The BOOK OF PSALMS (
Hebrew : תְּהִלִּים or
תהילים, Tehillim, "praises"), commonly referred to simply as
PSALMS or "the Psalms", is the first book of the
the third section of the
Bible , and a book of the Christian
Old Testament . The title is derived from the Greek translation,
ψαλμοί psalmoi, meaning "instrumental music" and, by extension,
"the words accompanying the music." The book is an anthology of
individual psalms, with 150 in the
Jewish and Western Christian
tradition and more in the Eastern
Christian churches. Many of the
psalms are linked to the name of
David , but his authorship is not
accepted by modern
Bible scholars .
* 1 Structure
* 1.1 Benedictions
* 1.2 Superscriptions and attributions
* 1.3 Numbering
* 1.4 Additional psalms
* 2 Summary
* 3 Composition
* 3.1 Origins
* 3.2 Poetic characteristics
* 3.3 Editorial Agenda
* 4 The ancient music of the
* 5 Themes
* 6 Later interpretation and influence
* 6.1 Overview
* 6.2 Use of the
* 6.3 The
* 6.5 Oriental
* 6.6 Roman Catholic usage
* 6.7 Protestant usage
Psalms in the
Psalms set to music
* 7.1 Multiple psalms as a single composition
* 7.2 Individual psalm settings
* 7.3 Bach
* 7.4 Psalm verses
* 7.5 Contemporary popular music
* 8 See also
* 9 References
* 10 Bibliography
* 11 External links
* 11.1 Translations
* 11.2 Commentary and others
For the Orthodox
Christian division into twenty kathismata , see
below . An 1880
Baxter process illustration of
Psalm 23 , from
Religious Tract Society 's magazine The Sunday at Home.
Psalms is divided into five sections, each closing with a
doxology (i.e., a benediction )—these divisions were probably
introduced by the final editors to imitate the five-fold division of
Book 1 (
Book 2 (
Book 3 (
Book 4 (
Book 5 (
SUPERSCRIPTIONS AND ATTRIBUTIONS
Many psalms (116 of the 150) have individual superscriptions
(titles), ranging from lengthy comments to a single word. Over a third
appear to be musical directions, addressed to the "leader" or
"choirmaster," including such statements as "with stringed
instruments" and "according to lilies." Others appear to be references
to types of musical composition, such as "A psalm" and "Song," or
directions regarding the occasion for using the psalm ("On the
dedication of the temple," "For the memorial offering," etc.). Many
superscriptions carry the names of individuals, the most common (73
psalms) being of
David , and thirteen of these relate explicitly to
incidents in the king's life. Others named include
Moses (1), Asaph
Sons of Korah (11) and
Masoretic ) Greek
Psalms are usually identified by a sequence number, often preceded by
the abbreviation "Ps." Numbering of the
Psalms differs—mostly by one
digit, see table—between the
Masoretic ) and Greek
Septuagint ) manuscripts. Protestant translations (
Calvinist ) use the
Hebrew numbering, but other Christian
* Catholic official liturgical texts follow the Greek numbering
* Catholic modern translations often use the
(noting the Greek number)
Eastern Orthodox translations use the Greek numbering (noting the
For the remainder of this article, the
Hebrew numbering is used,
unless otherwise noted.
The variance between Massorah and
Septuagint texts in this numeration
is likely enough due to a gradual neglect of the original poetic form
of the Psalms; such neglect was occasioned by liturgical uses and
carelessness of copyists. It is generally admitted that Pss. 9 and 10
were originally a single acrostic poem; they have been wrongly
separated by Massorah, rightly united by the
Septuagint and Vulgate.
On the other hand, Ps. 144 is made up of two songs—verses 1–11 and
12–15. Pss. 42 and 43 are shown by identity of subject (yearning
for the house of Jahweh), of metrical structure and of refrain (cf.
Heb. Ps. 42:6, 12; 43:5), to be three strophes of one and the same
Hebrew text is correct in counting as one Ps. 146 and Ps.
147. Later liturgical usage would seem to have split up these and not
a few other psalms. Zenner combines into what he deems were the
original choral odes: Pss. 1, 2, 3, 4; 6 + 13; 9 + 10; 19, 20, 21; 56
+ 57; 69 + 70; 114 + 115; 148, 149, 150. A choral ode would seem to
have been the original form of Pss. 14 + 70. The two strophes and the
epode are Ps. 14; the two antistrophes are Ps. 70. It is noteworthy
that, on the breaking up of the original ode, each portion crept twice
into the Psalter: Ps. 14 = 53, Ps. 70 = 40:14–18. Other such
duplicated psalms are Ps. 108:2–6 = Ps. 57:8–12; Ps. 108:7–14 =
Ps. 60:7–14; Ps. 71:1–3 = Ps. 31:2–4. This loss of the original
form of some of the psalms is allowed by the Biblical Commission (1
May 1910) to have been due to liturgical uses, neglect of copyists, or
Septuagint bible, present in
Eastern Orthodox churches, includes
Psalm 151 ; a
Hebrew version of this was found in the
Dead Sea Scrolls
Dead Sea Scrolls . Some versions of the
Peshitta (the bible
used in Syriac churches in the Middle East) include
Psalms 152–155 .
