Exploring Psalm 19: A Q & A with T.A. Perry

Psalm 19: Hymn of Unification by T.A. PerryWith his characteristically engaging writing style that couples detailed exegesis with philosophical meditation, professor and author T.A. Perry interacts with the Psalms from a Jewish perspective in his newest book, Psalm 19: Hymn of Unification. Perry’s intensive and guided reading of Psalm 19 advances his thesis that Psalm 19 presents a vision of “universal unification” for the entire creation, one that is not restricted to Jews but that embraces all people and, indeed, all of nature. The dual method of analysis (literary and philosophical) Perry employs in Psalm 19: Hymn of Unification will challenge readers to understand, appreciate, and approach Psalm 19 in a larger philosophical setting rather than the traditional exegetical one.

Now, we’re excited to share with you this exclusive interview with Perry about Psalm 19.

1. Why Psalm 19? 150 Psalms in the Bible why this particular one?

I conceptualize my life the way the Bible does: the world is created as heaven and earth, a day is composed of night and day, I am a mixture of body and soul. These oppositional binaries occur at the highest level, since the Creator God at the very start is called Elohim and only later Yahweh. In daily living we reduce these pairs to unities: one world, day, person, God, but in living our lives and in our theologies they are typically treated as oppositional. Think, for example, of the chasm between matter or extended substance and consciousness, or body and soul, or God’s justice and his mercy. Monotheism argues for their unity, or, better, their unification as operated by humans and within God too. Psalm 19 gives a careful analysis of this process.

2. What place should Psalms play in the life of the believer?

For me Psalms is a practical manual on how to feel and express praise and thanksgiving. The first helps to see that even “bad” things are kindly intended. Gratitude in its practice enables us to appreciate that it too is a divine gift, one we should be thankful for. How’s that for rebound: being thankful for being thankful!

3. What was your favorite part of the book to work on?

As I exclaimed in one of my Hendrickson books, “I just love this Bible!” Whatever part I am working on today is my favorite one. How so? Because of its perpetual newness and direct relevance to living a meaningful life.

P.s. I am aware of responding to a slightly different question, namely “what was your favorite part of The Book to work on.” My excuse is that exegesis or commentary is an integral part of the Bible itself. Indeed, this is how the Bible comes alive, by making it mine. If it is not in my heart and mind and actions as on this book, where (on earth) is it?

4. You’ve spent significant time living and teaching in Israel, how has that impacted this particular book?

Martin Buber claimed that the particular contribution of Israel to the culture of humankind is unification. I subscribe to this view and still pin my hopes to its realization. Living in the Holy Land continues, in a very concrete and daily way, to activate and deepen this commitment.

5. The book opens suggesting Psalm 19 presents an existential dilemma between the world of nature and humans and closes proposing a particular epistemology for knowing God.  How does Psalm 19 solve this dilemma? How do you feel this is a corrective for the church today?

Unresolved dualisms are leading to our destruction. At the level of our careless and domineering destruction of the environment, for example, Bruno Latour proposes a reversal of even deeply embedded theological assumptions such as Mark 8, Matthew 16. Latour asks “What does it matter to save my soul if it should cost the loss of the world?” Is it all only about me? I add that such pursuits as epistemology and ontology have overextended their importance and that we should turn instead to ethics and a concern for the Other.

6. Next to this book what is your favorite book you’ve written?

One of my greatest teachers (Harold Fisch) liked to evoke the paradox of a “remembered future.”  Looking back over my 14 books, my memory projects that my most favorite book is my next one. In all likelihood, it will (again!) focus on a single psalm, this one #119, the longest and according to many the most boring of the psalms, the one that Dietrich Bonhoeffer nevertheless regarded as his “favorite Psalm and the climax of my theological life.”

7. What’s the best piece of wisdom you’ve learned over the years from reading or writing?

In backcountry Maine where I come from, some folks define a fool in two related ways: as one who makes the same mistake twice, and as one who never makes a mistake. With all the problems of the experiential path to wisdom (one’s first mistake can be costly!), I find it usually works for me; I learn best from experience. For me the path to wisdom is reading and writing. When complaining about his lack of many things that enhance human life, an ancient sage exclaimed: “If you have wisdom and understanding, what more can you want or need.”

