Carissa Quinn is the author of The Arrival of the King: The Shape and Story of Psalms 15-24. Quinn interprets Psalms 15–24 as a sequence and a chiasm, revealing provocative links in adjacent and parallel psalms. These psalms have a sense of progress, beginning with the question of who may ascend the holy hill and culminating in the divine king’s own ascent. They also display recursion, as themes in one psalm are developed in its chiastic parallel. At the peak of the chiasm is Psalm 19, where the king praises God’s creation and Torah and prays for righteousness.
In our interview below, Quinn shares how she has found comfort and resonance in the particular collection of Psalms 15-24 and how she is passionate about contributing to personal healing and transformation in the lives of others.
Carissa Quinn is a biblical scholar and teacher and former director of scholarship at BibleProject, an EdTech organization and animation studio in Portland, Oregon. She is a coach and constellations facilitator at carissaquinn.myportfolio.com.
Lexham Press: What is the story behind The Arrival of the King: The Shape and Story of Psalms 15-24 and what is your book’s basic thesis?
Carissa Quinn: This book is a revised version of my dissertation, so there is a lot of love and hard work behind each page! I first became fascinated by the Psalms through a class with my supervisor, David Howard. In that class I experienced the literary beauty of the poetic structure—how each line takes an idea and adds just a bit more—and then how entire psalms do the same thing, building on the previous psalm to form an overarching story.
In my book, I look at one collection of psalms, 15-24, and the story it tells. I identify the various literary links between these psalms, to discern the overarching structure and how the story builds. I find that this group of psalms tell a story about two kings—YHWH the king and his arrival, and the role of the Davidic king in that moment coming about. As I’ve studied and meditated on this collection, I’ve often felt like I’m reading a poetic telling of the story of the entire Bible.
LP: What contribution do you hope to make with The Arrival of the King?
Quinn: I hope to demonstrate a compelling way to read the Psalms that many of us aren’t familiar with. Most of us read the psalms as individual units, but reading them as meaningfully arranged can engage us in a larger story.
I am also hopeful that other readers, along with me, might find in these psalms a story that has continuity with the story of God’s kingdom in the entire Bible, both Old and New Testaments—a story about the human king, whose suffering and rescue from death plays an integral role in YHWH’s kingdom.
I found that these particular psalms alternate between hopeful visions of YHWH’s ideal kingdom and the painful realities of suffering. The journey we are invited on as we read is one of maintaining hope when we go through experiences that feel only like despair and death. As I’ve gone through difficult times over these past years, I’ve found comfort and resonance here and hope others can find that support here, too.
LP: Describe a particularly surprising or enjoyable aspect of writing The Arrival of the King.
Quinn: This likely sounds super nerdy, but I loved creatively using math to identify and weigh the connections between all the repeated elements among psalms in the collection. I identified each repeated element in the collection (lexemes, morphological forms, phrases, themes, structures/genres, and superscripts), calculated how rare it was, and then drew conclusions about which psalms were most closely connected to which others. There were moments when I wondered what I would do with my work if no discernable structure emerged—this kept me on my toes and curious. The overarching chiastic structure that surfaced from examining the rarity and number of these rare repetitions was compelling and further convinced me of the intentionality of arrangement within the Psalter.
LP: Share with us something surprising about yourself that only your friends would know.
Quinn: I’m not only fascinated by biblical patterns but also human patterns and dynamics as a coach and constellations facilitator. I am passionate about contributing to personal healing and transformation in the lives of others and organizations. Some of what I do is explore the hidden dynamics of the systems of which we are a part–personal, familial, and organizational—and bring those system dynamics to light to foster healing. I integrate the insights I gain as a biblical scholar with my training as a coach and facilitator to contribute to whole-person well-being. Feel free to check out my website to learn more!