A Royal Pain: The Use of Lament and Royal Psalms in the New Testament

This paper examines how the New Testament quotations of lament psalms compare with the quotations of royal psalms in Christological interpretation. The driving question behind this work is: to what extent do the New Testament authors use psalms composed as “royal psalms” differently from psalms that were not composed with a distinct focus on the king? Secondarily, to what extent do the New Testament authors favor using certain features of lament psalms?

The paper will begin by briefly defining lament psalms and royal psalms. Lament psalms are individual and communal psalms in which the psalmist(s) cry out to God to intervene in the midst of distress. In their most basic form, lament psalms contain the following features: a direct address to God, lament, petition, and (usually) an expression of trust and/or confidence/praise. Lament psalms may include additional features: instruction, assertion of innocence, wish, imprecation, and divine speech. The definitions of royal psalms are much more disputed. Thus, this paper draws from classifications by Starbuck and Gillingham to define royal psalms as psalms with a dominant focus on the “king” and/or on YHWH’s “anointed.”

Next, the paper will compare the uses of lament and royal psalms in the New Testament. According to Anderson and Bishop, the New Testament quotes the following lament psalms: 4, 5, 6, 14, 22, 31, 35, 36, 42, 43, 44, 51, 53, 69, 86, 89, 102, 109, 140. It also quotes seven royal psalms: 2, 18, 45, 89, 101, 110 (Psalm 89 is considered a royal lament). The paper will offer a brief taxonomy of the ways lament and royal psalms are quoted in the New Testament. Then the paper will examine more specifically how the above features of lament psalms are utilized Christologically in the New Testament (as well as how this compares with the use of royal psalms). The paper will conclude with a summary of implications for Christological interpretation.

4 thoughts on “A Royal Pain: The Use of Lament and Royal Psalms in the New Testament”

  1. Excellent proposal
    Heather has read two excellent papers for us in recent years, and this looks to be another great proposal. As in the case of Garrett, I do not think we should have an individual read in consecutive years, because we want to include a number of people in the section, by my high rating I hope she will get a place in the general program.


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