The genius of the Seedbed Psalter is that, while it does come in a hard copy volume (shown at right), it is largely an online resource enabling the user to choose amongst a variety of texts and settings covering all 150 Psalms. Right on the front page we read the following:
19 Apr 2021
15 Apr 2021
The Vulgate appears to follow the LXX's skittishness in referring to God as Rock, but Augustine insists that Jerome translated his Latin Old Testament directly from the Hebrew. Nevertheless, Jerome's initial translation of the Psalms was from the LXX. Could there have been a Hebrew version of the Psalms now lost to us that formed the basis of both LXX and Vulgate versions? Might this Hebrew version have already shunned the rock metaphor? I won't venture a guess, as I am not especially competent to do so. But I will point out that my personal copy of the Latin Vulgate Bible has two columns for the Psalms: one for the traditional Clementine Vulgate and the other for a newer Latin translation authorized by Pope Pius XII in 1945, the latter of which recovers the rock metaphors for God. Oddly enough, Coverdale's translation does assert that "the Lord is my stony rock" in Psalm 18:1, but that is the single exception.
14 Apr 2021
13 Apr 2021
However, Watts was notorious for importing into his paraphrases things absent from the original texts. For the most part this consisted of his explicit mention of Jesus Christ as the fulfilment of the messianic Psalms. The most famous example of this is probably his paraphrase of Psalm 72: Jesus Shall Reign, Where'r the Sun. But a member of the Lovers of Metrical Psalmody Facebook group alerted us to another quirky paraphrase that brings out, not a messianic emphasis, but a nationalist one! Here is Watts' version of Psalm 67:
12 Apr 2021
6 Apr 2021
The Gospel Coalition has just published this article by an Irish biblical scholar named Davy Ellison: Seeing Christ in the Shape of the Psalms. Here are the opening paragraphs:
Luke 24 arguably contains the greatest Bible study ever. Jesus explains how the prophets spoke of him and how everything written about him in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled (Luke 24:25–27, 44). (“Psalms” here most likely refers to Scripture’s poetry and wisdom literature). Nevertheless, the point is clear throughout Luke 24—in Jesus’s mind, the 150-part Psalter clearly testifies to him.
But we can be more specific about the Psalter. There is a growing consensus in Psalms scholarship that the Psalter has an intentional shape—that editors and compilers arranged the individual psalms in the order we have them for a particular purpose.
I want to give a glimpse of the Psalter’s five books, and in doing so show how the overall shape encourages its readers to hope for a new Davidic king. In doing so, it does exactly what Jesus says it did—it preaches him.
What does the Bible have to say? Well, obviously it makes no mention of a rosary, but it does contain the 150 Psalms, which constitute the prayer book of God's people. I strongly believe that the Psalms, along with other biblical canticles from both Old and New Testaments, must take precedence over other post-biblical hymns in our liturgies, as well as in our daily personal prayers.
30 Mar 2021
This concert was put on three years ago by Mission Timothée to mark the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation. Shortly thereafter it was posted here: Concert "Le psautier huguenot" par la Mission Timothée.
Here is a directory of the songs sung, including nine of the Genevan Psalms:
29 Mar 2021
The Septuagint was the first translation of what we call the Old Testament into a foreign language, in this case Greek. The Septuagint, often abbreviated to LXX, would have a massive influence among Jews in the Hellenistic world in the centuries before Christ and among Christians, beginning with the apostles themselves. When the New Testament quotes from the Old Testament, virtually all such quotations are from the LXX, which sometimes varies from our extant Hebrew texts.
27 Mar 2021
I recorded this last year and have just posted it on my YouTube channel: Third Mode Melody, by Thomas Tallis. The tune is from Archbishop Matthew Parker's Psalter of 1567 and was originally a setting for Psalm 2. This tune became the basis for Ralph Vaughan Williams' transcendently beautiful Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis (1910) and Fisher Tull's Sketches on a Tudor Psalm (1971). It is in the phrygian mode, one of the church modes, which means that on the white piano keys one would begin at E and end at E an octave higher without using the black keys. The melody is sometimes called the THIRD TUNE, because it was the third of nine in Parker's collection. It's also called THIRD MODE MELODY, because the phrygian mode is the third, if one begins with the ionian and dorian modes. I believe this simple tune is one of the most haunting pieces of music ever written.
In the Christian Reformed Church's grey Psalter Hymnal David J. Diephouse's versified text for Psalm 62 is set to this tune. In Cantus Christi the 1912 Psalter's text for Psalm 63 is set to this tune.
