Under the pen of John, intertextual borrowing pro­duced a message of arresting import, evoking canonical images of judgment and redemption and heightening them to an eschatological level.

Brueggemann’s abstract

Brueggemann’s abstract reads as follows (with my additions in square brackets]:

John’s Apocalypse (Revelation) makes heavy use of the Old Testament (OT) but seldom quotes it; instead, it alludes to and echoes its language, imagery, and themes.

Chapter I [pp. 1-40] defines source usage as to degree of directness (quotation, allusion, or echo) and degree of probability (clear, probable, possible, or non-allusion/echo). Then it draws on Ziva Ben-Porath to set out a methodology for associating allusions and echoes, calling for exegesis of the New Testament (NT) passage in its own right and then for actualization of the OT in the NT.

Chapter II [pp. 41-113]surveys 360 suggestions that Revelation has used the Psalter and determines that it quotes only twice from the Psalms (Rev 2:26-27 = Ps 2:8; Rev 19:15 = Ps 2:9); however, it employs a clear, probable, or possible allusion 45 times and a clear or probable echo 94 times.

Chapter III [pp. 114-157] looks at how the NT approaches material from the OT, drawing on I. Howard Marshall, G. K. Beale, and Joseph Fitzmyer for this discussion. Then it asks how one should read the NT use of the OT, examining the debate over literal vs. figurative meaning and on sensus plenior but looking to E. Earle Ellis, Leonard Goppelt, and Patrick Fairbairn for help defining a typological method for interpreting these allusions.

Chapter IV [pp. 158-214] examines the theological use of the Psalm in the 93 occasions classified as quotation, clear or probable allusion, or clear echo. The study of those occasions shows that Revelation’s use, which is generally typological, remains faithful to the Psalms’ own cultic and royal Sitz im Leben, a fidelity that Revelation’s eschatological use of Psalm 2 clearly demonstrates.

Finally, Chapter V [pp. 215-238] establishes some hermeneutical conclusions, setting out a series of relationships between typology and the following dynamics: (a) allusion and figurative language (Ben-Porath and E P. Clowney); (b) canon (Ellis and Ronald Clements); (c) prophecy (Goppelt and Fairbairn); (d) eschatology (Goppelt); and (e) messianism (Joseph Coppens and Goppelt).

Quotations and allusions

Brueggemann identifies to quotations: Ps 2:8f in Rev 2:26f and Ps 2:9 in Rev 19:15.

He identifies 45 allusions, of which 13 are clear allusions, 24 are probable allusions, and 8 are possible allusions. There are also 154 echoes of the Psalms in Revelation. Here is a list of the allusions:

Clear Allusions (13)
Rev 1:5—Ps 88:28
Rev 2:26—Ps 2:8
Rev 3:5—Ps 68:29
Rev 5:8—Ps 140:2
Rev 9:20—Pss 113:12-15; 134:15-17
Rev 11:5—Ps 96:3
Rev 12:5—Ps 2:7,9
Rev 15:3—Ps 144:17
Rev 15:3,4—Ps 85:9,10,12
Rev 19:19—Ps 2:2
Rev 21:24,26—Ps 71:10,11

Probable Allusions (24)
Rev 1:6.7—Ps 71:17
Rev 2:6—Ps 138:21,22
Rev 4:11—Ps 148:5
Rev 6:15—Ps 2:2
Rev 7:17—Ps 22:1,2
Rev 9:16—Ps 67:18
Rev 11:18—Ps 113:21
Rev 12:10—Ps 2:2
Rev 13:8—Ps 68:29
Rev 13:16—Ps 113:21
Rev 14:10—Ps 10:6
Rev 15:4—Ps 97:2
Rev 16:6—Ps 78:2,3
Rev 17:8—Ps 68:29
Rev 19:2—Ps 78:10
Rev 19:5—Ps 113:21
Rev 19:6,7—Ps 96:1
Rev 20:11—Ps 113:7
Rev 20:12,13—Ps 61:13
Rev 20:12,15—Ps 68:29
Rev 21:27—Ps 68:29
Rev 22:4—Ps 41:3

Possible Allusions (8)
Rev 4:4—Ps 20:4
Rev 10:3—Ps 28:3-9
Rev 12:12—Ps 95:11
Rev 14:5—Pss 14:1-3; 31:2
Rev 16:14—Ps 2:2,3
Rev 19:20—Ps 54:16
Rev 20:11—Pss 113:3; 138:7

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