There are also the
Solomon , which are a further 18 psalms
Jewish origin, likely originally written in Hebrew, but surviving
only in Greek and Syriac translation. These and other indications
suggest that the current Western
Jewish collection of
150 psalms were selected from a wider set.
Hermann Gunkel 's pioneering form-critical work on the psalms sought
to provide a new and meaningful context in which to interpret
individual psalms—not by looking at their literary context within
Psalter (which he did not see as significant), but by bringing
together psalms of the same genre (Gattung) from throughout the
Psalter. Gunkel divided the psalms into five primary types:
* Hymns , songs of praise for God's work in creation or history.
They typically open with a call to praise, describe the motivation for
praise, and conclude with a repetition of the call. Two sub-categories
are "enthronement psalms," celebrating the enthronement of
Zion psalms, glorifying Mount
Zion , God's dwelling-place in
Jerusalem. Gunkel also described a special subset of "eschatological
hymns" which includes themes of future restoration (Psalm 126) or of
judgment (Psalm 82).
* Communal laments, in which the nation laments some communal
disaster. Both communal and individual laments typically but not
always include the following elements: 1) address to God, 2)
description of suffering, 3) cursing of the party responsible for
suffering, 4) protestation of innocence or admission of guilt, 5)
petition for divine assistance, 6) faith in God's receipt of prayer,
7) anticipation of divine response, and 8) a song of thanksgiving.
In general, the difference between the individual and communal
subtypes can be distinguished by the use of the singular "I" or the
plural "we". However, the "I" could also be characterizing an
individual's personal experience that was reflective of the entire
Royal Psalms , dealing with such matters as the king's coronation,
marriage and battles. None of them mentions any specific king by
name, and their origin and use remain obscure; several psalms,
especially ps.93–99, concern the kingship of God, and might relate
to an annual ceremony in which
Yahweh would be ritually reinstated as
* Individual laments lamenting the fate of the particular individual
who utters them. They are by far the most common type of psalm. They
typically open with an invocation of Yahweh, followed by the lament
itself and pleas for help, and often ending with an expression of
confidence. A subset is the psalm of confidence, in which the psalmist
expresses confidence that God will deliver him from evils and enemies.
* Individual thanksgiving psalms, the obverse of individual laments,
in which the psalmist thanks God for deliverance from personal
In addition to these five major genres, Gunkel also recognised a
number of minor psalm-types, including: communal thanksgiving psalms,
in which the whole nation thanks God for deliverance; wisdom psalms,
Old Testament wisdom literature ; pilgrimage psalms,
sung by pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem; entrance and prophetic
liturgies; and a group of mixed psalms which could not be assigned to
Scroll of the
The composition of the psalms spans at least five centuries, from
Psalm 29 , possibly adapted from an entire Canaanite hymn to Baal
which was transposed into a hymn to Yahweh, to others clearly from
the post-Exilic period (not earlier than the 5th cent. B.C.) The
majority originated in the southern kingdom of Judah and were
associated with the
Temple in Jerusalem
Temple in Jerusalem , where they probably
functioned as libretto during the Temple worship. Exactly how they did
this is unclear, although there are indications in some of them: "Bind
the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar,"
suggests a connection with sacrifices, and "Let my prayer be counted
as incense" suggests a connection with the offering of incense.
Davidic authorship is not accepted as historical fact by modern
The biblical poetry of
Psalms uses parallelism as its primary poetic
device. Parallelism is a kind of rhyme , in which an idea is developed
by the use of repetition, synonyms, or opposites. Synonymous
parallelism involves two lines expressing essentially the same idea.
An example of synonymous parallelism:
* The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD
is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1)
Two lines expressing opposites is known as antithetic parallelism .
An example of antithetic parallelism:
* The LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the
wicked will perish. (Psalm 1:6)
Many scholars believe the individual
Psalms were redacted into a
single collection in Second-Temple times. It had long been recognized
that the collection bore the imprint of an underlying message or
metanarrative , but that this message remained concealed, as Augustine
of Hippo said, 'The sequence of the
Psalms seems to me to contain the
secret of a mighty mystery, but its meaning has not been revealed to
me.' (Enarr. on Ps. 150.1) Others pointed out the presence of
concatenation, that is, adjacent
Psalms sharing similar words and
themes. In time, this approach developed into recognizing overarching
themes shared by whole groups of psalms.
Gerald H. Wilson 's The Editing of the
proposed, by parallel with other ancient eastern hymn collections,
that psalms at the beginning and end (or "seams") of the five books of
Psalms have thematic significance, corresponding in particular with
the placement of the royal psalms. He pointed out that there was a
progression of ideas, from adversity, through the crux of the
collection in the apparent failure of the covenant in Psalm 89,
leading to a concert of praise at the end. He concluded that the
collection was redacted to be a retrospective of the failure of the
Davidic covenant, exhorting Israel to trust in God alone in a
Walter Brueggemann suggested that the
underlying editorial purpose was oriented rather towards wisdom or
sapiential concerns, addressing the issues of how to live the life of
Psalm 1 calls the reader to a life of obedience; Psalm 73
(Brueggemann's crux psalm) faces the crisis when divine faithfulness
is in doubt;
Psalm 150 represents faith's triumph, when God is praised
not for his rewards, but for his being. In 1997, David. C. Mitchell's
The Message of the
Psalter took a quite different line. Building on
the work of Wilson and others, Mitchell proposed that the Psalter
embodies an eschatological timetable like that of Zechariah 9–14.
