The Psalms through Three Thousand Years: Prayerbook of a Cloud of Witnesses

By William L. Holladay | Go to book overview

14
The Psalms
in the Churches Today:
Protestants and Roman Catholics

In this chapter I try to summarize the understanding and the use of psalms by Protestants roughly since the First World War and by Roman Catholics from the time of the Second Vatican Council. Even though the time span covered for Protestants is more extended than for Catholics, both branches of Christendom experienced a maturing of biblical scholarship and produced a range of new translations during these periods, and it is appropriate to treat the two branches of the church together because of the ways in which they have shared in both biblical scholarship and in lectionaries. Here I concentrate on “official” or “churchly” uses of the Psalms, and then in chapters 15 through 19, which will deal with current theological issues, I touch on several efforts to employ the Psalms in fresh and imaginative ways.

It is not easy to sum up current developments within the churches, both because of their variety and because of our own closeness to them. I begin by describing two major developments in scholarship on the Psalms in this century,1 one by a Protestant and the other by a Roman Catholic. Next I discuss the array of recent biblical translations, taking them as much as possible in chronological order. Then I turn to describe the work of the Second Vatican Council with respect to two matters: the new freedom for biblical scholarship and the changes in the liturgy, both the eucharistic liturgy (the Mass) and the daily office (now called the “Liturgy of the Hours”). Next I discuss the movement toward a common lectionary, one shared by both Catholics and Protestants.2 Then I discuss recent paraphrases of psalms that are part of current worship, both in hymnals and in such ventures as the Taizé community, closing with a few remarks on musical compositions that employ the Psalms.


Scholarship on the Psalms

In chapter 13 we surveyed the rediscovery of the ancient Near East by biblical scholars and the attempt to see the Psalms in their original context, exemplified by the commentary of Charles Augustus Briggs and Emilie Grace Briggs. In that

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