The Book of Psalms (Tiberian: Təhillîm; Modern: Tehillim, תְהִלִּים, or "praises"), commonly referred to simply as Psalms, is a book of the Hebrew Bible. Some scholars also equate the Zabur with the biblical book of Psalms. Taken together, its 150 poems "express virtually the full range of Israel's religious faith."
The word psalms is derived from the Greek Ψαλμοί (Psalmoi), perhaps originally meaning "music of the lyre" or "songs sung to a harp," and later any piece of music. From psallein "play upon a stringed instrument" and then to "make music in any fashion".
Composition and numbering 
The Book of Psalms in its current, most commonly used form consists of 150 songs and prayers referred to individually as psalms and referenced by chapter and verse. They each have a poetic character with frequent use of parallelism. In addition to the title of the collection, which translates as "song" or "hymns" from both Hebrew and Greek, superscriptions (or headings) in many of the Psalms provide musical references and some direction, in some cases even references to melodies that, anciently, would have been well-known; however, no musical notation has survived. Songs that can be identified as such in the Psalms include songs of thanksgiving (e.g., Ps 30), hymns of praise (e.g., Ps 117) and royal psalms, which may have been used in coronations and weddings. Identification of some psalms as prayers is also seen within the text, for example in the conclusion to Psalm 72, "The prayers of David son of Jesse are ended." The largest category of Psalms, though not grouped as such in the text, is that of lament (expressions of complaint and pleas for help from God). There appears to also have been an instructional function of the psalms as seen in their references to the law (e.g., Ps 1 and 119).
Dating of individual compositions is difficult, and in some cases impossible. Many appear to have been written early in the history of ancient Israel (first millennium BC or even earlier), while others may have been written after the exile to Babylon, which occurred in the sixth century BC. Biblical scholars note the early organization into five collections, paralleling the Torah or Pentateuch (the first 5 books of the Bible). However, other reasons for dividing the book in this way are unclear. Authorship is also uncertain in spite of frequent attributions to David.
Numbering of the Psalms differs — mostly by one digit, see table — between the Hebrew (Masoretic) and Greek (Septuagint) manuscripts. Protestant translations (Lutheran, Anglican, Calvinist) use the Hebrew numbering, but other Christian traditions vary:
- Catholic official liturgical texts follow the Greek numbering
- Catholic modern translations often use the Hebrew numbering (noting the Greek number)
- Eastern Orthodox translations use the Greek numbering
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 admitted by all 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 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 not a few other psalms. Zenner (Die Chorgesange im Buche der Psalmen, II, Freiburg im Br., 1896) ingeniously combines into what he deems were the original choral odes: Pss. 1, 2, 3, 4; 6 + 13; 9 + 10; 19, 20, 21; 156 + 157; 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 (cf. Zenner-Wiesmann , Die Psalmen nach dem Urtext, Munster, 1906, 305). It is noteworthy that, on the breaking up of the original ode, each portion crept twice into the Psalter: Ps. 14 = 53, Ps. 80 = 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 other causes.
Other psalms 
Most manuscripts of the Septuagint also include a Psalm 151, present in Eastern Orthodox translations; a Hebrew version of this poem was found in the Psalms Scroll of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Psalms Scroll presents the Psalms in an order different from that found elsewhere, and also contains a number of non-canonical poems and hymns in the same style as the canonical Psalms, suggesting that the current collection of 150 may have been selected from a wider set.
There are also the Psalms of Solomon, which are 18 psalms of Jewish origin — likely originally written in Hebrew, but only surviving in Greek and Syriac translation. They are not accepted as canonical by any major contemporary Jewish or Christian group.
