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The Book of Psalms ( or ; he, תְּהִלִּים, , lit. "praises"), commonly referred to simply as Psalms, the Psalter or "the Psalms", is the first book of the ''
Ketuvim Ketuvim (; hbo, כְּתוּבִים ''Kəṯûḇîm'', "writings") is the third and final section of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible), after Torah (instruction) and Nevi'im (prophets). In English translations of the Hebrew Bible, this section is usu ...
'' ("Writings"), the third section of the
Tanakh The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; Hebrew: , or ), is the canonical collection of Hebrew scriptures, including the Torah. These texts are almost exclusively in Biblical Hebrew, with a few passages in Biblical Aramaic (in the books of Daniel and Ezra ...
, and a book of the
Christian Christians () are people who follow or adhere to Christianity, a monotheistic Abrahamic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. The words ''Christ'' and ''Christian'' derive from the Koine Greek title ''Christós'' (Χριστ ...
Old Testament The Old Testament (often abbreviated OT) is the first division of the Christian biblical canon, which is based primarily upon the 24 books of the Hebrew Bible (or Tanakh), a collection of ancient religious Hebrew writings by the Israelites belie ...
. The title is derived from the Greek translation, grc, ψαλμοί, psalmoi, label=none, meaning "instrumental music" and, by extension, "the words accompanying the music". The book is an
anthology In book publishing, an anthology is a collection of literary works chosen by the compiler; it may be a collection of plays, poems, short stories, songs or excerpts by different authors. In genre fiction, the term "anthology" typically catego ...
of individual
Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites, Judeans and their ancestors. It is the only Canaanite language still spoken and the only tru ...
psalms The Book of Psalms ( or ; he, תְּהִלִּים, , lit. "praises"), commonly referred to simply as Psalms, the Psalter or "the Psalms", is the first book of the ''Ketuvim'' ("Writings"), the third section of the Tanakh, and a book of the Chr ...
, with 150 in the Jewish and Western Christian tradition and more in the Eastern Christian churches. Many are linked to the name of
David David (traditional spelling), , ''Dāwūd''; grc-koi, Δαυίδ, Dauíd; la, Davidus, David; gez , ዳዊት, ''Dawit''; xcl, Դաւիթ, ''Dawitʿ''; cu, Давíдъ, ''Davidŭ''; possibly meaning "beloved one". is described in the Hebrew Bib ...
, but modern scholarship rejects his authorship, instead placing the composition of the psalms to various authors writing between the 9th and 5th centuries BC.


Structure


Benedictions

The Book of Psalms is divided into five sections, each closing with a
doxology A doxology (Ancient Greek: ''doxologia'', from , ''doxa'' 'glory' and -, -''logia'' 'saying') is a short hymn of praises to God in various forms of Christian worship, often added to the end of canticles, psalms, and hymns. The tradition derives f ...
(i.e., a
benediction '' by Theophanes the Cretan. His right hand is raised in benediction. A benediction (Latin: ''bene'', well + ''dicere'', to speak) is a short invocation for divine help, blessing and guidance, usually at the end of worship service. It can also refe ...
)—these divisions were probably introduced by the final editors to imitate the five-fold division of the
Torah Torah (; he, תּוֹרָה, "Instruction", "Teaching" or "Law") has a range of meanings. It can most specifically mean the first five books (Pentateuch or Five Books of Moses) of the Hebrew Bible. This is commonly known as the Written Tor ...
: * Book 1 (Psalms 1–41) * Book 2 (Psalms 42–72) * Book 3 (Psalms 73–89) * Book 4 (Psalms 90–106) * Book 5 (Psalms 107–150)


Superscriptions

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 carry the names of individuals, the most common (73 psalms—75 if including the two Psalms attributed by the New Testament to David) being ''of David'', and thirteen of these relate explicitly to incidents in the king's life. Others named include Asaph (12), the sons of Korah (11),
Solomon Solomon (; he, שְׁלֹמֹה, ''Shlomoh),'' ''Šlēmūn''; Arabic: سُلَيْمَان ', also colloquially: ' or '; el, Σολομών ''Solomōn''; Latin: Salomon) also called Jedidiah (Hebrew ''Yedidyah''), was, according to the Hebrew ...
(2),
Moses Moses he, מֹשֶׁה, romanized: ''Mōshé'', ISO 259-3: '; syr, ܡܘܫܐ, ''Mūše''; ar, موسى '; el, Mωϋσῆς, '. (), also known as Moshe Rabbenu ( he, מֹשֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ "Moshe our Teacher"), is the most important prophet ...
(1), Ethan the Ezrahite (1), and
Heman the EzrahiteHeman the Ezrahite is the author of Psalm 88 in the Hebrew Bible, according to the Psalm's title. 'Heman' is a Jewish name (Hebrew: חימן ''HaYMahN'') meaning 'Faithful'. It is found sixteen times in the New International Version of the Bible. Hem ...
(1). The
Septuagint The Greek Old Testament, or Septuagint (, ; from the la, septuaginta, lit=seventy; often abbreviated ''70''; in Roman numerals, LXX), is the earliest extant Koine Greek translation of books from the Hebrew Bible, various biblical apocrypha, and ...
, the Peshitta (the Syriac Vulgate), and the
Latin Vulgate The Vulgate (; , ) is a late-4th-century Latin translation of the Bible. It was to become the Catholic Church's officially promulgated Latin version of the Bible during the 16th century as the Sixtine Vulgate then as the Clementine Vulgate; the V ...
each associate several Psalms (such as 111 and 145) with
Haggai Haggai (; he, חַגַּי – ''Ḥaggay''; Koine Greek: Ἀγγαῖος; la, Aggaeus) was a Hebrew prophet during the building of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, and one of the twelve minor prophets in the Hebrew Bible and the author of the ...
and
Zechariah Zechariah or its many variant forms and spellings may refer to: People *Zechariah (given name), a given name (and list of people with the name) *Zacharias (given name), a given name (and list of people with the name) *Zacharias (surname), a su ...
. The Septuagint also attributes several Psalms (like 112 and 135) to
Ezekiel Ezekiel (; he, יְחֶזְקֵאל ''Yĕḥezqēʾl'' ; in the Septuagint written in grc-koi, Ἰεζεκιήλ ''Iezekiḗl'' ) is the central protagonist of the Book of Ezekiel in the Hebrew Bible. In Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, Ezekie ...