I am still learning and hope eventually to be able to produce more professional-looking and sounding videos. In particular, you will need to increase the volume a bit to hear this.
26 Mar 2021
Singing the “mean” psalms is thus part of the church’s mission. These psalms arouse a hunger and thirst for justice, as we take up the prayers of the destitute as our own. They expand the scope of our prayers. We may not be under threat, but these psalms keep before us the daily dangers of persecuted brothers and sisters. Imprecatory psalms ground us in the real world, counteracting our instinct for over-spiritualized, anodyne, Pollyannaish piety. They’re a form of church discipline, as we ask Jesus to uproot liars and predators from his field, the church.
In the course of the article, Leithart cites my friend Trevor Laurence, who has published my own writings at Cateclesia Forum, which just yesterday posted this: The Virtual Illusion: Social Media’s Uneasy Relationship with Real Community.
25 Mar 2021
The following performance of Genevan Psalm 150 uses the arrangement of Paschale de L'Estocart and my own English text, albeit an earlier form of the text before I revised the last two lines of the second stanza.
A lovely performance indeed. Unfortunately, the person who made the recording, Stephanie Martin, neglected to credit the author of the text. I contacted her several years ago and asked her to do so, but she obviously did not, not even on her YouTube channel. Perhaps the next step is to contact Warner Chappel Production Music, which published the recording.
23 Mar 2021
What is notable about this volume is a preface by the editor titled, "A Dissertation on Scripture Imprecations," undertaking to grapple with the darker texts in which the psalmist calls God's wrath down on his enemies. Williams takes a quite different approach to what I have written here: GOD AS JUDGE: PRAYING THE IMPRECATORY PSALMS. He believes that the imprecations in the Psalms are largely the work of faulty translators of the original Hebrew text, in which the imperative mood is routinely substituted for the future tense. The original authors were simply predicting what would happen to the wicked rather than wishing it upon them. I am no expert in Hebrew, but given that this was written nearly two and a half centuries ago and that no credible biblical scholars that I am aware of seem to have adopted this interpretation since then, we are probably justified in viewing this as an interesting example of someone struggling with texts that made him uncomfortable.
Not surprisingly, then, Williams used Watts' abbreviated and christological versification of Psalm 109, omitting the lengthy imprecations altogether and ending thus:
Their Malice rag'd without a Cause,
Yet with his dying Breath
He pray'd for Murd'rers on his Cross,
And blest his Foes in Death.
Let not his bright Example shine
In vain before our Eyes;
May we like him to Peace incline,
And love our Enemies.
16 Mar 2021
15 Mar 2021
We badly need a translation from Hungarian of what looks to have been a fantastic lecture: Dr. Vas Bence: Genfi zsoltárok - Kórus- és lantfeldolgozások a XVI. században. Translation: Dr. Bence Vas: Geneva Psalms - Choral and Lute arrangements in the 16th century. Even if you cannot understand Hungarian, you can still enjoy the performances of Psalms 6, 5, 143, 77, 40, and 80 for choir, vocal solo, and guitar.
12 Mar 2021
10 Mar 2021
9 Mar 2021
25 Feb 2021
24 Feb 2021
The Genevan Psalm tunes have sometimes been paired with other biblical texts. A particularly familiar such pairing, often sung during Advent, is Comfort, Comfort Ye My People, a versification of the first verses of Isaiah 40 set to the tune for Psalm 42. This is also sung by Nathan George and family and was posted in December of last year. This is one of those remote pandemic recordings with instrumentalists located in different parts of the world.
22 Feb 2021
My wife, a professional biblical scholar by trade, recently pointed me to this article by Jamie A. Grant: Crisis, Cursing and the Christian: Reading Imprecatory Psalms in the Twenty-First Century (Foundations: No.74 Spring 2018). Here is an excerpt:
Clearly, at least within contemporary Western brands of Christianity, we are uncomfortable with the imprecations. In most of our lectionary traditions, imprecatory voices are not read, and the same is true in traditions where psalms are sung. Equally clearly, many interpreters are sceptical about the continued validity of such expressions in the Christian era. What, therefore, are we to do with psalms such as Psalm 69 that calls for the death of enemies or Psalm 137 that appears to eulogise the killing of babies? While remaining troubled by these voices in Scripture, many Christian readers are instinctively cautious about removing, either literally or functionally, sections of Scripture simply because they make us uncomfortable or because they are difficult to understand. So, the question remains: should we, can we, adopt such words as our own in our experience of worship? . . .