A central focus of Psalm 19 is its analysis of human pursuits into three broad categories: pleasure, power, and wisdom. While all three are seen as having a legitimate place in a human life, the third is privileged. In fact, my second most favorite book written by me focuses on the central plot of Qohelet (Ecclesiastes), how King Solomon converted his life from the pursuit of power and pleasure to the humble task of understanding the secret of words.


Psalm 19: Hymn of Unification by T.A. Perry

T. A. Perry (PhD, Romance Philology and Comparative Literature, Yale University) has taught at the University of Connecticut, Ben Gurion University, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In recent years, he served as a faculty associate at Hartford Seminary and as the Corcoran Visiting Chair in Christian-Jewish Learning at Boston College. Perry is the author of numerous books, including Wisdom in the Hebrew Bible: Exploring God’s Twilight Zone and Jonah’s Arguments with God: The Honeymoon Is Over.

For more information about Psalm 19 or to purchase, visit our website. To read more interviews with our authors, check out our Author Interview Series page.

Video: What is Designed for Good about?

Kevin J. Brown’s Designed for Good is a study of classical virtue
ethics from a Christian perspective. This book shows Christians
that their faith contains resources to help them recover the
idea of virtue in the face of our modern moral bewilderment.

Although we may not realize it, we live in a world that is full of
competing ethical systems. Appeals to rights, personal freedom,
or even equality often come with their own “meta-values.” Each
of these values has something in common with the Christian
message, but none of them tells the whole story.

In this Christian take on classical virtue ethics, Brown weaves in
modern-day examples from economics, politics, and pop culture
to create a relevant framework that relates faith to contemporary
ethical questions. Brown argues that true virtue—the kind we can
actually strive for in our day-to-day lives—requires a holistic vision
of the good life, not a list of rules determined by our preferences
or the latest market trends. Instead, it is precisely what we were
designed for by our Creator: life in the community of Christ’s body,
the church. Virtue then becomes the pursuit of wholeness in
harmony with God’s design.

Brown introduces the problem of modern ethics and analyzes
common “meta-values” that readers will likely have encountered in
their workplaces, schools, and possibly even churches. Readers will
especially resonate with the second half of the book, where Brown
outlines the foundations of the holistic, Christian concept of virtue:
“to act justly, and love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.”

For more information about this fascinating book, check out our website.

Dictionary of Daily Life—A Great 4-Volume Set

Read Jimmy Reagan’s review of the entire boxed set of the Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical and Post-Biblical Antiquity!

The Reagan Review

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Finally, this wonderful set is complete in four volumes. It took years to put together and the volumes have been released over the course of a couple years or so, but now this fun resource edited by the outstanding scholars Edwin Yamauchi and Marvin Wilson is available to us.

Why secure this set compared to so many others on the market? It’s really two things: 1) the unique approach, and 2) the valuable, scholarly, and well-written entries.

This dictionary did not limit itself to Bible words only, but to subjects as they occur to us. The value there is making accessible Bible times in a way that overcomes our cultural biases. Think of something that you would really like to know and I suspect you will find an entry on it.

You may read a line that you disagree with, but there’s enough depth to really wrestle with the subject…

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Book Review: An Introduction To Ugaritic

An Introduction to UgariticRead Nathan Albright’s review of An Introduction to Ugaritic by John Huehnergard!

Edge Induced Cohesion

An Introduction To Ugaritic, by John Huehnergard

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by Hendrickson Publishers.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

What would lead someone to want to introduce themselves to Ugaritic, an extinct member of the Semitic language family that was spoken and, for at least a couple generations, written in an unusual cuneiform alphabet in the city of Ugarit on the coast of present-day Syria?  For one, the language itself is fairly similar to biblical Hebrew and not that much more distant from Arabic, and contains a great deal of influence from Akkadian, the first known written Semitic language.  For another, although most known Ugaritic texts are either letters from elites, legal texts, or heathen religious writings about Baal and other false gods, the language does help explain some difficult passages within biblical Hebrew and also provides some of the context of the heathen…

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Genesis by Meredith Kline

Jimmy Reagan takes a look at Meredith Kline’s Genesis commentary in the following review.