Ezekiel
and
Jeremiah Jeremiah, Modern:   , Tiberian: ; el, Ἰερεμίας, Ieremíās; meaning "Yah Exalts" (c. 650 – c. 570 BC), also called the "weeping prophet", was one of the major prophets of the Hebrew Bible (source of the Old Testament of Christian ...
.


Numbering

Psalms are usually identified by a sequence number, often preceded by the abbreviation "Ps." Numbering of the Psalms differs—mostly by one, see table—between the Hebrew (
Masoretic The Masoretic Text (MT or 𝕸; he, נוסח המסורה, Nusakh haMasora) is the authoritative Hebrew and Aramaic text of the 24 books of the Tanakh in Rabbinic Judaism. The Masoretic Text defines the Jewish canon and its precise letter-tex ...
) and Greek (Septuagint) manuscripts.
Protestant Protestantism is a form of Christianity that originated with the 16th-century Reformation, a movement against what its followers perceived to be errors in the Catholic Church. Protestants reject the Roman Catholic doctrine of papal supremacy and ...
translations (
Lutheran Lutheranism is one of the largest branches of Protestantism that identifies with the teachings of Martin Luther, a 16th-century German reformer whose efforts to reform the theology and practice of the church launched the Protestant Reformation. T ...
,
Anglican Anglicanism is a Western Christian tradition that has developed from the practices, liturgy, and identity of the Church of England following the English Reformation. Adherents of Anglicanism are called ''Anglicans''; they are also called ''E ...
,
Calvinist Calvinism (also called the Reformed tradition, Reformed Christianity, Reformed Protestantism, or the Reformed faith) is a major branch of Protestantism that follows the theological tradition and forms of Christian practice set down by John C ...
) use the Hebrew numbering, but other Christian traditions vary: *
Catholic The Catholic Church, often referred to as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with approximately 1.3 billion baptised Catholics worldwide . As the world's oldest and largest continuously functioning international ...

Catholic
official
liturgical Liturgy is the customary public worship performed by a religious group. As a religious phenomenon, liturgy represents a communal response to and participation in the sacred through activities reflecting praise, thanksgiving, remembrance, supplicat ...
texts, such as the
Roman Missal The Roman Missal ( la, Missale Romanum) is the liturgical book that contains the texts and rubrics for the celebration of the Mass in the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church. History Missals before the Council of Trent Before the high Middle Ages, s ...
, use the Greek numbering * Modern Catholic translations often use the Hebrew numbering (noting the Greek number) *
Eastern Orthodox The Eastern Orthodox Church, officially the Orthodox Catholic Church, is the second-largest Christian church, with approximately 220 million baptised members. It operates as a communion of autocephalous churches, each governed by its bishops ...
and
Eastern Catholic The Eastern Catholic Churches or Oriental Catholic Churches, also called the Eastern-rite Catholic Churches, Eastern Rite Catholicism, or simply the Eastern Churches and in some historical cases referred to as ''Uniates'', are twenty-three East ...
translations use the Greek numbering (noting the Hebrew number) ''For the remainder of this article, the Hebrew numbering is used, unless otherwise noted.'' The variance between
Masorah Masorah or Mesorah ('' he, מסורה'') refers either to the transmission of Jewish religious tradition, or to the tradition itself. Its etymology is discussed here. It is also used in relation to the following subjects: * Masoretic Text, the auth ...
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. Pss. 42 and 43 are shown by identity of subject (yearning for the house of Yahweh), of metrical structure and of refrain (cf. Heb. Ps. 42:6, 12; 43:5), to be three
strophe A strophe () is a poetic term originally referring to the first part of the ode in Ancient Greek tragedy, followed by the antistrophe and epode. The term has been extended to also mean a structural division of a poem containing stanzas of varying l ...
s of one and the same poem. The Hebrew text is correct in counting as one Ps. 146 and Ps. 147. Later liturgical usage would seem to have split up these and several 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 and 70. The two strophes and the
epode An epodeFrom el, ἐπῳδός, ''epodos'', "singing to/over, an enchanter." is the third part of an ode that follows the strophe and the antistrophe and completes the movement. Evolution At a certain point in time the choirs, which had previousl ...
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 portions of 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 practices, neglect by copyists, or other causes. Verse numbers were first printed in 1509. Different traditions exist whether to include the original heading into the counting or not. This leads to inconsistent numbering in 62 psalms, with an offset of 1, sometimes even 2 verses.


Additional psalms

The Septuagint, present in Eastern Orthodox churches, includes a
Psalm 151 Psalm 151 is a short psalm found in most copies of the Septuagint but not in the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible. The title given to this psalm in the Septuagint indicates that it is supernumerary, and no number is affixed to it: "This Psalm i ...
; a Hebrew version of this was found in the ''Psalms Scroll'' of the
Dead Sea Scrolls The Dead Sea Scrolls (also the Qumran Caves Scrolls) are ancient Jewish and Hebrew religious manuscripts that were found in the Qumran Caves in the Judaean Desert, near Ein Feshkha on the northern shore of the Dead Sea in the West Bank, and t ...
. Some versions of the
Peshitta The Peshitta ( syc, ܦܫܺܝܛܬܳܐ ''or'' ') is the standard version of the Bible for churches in the Syriac tradition, including the Maronite Church, the Chaldean Catholic Church, the Syriac Catholic Church, the Syriac Orthodox Church, the Mala ...
(the Bible used in Syriac churches in the Middle East) include
Psalms 152–155 Psalms 152 to 155 are additional Psalms found in two Syriac biblical manuscripts to date and several manuscripts of Elias of al-Anbar's "Book of Discipline". Together with Psalm 151 they are also called the Five Apocryphal Psalms of David. Psalm 15 ...
. There are also the
Psalms of SolomonOne of the apocryphal books, the Psalms of Solomon is a group of eighteen psalms (religious songs or poems) written in the first or second centuries BC that are not part of any current scriptural canon (they are, however, found in copies of the Peshi ...
, which are a further 18 psalms of Jewish origin, likely originally written in Hebrew, but surviving only in Greek and Syriac translation. These and other indications suggest that the current Western Christian and Jewish collection of 150 psalms were selected from a wider set.