Authorship and ascriptions 
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In various biblical passages, David is referred to as “the favorite of the songs of Israel,” the one who soothed Saul with music, and the founder of Temple singing. A Psalms scroll from the Dead Sea Scrolls (11QPsa) attributes 3600 tehilim (songs of praise) plus other compositions to David. Seventy-three of the 150 Psalms in the Bible are attributed to David. The supreme kingship of Yahweh is the most pervasive theological concept in the book of Psalms, and many psalms attributed to David are directed to Yahweh by name, whether in praise or petition, suggesting a relationship. According to the Midrash Tehillim, King David was prompted to the Psalms by the Holy Spirit that rested upon him.
In addition to ascribing authorship to David, several Psalms are identified with specific events in David’s life. Psalm 34 is attributed to David on the occasion of his escape from the Abimelech (king) Achish by pretending to be insane. According to the narrative in 1 Samuel 21, instead of killing the man who had exacted so many casualties from him, Abimelech allows David to depart, exclaiming, “Am I so short of madmen that you have to bring this fellow here to carry on like this in front of me? Must this man come into my house?" Psalm 34 is one of seven acrostic Psalms in the original Hebrew; most English translations do not retain the acrostic form. The first part of Psalm 34 is directed toward Yahweh in complete and humble gratitude (David does not even mention his own royal status); the second part confidently directs others to Yahweh.
This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them ... Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
— Psalm 34:6–7,11 (ESV)
In contrast, Psalm 18 is not related to a specific incident but rather to God’s faithful deliverance from “all of his enemies and from the hand of Saul.” The text of this Psalm was thought to date to the 10th century BC even before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls and is very similar to that of 2 Samuel 22. In this Psalm, David recalls being in deadly situations: “The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid.” He cries out to God for help, and God rescues David.
I will love thee, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.
— Psalm 18:1–3 (KJV)
The Scottish theologian Samuel Rutherford (1600–1661) notes that crying out to God is mentioned in many Psalms attributed to David. He comments, “Fervour is a heavenly ingredient in prayer. An arrow drawn with full strength hath a speedier issue.” The Midrash Tehillim teaches from Psalm 4 “that the mere mechanical application to the Throne of Mercy is not efficacious is plainly seen from the words of King David, who says God is nigh to all that call upon Him, and ... he adds the important words, 'to those who call upon Him in truth.'”
Jewish tradition, recorded in the Talmud, posits that the Psalms are the work of David (seventy-three Psalms are with David's name), based on the writings of ten ancient psalmists (including Adam and Moses).
In the New Testament, six of the Psalms (2, 16, 32, 69, 95, and 110) are specifically identified as the work of David (in, respectively, Acts 4:25; Acts 2:31; Rom. 4:6; Rom. 11:9; Heb. 4:7; and Matt. 22:43 and corresponding verses in the other Synoptic Gospels, as well as Acts 2:34).
Many modern scholars see them as the product of several authors or groups of authors, many unknown.:5 The majority of Psalms are prefixed with introductory words—"superscriptions", which are frequently different in the Masoretic and Septuagint traditions, or missing in one while present in the other. In the Masoretic text, 101 bear in the headings the name of a specific person or group; 73 of these refer to David. The ascription to David usually takes the form לדוד, with the preposition "le-" attached to David's name. This can mean "of," "by," "for," or "concerning". Hence, while the traditional interpretation is that these Psalms were written by David, Michael Goulder argues that the psalms were written in David's lifetime, probably by one of his sons, "in response to situations in which he found himself."
Additionally, thirteen Psalms have headings that refer to some event in the life of David. These Psalms are 3, 7, 18, 34, 51, 52, 54, 56, 57, 59, 60, 63 and 142.
Other scholars think the Psalms is a post-Exilic collection of poems, the work of several authors from differing dates. These scholars assert that many of the Psalms could have been composed as early as the Monarchy, when they honored successions of Davidic kings. The early poems may have been used in worship at the temple.