19 Feb 2021
Once again these are not metrical Psalms as such, but Karl Kohlhase's arrangements and performances of the Psalms definitely merit attention. His YouTube channel can be found here. Unlike some versions of the Psalms, I believe that these might be mastered by a congregation with a little assistance and practice, especially due to their regular rhythms and repeated musical themes. Here is a small selection:
18 Feb 2021
The tune for Genevan Psalm 134 was paired with the long-metre (LM) text for Psalm 100 from the Scottish Psalter in the 17th century and is thus familiar to generations of Christians as OLD ONE HUNDREDTH. Many years ago I arranged the tune, and here it is performed by the Protestant Reformed Psalm Choir and returned to Psalm 134:
17 Feb 2021
One of the joys of keeping a blog such as this is discovering new talent to share with others. Jason Silver maintains a YouTube channel devoted to the Psalms and other Scripture songs. His have many of the characteristics of metrical psalms, including a consistent rhythm and repeated themes. But the words are straight from Scripture with no attempt to compress them into artificial metre and rhyme. Here are a few samples in different musical styles, ranging from movie western to Celtic:
During Lent our congregation is Celebrating the Psalms Through Lent. For each day click on the appropriate numbered link and hear our members reciting the entire book, concluding with the final Psalms of praise on Easter. Today we hear our own Mary Edwards read Psalm 1-4. Join us for our Lenten journey.
16 Feb 2021
The following was posted by a marvellous musical group called the Hillbilly Thomists: Our Help Is in the Name of the Lord. It's a composite of several Psalms, including numbers 40, 70, 69, 124, and a few others. The Hillbilly Thomists are an ensemble of Dominican Friars who took their somewhat whimsical name from Flannery O'Connor's self-description. This song is from their new album, Living for the Other Side, available on their website.
15 Feb 2021
I am in a Facebook group devoted to the Breviary and Divine Office, which includes mostly Roman Catholics and Anglicans but also other Christians interested in the ancient cycle of daily prayer of which the biblical Psalms play a central role. One of the members posted this article by Peter Kwasniewski: The Omission of “Difficult” Psalms and the Spreading-Thin of the Psalter. The author charges that church officials have unduly expurgated troubling scripture passages from both the Psalter and the lectionary readings of scripture at the celebration of the mass. But what I wanted to call attention to is the long quotation by Orthodox priest Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon in one of the footnotes:
The real problem . . . is not with the psalm, but with ourselves. We modern Christians are far too disposed to establish our personal sentiments, our own spontaneous feelings, as the standard for our prayer. Thus, if the words of a particular prayer (in this case, a psalm inspired by the Holy Spirit) express emotions and responses with which we do not “feel” comfortable, we tend to think that we are being insincere in praying it. Contemporary Christians have made a virtual fetish of spontaneity in worship, and sincerity nowadays is measured by pulse rhythm. One would think that our Lord had said: “I have come that you may have sincere and heartfelt emotions, and have them more abundantly.”
In addition to the Psalms, Christians have sung other parts of Scripture as well down through the centuries. Here is one such song familiar to generations of protestants raised in revivalist circles. I associate this song with the Baptist church in my mother's hometown in Michigan where she and my father were married and which we attended during lengthy visits with relatives when I was a boy. We sang this song yesterday in church.
Although the stanzas are not from the Bible, the chorus is straight out of 2 Timothy 1:12 in the King James Version:
. . . for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I've committed unto him against that day.
9 Feb 2021
The 19th-century Hungarian composer Franz (Ferenc) Liszt composed his own arrangement of Genevan Psalm 42. Listen to this recording of Wolfgang Weller performing this piece on the piano:
8 Feb 2021
Kent Dykstra maintains a YouTube channel worth checking out: Kent Dykstra. Here we find Dykstra's arrangements of several Genevan Psalms for string orchestra. Here are a few samples, beginning with Psalm 2:
3 Feb 2021
This psalm from the RPCNA's Book of Psalms for Worship, Psalm 24, is nicely sung, and the text is fine. Give it a listen here:
All the same, most Christians will find the familiar William Howard Doane tune distracting, as it is nearly universally associated with Fanny Crosby's beloved To God Be the Glory. Some tunes can be appropriately matched with multiple texts, as the success of Scotland's split-leaf psalters testifies. However, when a tune is so thoroughly associated with a given lyric, it may need to be passed over when new metrical psalters are being compiled. This is a good reason why Brian Wright's Anatomy of the Soul project is so compelling.
2 Feb 2021
Praying the psalms, then, is a means of kindling love—a truth that St. Bonaventure saw with blinding clarity. If you ask how one can know God, wrote Bonaventure, seek the answer in God’s grace, not instruction; desire, not intellect; the spouse, not the teacher; God, not man; darkness, not clarity; not light but the raging fire that will bear you aloft.