Primary types

Hermann Gunkel Hermann Gunkel (23 May 1862 – 11 March 1932), a German Old Testament scholar, founded form criticism. He also became a leading representative of the history of religions school. His major works cover Genesis and the Psalms, and his major inter ...
'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 the Psalter (which he did not see as significant), but by bringing together psalms of the same
genre Genre () is any form or type of communication in any mode (written, spoken, digital, artistic, etc.) with socially-agreed-upon conventions developed over time. In popular usage, it normally describes a category of literature, music, or other form ...

genre
(''Gattung'') from throughout the Psalter. Gunkel divided the psalms into five primary types:


Hymns

''
Hymn A hymn is a type of song, usually religious, specifically written for the purpose of adoration or prayer, and typically addressed to a deity or deities, or to a prominent figure or personification. The word ''hymn'' derives from Greek (''hymnos'' ...
s'', 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
Yahweh Yahweh was the national god of the kingdoms of Israel (Samaria) and Judah, with origins reaching at least to the early Iron Age and apparently to the Late Bronze Age. In the oldest biblical literature he is a storm-and-warrior deity who lea ...
as king, and Zion psalms, glorifying Mount
Zion Mural by Nahum Meltzer, 2006–10. Zion ( he, צִיּוֹן / 𐤑𐤉𐤅𐤍 ''Ṣîyōn'', LXX , also variously transliterated ''Sion'', ''Tzion'', ''Tsion'', ''Tsiyyon'') is a placename in the Hebrew Bible used as a synonym for Jerusalem as ...

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

''Communal laments'', in which the nation laments some communal disaster. Both communal and individual laments typically but not always include the following elements: # address to God, # description of suffering, # cursing of the party responsible for suffering, # protestation of innocence or admission of guilt, # petition for divine assistance, # faith in God's receipt of prayer, # anticipation of divine response, and # a song of
thanksgiving Thanksgiving is a national holiday celebrated on various dates in the United States, Canada, Grenada, Saint Lucia, and Liberia. It began as a day of giving thanks and sacrifice for the blessing of the harvest and of the preceding year. Simila ...
. In general, 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 characterising an individual's personal experience that was reflective of the entire community.


Royal psalms

''
Royal psalmsHermann Gunkel categorized ten psalms by their subject matter of kingship as royal psalms. Specifically, the royal psalms deal with the spiritual role of kings in the worship of Yahweh. Aside from that single qualification, there is nothing else whi ...
'', 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 king.


Individual laments

''Individual laments'' over the fate of the particular individual who utters them. By far the most common type of psalm, they typically open with an invocation of God, followed by the lament itself and pleas for help, and often ending with an expression of confidence.


Individual thanksgiving psalms

''Individual thanksgiving psalms'', the opposite of individual laments, in which the psalmist thanks God for deliverance from personal distress. 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, reflecting the Old Testament
wisdom literature Wisdom literature is a genre of literature common in the ancient Near East. It consists of statements by sages and the wise that offer teachings about divinity and virtue. Although this genre uses techniques of traditional oral storytelling, it was ...
; * 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 any category.


Composition


Origins

The composition of the psalms spans at least five centuries, from psalm 29 to others clearly from the post-Exilic period (not earlier than the fifth century BC.) The majority originated in the southern
kingdom of Judah The Kingdom of Judah ( he, יְהוּדָה, ''Yəhūdā(h)''; akk, 𒅀𒌑𒁕𒀀𒀀 ''Ya'uda''; arc, 𐤁‬𐤉‬𐤕‬𐤃𐤅‬𐤃 ''Bēyt Dāwīḏ'') was an Iron Age kingdom of the Southern Levant. The Hebrew Bible depicts it as the ...
and were associated with the
Temple in Jerusalem The Temple in Jerusalem was any of a series of structures which were located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, the current site of the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque. These successive temples stood at this location and functi ...
, where they probably functioned as
libretto A libretto (Italian for "booklet") is the text used in, or intended for, an extended musical work such as an opera, operetta, masque, oratorio, cantata or musical. The term ''libretto'' is also sometimes used to refer to the text of major liturgic ...
during the Temple
worship Worship is an act of religious devotion usually directed towards a deity. For many, worship is not about an emotion, it is more about a recognition of a god. An act of worship may be performed individually, in an informal or formal group, or by ...
. 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. According to
Jewish tradition Jewish folklore are legends, music, oral history, proverbs, jokes, popular beliefs, fairy tales, stories, tall tales, and customs that are the traditions of Judaism. Folktales are characterized by the presence of unusual personages, by the sudden t ...
, the Book of Psalms was composed by the First Man (
Adam Adam (; Aramaic: ܐܕܡ; ar, آدَم, ʾĀdam; el, Ἀδάμ, Adám; la, Adam) is a figure in the Book of Genesis of the Hebrew Bible and Christian Bible, and also in the Quran. According to the creation myth of the Abrahamic religions,, "Creati ...
),
Melchizedek Melchizedek (; he, מַלְכִּי־צֶדֶֿק, , "king of righteousness"; am, መልከ ጼዴቅ, ; hy, Մելքիսեդեք, ), also transliterated Melchisedech or Malki Tzedek, was the king of Salem and priest of ''El Elyon'' (often transl ...
,
Abraham Abraham, ''Ibrāhīm''; el, Ἀβραάμ, translit=Abraám, name=, group= (originally Abram) is the common patriarch of the Abrahamic religions, including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In Judaism, he is the founding father of the covenant of ...

Abraham
,
Moses Moses he, מֹשֶׁה, romanized: ''Mōshé'', ISO 259-3: '; syr, ܡܘܫܐ, ''Mūše''; ar, موسى '; el, Mωϋσῆς, '. (), also known as Moshe Rabbenu ( he, מֹשֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ "Moshe our Teacher"), is the most important prophet ...
, Heman, Jeduthun, Asaph, and the three sons of Korah. The book, however, is largely attributed unto David on account of his being the arch poet (the largest composer of the psalms), and who is called elsewhere "the sweet psalmist of Israel." According to
Abraham ibn Ezra#REDIRECT Abraham ibn Ezra#REDIRECT Abraham ibn Ezra {{Redirect category shell, 1= {{R from other capitalisation ...
{{Redirect category shell, 1= {{R from other capitalisation ...
, the final redaction of the book was made by the
Men of the Great AssemblyAccording to Jewish tradition the Men of the Great Assembly ( he, כְּנֶסֶת הַגְּדוֹלָה) or Anshei Knesset HaGedolah (, "The Men of the Great Assembly"), also known as the Great Synagogue, or ''Synod'', was an assembly of 120 scribes ...
.