The Reagan Review

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Meredith Kline is someone I’ve not really read much, but was intrigued as I have read several things mentioning the insight and even uniqueness of his writings. This volume turns out to be a posthumous work where his grandson, Jonathan Kline, found this manuscript in his grandfather’s things and lovingly edited it for publication.

Though this book is clearly not written as a major commentary, it is a pithy help on Genesis that reflects the mature judgments of an influential scholar in the twilight of his career. Unlike some modern commentaries, this book is not dry. Even better, he is not afraid to see Christ and His glorious Gospel revealed on the pages of Genesis. For that matter, he even sees Moses as the author, which is unfortunately too uncommon in our day.

I couldn’t personally agree with all his thoughts on the covenant, nor a few of his thoughts…

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How to Evangelize — An Interview with R. Larry Moyer

R. Larry Moyer 101 Tips for EvangelismHendrickson recently published 101 Tips for Evangelism: Practical Ways to Enhance Your Witness by R. Larry Moyer.

Dr. Moyer, founder of the well-known evangelization organization EvanTell, offers some of the practical wisdom he’s gleaned in over four decades of evangelism. His 101 brief, easy-to-read tips address dealing with difficult people, balancing grace with truth, asking God for more opportunities, the importance of listening, and much more. In fact, we are thrilled to share with you the introduction of the book:

There’s nothing on earth I’d rather do than evangelize. God, in His gracious kindness, has allowed me to present the gospel to hundreds of thousands over the last forty-plus years.

As I have done so, under God’s guidance, I’ve learned tips through Scripture and experience. I can sincerely say that God has used them to make me a more effective evangelist. Along the way, I’ve often thought, “Wow! I wish I would’ve learned that sooner.” But God knows what He is doing and in His own time, He has enabled me to learn and grow.

I hope as I share these tips with you your love for unbelievers is enhanced and your desire to reach them increases. If that happens, this book will be worth all the time and effort. Most of all, thank you for cultivating a heart for the people who need to hear the greatest message of all: Christ died for your sins and rose from the dead.

Dr. Moyer has been kind enough to give us some snippets of these tips in the following interview!

1. What inspired your desire to help others evangelize?

The simple principle of multiplication. Take the number 10 and add the number 2 to it 10 times. Now take the number 10 and multiple it by 2 10 times. The number is vastly different. I believe that training others to evangelize is a way to impact the world for Christ.

2. Which tip do you think holds particular weight in the matter of evangelization and why?

I would say number 1! “Evangelism always starts with obedience.” God directs a moving object. He will help us overcome any struggle we have in evangelism as long as we’re willing to give Him our obedience.

3. What would you say to someone who is feeling really discouraged in regards to their attempts to evangelize?

I’d emphasize several things. First, God is on their team, not on their back. He’s a God of grace. He doesn’t lambast us for any struggle or difficulty we’re having in evangelism or any discouragement we’re facing. He’s just there to help. Secondly, with that in mind, we need to concentrate on Hebrews 4:16 and come boldly to Him in prayer, recognizing that He has the grace to help us in time of need, whatever need that might be in evangelism. A third thing that I would emphasize is the need for experience. The more you evangelize, the more there might be discouraging moments, but there are also very exciting ones. Those exciting ones make the discouraging moments fade in importance.

4. How can fear be a healthy part of the evangelism process?

It teaches us to depend on Him. When we are afraid and depend on Him, He gives us the boldness to overcome the fear, instead of the fear overcoming the boldness. God has more than food and finances, the two things that we often ask Him for. He has a generous supply of boldness. We recognize as with every area of the Christian life that we cannot do it in our own strength. We can only do it through His.

5. For a new Christian who wants to evangelize, how soon is too soon?

When it comes to sharing Christ one-to-one, no time is too soon. In fact, when I lead people to Christ, I encourage them to tell at least two people that they trusted Christ that day. It helps them start doing immediately what they should do the rest of their lives—tell others!

