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The Case for the Psalms: Why They Are Essential

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  1,084 ratings  ·  168 reviews
One of the world's most trusted Bible scholars, N. T. Wright turns his attention to the central collection of prayers that Jesus and Paul knew best: the book of Psalms. Wright points out that the Psalms have served as the central prayer and hymnbook for the church since its beginning--until now. In The Case for the Psalms, Wright calls us to return to the Psalms as a stead ...more
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published September 3rd 2013 by Harper One
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Sandra Sadly no; except for the final chapter (and the penultimate chapter was also interesting to me because it addressed using the Psalms in liturgy; Wrigh…moreSadly no; except for the final chapter (and the penultimate chapter was also interesting to me because it addressed using the Psalms in liturgy; Wright almost always spoke of "singing" the Psalms instead of "saying" or "reading" them, and it was nice that he finally talked about singing them, but even that discussion was woefully brief and inadequate for its stated purpose. But I suppose since it inspired me to go looking further for resources, perhaps it did accomplish its purpose after all.(less)

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Oct 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
About 10 years ago I read an article on N.T. Wright on the Christianity Today site. The article, was published when Wright was dean of Lichfield Cathedral, and I remember Wright making a comment that if you want to understand his theology, you have to see him at worship.

This is Wright at worship. In this book he commends the Psalms as a prayer book and as something that gives shape and depth to corporate worship. His context as an Anglican theologian has meant that he is part of a communion that
B.J. Richardson
Dec 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I love worship. I love modern worship like United and Jesus Culture, I love traditional hymns like Amazing Grace and A Mighty Fortress is Our God. But most of all, I love the Psalms. It wasn't long before I was able to talk, and probably before I was able to read, that my grandmother began pushing me to memorize them. Long before I was putting books like Hebrews, James, and 1 Corinthians to memory, I had already learned dozens of the Psalms thanks to her influence. Even when she was nearing the ...more
Nov 08, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, 2019
N.T. Wright has a healthy appreciation of the Psalms and believes they need to have a bigger part in the life of the church than they have for the last few decades. The Psalms have largely been ignored in the worship of the church, much to the detriment of the church and its people.

In this book, Wright argues that the Psalms are essential for the spiritual formation of Christians and should be central to the worship of the church.

Feb 14, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reflecting how the Psalms were used in the past and how they pertain now. Helpful, but it seemed limited to me. It appeared to me that about 1/3 of the book were the Psalms written out. ( Almost like they were used as filler to make the book bigger). I would rather have the Psalm ( ie: Psalm 122) and then more depth in the meaning. Not sure how it compares with other books on the Psalms but I’m sure I will read more.
Jacob Aitken
In many ways this might be Wright's best work ever. I had always suspected something like his thesis when I read the Psalms (more on that below) but I couldn't articulate it. The psalms give us a musical ontology. Wright says the Psalms transform the reader (better yet, the chanter and singer) because they place him or her at the intersection of Space, Time, and Matter--the very place where Jesus of Nazareth is.