Poetic characteristics

The
biblical poetry The ancient Hebrews identified poetical portions in their sacred texts, as shown by their entitling as "songs" or as "chants" passages such as Exodus 15:1-19 and Numbers 21:17-20; a song or chant () is, according to the primary meaning of the term, ...
of Psalms uses parallelism as its primary poetic device. Parallelism is a kind of
symmetry Symmetry (from Greek συμμετρία ''symmetria'' "agreement in dimensions, due proportion, arrangement") in everyday language refers to a sense of harmonious and beautiful proportion and balance. In mathematics, "symmetry" has a more prec ...
, in which an idea is developed by the use of restatement, synonym, amplification, grammatical repetition, or opposition. Synonymous parallelism involves two lines expressing essentially the same idea. An example of synonymous parallelism: * "The is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" (Psalm 27:1). Two lines expressing opposites is known as
antithetic parallelism Antithetic parallelism is a form of parallelism where the meaning of two or more excerpts of text are observed, although directly linked by providing the same meaning from differing perspectives. This type of parallelism is used in order to create r ...
. An example of antithetic parallelism: * "And he led them in a cloud by day/ and all the night by a fiery light" (Psalm 78:14). Two clauses expressing the idea of amplifying the first claim is known as expansive parallelism. An example of expansive parallelism: * "My mouth is filled with your praise/ all the day with your lauding" (Psalm 71:8).


Editorial agenda

Many scholars believe the individual Psalms were redacted into a single collection in
Second-Temple
Second-Temple
times. It had long been recognized that the collection bore the imprint of an underlying message or
metanarrative A metanarrative (also meta-narrative and grand narrative; french: métarécit) in critical theory and particularly in postmodernism is a narrative ''about'' narratives of historical meaning, experience, or knowledge, which offers a society legitimat ...
, but that this message remained concealed, as
Augustine of Hippo
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. In 1985, Gerald H. Wilson's ''The Editing of the Hebrew Psalter'' 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 Covenant may refer to: Religion * Covenant (religion), a formal alliance or agreement made by God with a religious community or with humanity in general ** Covenant (biblical), in the Hebrew Bible ** Covenant in Mormonism, a sacred agreement bet ...
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 non-messianic future.
Walter Brueggemann Walter Brueggemann (born March 11, 1933) is an American Protestant Old Testament scholar and theologian who is widely considered one of the most influential Old Testament scholars of the last several decades. He is an important figure in modern pro ...
suggested that the underlying editorial purpose was oriented rather towards wisdom or sapiential concerns, addressing the issues of how to live the life of faith. 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. 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

The Psalms were written not merely as poems, but as songs for singing. According to Bible exegete
Saadia Gaon Sa'adiah ben Yosef Gaon ( ar, سعيد بن يوسف الفيومي / ''Saʻīd bin Yūsuf al-Fayyūmi'', '' Sa'id ibn Yusuf al-Dilasi, Saadia ben Yosef aluf, Sa'id ben Yusuf ra's al-Kull''; he, רבי סעדיה בן יוסף אלפיומי גאו ...
(882–942) who served in the geonate of Babylonian Jewry, the Psalms were originally sung in the
Temple precincts
Temple precincts
by the
Levites A Levite (or Levi) (, ) is a Jewish male descended patrilineally from the Tribe of Levi. The Tribe of Levi descended from Levi, the third son of Jacob and Leah. The surname ''Halevi'', which consists of the Hebrew definite article "ה" ''Ha-'' ("th ...
, based on what was prescribed for each psalm (lineage of the singers, designated time and place, instruments used, manner of execution, etc.), but are permitted to be randomly read by anyone at any time and in any place. 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 the Levites who sang one of eight melodies, one of which was known simply as "the eighth" (
Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites, Judeans and their ancestors. It is the only Canaanite language still spoken and the only tru ...
: ''sheminit'') (Pss. 6, 12). And others preserve the name for ancient eastern modes, like ''ayelet ha-shachar'' (hind of the dawn; Ps. 22); ''shoshanim'' / ''shushan'' (''lilies'' / ''lily''; Pss. 45; 60), said to be describing a certain melody; or ʻalmuth / ''ʻalamoth'' (''mute''; Pss. 9, 46), which, according to Saadia Gaon, is "a silent melody, nearly inaudible." Despite the frequently heard view that their ancient music is lost, the means to reconstruct it are still extant. Fragments of temple psalmody are preserved in ancient church and synagogue chant, particularly in the ''
tonus peregrinus , the wandering tone,https://academic.oup.com/em/article-abstract/41/3/502/374277 or the ninth tone, is a reciting tone in Gregorian chant. The chant example here is not identified as the ''tonus peregrinus'' in the ''Liber usualis'' (see LU, pp. ...
'' 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 The Dead Sea Scrolls (also the Qumran Caves Scrolls) are ancient Jewish and Hebrew religious manuscripts that were found in the Qumran Caves in the Judaean Desert, near Ein Feshkha on the northern shore of the Dead Sea in the West Bank, and t ...
and are even more extensive in the
Masoretic text The Masoretic Text (MT or 𝕸; he, נוסח המסורה, Nusakh haMasora) is the authoritative Hebrew and Aramaic text of the 24 books of the Tanakh in Rabbinic Judaism. The Masoretic Text defines the Jewish canon and its precise letter-tex ...
, which dates to the
Early Middle Ages The Early Middle Ages or Early Medieval Period, sometimes referred to as the Dark Ages, is typically regarded by historians as lasting from the late 5th or early 6th century to the 10th century AD. They marked the start of the Middle Ages of Eur ...
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). Several attempts have been made to decode the Masoretic cantillation, 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 Masoretic cantillation 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. Regardless of academic research, Sephardic Jews have retained a tradition in the Masoretic cantillation.