Psalms 39, 62, and 77 are linked with Jeduthun, to be sung after his manner or in his choir. Psalms 50 and 73–83 are the Psalms of Asaph, associated with Asaph, as the master of his choir, to be sung in the worship of God. The ascriptions of Psalms 42, 44–49, 84, 85, 87, and 88 assert that the "sons of Korah" were entrusted with arranging and singing them; 2 Chronicles 20:19 suggests that this group formed a leading part of the Korathite singers. Hebraist Joel M. Hoffman suggests that Psalm 49 may be an anti-corruption Psalm, not "for Korah" but "against Korah."
Psalm 18 is also found, with minor variations, at 2 Samuel 22, for which reason, in accordance with the naming convention used elsewhere in the historic parts of the Bible, it is known as the Song of David. Portions of Psalms 105, 96, and possibly 106 appear in 1 Chronicles 16 under the ambiguous heading (in the Douay translation), "In that day David made Asaph the chief to give praise to the Lord with his brethren."
Benjamin Urrutia wrote a brief article on the Egyptian religious ritual of the Opening of the Mouth. In it, he traces common themes between the Opening of the Mouth and Psalm 51, such as opening the mouth (or of the lips, in Psalm 51), healing of broken bones, and washing the inner organs with special cleansing spices.
Sections of the book 
In Jewish usage, the Book of Psalms is divided, after the analogy of the Pentateuch, into five books, each closing with a doxology or benediction (For the Orthodox Christian division into twenty kathismata, see Eastern Orthodox usage, below):
- The first book comprises the first 41 Psalms. All of these are ascribed to David except Psalms 1, 2, 10, and 33, which, though untitled in the Hebrew, were also traditionally ascribed to David. While Davidic authorship cannot be confirmed, this probably is the oldest section of the Psalms.
- The second book consists of the next 31 Psalms (42–72). Eighteen of these are ascribed to David. Psalm 72 begins "For Solomon", but is traditionally understood as being written by David as a prayer for his son. The rest are anonymous.
- The third book contains seventeen Psalms (73–89), of which Psalm 86 is ascribed to David, Psalm 88 to Heman the Ezrahite, and Psalm 89 to Ethan the Ezrahite.
- The fourth book also contains seventeen Psalms (90–106), of which Psalm 90 is ascribed to Moses, and Psalms 101 and 103 to David.
- The fifth book contains the remaining 44 Psalms. Of these, 15 are ascribed to David, one (Psalm 127) as a charge to Solomon.
Psalm 136 is generally called "the great Hallel", but the Talmud also includes Psalms 120–135. Psalms 113–118 constitute the Hallel, which is recited on the three great feasts, (Passover, Weeks, and Tabernacles); at the new moon; and on the eight days of Hanukkah. A version of Psalm 136 with slightly different wording appears in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Psalm 119 is the longest Psalm. It is composed of 176 verses, in sets of eight verses, each set beginning with one of the 22 Hebrew letters. Several other Psalms also have alphabetical arrangements. These psalms are believed to be written (rather than oral) compositions from the first, and thus of a relatively late date.
Psalm 117 is the shortest Psalm, containing only two verses.
Psalm forms 
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 the Psalter (which he did not see as significant), but by bringing together psalms of the same genre (Gattung) from throughout the Psalter. The main genres are:
- Lament/complaint psalms
- Royal Psalms
- Thanksgiving psalms
- Wisdom psalms
- Smaller genres and mixed type
Psalm forms or types also include:
- Songs of Zion – Psalms 48, 76, 84, 87, 122, 134;
- Historical litanies – Psalms 78, 105, 106, 135, 136;
- Pilgrim liturgies – Psalms 81, 21;
- Entrance liturgies – Psalms 15, 24;
- Judgment liturgies – Psalms 50, 82;
- Mixed types – 36, 40, 41, 68
Hymn genre 
Generally these psalms consist of praise and can be subdivided into 1) Hymns of Divine Kingship (e.g. Psalm 29), 2) Creation Hymns (e.g. Psalm 104), and 3) Hymns celebrating divine action in Israel's history (e.g. Psalm 105 and 106). These psalms describe the relationship between the Israelite people and God and recognizes his power and majesty, a theme that is found in other wisdom literature. Gunkel also described a special subset of Eschatological Hymns which includes themes of future restoration (Psalm 126) or of judgment (Psalm 82).