In a striking passage in book 9 of the Confessions, Augustine recalls meditating on Psalm 4. He was staying at a friend’s villa near Milan while preparing for Baptism: “My God, how I cried to you when I read the Psalms of David, songs of faith, utterances of devotion which allow no pride of spirit to enter in . . . how they kindled my love for you.” They are sung all over the world, says Augustine, and there is no one “who can hide himself from your heat” (Ps. 19:6). He wished that others were nearby “watching my face and hearing my cries, to see what that psalm had done to me.”
When I first read that passage years ago, I was brought up short by the word “done.” Doing is not something we attribute to prayer; it implies action, not meditation. But praying the psalm did something to Augustine. The feelings expressed by the psalmist became his feelings. When the psalms are prayed, they don’t simply express something; they effect something, like an oath of office, or a couple’s wedding vows, or the words of consecration. The language is performative. Again, Augustine: “If the psalm is praying, pray yourselves; if it is groaning, you groan too; if it is happy, rejoice; if it is crying out in hope, you hope as well; if it expresses fear, be afraid. Everything written here is like a mirror held up to us.”
First Things allows nonsubscribers to read three free articles per month. Let this be one of them.
31 Jan 2021
Prior to the publication of the Liturgy of the Hours, Pope Paul VI decreed that the imprecatory psalms be omitted. As a result, approximately 120 verses (three entire psalms (58, 83, and 109) and additional verses from 19 others) were removed. The introduction to the Liturgy of the Hours cites the reason for their removal as a certain “psychological difficulty” caused by these passages. This is despite the fact that some of these psalms of imprecation are used as prayer in the New Testament (e.g., Rev 6:10) and in no sense to encourage the use of curses (General Instruction # 131). Six of the Old Testament Canticles and one of the New Testament Canticles contain verses that were eliminated for the same reason.
Many (including me) believe that the removal of these verses is problematic . . . . [I]t is troubling to propose that the inspired text of Scripture should be consigned to the realm of “psychological difficulty.” Critics assert that it should be our task to seek to understand such texts in the wider context of God’s love and justice. Some of the most teachable moments come in the difficult and “dark” passages. Whatever “psychological difficulty” or spiritual unease these texts cause, all the more reason that we should wonder as to the purpose of such verses. Why would God permit such utterances in a sacred text? What does He want us to learn or understand? Does our New Testament perspective add insight?
22 Jan 2021
My new acquaintance, the Rev. Brian Wright, has recently posted this video of his musical setting of Psalm 17 from the Book of Psalms for Worship: Let Justice from Your Presence Come.
Wright has also posted a website devoted to his Anatomy of the Soul project, including opportunities to acquire CD recordings and sheet music. Do take a look.
18 Jan 2021
13 Jan 2021
Back in 1993 my sister Yvonne and I recorded this metrical version of Psalm 95, whose text I set to verse to be sung to the melody of the ancient Cypriot song T'ai Yiorkou. Recorded in St. Barnabas Church, Glen Ellyn, Illinois. The images in the video are of various places around Cyprus and of psalm-related material.
11 Jan 2021
The following appears to be from an old long-play vinyl record of Kochanowski's and Gomółka's collection: Psalmy - Mikołaj Gomółka - Chór Stuligrosza. Performed by the Boys and Men's Choir of the Poznań Pharharmonia under the direction of Stefan Stuligrosz.
7 Jan 2021
We've not sung this Psalm in our church in some time, but it is a traditional entrance hymn for the Lord's Supper in Scotland, where our congregation finds its roots:
5 Jan 2021
If you use the title of Psalm 29 in Polish as a keyword when searching YouTube, you will find several performances of Kochanowski and Gomółka's version of this psalm.The following video is highly unusual. It's a rock version from an album called Pospolite Ruszenie. Admittedly, it will not be everyone's cup of tea, but it is testimony to how deeply embedded this song is in the Polish musical repertoire.
There. That's done. Now here's one that many of us will likely prefer: Mikołaj Gomółka (XVI w.) - Nieście chwałę mocarze, performed in the Ukrainian city of Lviv at the 13th Early Music Festival:
2 Jan 2021
Here is another performance of Psalm 29 from the Polish David's Psalter, arranged by Adam Cichocki and performed by the Exaudi Chamber Choir. There is a bit of interference from a cell phone ring tone at one point. Judging by the number of performances of this piece on YouTube, it would seem that this is the best known and best loved of Kochanowski and Gomółka's Polish metred psalms.