Psalms

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Psalms

Psalms (sämz) or Psalter (sôl´tər), book of the Bible, a collection of 150 hymnic pieces. Since the last centuries BC, this book has been the chief hymnal of Jews, and subsequently, of Christians. The hymns are of varying date and authorship, but many are ascribed to David, and some to Asaph1,Solomon, Moses, and the sons of Korah. Many scholars believe that some of the Psalms originated in David's time and some even earlier. Most of them, however, took their present form between c.538 BC (when the Jews returned from Babylonian exile) and c.100 BC According to the Hebrew text, the Psalms are divided into five books: Psalms 1–41; 42–72; 73–89; 90–106; 107–150. The poems vary significantly in tone and subject. Psalms occur throughout the Bible, the Apocrypha, and the Pseudepigrapha. The Syriac Psalter adds Psalm 151, found also in the Psalms Scroll at Qumran. The history of Psalm translations is more extensive than that of any other part of the Bible. Earlier English versions include those of St. Aldhelm and of Richard Rolle. The Psalms have been translated into English metrical verse a number of times, e.g., the Bay Psalm Book and versions by Nahum Tate and Nicholas Brady and by Isaac Watts. Until the late 20th cent. the Psalms in the Book of Common Prayer were in the version of the Great Bible of 1539 (by Miles Coverdale from the Vulgate). The use of this version, instead of the Authorized Version, was continued because of its popularity.

See (besides books listed under Old Testament) studies by A. A. Anderson (1972), D. Kidner (1973, 1975), C. Westermann (1980), W. Brueggemann (1984), and H. J. Kraus (1987, 1989).

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