This programme includes the gathering of exiled Israel by a
bridegroom-king; his establishment of a kingdom; his violent death;
Israel scattered in the wilderness, regathered and again imperilled,
then rescued by a king from the heavens, who establishes his kingdom
from Zion, brings peace and prosperity to the earth and receives the
homage of the nations. Such a timetable is confirmed by parallels from
Baal Cycle to Roman-period midrashim.
These three views—Wilson's non-messianic retrospective of the
Davidic covenant, Brueggemann's sapiential instruction, and Mitchell's
eschatologico-messianic programme—all have their followers, although
the sapiential agenda has been somewhat eclipsed by the other two.
Shortly before his untimely death in 2005, Wilson modified his
position to allow for the existence of messianic prophecy within the
Psalms' redactional agenda. Mitchell's position remains largely
unchanged, although he now sees the issue as identifying when the
historical beginning of the
Psalms turns to eschatology.
THE ANCIENT MUSIC OF THE PSALMS
Psalms were written not merely as poems, but as songs for
singing. More than a third of the psalms are addressed to the Director
of Music. Some psalms exhort the worshipper to sing (e.g. Pss. 33:1-3;
92:1-3; 96:1-3; 98:1; 101:1; 150). Some headings denote the musical
instruments on which the psalm should be played (Pss. 4, 5, 6, 8, 67).
Some refer to singing at the sheminit or octave (Pss. 6, 12). And
others preserve the name for ancient eastern modes, like mut la-ben
(Death of the son; Ps. 9), ayelet ha-shachar (hind of the dawn; Ps.
22); shoshanim (Lilies; Ps. 45); or alamoth (Maidens?; Ps. 46).
Despite the frequently-heard view that their ancient music is lost,
the means to reconstruct it still exist. Fragments of temple psalmody
are preserved in ancient church and synagogue chant, particularly in
the tonus peregrinus melody to Psalm 114. Cantillation signs, to
record the melody sung, were in use since ancient times; evidence of
them can be found in the manuscripts of the oldest extant copies of
Psalms in the
Dead Sea Scrolls
Dead Sea Scrolls and are even more extensive in the
Masoretic text , which dates to the
Early Middle Ages
Early Middle Ages and whose
Tiberian scribes claimed to be basing their work on temple-period
signs. (See Moshe ben Asher's 'Song of the Vine' colophon to the Codex
Cairensis). However, any knowledge of how to read these signs was lost
in ancient times, and modern
Bible translations do not include any
musical notation .
Several attempts have been made to decode the
but the most successful is that of Suzanne Haïk-Vantoura
(1928–2000) in the last quarter of the 20th century. Although some
have dismissed Haïk-Vantoura's system, Mitchell has repeatedly
defended it, showing that, when applied to the
of Psalm 114, it produces a melody recognizable as the tonus
peregrinus of church and synagogue. Mitchell includes musical
transcriptions of the temple psalmody of
Psalms 120–134 in his
commentary on the Songs of Ascents.
Most individual psalms involve the praise of God—for his power and
beneficence, for his creation of the world, and for his past acts of
deliverance for Israel. The psalms envision a world in which everyone
and everything will praise God, and God in turn will hear their
prayers and respond. Worst of all is when God "hides his face" and
refuses to respond, because this puts in question the efficacy of
prayer which is the underlying assumption of the
Book of Psalms.
Some psalms are called "maskil " (maschil) because in addition they
impart wisdom. Most notable of these is
Psalm 142 which is sometimes
called the "
Maskil of David", others include
Psalm 32 and Psalm 78.
The term derives from maskil meaning "enlightened" or "wise".
LATER INTERPRETATION AND INFLUENCE
David Playing the Harp by
Jan de Bray , 1670.
of Psalm 1:1-2 A
Jewish man reads
Psalms at the
Individual psalms were originally hymns, to be used on various
occasions and at various sacred sites; later, some were anthologised,
and might have been understood within the various anthologies (e.g.,
ps.123 as one of the
Psalms of Ascent); finally, individual psalms
might be understood within the
Psalter as a whole, either narrating
the life of
David or providing instruction like the Torah. In later
Christian tradition, the psalms have come to be used as
prayers, either individual or communal, as traditional expressions of
USE OF THE PSALMS IN JEWISH RITUAL
Some of the titles given to the
Psalms have descriptions which
suggest their use in worship:
* Some bear the
Hebrew description shir (שיר; Greek ode, a song).
Thirteen have this description. It means the flow of speech, as it
were, in a straight line or in a regular strain. This description
includes secular as well as sacred song.
Psalms bear the description mizmor (מזמור; Greek
ψαλμός psalmos, a psalm), a lyric ode , or a song set to music;
a sacred song accompanied with a musical instrument.
Psalm 145 , and many others, has the designation tehillah
(תהילה; Greek hymnos, a hymn), meaning a song of praise; a song
the prominent thought of which is the praise of God.
* Thirteen psalms are described as maskil (wise): 32, 42, 44, 45,
52–55, 74, 78, 88, 89, and 142. Psalm 41:2, although not in the
above list, has the description ashrei maskil.