Lament genre 
The Lament/Complaint Psalms can be subdivided into two categories 1) the individual and 2) communal lament. Both types of laments typically but did not always include the following elements nor is there a systematic order in which they appear in body of the Lament Psalm; 1) an address to God, 2) A description of suffering, 3) Cursing of the party responsible for suffering, 4) Protestation of innocence or admission of guilt, 5) A 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 community.
The biblical poetry of Psalms uses parallelism as their 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)
Use of the Psalms in Jewish ritual 
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In the Pentateuch (or Torah), Moses leads the Israelites in two songs of praise: upon the splitting of the Red Sea (Exodus 15), with his sister Miriam, and before his death (Deuteronomy 32). Also, the Israelites sing upon miracles done for them with the well (Numbers 21). Other figures would sing songs to celebrate miracles, including Joshua and Deborah. It is David, though, who is known as the "sweet singer of Israel".
In Jewish tradition, the Psalms were actually sung in front of the Tabernacle, and then later during the reign of King Solomon, when the Temple was completed, they were sung from the steps of the Temple. The singers all came from the tribe of Levi (Levites), and it was exclusively their privilege – no non-Levites were allowed to sing in that area of the Temple. Levites played musical accompaniment on various instruments, some mentioned within the Psalms themselves. While the Psalms are used extensively in worship and prayer, the original intent was as a vehicle to teach, explain, encourage, and communicate with the individual listener as well as the entire people, hence their public performance. Today we have some knowledge as to which Psalms were sung on specific days or occasions, but we do not know the entire schedule.
Some of the titles given to the Psalms in their ascriptions suggest their use in worship:
- Some bear the Hebrew designation shir (שיר; Greek ode, a song). Thirteen have this title. It means the flow of speech, as it were, in a straight line or in a regular strain. This title includes secular as well as sacred song.
- Fifty-eight Psalms bear the designation mizmor (מזמור; Greek 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, have 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. Tehillah is also the singular of the name of the book in Hebrew, Tehillim.
- Six Psalms (16, 56–60) have the title michtam (מכתם; "gold"). 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 "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 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 and 145 - 150. 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 introduction ("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 tractate "Tamid". 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 Elul until Hoshanah Rabbah, Psalm 27 is recited twice daily following the morning and evening services. There is a Minhag (custom) to say Psalm 30 each morning of Chanukkah after Shacharit: some say this “instead” of the regular "Psalm for the Day", others say 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.
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, 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. 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 – as consistent with Maimonides' general view on Providence. (Relatedly, the 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.)
Psalms may also be read by a group of people who divide up the psalms between them to allow for a complete reading of the book.
Taken together, the Psalms express virtually the full range of Israel's faith.
The Psalms in Christian worship 
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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, Presbyterian, Lutheran and 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 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, the Westminster Presbyterian Church in the United States 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 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 settings;
- Psalm 51, Have mercy on me O God, called the Miserere from the first word in its Latin version, is by far the most sung Psalm of Orthodoxy, 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 103, Bless the Lord, O my soul, is one of the best-known prayers of praise;
- 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 spiritual, as well as one well-known reggae song; the Orthodox church often uses this hymn during 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.
In Eastern Orthodox Christianity 
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: καθισματα; Slavonic: каѳисмы, kafismy; lit. "sittings"), and each kathisma (Greek: καθισμα; Slavonic: каѳисма, kafisma) is further subdivided into three stases (Greek: στασεις, staseis' lit. "standings", sing. στασις, stasis), so-called because the faithful stand at the end of each stasis for the 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 are 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 the Divine 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 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 Catholics 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 monastics in the Oriental churches.