6. If you are evangelizing to someone of a different religion, how important is it for you to be familiar with their beliefs?

You don’t have to know what they believe; you have to know what you believe. Always remember that God sent them across your path for you to talk to them, not for them to talk to you. Besides, most people in a particular religion are not there because of what that religion believes. They are there because someone gave them a sense of belonging.

7. For some, evangelizing is a long and complicated process. What would you say to those who have been praying for the conversion of someone near and dear to them for years?

Keep praying and never stop. I know of people who have come to Christ because someone had prayed for them for over 30 years. As you pray, ask God to send someone in addition to you to speak to them. Often God uses many people to lead one person to Christ.

8. If you feel comfortable sharing, what is an evangelism experience that didn’t go the way you planned, and what did you learn from it?

I had an appointment to talk to a man about Christ who I felt was ripe and ready for the gospel. I couldn’t have been more excited. Not only did I find out that he was not ready to trust Christ, but the longer we talked, I felt that he was further from Christ than when I met him. That’s always hard for me because nobody is promised tomorrow. At the same time, I always have to remind myself of what I tell others: “God holds me responsibility for contact, not conversion.” 1 Corinthians 4:2 reminds us that the issue is faithfulness, not fruitfulness.


R. Larry Moyer 101 Tips for EvangelismDr. R. Larry Moyer, founder and CEO of EvanTell, is a frequent speaker in evangelistic outreaches, training seminars, churches, and classrooms across the world. He has earned degrees from Cairn University (BS), Dallas Theological Seminary (ThM), and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (DMin). In 2001, Cairn University also awarded him the honorary doctor of sacred theology degree. He is an evangelistic speaker for EvanTell’s Evangelism events, designed to equip believers in evangelism and to reach non-Christians. He has published 12 books. He is a regular guest lecturer in evangelism at Word of Life Bible Institutes in New York and Florida and visiting professor at Dallas Theological Seminary. Dr. Moyer and his wife reside in a suburb of Dallas, Texas. They have one grown son who is married.

For more information about 101 Tips for Evangelism and to order online, visit our website.

10 Quotes About Christmas from Charles Spurgeon

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  1. “Do you not feel, my brethren, that the gospel of God is peace to man? Where else can peace be found but in the message of Jesus?”
  2. “And when the Lord Jesus has become your peace, remember, there is another thing: good will towards men. Do not try to keep Christmas without good will towards men.”
  3. “May God give you peace with yourselves; may he give you good will towards all your friends, your enemies, and your neighbors; and may he give you grace to give glory to God in the highest.”
  4. “Though creation may be a majestic organ of praise, it cannot reach the compass of the golden canticle—Incarnation! There is more in that than in creation, more melody in Jesus in the manger, than there is in worlds on worlds rolling their grandeur round the throne of the Most High.”
  5. “For, first, the birth of Christ was the incarnation of God: it was God taking upon himself human—a mystery, a wondrous mystery, to be believed in rather than to be defined.”
  6. “But, now, when the new-born King made his appearance, the swaddling band with which he was wrapped up was the white flag of peace. That manger was the place where the treaty was signed, whereby warfare should be stopped between man’s conscience and himself, man’s conscience and his God. It was then, that day, the trumpet blew—’Sheathe the sword, oh man, sheathe the sword, oh conscience, for God is now at peace with man, and man at peace with God.’ Do you not feel, my brethren, that the gospel of God is peace to man? Where else can peace be found but in the message of Jesus?”
  7. “We venture to assert, that if there be any day in the year, of which we may be pretty sure that it was not the day on which the Savior was born, it is the 25th of December. Regarding not the day, let us, nevertheless, give thanks to God for the gift of His dear Son.”
  8. “Do not go to the synagogue of long-faced hypocrites to hear the minister who preaches with a nasal twang, with misery in his face, whilst he tells you that God has goodwill towards men. I know you won’t believe what he says, for he does not preach with joy in his countenance, he is telling you good news with a grunt, and you are not likely to receive it. But go straight way to the plain where Bethlehem shepherds sat by night, and when  you hear the angels singing out the gospel, by the grace of God upon you, you cannot help believing that they manifestly feel the preciousness of telling.”
  9. “This glorious word Emmanuel means, first, that God in Christ is with us in very near association. The Greek particle here used is very forcible, and expresses the strongest form of ‘with.’ It is not merely ‘in company with us as another Greek word would signify, but ‘with,’ ‘together with,’ and ‘sharing with.’ This preposition is a close rivet, a firm bond, implying, if not declaring, close fellowship. God is peculiarly and closely ‘with us.’”
  10. “As we think today of the birth of the Savior, let us aspire after a fresh birth of the Savior in our hearts; that as he is already ‘formed in us the hope of glory,’ we may be ‘renewed in the spirit of our minds;’ that we may go to the Bethlehem of our spiritual nativity and do our first works, enjoy our first loves, and feast with Jesus as we did in the holy, happy, heavenly days of our espousals.”

