Pilgrim Theology: Worldmaking through Enactment of the Psalms of Ascents (Psalms 120-134)

Melinda Cousins

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis critically explores the theological perspectives of the Psalms of Ascents (Psalms 120–134), sometimes referred to as the Pilgrim Psalter, through text and performance. Three particular perspectives are considered: anthropo-logic, cosmo-logic, and theo-logic. These are adapted from William Brown’s approach to the theological interpretation of Scripture. Each one is refracted through a corresponding effect of the text that also emerges in performance: emotional, kinaesthetic, and relational. Adopting Christopher Seitz’s argument that the canonical arrangement and ordering of biblical texts has theological implications, this thesis approaches the Psalms of Ascents as a
theologically coherent collection with intentionality to their canonical presentation. In particular, their shared superscription connecting them to pilgrimage functions as both a frame for performance and a hermeneutical lens for interpretation of the collection sequentially. An innovative component of this thesis is the incorporation of the author’s own memorisation and performance of the text, as well as analysis of audience responses to these performances, as part of the interpretive process. The theological interpretation of the collection therefore integrates critical analysis of the text combined with performance-based research, utilising the emerging methodology of biblical performance criticism through contemporary performance of an ancient text. This
combination provides a significant enrichment to the understanding of the theological trajectory of the Psalms of Ascents. This is a theology designed to be entered into and experienced, or “enacted.” What emerges from this study is aptly termed a “pilgrim theology.” Taking the performative nature of the collection along with the framing effect of its superscription, those who enact these psalms find their identity as pilgrims redefined, their engagement with the world as a place of journey reconstructed, and their relationship with a dynamic and multidimensional God reframed. This thesis demonstrates that the effect of the Pilgrim Psalter is, to use Walter Brueggemann’s term, “worldmaking.”
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Charles Sturt University
  • Anstey, Matthew, Co-Supervisor
  • Mathews, Jeanette, Co-Supervisor
Award date13 Jul 2016
Place of PublicationAustralia
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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