Psalms (16, 56–60) have the title michtam (מכתם;
Rashi suggests that michtam refers to an item that a person
carries with him at all times, hence, these
Psalms contain concepts or
ideas that are pertinent at every stage and setting throughout life,
deemed vital as part of day-to-day spiritual awareness.
Psalm 7 (along with Habakkuk ch. 3) bears the title shigayon
(שיגיון). There are three interpretations: (a) According to
Rashi and others, this term stems from the root shegaga, meaning
David committed some sin and is singing in the form of a
prayer to redeem himself from it; (b) shigayon was a type of musical
instrument; (c) Ibn Ezra considers the word to mean "longing," as for
example in the verse in Proverbs 5:19 tishge tamid.
Psalms are used throughout traditional
Jewish worship. Many complete
Psalms and verses from
Psalms appear in the morning services
(Shacharit). The pesukei dezimra component incorporates
Psalms 30, 100
Psalm 145 (commonly referred to as "
Ashrei ", which is
really the first word of 2 verses appended to the beginning of the
Psalm), is read three times every day: once in shacharit as part of
pesukei dezimrah, as mentioned, once, along with Psalm 20, as part of
the morning's concluding prayers , and once at the start of the
afternoon service . On Festival days and Sabbaths, instead of
concluding the morning service, it precedes the
Mussaf service. Psalms
95–99, 29, 92, and 93, along with some later readings, comprise the
Kabbalat Shabbat ) to the Friday night service.
Traditionally, a different "Psalm for the Day"—
Shir shel yom — is
read after the morning service each day of the week (starting Sunday,
Psalms: 24, 48, 82, 94, 81, 93, 92). This is described in the Mishnah
(the initial codification of the
Jewish oral tradition ) in the
Tamid . According to the Talmud, these daily
originally recited on that day of the week by the Levites in the
Temple in Jerusalem. From
Hoshanah Rabbah ,
Psalm 27 is recited twice daily following the morning and evening
services. There is a
Minhag (custom) to recite
Psalm 30 each morning
Chanukkah after Shacharit: some recite this in place of the regular
"Psalm for the Day", others recite this additionally.
Jew dies, a watch is kept over the body and tehillim (Psalms)
are recited constantly by sun or candlelight, until the burial
service. Historically, this watch would be carried out by the
immediate family, usually in shifts, but in contemporary practice this
service is provided by an employee of the funeral home or chevra
Many Jews complete the
Psalms on a weekly or monthly basis.
Each week, some also say a Psalm connected to that week's events or
Torah portion read during that week . In addition, many Jews
Lubavitch , and other Chasidim ) read the entire
Psalms prior to the morning service, on the Sabbath preceding the
calculated appearance of the new moon .
The reading of psalms is viewed in
Jewish tradition as a vehicle for
gaining God's favor. They are thus often specially recited in times of
trouble, such as poverty, disease, or physical danger; in many
Psalms are recited after services for the security of the
State of Israel. Note that
Sefer ha-Chinuch states that this
practice is designed not to achieve favor, as such, but rather to
inculcate belief in
Divine Providence into one's consciousness,
Maimonides ' general view on Providence. (Relatedly,
Hebrew verb for prayer, hitpalal התפלל, is in fact the
reflexive form of palal פלל, to judge. Thus, "to pray" conveys the
notion of "judging oneself": ultimately, the purpose of prayer —
tefilah תפלה — is to transform ourselves; for the relationship
between prayer and psalms—"tehillah and tefillah"—see S. R. Hirsch
, Horeb §620. See also under
Jewish services .)
THE PSALMS IN CHRISTIAN WORSHIP
St. Florian 's psalter, 14th or 15th century, Old Polish
Translation Children singing and playing music, illustration of
Psalm 150 (
Laudate Dominum ).
New Testament references show that the earliest Christians used the
Psalms in worship, and the
Psalms have remained an important part of
worship in most
Christian Churches. The
Eastern Orthodox , Catholic ,
Anglican Churches have always made
systematic use of the Psalms, with a cycle for the recitation of all
or most of them over the course of one or more weeks. In the early
centuries of the Church, it was expected that any candidate for bishop
would be able to recite the entire
Psalter from memory, something they
often learned automatically during their time as monks.
Paul the Apostle
Paul the Apostle quotes psalms (specifically
Psalms 14 and 53 , which
are nearly identical) as the basis for his theory of original sin ,
and includes the scripture in the
Epistle to the Romans , chapter 3.
Several conservative Protestant denominations sing only the Psalms
(some churches also sing the small number of hymns found elsewhere in
the Bible) in worship, and do not accept the use of any non-Biblical
hymns; examples are the Reformed
Presbyterian Church of North America
Presbyterian Reformed Church (North America) and the Free Church
of Scotland (Continuing) .
Psalm 22 is of particular importance during the season of
a Psalm of continued faith during severe testing.
Psalm 23 , The LORD is My Shepherd, offers an immediately
appealing message of comfort and is widely chosen for church funeral
services, either as a reading or in one of several popular hymn
Psalm 51 , Have mercy on me O God, called the Miserere from the
first word in its
Latin version, in both Divine
Liturgy and Hours, in
the sacrament of repentance or confession, and in other settings;
Psalm 82 is found in the
Book of Common Prayer as a funeral
Psalm 103 , Bless the Lord, O my soul was adapted for the musical
Psalm 137 , By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down and wept,
is a moody meditation upon living in slavery , and has been used in at
least one well-known reggae song; the Orthodox church often uses this
Lent . This psalm was adapted for the song On the Willows
in the musical
New translations and settings of the
Psalms continue to be produced.