People who pray the psalms will be learning to live in God’s time, space, and “matter
Sep 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This little book is an outstanding read in a couple of ways. Wright, for those who don't already know, is one of the world's most compelling and surely that most recognized New Testament scholar. In this he has written a book on the Psalms that draws upon the biblical worldview that he has articulated so well for his readers in his various volumes on Jesus, Paul and NT origins. In its own understated way the book makes clear how the ongoing life of the Church in worship is enriched and best unde ...more
Oct 30, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
While there are a few nuggets to be found in this book, most of the book attempts to cram the Psalms into three categories: time, space, and matter. This seems to be forced and muddles the beauty of the Psalms. It is also a bit confusing and at times I wondered exactly what the author was trying to communicate.
One thing that annoyed me about this book is the regular references to the author's other books--it was like having a stream of advertisements in-line while reading. Footnoting them would
Zack Clemmons
Dec 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
A delightful little book, considering the Psalms through the lenses of time, space, and matter. I like Wright's attention to the continuity of Torah, Temple, and New Testament theology, and his ability to read each in the Psalter. I know something of the intellectual firepower he wields, and am thus more impressed with his ability to write clearly and simply, to hold back and dive in as needed. His personal account of living with the Psalms was endearing, and an encouragement to engage more deep ...more
Marc Sims
Jun 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
3.75 stars. I have a love/hate relationship with Wright. I don’t know any other writer than I can be so thrilled and frustrated by simultaneously. This book, however, was mostly thrilling. Wright is a big-picture thinker (his strength and weakness) and brings this to bear on this little book on the Pslams. He invites us to see how the Pslams reshape how we relate to time, space, and matter, then concludes with a plea for Christians and churches to make the Psalms central in worship and devotion ...more
Ray LaManna
Mar 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: old-testament
This is a deeply personal statement of the value that recitation and study of the Psalms have for a Christian...a good spiritual guide.
Gideon Yutzy
Apr 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What the book does, really, is revive the narrative of the Psalms. Wright provides just a bit of historical backdrop for the Psalms in the beginning--they were first arranged during the Babylonian exile, a fact that will turn out to be quite significant--and then he goes on to outline the major themes of the Psalms. (I assure you they are very compelling themes, along the lines of how past, present, and future intersect, and also how God is at work in, and how he views, the Creation--that kind o ...more
Feb 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Despite a few minor areas (in this volume at least) where I disagree with Wright's thoughts, I found this book to be very helpful and beneficial in showing how vital the Psalms are to a Christian's life. They aren't merely a collection of ancient poetry, but capture the entirety of Man---emotions, body, and soul---his relation to God, and the complex interactions we have with the world. Wright outlines it as relating to Time, Space, and Matter and one of the sections I found particularly engagin ...more
Miles Smith
This is a short and in many ways helpful review of why the Psalms are so important in the normal devotional life of the believer. Wright does a good job of showing what they mean in redemptive history. He also makes a good case for how they inform the framework of the Christian life. My only criticism would be that I hope he could make a more incisive case for what they mean for the individual, which I realize pushes against much of his entire pastoral ethos but nonetheless I think that’s import ...more
Andy Dollahite
May 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
At its heart, this is ode to the Psalms. Wright lifts back the lid of that marvelous chest we’ve seen among the furnishings of Scripture enough for us to see the vast, inexhaustible treasure inside. It’s one we’ve been invited to plunder. We’d be fools not to pack our pockets full and return with pails and wheelbarrows.
Apr 05, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: christian
Wright's plea for the importance of the Psalms in prayer life, both personal and corporate, in the face of modern trends towards praise music and other such innovations. Written for a popular audience, Wright nevertheless crams in a lot of his thinking on the "new heaven and new earth."
Becky Pliego
I really wanted to love it, but I only liked it. I loved, however, the Introduction, and chapters 1-2
Jan 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: christian
Although Wright’s writing style is slightly too academic for me, I am grateful for this apologetic on why the psalms are indeed “essential.” Much of our worship and prayer practices today are simply not robust enough for the vicissitudes of the full faith journey. Praying the psalms shapes a faith that endures. They teach us to come to God always, to express all our joys and agonies honestly while ever entrusting ourselves to him. They are a guide for how to pray through the natural rhythms of t ...more
Joshua Parks
Jul 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Definitely the best part of this book is the afterword, titled "My Life With the Psalms." Wright tells of times in his life when particular Psalms brought him hope, comfort, and wisdom. I believe one of the most powerful ways God sustains our faith—or at least mine—is through the lives and stories of other believers, and this book fits the bill.
Jun 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A book that grew out of a lecture Wright gave on the Psalms (accessible on YouTube at ).

Wright investigates the Psalms as one who has meditated and sung them throughout his life (in the afterword he gets unusually personal with the role the Psalms played in his life) and as a scholar of Second Temple Judaism and the development of Christianity.

His case for the Psalms rests in three matters: time, space, and matter. He argues that the Psalms are where God's time and
Sep 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
This was a fast, but edifying read. It's not an academic book, but more of a sustained spiritual reflection on the general themes of the psalms. Ok, I made it sound boring. It's not. This is N.T. Wright, after all, and these are the spiritual reflections of one of the leading Bible experts of our time. So these are incredible rich reflections. The reflections, which revolve around the tension between divine and human space, time and matter as expressed in the Psalms, have a decidedly eschatologi ...more
Jesse Slimak
Jun 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
This was a great gem of a book: small but beautiful. Wright approaches the Psalms as a life long Anglican who has prayed, read and sung them for years. He also definitely approaches them through the lens and trajectory of the New Testament, but this is to be expected since that is his primary area of study.