Themes and execution

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. They envision a world in which everyone and everything will praise God, and God in turn will hear their prayers and respond. Sometimes God "hides his face" and refuses to respond, questioning (for the psalmist) the relationship between God and prayer which is the underlying assumption of the Book of Psalms. Some psalms are called "maskil" (''maschil''), meaning "enlightened" or "wise", because 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. A special grouping and division in the Book of Psalms are fifteen psalms (Psalms 120–134) known in the construct case, ''shir ha-ma'aloth'' (= "A Song of Ascents", or "A Song of degrees"), and one as ''shir la-ma'aloth'' (Psalm 121). According to
Saadia Gaon Sa'adiah ben Yosef Gaon ( ar, سعيد بن يوسف الفيومي / ''Saʻīd bin Yūsuf al-Fayyūmi'', '' Sa'id ibn Yusuf al-Dilasi, Saadia ben Yosef aluf, Sa'id ben Yusuf ra's al-Kull''; he, רבי סעדיה בן יוסף אלפיומי גאו ...
, these songs differed from the other psalms in that they were to be sung by the Levites in a "loud melody" (
Judeo-Arabic The Judeo-Arabic dialects ( ''ʿArabiyya Yahūdiyya''; ''‘Aravít Y'hudít'') are a continuum of specifically Jewish varieties of Arabic formerly spoken by the Arab Jewish communities of the Middle East and North Africa. The term ''Judeo-Arabi ...
: ). Every psalm designated for Asaph (e.g. Psalms 50, 73–83) was sung by his descendants while making use of
cymbals A cymbal is a common percussion instrument. Often used in pairs, cymbals consist of thin, normally round plates of various alloys. The majority of cymbals are of indefinite pitch, although small disc-shaped cymbals based on ancient designs sound ...
, in accordance with . Every psalm wherein is found the introductory phrase "Upon Mahalath" (e.g. Psalms 53 and 88) was sung by the Levites by using large percussion instruments having wide and closed bezels on both sides and beaten with two wooden sticks.


Later interpretation and influence


Overview

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 Jewish and Christian tradition, the psalms have come to be used as prayers, either individual or communal, as traditional expressions of religious feeling.


Commentaries

Many authors have commented on the psalms, including: *
Hilary of Poitiers Hilary of Poitiers ( la, Hilarius; ) was Bishop of Poitiers and a Doctor of the Church. He was sometimes referred to as the "Hammer of the Arians" () and the "Athanasius of the West", His name comes from the Latin word for happy or cheerful. In ad ...
*
Augustine of Hippo
Augustine of Hippo
*
Saadia Gaon Sa'adiah ben Yosef Gaon ( ar, سعيد بن يوسف الفيومي / ''Saʻīd bin Yūsuf al-Fayyūmi'', '' Sa'id ibn Yusuf al-Dilasi, Saadia ben Yosef aluf, Sa'id ben Yusuf ra's al-Kull''; he, רבי סעדיה בן יוסף אלפיומי גאו ...
*
Thomas Aquinas Thomas Aquinas (; it, Tommaso d'Aquino, lit=Thomas of Aquino; 1225 – 7 March 1274) was an Italian Dominican friar, philosopher, Catholic priest, and Doctor of the Church. An immensely influential philosopher, theologian, and jurist in the tra ...
*
John Calvin John Calvin (; french: Jean Calvin ; born Jehan Cauvin; 10 July 150927 May 1564) was a French theologian, pastor and reformer in Geneva during the Protestant Reformation. He was a principal figure in the development of the system of Christian t ...

John Calvin
*Emmanuel (pseudonym), Jewish Commentary on the Psalms.