Roman 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 Latin 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 Lady 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. 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 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 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 verse).
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, called the Responsorial Psalm, is usually sung or recited responsorially, although the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 61 permits direct recitation.
Protestant usage 
The Psalms are extremely popular among those who follow the Reformed tradition.
Following the Protestant Reformation, verse paraphrases of many of the Psalms were set as hymns. These were particularly popular in the Calvinist tradition, where in the past they were typically sung to the exclusion of hymns. Calvin himself made some French translations of the Psalms for church usage, but the completed 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 and a certain Maistre Pierre. Martin Luther's A Mighty Fortress Is Our God is based on Psalm 46. Among famous hymn settings of the Psalter were the Scottish Psalter and the settings 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 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 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.
The version of the Psalter in the American Book of Common Prayer prior to the 1979 edition is a sixteenth century 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.
Psalms used today 
According to Coogan, the Psalms do not mention any of the Feast Days observed by the Israelites. As a result, they continue to attract people of all faiths as they can be applied to a variety of contexts that imply a relationship with God. As prayers that deal primarily with the state of human beings, they continue to be relevant to people today.
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 compositions, such as Psalm 126 in A German Requiem of Johannes Brahms and Psalms 130 and 23 in John Rutter's Requiem.
- Psalmi Davidis poenitentiales (6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143) by Orlande de Lassus - 1584
- Melodie na psałterz polski by Mikołaj Gomółka - c. 1600
- Le Roi David by Arthur Honegger - 1921
- Symphony of Psalms (38, 39, 150) by Igor Stravinsky - 1930
- Chichester Psalms by Leonard Bernstein - 1965
- 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, which are generally mentioned in the article devoted to the particular psalm. They include:
- Psalms 100, 121 and 124 by Loys Bourgeois (c. 1500–1559)
- Psalm 38 and Levavi oculos meos (Psalm 121) by Orlando di Lasso (1532–1594)
- Psalms 1, 29, 121 and 150 by Heinrich Schütz (1585–1672)
- Psalms 112 and 137 by Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1643–1704)
- Beatus vir (Psalm 112) by Antonio Vivaldi (1678–1741)
- 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 42 (1837) by Felix Mendelssohn (1809–1847)
- Psalm 150 by César Franck (1822–1890)
- Psalm 13 by Johannes Brahms (1833–1897)
- Psalms 13, 18, 23, 116, 129 and 137 by Liszt (1811–1886)
- Psalms 22, 112, 114, 146 and 150 by Bruckner (1824–1896)
- Psalm 18 by Camille Saint-Saëns (1835–1921)
- Psalm 148 by 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 Ives (1874–1954)
- Psalms 121 and 150 by Zoltán Kodály (1882–1967)
- Psalm 126 In convertendo Dominus and seven 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 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)
- I Was Glad (Psalm 122) by Howard Goodall (b.1958)
- 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)
- 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 144 by Mark Alburger (b. 1957)
- Psalm 73 by BarlowGirl
- Psalm 40 and Psalm 116 by U2
- Psalm 50 by Underoath
- Psalm 63: 2–3 by Matisyahu
|Books of the
Ketuvim (Hebrew Bible)
|Three poetic books|
|Song of Songs
Ezra – Nehemiah
- 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 75:2 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 129 in Aus der Tiefe, 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 cantatas:
- Psalm 124 in
Contemporary popular music 
See also 
- Benefit of clergy (use of Psalm 51)
- Exclusive psalmody
- Penitential Psalms
- Psalm 90 (Ives)
- They have pierced my hands and my feet
- Harris, Stephen L., Understanding the Bible. Palo Alto: Mayfield. 1985. "Psalms" pp. 161–164
- Miller, Patrick D. "Psalms Introduction" in Harper Collins Study Bible, Revised Ed. 2006.
