Up to 1980, form criticism has dominated Psalms study. Following Gunkel and Mowinckel, many scholars tried to categorize genre of Psalm and find Sitz im Leben of individual psalms. But unfortunately it is found that there were so much limitation in defining specific structure of each genre and Sitz im Leben. But basic concept raised by form criticism cannot be ignored. In 1985, Gerald Wilson opened macro-approach to Psalms study. He tried to find final redactor's theological intention behind order of Masoretic Psalms 150. A lot of scholars joined in this trend of Psalms study. Thus extent of Psalms study became broadened. Currently Psalms study has been conducted in very diverse areas. In this study, the author pursues to categorize current Psalms study into five different trends.
First, there are descendants of form/historical criticism in which H. Gunkel and S. Mowinckel had contributed a lot. C. Westermann criticized H. Gunkel, developed his own idea on genre of psalms, and tried to group differently from what Gunkel did. Gerstenberger has interest in Psalms' liturgical function. He categorized regular ritual (like festivals) and irregular ritual (like victory of war), supposed that ritual could be revised by socio-political change. He connected even wisdom psalms with ritual. He recognized that there were a lot of pre-exilic psalms without ritual connection, but later the ritual significance increased. Goulder, in his four books, attempted to answer historical questions raised by historical criticism. He tried to find proper date of some Psalms. He argued that prayers of David (Psalms 51-72) were written during David period, Psalms 120-134 during Nehemiah period, and Psalms 135-150 during Ezra period.
Second, it was G. Wilson who opened the issue of shape of the psalter. Wilson maintained that an editor of psalter arranged MT Psalms 150 not arbitrarily, but intentionally. He tried to find theological intention laid behind order of MT 150 Psalms. After comparing ancient Sumerian and Qumran texts, Wilson argued that there was explicit editorial activity in the order of Psalms. He noted Psalms could be divided into two by books 1-3 and books 4-5. He argued that Psalm 89 accused God of not keeping the covenant between God and David, asked God to keep the covenant faithfully (Ps 89:46-51). It intended for getting hope of recovering the fate of Judah. The last two books were added later. They function as an answer to the question raised in books 1-3. He pointed out that in books 4-5 only God appeared as a king. He also noted that wisdom Psalms 1, 73, 90, 107 were placed in the head of books 1, 3, 4, 5. These wisdom Psalms led readers to read the book of Psalms in the perspective of torah. After Wilson, there were a lot of disputes on division of the Psalms, function of Psalm 1, theological intention of Psalms 1-150, and so on.
Third, theology of Psalms has been a traditional topic in Psalms study. Kraus pursued various theological themes in the book of Psalms. Brueggemann, borrowing from Paul Ricoeur, categorized psychological status of human experiences into three steps: orientation, disorientation, and reorientation. Creation psalms, torah psalms, wisdom psalms, retribution psalms were originated from orientation, individual and communal lament psalms from disorientation, and praise and thanksgiving psalms from reorientation. While McCann sets basic concept of Psalms into torah “instruction,“ Mays puts the most important concept into 'YHWH reigns.'
Fourth, the study on relationship between ancient Near Eastern texts and the book of Psalms has been a dominant topic. The most interesting psalm between Egyptian text and Psalms is psalm 104. Dahood and Craigie pointed out the differences of two psalms as well as similarities. Knigge tried to fill the gap of time between two psalms. In Mesopotamia, a lot of prayers appeared from 2500 BCE to 539 BCE. The contents of prayers consist of laments and praises. Longman III explained differences and similarities between Mesopotamian prayers and Psalms. Ferris, Arneth, Hilber, and Otto compared individual psalms with Mesopotamian prayers. There were a lot of fascinating studies between the Ugaritic texts and Psalms. Avishur compared word pairs between the Ugaritic texts and Psalms, and found some fixed word pairs in Canaanite literature.
Fifth, there are various trends in Psalms study such as socio-political approach, christological interpretation, post-colonial approach, rhetorical criticism, reader-response, feministic, deconstructive, and ecological reading.
In sum, the Psalms study since 2000 became broader than before. It reflects current trends of the Old Testament study. If there is a time to expand its territory, and a time to categorize and rearrange for expanded territory, now it is time to expand the territory of Psalms.