Use in Jewish ritual

Some of the titles given to the Psalms have descriptions which suggest their use in worship: * Some bear the
Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites, Judeans and their ancestors. It is the only Canaanite language still spoken and the only tru ...
description ''shir'' (;
Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece, a country in Southern Europe: *Greeks, an ethnic group *Greek language, a branch of the Indo-European language family **Proto-Greek language, the assumed last common ancestor of ...
: grc, ᾠδή, ōdḗ, song, label=none). 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. * Fifty-eight Psalms bear the description ''mizmor'' (; ), a lyric
ode An ode (from grc, ᾠδή, ōdḗ) is a type of lyrical stanza. It is an elaborately structured poem praising or glorifying an event or individual, describing nature intellectually as well as emotionally. A classic ode is structured in three major p ...
, or a song set to music; a sacred song accompanied with a musical instrument. *
Psalm 145 Psalm 145 is the 145th psalm of the Book of Psalms, generally known in English by its first verse, in the King James Version, "I will extol thee, my God, O king; and I will bless thy name for ever and ever". The Book of Psalms is part of the third ...
alone has the designation ''tehillah'' (; ), 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 32 may refer to: * 32 (number), the natural number following 31 and preceding 33 * one of the years 32 BC, AD 32, 1832, 1932, 2032 Music * The shortened pseudonym of UK rapper Wretch 32 * ''ThirtyTwo'' (album), a 2014 album by Reverend and The M ...
,
42 42 may refer to: * 42 (number) * One of the years 42 BC, AD 42, 1942, 2042 Arts, entertainment, and media *42 (dominoes), a trick-taking game played with a standard set of double six dominoes *''42'' (film), a 2013 biopic about American baseball ...
,
4444 may refer to: * 44 (number) * one of the years 44 BC, AD 44, 1944, 2044 Military *44M Tas, a Hungarian medium/heavy tank design of World War II *44M Tas Rohamlöveg, a Hungarian tank destroyer design of World War II, derived from the 44M Tas tan ...
, 45, 52
5555 may refer to: *55 (number) *55 BC *AD 55 *1955 *2055 Science *Caesium, by the element's atomic number Astronomy *Messier object M55, a magnitude 7.0 globular cluster in the constellation Sagittarius *The New General Catalogue object NGC 55, a ...
,
74 74 may refer to: * 74 (number) * one of the years 74 BC, AD 74, 1974, 2074 * The 74, an American nonprofit news website * Seventy-four (ship), a type of two-decked sailing ship See also * List of highways numbered * {{Numberdis ...
, 78, 88,
8989 may refer to: * 89 (number) * Atomic number 89: actinium Years * 89 BC * AD 89 * 1989 * 2089 * etc. See also * * List of highways numbered {{Numberdis ...
, and 142.
Psalm 41 Psalm 41 is the 41st psalm of the Book of Psalms. In the Greek Septuagint version of the bible, and in its Latin translation in the Vulgate, this psalm is ''Psalm 40'' in a slightly different numbering system. The last verse is not part of the Psal ...
:2, although not in the above list, has the description ''ashrei maskil''. * Six Psalms ( 16, 5660) have the title ''michtam'' (, 'gold').
Rashi Shlomo Yitzchaki ( he, רבי שלמה יצחקי; la, Salomon Isaacides; french: Salomon de Troyes, 22 February 1040 – 13 July 1105), today generally known by the acronym Rashi (see below), was a medieval French rabbi and author of a comprehen ...
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 Habakkuk, who was active around 612 BC, was a prophet whose oracles and prayer are recorded in the Book of Habakkuk, the eighth of the collected twelve minor prophets in the Hebrew Bible. He is revered by Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Almost all ...
chapter 3Chapter Three refers to a third chapter, but the term may also refer to: Albums *''Chapter III'' (Agathodaimon album), 2003 *''Chapter III'' (Allure album), 2004 *Chapter 3 (Queensberry album) *Chapter 3 (g.o.d album) *Chapter 3: The Flesh, a 2005 a ...
) bears the title ''shigayon'' (). There are three interpretations: (a) According to Rashi and others, this term stems from the root ''shegaga'', meaning "mistake"—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 A proverb (from la, proverbium) is a simple, concrete, traditional saying that expresses a perceived truth based on common sense or experience. Proverbs are often metaphorical and use formulaic language. Collectively, they form a genre of folklore ...
5:19 ''tishge tamid.'' Psalms are used throughout traditional
Jewish worship Jewish prayer ( he, תְּפִלָּה, ; plural ; yi, תּפֿלה, tfile , plural ; Yinglish: davening from Yiddish 'pray') is the prayer recitation that forms part of the observance of Rabbinic Judaism. These prayers, often with instr ...
. Many complete Psalms and verses from Psalms appear in the morning services (''Shacharit''). The ''
pesukei dezimraPesukei dezimra ( he, פְסוּקֵי דְּזִמְרָא, ''P'suqế dh'zimra'' "Verses of singing") or ''zemirot'', as they are called in the Spanish and Portuguese tradition, are a group of praises that may be recited daily during Jewish morning ...
'' component incorporates Psalms 30, 100 and 145–150.
Psalm 145 Psalm 145 is the 145th psalm of the Book of Psalms, generally known in English by its first verse, in the King James Version, "I will extol thee, my God, O king; and I will bless thy name for ever and ever". The Book of Psalms is part of the third ...
(commonly referred to as "
Ashrei Ashrei ( he, אַשְׁרֵי) is a prayer that is recited at least three times daily in Jewish prayers, twice during Shacharit (morning service) and once during Mincha (afternoon service). The prayer is composed primarily of Psalm 145 in its entire ...
", which is really the first word of two 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
MussafMussaf (also spelled Musaf) is an additional service that is recited on Shabbat, Yom Tov, Chol Hamoed, and Rosh Chodesh. The service, which is traditionally combined with the Shacharit in synagogues, is considered to be additional to the regular serv ...
service. Psalms 95–99, 29, 92, and 93, along with some later readings, comprise the introduction (''
Kabbalat Shabbat Jewish prayer ( he, תְּפִלָּה, ; plural ; yi, תּפֿלה, tfile , plural ; Yinglish: davening from Yiddish 'pray') is the prayer recitation that forms part of the observance of Rabbinic Judaism. These prayers, often with instr ...
'') to the Friday night service. Traditionally, a different "Psalm for the Day"—''
Shir shel yom ''Shir Shel Yom'' (שִׁיר שֶׁל יוֹם), meaning "'song' .e. Psalm">Psalm.html" style="text-decoration: none;"class="mw-redirect" title=".e. Psalm">.e. Psalmof
he He or HE may refer to: Language * He (pronoun), an English pronoun * He (kana), the romanization of the Japanese kana へ and ヘ * He (letter), the fifth letter of many Semitic alphabets * He (Cyrillic), a letter of the Cyrillic script called '' ...
day f the week consists of one psalm recited daily at the end of ...
''—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 Mishnah or Mishna (; he, מִשְׁנָה, "study by repetition", from the verb ''shanah'' , or "to study and review", also "secondary") is the first major written collection of the Jewish oral traditions known as the Oral Torah. It is also the ...
(the initial codification of the Jewish
oral tradition Oral tradition, or oral lore, is a form of human communication wherein knowledge, art, ideas and cultural material is received, preserved, and transmitted orally from one generation to another.Vansina, Jan: ''Oral Tradition as History'' (1985), ...
) in the tractate ''
Tamid Tamid ( he, תָמִיד ''ṯāmīḏ''; "daily offerings") is the ninth tractate in the Order of Kodashim, which is the fifth of the six orders of the Mishnah, Tosefta and the Talmud. The main subject of Tamid is the morning and evening burnt o ...
''. According to the Talmud, these daily Psalms were originally recited on that day of the week by the Levites in the Temple in Jerusalem. From
Rosh Chodesh Rosh Chodesh or Rosh Hodesh ( he, ראש חודש; trans. ''Beginning of the Month''; lit. ''Head of the Month'') is the name for the first day of every month in the Hebrew calendar, marked by the birth of a new moon. It is considered a minor holi ...
Elul Elul ( he, אֱלוּל, Standard ''Elul'', Tiberian ''ʾĔlûl'') is the twelfth month of the Jewish civil year and the sixth month of the ecclesiastical year on the Hebrew calendar. It is a month of 29 days. Elul usually occurs in August–Septemb ...
until
Hoshanah Rabbah Hoshana Rabbah ( arc, הוֹשַׁעְנָא רַבָּא, , Great Hoshana/Supplication) is the seventh day of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, the 21st day of the month of Tishrei. This day is marked by a special synagogue service, the Hoshana Rabbah, ...
, Psalm 27 is recited twice daily following the morning and evening services. There is a ''
Minhag ''Minhag'' ( he, מנהג "custom", pl. , ''minhagim'') is an accepted tradition or group of traditions in Judaism. A related concept, ''Nusach'' (), refers to the traditional order and form of the prayers. Etymology The Hebrew root N-H-G () means ...
'' (custom) to recite Psalm 30 each morning of Chanukkah after Shacharit: some recite this in place of the regular "Psalm for the Day", others recite this additionally. When a 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 kadisha__NOTOC__ A ''chevra kadisha (Hevra kadishah)'' (Aramaic: חֶבְרָה קַדִישָא, ''Ḥebh'ra Qaddisha'' "sacred society") is an organization of Jewish men and women who see to it that the bodies of deceased Jews are prepared for burial a ...
''. Many Jews complete the Book of Psalms on a weekly or monthly basis. Each week, some also say a Psalm connected to that week's events or the Torah portion read during that week. In addition, many Jews (notably
Lubavitch Chabad, also known as Lubavitch, Habad and Chabad-Lubavitch (), is an Orthodox Jewish Hasidic dynasty. Chabad is one of the world's best-known Hasidic movements, particularly for its outreach activities. It is one of the largest Hasidic groups an ...
, and other Chasidim) read the entire Book of 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 synagogues, Psalms are recited after services for the security of the State of Israel. 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, consistently with Maimonides' Divine Providence#Maimonides, general view on Providence. (Relatedly, the Hebrew verb for prayer, ''hitpalal'' התפלל, is in fact the reflexive verb, 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.)