An individually printed volume of
Psalms for use in Christian
religious rituals is called a
EASTERN ORTHODOX CHRISTIANITY
Orthodox Christians and Greek-Catholics (
Eastern Catholics who follow
Byzantine rite ), have long made the
Psalms an integral part of
their corporate and private prayers. The official version of the
Psalter used by the
Orthodox Church is the
Septuagint . To facilitate
its reading, the 150
Psalms are divided into 20 kathismata (Greek:
καθίσματα; Slavonic: каѳисмы, kafismy; lit.
"sittings") and each kathisma (Greek: κάθισμα; Slavonic:
каѳисма, kafisma) is further subdivided into three stases
(Greek: στάσεις, staseis lit. "standings", sing. στάσις,
stasis), so-called because the faithful stand at the end of each
stasis for the Glory to the Father ... .
Matins , different kathismata are read at different
times of the liturgical year and on different days of the week,
according to the Church's calendar, so that all 150 psalms (20
kathismata) are read in the course of a week. During Great
Lent , the
number of kathismata is increased so that the entire
Psalter is read
twice a week. In the twentieth century, some lay Christians have
adopted a continuous reading of the
Psalms on weekdays, praying the
whole book in four weeks.
Aside from kathisma readings,
Psalms occupy a prominent place in
every other Orthodox service including the services of the Hours and
Liturgy . In particular, the penitential
Psalm 50 is very
widely used. Fragments of
Psalms and individual verses are used as
Prokimena (introductions to Scriptural readings) and
Stichera . The
Vespers would still be composed of
Psalms even if the kathisma
were to be disregarded;
Psalm 119 , "The Psalm of the Law ", is the
Matins on Saturdays, some Sundays, and the Funeral
service. The entire book of
Psalms is traditionally read out loud or
chanted at the side of the deceased during the time leading up to the
Several branches of
Oriental Orthodox and those
Eastern Catholics who
follow one of the Oriental Rites will chant the entire
the course of a day during the
Daily Office . This practice continues
to be a requirement of monastics in the Oriental churches.
ROMAN CATHOLIC USAGE
Psalms have always been an important part of
Catholic liturgy .
Liturgy of the Hours is centered on chanting or recitation of the
Psalms, using fixed melodic formulas known as psalm tones . Early
Catholics employed the
Psalms widely in their individual prayers also;
however, as knowledge of
Latin (the language of the
Roman Rite )
became uncommon, this practice ceased among the unlearned. However,
until the end of the Middle Ages, it was not unknown for the laity to
join in the singing of the
Little Office of Our Lady , which was a
shortened version of the
Liturgy of the Hours providing a fixed daily
cycle of twenty-five psalms to be recited, and nine other psalms
divided across Matins.
The work of
Richard Challoner in providing devotional
materials in English meant that many of the psalms were familiar to
English-speaking Catholics from the eighteenth century onwards.
Challoner translated the entirety of the Lady Office into English, as
well as Sunday
Vespers and daily Compline. He also provided other
Psalms such as 129/130 for prayer in his devotional books.
Challoner is also noted for revising the
Douay-Rheims Bible , and the
translations he used in his devotional books are taken from this work.
Second Vatican Council the
Psalms were either recited on a
one-week or, less commonly (as in the case of
Ambrosian rite ),
two-week cycle. Different one-week schemata were employed: most
secular clergy followed the Roman distribution, while Monastic Houses
almost universally followed that of
St Benedict , with only a few
congregations (such as the Benedictines of St Maur) following
individualistic arrangements. The Breviary introduced in 1974
distributed the psalms over a four-week cycle. Monastic usage varies
widely. Some use the four-week cycle of the secular clergy, many
retain a one-week cycle, either following St Benedict's scheme or
another of their own devising, while others opt for some other
Official approval was also given to other arrangements (see "Short"
Breviaries in the 20th and early 21st century America for an
in-progress study) by which the complete
Psalter is recited in a
one-week or two-week cycle. These arrangements are used principally by
Catholic contemplative religious orders, such as that of the Trappists
(see for example the Divine Office schedule at New Melleray Abbey).
The General Instruction of the
Liturgy of the Hours, 122 sanctions
three modes of singing/recitation for the Psalms:
* directly (all sing or recite the entire psalm);
* antiphonally (two choirs or sections of the congregation sing or
recite alternate verses or strophes); and
* responsorially (the cantor or choir sings or recites the verses
while the congregation sings or recites a given response after each
Of these three the antiphonal mode is the most widely followed.
Over the centuries, the use of complete
Psalms in the liturgy
declined. After the
Second Vatican Council (which also permitted the
use of vernacular languages in the liturgy), longer psalm texts were
reintroduced into the Mass, during the readings. The revision of the
Roman Missal after the
Second Vatican Council reintroduced the singing
or recitation of a more substantial section of a Psalm, in some cases
an entire Psalm, after the first Reading from Scripture. This Psalm,
Responsorial Psalm, is usually sung or recited
responsorially, although the General Instruction of the Roman Missal,
61 permits direct recitation.