Wright looks at the Psalms through the categories of time, space and matter and sees much that the Psalms point to fulfilled in the New Testament. He especially makes a compelling case for a c
Aug 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: christianity
In this book N.T. Wright first describes how the Psalms were at the center of prayer and worship for first century Jews and Christians as well as for Jesus Christ, then weaves his theological themes from his past works into the core of the Psalms. These themes deal with how the Psalms help us to understand the intersecting of God's time, space, and matter intersects with our own time, space, and matter and invites us to partake of this through worship and prayer, which for Jews was done in the t ...more
Peter Davids
Nov 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was another great book from N. T. Wright. He admits that he is not a Psalms specialist, although he consulted with one, but he is indeed a faith specialist who has been singing the Psalms since at least age 7 (when he started as a choirboy), although he admits to times when the Psalms were dry for him. He sees in the Psalms the great themes of God's story, of creation and redemption, and he sees the dimensions of time and matter included in the story. So he sees the Psalms as transformative ...more
Christan Reksa
May 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book that serves as a proposal by NT Wright for contemporary Christians (especially Protestants, I guess) to observe and integrate the book of Psalms deeper into our liturgy and daily life. As a lifelong Anglican who grew up reading prayer book based on Psalms, he speaks not only from a systematic argument, but also from his experience of using Psalms everyday in his contemplations, and let it breathe into his life.

He made a great case of Psalms inclusion in Christian praise, worship,
Amy Neftzger
Jan 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is a short but meaningful book that discusses the importance of the psalms for Christians. The author explains how the psalms add to the richness of spiritual life by showing us how to relate to God, especially when these works of poetry are viewed within context of one another. Too often only portions of psalms are used in personal reading or worship. The author makes a great case for viewing these works collectively as one unit and describing how these pieces were designed to transform an ...more
Tim Baumgartner
Since the time I heard about N.T. Wright, I've been able to observe his production as a Bible scholar. This guy gets things done! And done well (as far as I have read)! Once I read in the Table of Contents that his final chapter of this book was how he has directly benefited from the Psalms, I wanted to skip right to the end. But, I've been good and held out. Here's my synopsis:

Introduction (Ch. 1):
When I read "The Psalms represent the Bible’s own spiritual root system for the great tree we call
Jeremy Manuel
Oct 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
N.T. Wright's The Case for the Pslams: Why They Are Essential is, unsurprisingly, a book about the Psalms. Wright has experienced the Psalms as a powerful part of experiencing and being shaped by God and is making a case for them to be part of the church's life and practice greater than they currently are.

This premise is a fairly good one, but it also creates one of the biggest setbacks of his book. He frames the book with this idea that the Psalms are good and modern songs are not so good. I gu
Aug 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
Psalm 119 (really the last section of the psalm) changed the focus of my faith; it became my confession, my prayer, and my hope more than 20 years ago. And when I was done meditating on this passage, I began looking more closely at the collection of poetry and songs found in the middle of our Bibles. I was blown away by what I found and marveled that this book had been largely ignored in my Christian experience.

Oh, we read snippets here and there, but for the most part, we skimmed over this sec
Jan 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
An excellent new perspective on the Pslams, and the issues modern western Christianity has in incorporating them into daily life and liturgy. Throughout the book, Wright advocates for a "Pslamian" worldview, in which the natural and the spiritual come together in worship of God. He believes that the Pslams show a view of the world from the perspective of time, space and matter completely, and thinks that by reading the Pslams, we can gain this Heavenly view. In his view, many modern Christians t ...more
Concise Reader
Mar 07, 2018 rated it it was ok
A decent book that doesn't offer anything new.

Here is how Wright summarizes the goal of his book:

In particular, I propose in this book that regular praying and singing of the Psalms is transformative. It changes the way we understand some of the deepest elements of who we are, or rather, who, where, when, and what we are... I hope my exposition of these themes will hep to explain and communicate my own enthusiasm for the Psalms, but I hope even more than they will encourage those churches that h
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N. T. Wright is the former Bishop of Durham in the Church of England (2003-2010) and one of the world's leading Bible scholars. He is now serving as the chair of New Testament and Early Christianity at the School of Divinity at the University of St. Andrews. He has been featured on ABC News, Dateline NBC, The Colbert Report, and Fresh Air, and he has taught New Testament studies at Cambridge, McGi ...more

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“When humans take up their divinely appointed role, looking after God's world on his behalf, this is not a Promethean attempt to usurp God's role. It is the humble, obedient carrying out of the role that has been assigned. The real arrogance would be to refuse the vocation, imagining that we know better than God the purpose for which we have been put here.” 4 likes
“It shouldn’t be difficult, then, to make the transposition at this point into the early Christian vision of Jesus and the Spirit and the way in which the material world is both celebrated and renewed through their work. The Jewish basis for the early Christian patterns of belief and behavior is clear. It is important that God’s people are embodied, because God made this world and has no intention of abandoning it. The material of creation is a vessel made to be filled with God’s new life and glory, even though the transformation may involve suffering, persecution, and martyrdom.” 3 likes
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