Jerome F. D. Creach is the Robert C. Holland Professor of Old Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. He earned hisPhD in biblical studies at Union Theological Seminary in Virginia (now Union Presbyterian Seminary). The primary focus of Creach’s work is the theological interpretation of the Bible, with the Psalms as a primary area of interest. Creach is a Minister of the Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (USA). He has served churches in Kentucky, North Carolina, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. A North Carolina native, he lives in Pittsburgh with his wife, Page, who is also a minister of the Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (USA).
What is your hope for how Reading Psalms might impact readers?
My hope is that it will be a guide to readers on a number of levels. First, when a reader approaches a psalm, there are many basic questions the reader may ask about its content and meaning, such as: what is all that information in the heading (if there is a heading); what are the circumstances in which the psalmist wrote or spoke these words; who was the psalmist, David or someone else; how did the psalmist see the world and how did she or he think about God? I hope the commentary will at least give initial answers to questions like these and provide a basic orientation to the worldview and the theology the psalm expresses. Second, I hope Reading Psalms gives a sense of how to read an individual psalm as Scripture. What does it say about God and about our relationship with God, and how does it speak in concert with other parts of the Bible, including with other psalms, on those matters? Finally, I hope the book will speak to the reader on a deeper and more personal level to offer direction as to how to pray, worship God, and grow in faith with the Psalms as a guide.
Where did your interest in the book of Psalms begin? How has such an interest continued to develop?
I suppose I’ve always been interested in the Psalms. I remember reading them and hearing them as a child. One of my earliest memories of learning Scripture is sitting on my grandmother’s knee while she recited Bible verses and asked me to repeat them. The one specific one I remember, and I still remember it in the King James Version that she recited, was “What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee” (Psalm 56:3).
My interest in studying the Psalms in a more serious way, however, really started in seminary when I took a Hebrew exegesis course on the Psalms with Marvin Tate (author of the commentary on Psalms 51-100 in the Word Biblical Commentary series). In addition to reading a number of psalms in Hebrew, Marvin had us read Robert Alter’s book, The Art of Biblical Poetry (New York: Basic Books, 1985). I was fascinated by the rich variety of parallel structures we encounter in the Psalms and particularly with how the Psalms communicate their truths in language that is repetitive, but not repetitious, and with evocative images that often defy logical analysis.
In that same seminar, I also discovered what at that time was a new movement in the study of the Psalter, the effort to discern the order and shape of the book. This became my primary question, and I started my PhD with it at the forefront of my study. I wrote my dissertation to address this question. It resulted in my first book, Yahweh as Refuge and the Editing of the Hebrew Psalter (JSOTSup 217; Sheffield, 1996).