- 2 Samuel 23:1
- 1 Samuel 16:17–23
- 2 Chronicles 23:18
- Nehemiah 12:24,36, 45–46
- Introduction to Psalms (pp. 1280, 1281), The Jewish Study Bible, Tanakh Translation. Berlin, Adele; Brettler, Marc Zvi; Fishbane, Michael, eds. Jewish Publication Society, New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-529751-2
- "David" and "Psalms, Book of," New Bible Dictionary, second edition,1982. Douglas, J.D. (organizing editor), Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale Press. ISBN 0-8423-4667-8
- Introduction to Psalms (p. 1013), NIV Study Bible,1995. Barker, Kenneth, Burdick, Donald; Stek John; Wessel, Walter; Youngblood, Ronald, eds. Zondervan. Grand Rapids, MI, USA ISBN 0-310-92709-9
- "Psalms, Book of," New Bible Dictionary, second edition,1982. Douglas, J.D. (organizing editor), Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale Press. ISBN 0-8423-4667-8
- "Psalms, Book of", New Bible Dictionary, second edition,1982. Douglas, J.D. (organizing editor), Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale Press. ISBN 0-8423-4667-8
- Introduction to Psalms (p. 1284), The Jewish Study Bible, Tanakh Translation, 2004. Berlin, Adele; Brettler, Marc Zvi; Fishbane, Michael, eds. Jewish Publication Society, New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-529751-2
- Midrash Psalms 24 read online
- Psalms 3, 7, 18, 34, 51, 52, 54, 56, 57, 59, 60, 63 and 142, Commentary on II Samuel 22, The Anchor Bible, Vol. 9. II Samuel. P. Kyle McCarter, Jr., 1984. New York: Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-06808-5
- Psalm 34, Interlinear NIV Hebrew-English Old Testament. Kohlenberger, J.R, 1987. Grand Rapids, Michigan:Zondervan Publishing House ISBN 0-310-40200-X
- 1 Samuel 21:15 (NIV)
- Explanatory Notes on Psalm 34, ‘’Treasury of David’’ (1885), Charles H. Spurgeon, Hendrickson Publishers, 1988. ISBN 0-917006-25-9 read online
- Commentary on Psalm 34, The Jewish Study Bible, Tanakh Translation. Berlin, Adele; Brettler, Marc Zvi; Fishbane, Michael, eds. Jewish Publication Society, New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-529751-2
- Commentary on II Samuel 22, The Anchor Bible, Vol. 9: II Samuel. P. Kyle McCarter, Jr., 1984. New York: Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-06808-5
- Commentary on Psalm 18: The Anchor Bible, Vol. 16. Psalms I. Mitchell Dahood, 1995. New York:Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-52250-9
- Feinberg, Charles Lee, Th.D., Ph.D., 1947. The Date of the Psalms. Bibliotheca Sacra 104: 426–40 Dallas Theological Seminary Department of Semitics and Old Testament, p. 429 read online
- 2 Samuel 22 and Psalm 18, Interlinear NIV Hebrew-English Old Testament. Kohlenberger, J.R, 1987. Grand Rapids, Michigan:Zondervan Publishing House ISBN 0-310-40200-X
- Psalm 18:4 (KJV)
- For example, “At noon, will I pray, and cry aloud” Ps 55:17. “In my distress I cried to the LORD” Ps 18:6. “Unto thee have I cried, O LORD” Ps 88:13. “Out of the depths have I cried” Ps 130:1. “Unto thee will I cry, O LORD my rock” Ps 28:1.
- quoted in Explanatory Notes on Psalm 34, ‘’Treasury of David’’ (1885), Charles H. Spurgeon, Hendrickson Publishers, 1988. ISBN 0-917006-25-9 read online
- Midrash Psalms 4, emphasis is in the source. read online
- Talmud, Bava Basra 15a
- Eaton, John (2005). The Psalms: A Historical and Spiritual Commentary with an Introduction and New Translation. Continuum. ISBN 0-8264-8895-1.