In Christian worship

New Testament references show that the earliest Christians used the Psalms in worship, and the Psalms have remained an important part of
worship Worship is an act of religious devotion usually directed towards a deity. For many, worship is not about an emotion, it is more about a recognition of a god. An act of worship may be performed individually, in an informal or formal group, or by ...
in most Christian Churches. The Eastern Orthodox Church, Eastern Orthodox,
Catholic The Catholic Church, often referred to as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with approximately 1.3 billion baptised Catholics worldwide . As the world's oldest and largest continuously functioning international ...

Catholic
, Presbyterian,
Lutheran Lutheranism is one of the largest branches of Protestantism that identifies with the teachings of Martin Luther, a 16th-century German reformer whose efforts to reform the theology and practice of the church launched the Protestant Reformation. T ...
and
Anglican Anglicanism is a Western Christian tradition that has developed from the practices, liturgy, and identity of the Church of England following the English Reformation. Adherents of Anglicanism are called ''Anglicans''; they are also called ''E ...
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 quotes psalms (specifically Psalm 14, Psalms 14 and Psalm 53, 53, which are nearly identical) as the basis for his theory of original sin, and includes the scripture in the Epistle to the Romans, Romans 3, 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, the Presbyterian Reformed Church (North America) and the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing). * Psalm 22 is of particular importance during the season of Lent as a Psalm of continued faith during severe testing. * Psalm 23, ''The 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 settings; * 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 recitation. * Psalm 137, ''By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down and wept'', the Eastern Orthodox Church uses this hymn during the weeks preceding Great Lent. 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 Psalter. Furthermore, psalms often serve as the inspiration for much of Christianity in the modern era, modern or Contemporary Christian music, contemporary Christian Contemporary worship music, worship music in a variety of Contemporary Christian music#Style and artists, styles. Some songs are entirely based on a particular psalm or psalms, and many quote directly from the Book of Psalms (and other parts of the Bible).


Eastern Orthodox Christianity

Eastern Orthodox Church, Orthodox Christians and Greek-Catholics (Eastern Catholics who follow the 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 be to the Father, Glory to the Father .... At Vespers and 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 Canonical hours, services of the Hours and the Divine Liturgy. In particular, the penitential Psalm 51, Psalm 50 is very widely used. Fragments of Psalms and individual verses are used as ''Prokimenon, Prokimena'' (introductions to Scriptural readings) and ''Stichera''. The bulk of Vespers would still be composed of Psalms even if the kathisma were to be disregarded; Psalm 119, "The Psalm of the Law", is the centerpiece of 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 funeral, mirroring Jewish tradition.


Oriental Christianity

Several branches of Oriental Orthodox and those
Eastern Catholic The Eastern Catholic Churches or Oriental Catholic Churches, also called the Eastern-rite Catholic Churches, Eastern Rite Catholicism, or simply the Eastern Churches and in some historical cases referred to as ''Uniates'', are twenty-three East ...
s who follow one of the Oriental Rites will chant the entire Psalter during the course of a day during the Daily Office. This practice continues to be a requirement of Christian monasticism, monastics in the Oriental churches.


Catholic usage

The Psalms have always been an important part of Catholic liturgy. The 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 Bishop 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 Little Office into English, as well as Sunday Vespers and daily Compline. He also provided other individual Psalms such as 129/130 for prayer in his devotional books. Bishop Challoner is also noted for revising the Douay–Rheims Bible, and the translations he used in his devotional books are taken from this work. Until the 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 Liturgy of the Hours, 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 arrangement. Official approval was also given to other arrangementsSe
"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 exampl
the Divine Office schedule at New Melleray Abbey
/ref> 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 verse). Of these three the antiphonal mode is the most widely followed. Over the centuries, the use of complete Psalms in the Mass (liturgy), 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 Mass of Paul VI, revision of the
Roman Missal The Roman Missal ( la, Missale Romanum) is the liturgical book that contains the texts and rubrics for the celebration of the Mass in the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church. History Missals before the Council of Trent Before the high Middle Ages, s ...
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, called the ''Responsorial Psalm,'' is usually sung or recited responsorially, although the ''General Instruction of the Roman Missal'', 61 permits direct recitation.


Protestant usage

Following the Protestant Reformation, metrical psalter, versified translations of many of the Psalms were set as hymns. These were particularly popular in the
Calvinist Calvinism (also called the Reformed tradition, Reformed Christianity, Reformed Protestantism, or the Reformed faith) is a major branch of Protestantism that follows the theological tradition and forms of Christian practice set down by John C ...
tradition, where in the past they were typically sung to the exclusion of hymns (exclusive psalmody).
John Calvin John Calvin (; french: Jean Calvin ; born Jehan Cauvin; 10 July 150927 May 1564) was a French theologian, pastor and reformer in Geneva during the Protestant Reformation. He was a principal figure in the development of the system of Christian t ...