Psalm 1 in a form of the Sternhold and Hopkins version
Anglican usage before the English Civil War (1628
printing). It was from this version that the armies sang before going
Protestant Reformation , versified translations of many
Psalms were set as hymns . These were particularly popular in
Calvinist tradition, where in the past they were typically sung to
the exclusion of hymns . Calvin himself made some French translations
Psalms for church usage, but the completed
used in church services consisted exclusively of translations by
Clément Marot and
Théodore de Bèze , on melodies by a number of
composers, including Louis Bourgeois and a certain Maistre Pierre.
Martin Luther 's
A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
A Mighty Fortress Is Our God is based on Psalm 46.
Among famous hymn settings of the
Psalter were the Scottish Psalter
and the paraphrases by
Isaac Watts . The first book printed in North
America was a collection of Psalm settings, the
Bay Psalm Book (1640).
By the 20th century, they were mostly replaced by hymns in church
services. However, the
Psalms are popular for private devotion among
many Protestants and still used in many churches for traditional
worship. There exists in some circles a custom of reading one Psalm
and one chapter of Proverbs a day, corresponding to the day of the
Psalms are still very popular among many
Reformed Churches .
Anglican chant is a method of singing prose versions of the Psalms.
In the early 17th century, when the King James
Bible was introduced,
the metrical arrangements by Thomas Sternhold and John Hopkins were
also popular and were provided with printed tunes. This version and
the New Version of the
Tate and Brady produced in
the late seventeenth century (see article on Metrical
remained the normal congregational way of singing psalms in the Church
of England until well into the nineteenth century.
In Great Britain, the Coverdale psalter still lies at the heart of
daily worship in Cathedrals and many parish churches . The new Common
Worship service book has a companion psalter in modern English.
The version of the
Psalter in the American
Book of Common Prayer
prior to the 1979 edition is a sixteenth-century Coverdale Psalter.
Psalter in the American
Book of Common Prayer of 1979 is a new
translation, with some attempt to keep the rhythms of the Coverdale
PSALMS IN THE RASTAFARI MOVEMENT
Psalms are one of the most popular parts of the
followers of the
Rastafari movement . Rasta singer Prince Far I
released an atmospheric spoken version of the psalms,
Psalms for I ,
set to a roots reggae backdrop from
The Aggrovators .
PSALMS SET TO MUSIC
MULTIPLE PSALMS AS A SINGLE COMPOSITION
Psalms have often been set as part of a larger work. The psalms
feature large in settings of
Vespers , including those by Claudio
Antonio Vivaldi , and
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart , who wrote
such settings as part of their responsibilities as church musicians.
Psalms are inserted in
Requiem compositions, such as
Psalm 126 in A
Johannes Brahms and
Psalms 130 and 23 in John Rutter
* Psalmi Davidis poenitentiales (6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143) by
Orlande de Lassus
Orlande de Lassus —1584
* Melodie na psałterz polski by
Mikołaj Gomółka —c. 1600
Psalmen Davids and Becker
Psalter by Heinrich Schütz—1619 and
* Le Roi
Arthur Honegger —1921
Symphony of Psalms
Symphony of Psalms (38, 39, 150) by
Igor Stravinsky —1930
Chichester Psalms by
Leonard Bernstein —1965
* Tehillim by
Steve Reich —1981
Psalms (114, 126, 133, 137) by
John Harbison —1998
Biblické písně by
Antonín Dvořák —1894
INDIVIDUAL PSALM SETTINGS
There are many settings of individual psalms, which are generally
mentioned in the article devoted to the particular psalm. They
Psalms 100, 121 and 124 by
Loys Bourgeois (c. 1500–1559)
Psalm 38 and Levavi oculos meos (Psalm 121) by Orlando di Lasso
Psalms 112 and 137 by
Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1643–1704)
* Beatus vir (Psalm 112) by
Antonio Vivaldi (1678–1741)
Psalm 126 In convertendo Dominus by Jean-Philippe Rameau
Psalm 130 by
Jan Dismas Zelenka
Psalm 100 (in
Utrecht Te Deum and Jubilate ) and others by George
Frideric Handel (1685–1750)
Psalm 148 by
William Billings (1746–1800)
Psalm 111 by
Samuel Wesley (1766–1837)
Psalm 23 by
Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
Psalm 42 (1837) by
Felix Mendelssohn (1809–1847)
Psalms 13, 18, 23, 116, 129 and 137 by