- Gerald Wilson, Psalms Volume 1 (NIVAC; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), p. 78.
- Michael Goulder, The Prayers of David (JSOTSS 102. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1990), 24.
- Wilson, Psalms Volume 1, 80.
- "Psalms, Book of." Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford dictionary of the Christian church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005
- Harris concurs that several Psalms seem to have written for the courts of Davidic kings. Harris, Stephen L., Understanding the Bible. Palo Alto: Mayfield. 1985. "Psalms" p. 161–164
- My People's Prayer Book Volume 9. (Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman, ed.) 2004. ISBN 1-58023-262-0.
- Urrutia, "Psalm 51 and the Egyptian Opening of the Mouth Ceremony," in Sarah Israelit-Groll (editor), Scripta Hierosolymitana – Egyptological Studies – Publications of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Magnes Press, pages 222–223 (1982).
- Gibb, H.A.R. (2001). Concise Encyclopedia of Islam. Brill Academic Publishers. ISBN 0-391-04116-9.
- Footnotes for Psalm 120 in The King James Study Bible, p. 869, Zondervan, 2002, ISBN 978-0-310-92993-2
- Gunkel, Hermann (1967). The Psalms: A Form-Critical Introduction. Fortress Press.
- Coogan, M. A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament: The Hebrew Bible in its Context. (Oxford University Press: Oxford 2009). p370–371
- Bray, G. Biblical Interpretation: Past and Present. (Intervarsity Press: Downers Grove, IL, 1996) p400
- Coogan, M. A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament: The Hebrew Bible in its Context. (Oxford University Press: Oxford 2009) p370
- Roland E. Murphy, O. Carm "Psalms, The Book of" The Oxford Companion to the Bible. Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan, eds. Oxford University Press Inc. 1993. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. Northwestern University. 29 September 2010 <http://www.oxfordreference.com.turing.library.northwestern.edu/views/ENTRY.html?subview=Main&entry=t120.e0595>
- Bray, G. Biblical Interpretation: Past and Present. (Intervarsity Press: Downers Grove, IL, 1996) p416
- Brueggmann, Walter (2007). Praying the Psalms: Engaging Scripture and the Life of the Spirit. Cascade Books. ISBN 1-55635-283-2.
- Coogan, M. A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament: The Hebrew Bible in its Context. (Oxford University Press: Oxford 2009). p369
- Posted by DLC (2006-08-27). "Hebrew Language Detective: katom". Balashon. Retrieved 2012-09-19.
- "Habakkuk 3 / Hebrew - English Bible / Mechon-Mamre". Mechon-mamre.org. Retrieved 2013-03-17.
- "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. Retrieved 2012-09-19.
- # 512 prohibition against incantations, on Deuteronomy 18:11
- [dead link]
- The Melodians "Rivers Of Babylon" (1978)
- Coogan, Michael. A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament.
- Murrell, Nathaniel Samuel. "Tuning Hebrew Psalms to Reggae Rhythms". Retrieved 2008-02-11.
Further reading 
- Dickson, David (1583–1662). A Commentary on The Psalms. Geneva Series of Commentaries, first published 1653–1655, First Banner of Truth edition, 1959, Banner of Truth. ISBN 0-85151-481-2.
- Spurgeon, Charles (June 19, 1834 – January 31, 1892), The Treasury of David, 3 Volumes, Hendrickson Publishers, 2912 pages, ISBN 0-917006-25-9
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- Full reading and translation of all 150 Psalms
- Psalms from Dead Sea Scrolls (Psalms 151–154)
- Book of Psalms Audiobook - King James Version
- Jewish translations:
- Christian translations:
Commentary and others 
- Online encyclopedia
- "Psalms." Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
- Psalms (Judaica Press) translation [with Rashi's commentary] at Chabad.org
- Penetrating beneath the surface level of the Tehillim – Psalms
The Twelve Prophets
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