Prayerbook of Christ, Prayerbook of the Church: Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Christological Interpretation of the Psalms
Pribbenow, Brad A. “Prayerbook of Christ, Prayerbook of the Church: Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Christological Interpretation of the Psalms.” Ph.D. diss., Concordia Seminary, 2017. 260pp.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906–1945), German Lutheran theologian and pastor, is known as an ethicist, church reformer, political resistor, seminary professor, and martyr. Yet overlooked by many scholars is his contribution to the history of interpretation of the Psalms. Bonhoeffer’s interpretive approach toward the Psalms, which shares many characteristics of pre-critical exegesis, is built on a two-pronged hermeneutic emphasizing the relationship of the Psalms to prayer and to Jesus Christ the Crucified One. The distinguishing mark of his unique contribution to the history of interpretation is his emphasis on Jesus Christ, who prayed the Psalms in his incarnation. This historical and existential reality functions as the filter through which Bonhoeffer interprets the Psalms for himself and for the church. Bonhoeffer’s writings on the Psalter, including his use of the Psalms at Finkenwalde and into the last two years of his life in Nazi prison, demonstrate various applications of this approach. An analysis of Bonhoeffer’s interpretation of the Psalms in the latter years of his life explores the ways in which he developed and changed his approach. This dissertation concludes with an evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of Bonhoeffer’s interpretive approach, as well as suggestions for how this research might aid the church in its use of the Psalms and contribute to other scholarly pursuits in the field of biblical studies.