Psalm 150 by
César Franck (1822–1890)
Psalms 23 , 113 , 116 , 147 and 150 by
Psalm 13 by
Johannes Brahms (1833–1897)
Psalm 18 by
Camille Saint-Saëns (1835–1921)
Psalm 148 by
Ralph Vaughan Williams
Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872–1958)
Psalm 148 by
Gustav Holst (1874–1934)
Psalms 14, 24, 25, 42, 54, 67, 90, 100, 135 and 150 by Charles
Psalms 121 and 150 by
Zoltán Kodály (1882–1967)
Psalm 126 In convertendo Dominus ,
Psalm 137 Super flumina
Babylonis and others by
Jules Van Nuffel (1883–1953)
Psalm 121 by
Darius Milhaud (1892–1974)
* Psalm 24, 129 and 130 by
Lili Boulanger (1893–1918)
Psalm 121 and
Psalm 150 by
Howard Hanson (1896–1981)
Psalms 147, 148 and 150 by
Roger Sessions (1896–1985)
Psalm 121 by
Henry Cowell (1897–1965)
Psalm 150 by
Roy Harris (1898–1979)
* Two Motets (including Psalm 121) by
Gerald Finzi (1901–1956)
Psalm 29 and 92 by
Eric Zeisl (1905–1959)
Psalm 28 by
Alan Hovhaness (1911–2000)
Psalm 29 by
Hugo Weisgall (1912–1997)
Psalm 150 (1962, op. 67) by
Benjamin Britten (1913–1976)
Psalm 150 by
George Rochberg (1918–2005)
* I Was Glad (Psalm 122) by
Daniel Pinkham (1923–2006)
* A Psalm (13) and a Proverb by
Ned Rorem (b. 1923)
* A Psalm of
David (Psalm 13) by
Robert Starer (1924–2001)
Psalms 24, 40, 121 and 150 by Samuel Adler (b. 1928)
Psalm 95 by
Kamilló Lendvay (b. 1928)
* Three settings of
Psalm 13 by Edwin London (b. 1929)
Psalm 143 by
Yehudi Wyner (b. 1929)
Psalm 4 by
Alexander Goehr (b. 1932)
Psalm 150 by
William Mathias (1934–1992)
Psalm 8 by
John Corigliano (b. 1938)
Psalms 1–48, 51, 55, 57, 92, 109, 110, 112, 121, 126, 137 and
Mark Alburger (b. 1957)
* I Was Glad (Psalm 122) by
Howard Goodall (b. 1958)
* House of God, Forever (Psalm 23) by
Jon Foreman (b. 1976)
Psalm 73 by
Psalm 40 and
Psalm 116 by U2
Psalm 50 by
* Psalm 63: 2–3 by
Psalm 23 (Shadow of Deth) by
Psalms 23, 46, 67, 100, 111, 121 by Victoria Slemmons
* The Hope (Psalm 27) by
Johann Sebastian Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach used lines from psalms in several of his
cantatas , often in the opening chorus:
Psalm 19 :1,3 in
Die Himmel erzählen die Ehre Gottes, BWV 76
Psalm 22 :26 in
Die Elenden sollen essen, BWV 75
Psalm 29 :1 in
Bringet dem Herrn Ehre seines Namens, BWV 148
Psalm 38 :4 in
Es ist nichts Gesundes an meinem Leibe, BWV 25
Psalm 50 :23 in
Wer Dank opfert, der preiset mich, BWV 17
Psalm 75 :1 in
Wir danken dir, Gott, wir danken dir, BWV 29
Psalm 103 :2 in
Lobe den Herrn, meine Seele, BWV 69a
Psalm 104 :28–29 in
Es wartet alles auf dich, BWV 187
Psalm 130 in
Aus der Tiefen rufe ich, Herr, zu dir, BWV 131
Psalm 149 :1 in
Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied, BWV 190
Psalm 150 :4,6 in
Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied, BWV 190
Bach treated complete psalms in German paraphrasing as chorale
Psalm 124 in
Wo Gott der Herr nicht bei uns hält, BWV 178 (1724)
Wär Gott nicht mit uns diese Zeit, BWV 14 (1735)
Carl Nielsen set in
Tre Motetter three verses from different psalms
as motets for unaccompanied chorus, first performed in 1930.
CONTEMPORARY POPULAR MUSIC
There are also multiple contemporary popular artists, including
Robbie Seay Band ,
Shane and Shane , Enter the Worship
Sons of Korah and
Jon Foreman (lead singer of the Christian
Switchfoot ) who have set multiple psalms to music on various
In the musical
Godspell the song Bless The Lord is based on Psalm 103
, and On the Willows is based on
Psalm 137 .
Léo Ferré wrote and recorded a 151st psalm
on his album
Amour Anarchie (1970).
* Psalm 51's use in
Benefit of clergy
History of music in the biblical period
Psalm 90 (Ives)
Psalm of communal lament
They have pierced my hands and my feet
* ^ Mazor 2011 , p. 589.
* ^ Murphy 1993 , p. 626.
* ^ A B Kselman 2007 , p. 775.
* ^ A B C Berlin Brettler, Marc Zvi; Newsom, Carol Ann; Perkins,
Pheme (2010-01-01). The New Oxford Annotated Bible: New Revised
Standard Version : with the Apocrypha : an Ecumenical Study Bible.
Oxford University Press. p. 773. ISBN 9780195289558 .
* ^ Catholic Encyclopedia article Psalms
* ^ Johannes Konrad Zenner (1896). Die Chorgesänge im Buche der
Psalmen: ihre Existenz und ihre Form nachgewiesen. Herder.
* ^ Zenner-Wiesmann, Die Psalmen nach dem Urtext, Munster, 1906,
* ^ Day 2003 , p. 11-12.
* ^ Claudio Crispim. "
Psalm 91 - He who dwells in the secret place
of the Most High". Biblical Studies. Retrieved 2015-02-11.
* ^ Bray, G . Biblical Interpretation: Past and Present.