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Book Review: Genesis: A New Commentary

51um8ezgqjl-_sx322_bo1204203200_Nathan Albright’s review of Meredith Kline’s commentary on Genesis does excellent justice to this noteworthy book.

A quote from the review that I particularly enjoyed: “The author’s unwillingness to exceed the firm foundation of his text and his generally charitable attitude towards the reader make this book feel like one is listening to the author give a friendly graduate seminar or a conversation over dinner while pouring over the Bible in English, Hebrew, and the Greek.  While such an experience is no longer possible in this life, this book is the next best thing and a worthy introduction to the works of a worthy biblical scholar.”

Edge Induced Cohesion

Genesis:  A New Commentary, by Meredith G. Kline

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by Hendrickson Publishers.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

Upon reading this book, I was somewhat surprised that this was the first book I remember reading from the noted and late Presbyterian theologian.  Upon reading, for example, his breakdown of the chiasmic structure of the book of Genesis, I was immediately reminded of previous readings of books likely influenced by his instruction of other conservative Presbyterians [1] in decades of faithful teaching work.  Given the fact that this work was a very refreshing and thoughtful commentary on the book of Genesis, although given that Kline has been dead for eight years, it is hard to tell how new this commentary is in some senses, it is likely that this will not be the last book I read from this author by any means…

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Review: Dictionary of Daily Life: Volume 4

Jimmy Reagan takes a look at the Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical & Post-Biblical Antiquity O-Z Volume 4 in this review:

The Reagan Review

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This is the final volume of an unique set. Editors Edwin Yamauchi and Marvin Wilson continue the high quality of work, here  covering O-Z, that we found in the previous volumes. Many scholars joined forces to provide us with this special resource. The setup that even includes a few pictures at the end matches the previous volumes. Together these volumes make an attractive paperback set.

The feature that makes this a special set is what it chooses to cover. It does not limit itself to specific Bible words, but addresses daily life issues in the way we think of them.  That means that things like sanitation, spectacles, trade, and viticulture get covered. There are also things that you would expect like slavery, taxation, and threshing and winnowing, but at more detail than you would imagine. Touchy subjects like prostitution and same-sex relations are well covered too. Those articles were solidly…

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Review: Genesis: A New Commentary

Check out John Kight’s review of Meredith G. Kline’s Genesis: A New Commentary!

Sojourner Theology

51um8ezgqjl-_sx322_bo1204203200_Few things should be more exciting to contemporary readers of the Bible than a previously unpublished work by Meredith G. Kline. Kline was an influential American Old Testament scholar and a formative voice of Covenant theology within the Reformed tradition. Kline received a ThB and a ThM from Westminster Theological Seminary, and a PhD from Dropsie University. With a teaching career that stretched over five decades and a list of publications that is equally as impressive, it is hard to imagine exactly how far the influence of Kline has reached. Nevertheless, Genesis: A New Commentary, edited by Kline’s grandson, Jonathan G. Kline, is yet another shining reminder of a legacy that sought nothing more than to illuminate the Savior through an unquenchable passion for the Old Testament Scriptures.

Genesis: A New Commentary is in many ways a brief, more distilled companion commentary to Kline’s well-known magnum opus Kingdom Prologue:…

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