John Calvin
himself made some French translations of the Psalms for church usage, but the completed Genevan Psalter eventually 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 (composer), Louis Bourgeois and a certain Maistre Pierre. Martin Luther's Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott is based on Psalm 46. Among famous hymn settings of the Psalter were the Metrical psalter, 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 proverb (from la, proverbium) is a simple, concrete, traditional saying that expresses a perceived truth based on common sense or experience. Proverbs are often metaphorical and use formulaic language. Collectively, they form a genre of folklore ...
a day, corresponding to the day of the month. Metrical Psalms are still very popular among many Reformed Churches.


Anglican usage

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 ''Tate and Brady, New Version of the Psalms of David'' by Tate and Brady produced in the late seventeenth century (see article on Metrical psalter) remained the normal congregational way of singing psalms in the Church of England until well into the nineteenth century. In Great Britain, the 16th-century Myles Coverdale, 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 the Coverdale psalter. The Psalter in the American Book of Common Prayer of 1979 is a new translation, with some attempt to keep the rhythms of the Coverdale psalter.


Islam

According to the Islamic Holy book, the Qur'an, God in Islam, God has sent many messengers to mankind. Five universally acknowledged messengers (''Prophets and messengers in Islam, rasul'') are Abraham#Islam, Abraham, Moses#Islam, Moses, David#Islam, David, Jesus#Islamic, Jesus and Muhammad, each believed to have been sent with a scripture. Muslims believe David (''Dāwūd'') received Psalms (cf. Q38:28); Jesus (''Īsā'') the Gospel in Islam, Gospel; Muhammad received the Qur'an; Abraham (''Ibrahim'') the Scrolls of Abraham; and Moses (''Mūsā'') the Torah. God is considered to have authored the psalms.


Psalms in the Rastafari movement

The Psalms are one of the most popular parts of the Bible among 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 Monteverdi, Antonio Vivaldi, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who wrote such settings as part of their responsibilities as church musicians. Psalms are inserted in Requiem (music), Requiem compositions, such as Psalm 126 in ''A German Requiem (Brahms), A German Requiem'' of Johannes Brahms and Psalms 130 and 23 in John Rutter's ''Requiem (Rutter), Requiem''. * ''Penitential Psalms, Psalmi Davidis poenitentiales'' (6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143) by Orlande de Lassus—1584 * ''Melodie na psałterz polski'' by Mikołaj Gomółka—c. 1600 * ''Psalmen Davids'' (1619), Symphoniae sacrae I (1629) and ''Becker Psalter'' (1661) by Heinrich Schütz * ''Chandos Anthems'' by George Frideric Handel—1717–18 * ''List of compositions by Felix Mendelssohn#Psalms, Zwei englisch Psalmen'' (1842), ''Sieben Psalmen nach Lobwasser'' (1843), ''Elijah (oratorio), Elijah'' (1846), and ''List of compositions by Felix Mendelssohn#Psalms, Drei Psalmen'' (1849) by Felix Mendelssohn * ''Eighteen Liturgical Psalms'' by Louis Lewandowski—1879 * ''Biblické písně'' by Antonín Dvořák—1894 * ''Le Roi David'' by Arthur Honegger—1921 * ''Symphony of Psalms'' (38, 39, 150) by Igor Stravinsky—1930 * ''Chichester Psalms'' by Leonard Bernstein—1965 * ''Tehillim (Reich), Tehillim'' by Steve Reich—1981 * ''Four Psalms'' (114, 126, 133, 137) by John Harbison—1998


Individual psalm settings

There are many settings of individual psalms. One of the better known examples is Gregorio Allegri's ''Miserere mei (Allegri), Miserere mei'', a ''falsobordone'' setting of Psalm 51 ("Have mercy upon me, O God"). Settings of individual psalms by later composers are also frequent: they include works from composers such as George Frideric Handel, Felix Mendelssohn, Johannes Brahms and Ralph Vaughan Williams. Psalms also feature in more modern musical movements and popular genres.


See also

* Exclusive psalmody * History of music in the biblical period * Penitential Psalms * Psalm of communal lament * Selah * Zabur * Genevan Psalter * Pesher


Notes


References


Bibliography

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


External links


Tehillim Online
to read psalms of David in Hebrew or transliterated.
Full reading and translation of all 150 Psalms




Audiobook—King James Version * Various versions


Translations

* Judaism, Jewish translations: *
Tehillim—Psalms (Judaica Press)
translation [with
Rashi Shlomo Yitzchaki ( he, רבי שלמה יצחקי; la, Salomon Isaacides; french: Salomon de Troyes, 22 February 1040 – 13 July 1105), today generally known by the acronym Rashi (see below), was a medieval French rabbi and author of a comprehen ...
's commentary] at Chabad.org *
Christian Christians () are people who follow or adhere to Christianity, a monotheistic Abrahamic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. The words ''Christ'' and ''Christian'' derive from the Koine Greek title ''Christós'' (Χριστ ...
translations: *
Book of Psalms—NIV
*
''Revised Grail Psalms''
(see: Grail Psalms)


Commentary and others

* Online encyclopedia *
"Psalms."
Encyclopædia Britannica Online. * Jewish *
reading of Tehillim—Psalms and many explanation.
*
Psalms (Judaica Press)
translation [with
Rashi Shlomo Yitzchaki ( he, רבי שלמה יצחקי; la, Salomon Isaacides; french: Salomon de Troyes, 22 February 1040 – 13 July 1105), today generally known by the acronym Rashi (see below), was a medieval French rabbi and author of a comprehen ...
's commentary] at Chabad.org *
Penetrating beneath the surface level of the Tehillim—Psalms
*
Reading of Tehillim—Psalms in ancient tunes and explanation.
Also
free series
that teaches how to read the cantilation notes of Psalms * Christian ** **
Commentary on the Psalms
by Gordon Churchyard, at www.easyenglish.bible *
Introduction to the Psalms
by Wilbert R. Gawrisch *
Introduction to the Psalms
a Forward Movement publication ** . , - {{Jewish life Psalms, 9th-century BC books 8th-century BC books 7th-century BC books 6th-century BC books David Ketuvim