(Intervarsity Press: Downers Grove, IL, 1996) p400
* ^ A B C D Day 2003 , p. 12.
* ^ Coogan, M. A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament: The
Bible in its Context. (Oxford University Press: Oxford 2009)
* ^ Murphy 1993 , p. 627.
* ^ Bray, G. Biblical Interpretation: Past and Present.
(Intervarsity Press: Downers Grove, IL, 1996) p416
* ^ Berlin Edinburgh: T. M.E. Tate,
Psalms 51–100 (Waco, TX:
* ^ G.H. Wilson, The Editing of the
Psalter (Chico, CA:
Scholars Press, 1985).
* ^ W. Brueggemann, 'Bounded by Obedience and Praise: The
Canon', JSOT 50:63–92.
* ^ B.S. Childs, Introduction to the
Old Testament as Scripture
(Philadelphia: Fortress, 1979) 511–518; J.L. Mays, '"In a Vision":
The Portrayal of the Messiah in the Psalms', Ex Auditu 7: 1–8; J.
Forbes, Studies on the
Psalms (Edinburgh: T. see '"God Will
Redeem My Soul From Sheol": The
Psalms of the Sons of Korah', JSOT 30
(2006) 365–384; 'Lord, Remember David: G.H. Wilson and the Message
of the Psalter', Vetus Testamentum 56 (2006) 526–548; The Songs of
Ascents (Campbell: Newton Mearns, 2015) 211–216; 36–44.
* ^ Werner, The Sacred Bridge (New York: Columba University Press,
1957) 419, 466.
* ^ For discussion on the origins and antiquity of the Masoretic
cantillation, see D.C. Mitchell, The Songs of Ascents (Campbell:
Newton Mearns 2015): 122-137.
* ^ S. Haïk-Vantoura, La musique de la
Bible révélée (Robert
Dumas: Paris, 1976); Les 150 Psaumes dans leurs melodies antiques
(Paris: Fondation Roi David, 1985).
* ^ D.C. Mitchell, The Songs of Ascents:
Psalms 120 to 134 in the
Worship of Jerusalem's temples (Campbell: Newton Mearns 2015);
'Resinging the Temple Psalmody', JSOT 36 (2012) 355–78; 'How Can We
Sing the Lord's Song?' in S. Gillingham (ed.),
Jewish and Christian
Approaches to the
Psalms (Oxford University Press, 2013) 119–133.
* ^ Berlin & Brettler 2004 , p. 1284.
* ^ McKenzie, Steven L. (2000). King David: A Biography. New York:
Oxford University Press. pp. 39–40. ISBN 978-0-19-535101-9 .
* ^ Kselman 2007 , p. 776-778.
* ^ DLC (2006-08-27). "
Hebrew Language Detective: katom". Balashon.
* ^ "Daily Tehillim". Daily Tehillim. Retrieved 2014-04-16.
* ^ "Habakkuk 3 /
Hebrew – English
Bible / Mechon-Mamre".
Mechon-mamre.org. Retrieved 2013-03-17.
* ^ "ארכיון הדף היומי".
* ^ "Proverbs 5:19 A loving doe, a graceful deer-may her breasts
satisfy you always, may you ever be captivated by her love". Bible.cc.
* ^ "ספר החינוך - אהרן, הלוי, מברצלונה,
מיחס לו; שעוועל, חיים דב, 1906-1982; רוזנס,
יהודה בן שמואל, 1657-1727; ברלין, ישעיה בן
יהודה, 1725-1799 (page 637 of 814)".
* ^ http://www.etrfi.org/uploads/1/0/7/9/10798906/saint_sabas.pdf
The Melodians "
Rivers Of Babylon " (1978)
* ^ "The
David – Sung a cappella". Thepsalmssung.org.
* ^ Murrell, Nathaniel Samuel. "Tuning
Psalms to Reggae
Rhythms". Retrieved 2008-02-11.
* ^ "Shadow Of Deth". megadeth.com.
* Berlin, Adele ; Brettler, Marc Zvi (2004). "Psalms". In Berlin,
Adele; Brettler, Marc Zvi; Fishbane, Michael A. The
Bible. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195297515 .
* Day, John (2003). Psalms. Continuum. ISBN 9780567084545 .
* Harris, Stephen L. (1985). Understanding the Bible. Mayfield.
* Hayes, John H. (1998). "The Songs of Israel". In McKenzie, Steven
L.; Graham, Matt Patrick. The
Bible Today: An Introduction to
Critical Issues. Westminster John Knox Press. ISBN 9780664256524 .
* Kselman, John S. (2007). "Psalms". In Coogan, Michael David;
Brettler, Marc Zvi; Newsom, Carol Ann. The New Oxford Annotated Bible
with the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books. Oxford University Press.
ISBN 978-0-19-528880-3 .
* Mazor, Lea (2011). "
Book of Psalms". In Berlin, Adele; Grossman,
Maxine. The Oxford Dictionary of the
Jewish Religion. Oxford
University Press. ISBN 9780199730049 .
David C. (1997). The Message of the Psalter: An
Eschatological Programme in the
Book of Psalms. JSOT: Sheffield
Academic Press. ISBN 1-85075-689-9 .
David C. (2015). The Songs of Ascents: