1 Jul 2022

Los Salmos en rima española, 2

This revised collection comes in a paperback form with a deep burgundy cover. Unlike the first edition, it contains all the melodies as well as the texts which makes for a thicker volume running to just over 300 pages. The layout looks like this:

29 Jun 2022

Los Salmos en rima española, 1

I have just received the new edition of a Spanish-language version of the Genevan Psalter, titled Los Salmos en rima española. This is a collection of metrical psalms set to verse by Jorge Ruiz Ortiz according to the melodies of the Genevan Psalter. This volume replaces an earlier version of the collection published by Faro de Gracia in 2010.

Here is the author's preface translated into English:

It has been thirteen years since the completion of the first version of the Psalter (Los Salmos metrificados en lenga castellana), and eleven since its publication. During this time, in which we have learnt to sing these texts with the music of the Genevan Psalter, we have been able to see in which places they could be improved, and this in two ways: on the one hand, to facilitate singing, and, on the other, above all to make them more faithful to the biblical text.

28 Jun 2022

John Croke's Psalter

The British Library recently posted this item and description on its Facebook page:

In the 16th century, it was fashionable for rich women to wear tiny books hanging from their belts or ‘girdles’. This girdle book is bound in gold and black enamel. When opened it reveals a portrait of Henry VIII and is rumoured to have belonged to his second wife, Anne Boleyn.

The portrait of Henry is charming with smiling cherry lips and sparkling blue eyes. However, there’s no reference to the painting before 1849. Plus it looks nothing like Tudor portraiture – where’s Henry’s glare and pale skin?

An 18th century bookseller, Robert Triphook, mixed up our book with one Anne Boleyn gave to the Wyatt family, which had similar golden covers. The portrait was likely added late to add authority to the claim. So if not Anne Boleyn - who actually owned this book? There is one clue.

Each page contains Psalms translated into English verse. These translations exist in only one other copy – created by John Croke (d.1554), who dedicated the work to his wife. As both manuscripts are written in Croke’s own handwriting, the most likely recipient of both volumes was Prudence Croke.

The book is very likely this one accessible online: Thirteen Psalms and the First Chapter of Ecclesiastes Translated into English Verse by John Croke.

20 Jun 2022

The Lutheran connection

In the 16th century, the Reformation took more than one path in its efforts to reform the western catholic church. Two of these streams are the Lutheran and the continental Reformed, which went their separate ways over the sacraments. At the Marburg Colloquy in 1529, while the Ottoman Turks were besieging Vienna nearly 800 kilometers to the east, Luther defended the real presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper against Ulrich Zwingli, who asserted that Christ's body was at the right hand of God following his ascension and thus could not be physically present in the sacrament.

Besides their confessional differences, the Lutheran and Reformed also differed liturgically. Luther was content to translate the existing Roman rite of the Mass into German with modifications intended to purge it of its mediaeval accretions. The Reformed, by contrast, sought to recover a lost liturgical heritage as indicated in the title of the 1542 edition of the Genevan Psalter published in Geneva: La forme des prières et chantz ecclésiastiques: avec la manière d'administrer les sacremens, & consacrer le mariage : selon la coustume de l'Église ancienne. Note especially that last phrase, "according to the custom of the ancient Church." The Reformed sought a more thorough reworking of the liturgy in accordance with God's word and what they knew of early church usages, while Luther's followers were willing to retain what they deemed to be of value in the existing rites.

6 Jun 2022

The Meeter Center's 40th anniversary Psalmfest

This event has now been posted on the Meeter Center's YouTube channel. I was pleased to participate by leading the reading of Psalm 98 at 58:46.

2 Jun 2022

Meletios Kashinda: Psalm 136 (LXX 135)

Here is Meletios Kashinda singing Psalm 135 (136, according to Hebrew numbering). It is rather extraordinary to find an African with an excellent grasp of the Greek language and a mastery of the Byzantine chant tones. And what a powerful voice!

1 Jun 2022

The Psalm 'outside the number'

Holy Transfiguration Monastery

My recent post about the Qumran tradition of Davidic authorship is a reminder that not all of the psalm literature of the ancient Israelites made into the canonical Psalter we know from our bibles. In the Orthodox tradition, we find an extra psalm in some manuscripts of the Greek Septuagint which is described as "outside the number" (εξωθεν του αριθμου) of the 150 Psalms. It is sometimes referred to as Psalm 151 and is labelled thus in the New Oxford Annotated Bible. Here it is in the New Revised Standard Version:

This psalm is ascribed to David as his own composition (though it is outside the number), after he had fought in single combat with Goliath.

1    I was small among my brothers,
and the youngest in my father’s house;
I tended my father’s sheep.
2    My hands made a harp;
my fingers fashioned a lyre.
3    And who will tell my Lord?
The Lord himself; it is he who hears.
4    It was he who sent his messenger
and took me from my father’s sheep,
and anointed me with his anointing oil.
5    My brothers were handsome and tall,
but the Lord was not pleased with them.
6    I went out to meet the Philistine,
and he cursed me by his idols.
7    But I drew his own sword;
I beheaded him, and took away disgrace from the people of Israel.

As far as I know, no one has attempted to set this to metred verse, but it is included in Saint Dunstan's Plainsong Psalter with an appropriate chant tone.

30 May 2022

How many Psalms of David? Qumran's answer

The entire canonical collection making up the biblical Psalter claims in some fashion the authorship of David, the revered king and founder of the Judahite dynasty that would eventually give us Jesus Christ, "great David's greater Son." This suggests, not that David literally composed every Psalm, many of which (for example, 79, 80, and 137) address conditions and events long after his death. It suggests rather that he initiated the project of creating a collection of hymns for God's people which continued for centuries afterwards until the exile and possibly later.

One of the texts uncovered at Qumran (11Q5/11QPsa) asserts that David wrote many more psalms than those that would come to be included in the Bible:

27 May 2022

Sweelinck: The Complete Psalms

The Dutch composer Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562-1621) composed arrangements for all 150 of the Genevan Psalm tunes. The Gesualdo Consort has posted many of these on its YouTube channel: Sweelinck: The Complete Psalms. Here is one of those arrangements of Psalm 92 below:

Released last year, the recording is available from iTunes, Amazon.com, and the usual online vendors.

25 May 2022

Salmo 23 Salterio de Ginebra en Español

Salmo 23 Salterio de Ginebra en Español:


Saint Dunstan's Plainsong Psalter

Several years ago I obtained a copy of Saint Dunstan's Plainsong Psalter, containing all 150 Psalms set to chant tones along with additional material. It's a beautifully laid-out volume enabling us to sing the Psalms in a particularly ancient way. I've discovered a YouTube channel that features Sarah James singing all of the Psalms in this collection: Saint Dunstan's Plainsong Psalter. Here is the first Psalm below:

24 May 2022

Let the People Praise: The Enduring Legacy of the Genevan Psalter

Last wednesday afternoon, 18 May, I delivered this lecture at Calvin University, Grand Rapids, Michigan, titled: "Let the People Praise: The Enduring Legacy of the Genevan Psalter." This was to mark the 40th anniversary of the H. Henry Meeter Center for Calvin Studies. I was pleased to see so many familiar and unfamiliar faces there. For those unable to attend, here is a recording of the lecture.

20 May 2022

Meeter Center Psalmfest

My lecture at Calvin University took place on wednesday, 18 May. I will post a link to the lecture when the Meeter Center posts it. For now I have posted a portion of the Psalmfest that took place that evening in the chapel of Calvin Theological Seminary. The assembled congregation is singing Genevan Psalm 6 as found in Psalms for All Seasons.

Here is the programme for the Psalmfest:

17 May 2022

Meeter Center reminder

Here is a reminder of tomorrow's lecture sponsored by the H. Henry Meeter Center for Calvin studies: Meeter Center 40th Anniversary - Lecture: The Genevan Psalms And Their Significance. It will take place at 15:30 UTC-04 (3.30 pm EDT), wednesday, 18 May 2022, at the Meeter Center Lecture Hall, Hekman Library, at Calvin University, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA. From the website: "Join us for this special lecture featuring Dr. David Koyzis (Global Scholars Canada), who has recently completed a new versification of all 150 Genevan Psalms."

13 May 2022

The Sound of the Psalms

First Things' contributing editor Mark Bauerlein interviews James M. Hamilton, Jr., about his book, Psalms Volume 1: Evangelical Biblical Theology Commentary, on this podcast: The Sound of the Psalms. Hamilton takes a canonical approach to the Psalter, arguing that it is no mere collection of praises arranged haphazardly. Rather, the five books of the Psalter trace the history of redemption from the Davidic monarchy through exile and return, culminating in the concluding grand doxologies that represent the consummation of the long story of our salvation in Jesus Christ. It is not incidental that a majority of the Psalms attributed to David occur in the first two books, the second of which closes with "The prayers of David, the son of Jesse, are ended." Standard scholarly interpretation has it that this sentence was an editorial insertion closing an early collection of the psalms to which others were added later. Hamilton argues instead that this signifies that the narrative flow of the Psalter has moved beyond the Davidic episodes to a later stage in the redemptive story. The interview runs to just over half an hour. The book is available from Lexham Academic.

9 May 2022

Genevan Psalms for the Twenty-first Century: The Story of a Project

The May/June issue of The Outlook carries my second article on the Genevan Psalter, following up on my first instalment in the January/February issue. That earlier article introduced the Psalter and told the story of how it came to be. The second article tells the story of my own project to set the Psalms to verse according to their proper Genevan melodies. As far as I can tell, this article is not posted online either, so you will have to locate a print copy or take out a subscription. 

6 May 2022

Psaume 2 du Psautier de Genève

 Several choral arrangements of Genevan Psalm 2:

3 May 2022

Psalm 79 (78 LXX): O God, the nations have come into your heritage

This is obviously not a metrical Psalm, but a Greek Orthodox rendering of Psalm 79, or 78 by Septuagint numbering. In the Orthodox world the singing of this Psalm is associated with lament over the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks on tuesday, 29 May 1453. This particular video includes an English translation of the text.

25 Apr 2022

Let God Arise: Christ is Risen!

In the Orthodox Agape Vespers for Pascha (Easter), the people sing this joyous hymn, whose text can be found here. It borrows from Psalms 68 (LXX 67) and 118 (LXX 117) and ends with the traditional paschal hymn, Christ is Risen. The recording is from St. Symeon Orthodox Church, Birmingham, Alabama, USA, in 2018.

22 Apr 2022

David's Psalter: Psalm 23

Once again, metrical psalmody meets the Polish Renaissance in this wonderful performance of Mikołaj Gomółka and Jan Kochanowski's rendition of Psalm 23. Katarzyna Wiwer sings soprano, accompanied on the lute by Henryk Kasperczak.

20 Apr 2022

Darkness is my only friend: Psalm 88

No question that Psalm 88 is the darkest of all the Psalms, so many of which are already psalms of lament. But while most such psalms end on a note of hope in God, Psalm 88 ends with this bleak complaint: "Darkness is my only friend." Here is Josh Rodriguez's chilling musical rendition of this Psalm:

17 Apr 2022

15 Apr 2022

Allegri's Miserere: not what he wrote

On this Good Friday, as we meditate on Christ's sacrifice for our sins, it is worth looking at this familiar choral setting of Psalm 51 (50 by LXX and Vulgate numbering): Gregorio Allegri's Miserere. It seems that what we are accustomed to hearing in this piece is not what Allegri actually wrote in the early 17th century. My daughter alerted me to this fascinating account, by Rory McCleery and Ben Byram-Wigfield, of the piece's development and elaboration over the centuries. Among other things, the story of Pope Urban VIII threatening to excommunicate anyone who performed it outside the Sistine Chapel lacks any basis in available evidence. Moreover, the high notes sung by the soprano are due to an error in transcription made as recently as the 1880s. They were not in the composer's original.

As I watched this, I thought of the game of telephone that we played as children. It's amazing that an iconic piece of music could become so in a version foreign to its composer's intentions.

4 Apr 2022

Meeter Center lecture

The H. Henry Meeter Center for Calvin Studies has now posted an announcement of my forthcoming lecture: Meeter Center 40th Anniversary - Lecture: The Genevan Psalms And Their Significance. It will take place at 15:30 UTC-4, wednesday, 18 May 2022, at the Meeter Center Lecture Hall at Calvin University, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA. From the website: "Join us for this special lecture featuring Dr. David Koyzis (Global Scholars Canada), who has recently completed a new versification of all 150 Genevan Psalms." I hope to see many of you at this event.

28 Mar 2022

Praying All of the Psalms Over Russia

Like so many of us in recent weeks, John Stonestreet and Timothy D. Padgett, writing for Breakpoint, return to the imprecatory Psalms and find that they are still relevant today: Praying All of the Psalms Over Russia. An excerpt:

It is right at these times to want justice, and to want it now! It is right to weep at the horrors of human existence, as Billie Holiday did with her mournful song about lynchings in the Jim Crow South, “Strange Fruit.” Passages like Psalm 88 describe the struggle to find hope in God, and to lament the injustice in the world. Sometimes, the only possible moral response is to appeal for God’s judgment on evildoers. Anger is a proper response to real evil in this world, a world that was created good . . . .

Imprecatory psalms affirm our sense that there’s real wrong with the world, that we are right to be angry about it. They speak of the psalmist’s pain in their realness and rawness. They remind us that God is not afraid of our anger. In fact, He, too, is grieved and angry at evil borne of the sin we have committed against one another.

Read the entire commentary here

25 Mar 2022

Psalm 119: Thy Word Have I Hid in my Heart

This is not exactly a metrical psalm, but it does draw on selected verses from Psalm 119. We sang this hymn as children in our church and sunday school. Words and music were written in 1908 by Ernest Orlando Sellers (1869-1952): Thy Word Have I Hid in my Heart.

Angry Psalms

In the month since the Russo-Ukrainian War began, many of us are learning again what it means to pray the imprecatory Psalms, namely, those psalms that call down God's wrath against his enemies. I recently had a conversation with Trevor Laurence, for whose Cateclesia Forum I sometimes write, and he told me of his interest in these particular Psalms, which puzzle many Christians. Laurence offers us this reflection in the online journal, The Biblical Mind: How the ‘Angry Psalms’ Fit within the Story of God and His People. An excerpt:

14 Mar 2022

Psalm 2: Why do the nations madly rage?

This was just posted yesterday by Ref-Grass Moments: Psalm 2: Why do the restless nations madly rage? The tune is the proper Genevan meloday for Psalm 2. The text is from the Canadian Reformed collection. The footage is from Port Dalhousie in St. Catharines, Ontario.

8 Mar 2022

A prayer for Russia and Ukraine

Almighty God and Father, you have created us in your image to live in peace with our fellow human beings. But we confess that we have so often failed to live in obedience to your will, to the detriment of our neighbours, both near and far. And now the world is seeing a brutal war of aggression launched by one state against another, with attacks made on civilians who are suffering greatly as a result. Thousands of refugees are fleeing their cities and pouring over the borders of neighbouring countries. We feel helpless to relieve their plight, but we are angry and thirst for justice.

We acknowledge, O Lord, that the people of Russia and Ukraine do not want this war, which has been foisted on them by a corrupt and tyrannical leader in Moscow. Many of your servants are making their voices heard at great risk to their lives and livelihoods. We pray, Lord, that you would encircle them with your protection: that you would cover them with your pinions, that under your wings they would find refuge (Psalm 91).

1 Mar 2022

Chanting Psalms in the Dark

The Plough posted today an inspiring article, Chanting Psalms in the Dark, that you should take time to read in the midst of the turmoil of the past days. Susannah Black interviews Brittany Petruzzi about her project to chant through the Psalter and post it on her YouTube channel. An excerpt:

At the beginning of Covid, I just started thinking that I should do daily psalm-chanting.

Then in December 2020, I found out that I had a brain tumor; less than a week later I was in the hospital getting it removed. It was a seven-centimeter tumor right behind my forehead, squishing my brain back. Enormous amounts of pain. But it was on the meninges, on the outside of my brain. As my neurosurgeon described it, this is the kind of brain tumor you want, if you’re going to have a brain tumor.

28 Feb 2022

A Psalm for Putin

In light of the horrific events of recent days, I am revisiting something I wrote last year: God as Judge: Praying the Imprecatory Psalms. If we can still pray these today, then I have the perfect prayer for Russian President Vladimir Putin taken from Psalm 109:8:

May his days be few; may another take his office!

Let all the people say: Amen! (Psalm 106:48)

And while we're at it, let's remember to pray for the people of Ukraine who are valiantly fighting for their freedom and for ordinary Russians who mostly oppose this war.

May the Lord give strength to his people! May the Lord bless his people with peace! (Psalm 29:11)

26 Feb 2022

Psalm 8 "bachified"

Here is Johann Sebastian Bach's arrangement of Genevan Psalm 8. Note that it is a typical Bach arrangement in that it flattens the rhythm of the original, relies heavily on a raised seventh note, and ends on a picardy third. As such, it alters the dorian modal flavour of the melody.

24 Feb 2022

The Psalms in wartime

This evening after dinner we read Psalm 27, which I thought appropriate in light of the events of the past hours. Here is something I wrote for the Center for Public Justice eight years ago, which I thought relevant to the current crisis: One Hundred Years Later: The Psalms and the First World War. An excerpt:

Nearly four decades ago, I visited Prague, the capital of what was still communist-ruled Czechoslovakia and, before the First World War, part of Austria-Hungary. During my time there, I purchased in an antiquarian bookshop a Czech-language New Testament and Psalms published in 1845 for “Evangelical Christians of the Augsburg and Helvetic Confessions,” that is, for Lutheran and Reformed Christians. The print was in the old German black letter font, and even some of the spelling was obsolete.

17 Feb 2022

Meeter Center lecture coming up

In May I will be lecturing on the Genevan Psalter at Calvin University, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA, as guest of the H. Henry Meeter Center for Calvin Studies. This year marks the 460th anniversary of the Genevan Psalter's completion. More information forthcoming.

8 Feb 2022

Psalm 82: the consensus of the metrical psalters?

As a follow-up to my previous posts on the identity of the "gods" in Psalm 82, I have consulted a few more metrical psalters. Here are stanzas 1, 7, and 8 of the version in the Sternhold & Hopkins Psalter of 1562:

Among the princes, men of might,
the Lord himself doth stand,
To plead the cause of truth and right
with judges of the land.

But notwithstanding ye shall die
as men, and so decay;
O tyrants, you destroy will I,
and pluck you quite away.

Up, Lord, and let thy strength be known,
and judge the world with might:
For why? all nations are thy own,
to take them as thy right.

3 Feb 2022

Where Alter's Psalter falters

Christian Courier has just posted my January column, titled, Where Alter's Psalter falters, with the following subtitle: "What's really going on in Psalm 82?" Here is an excerpt:

Although I generally appreciate Alter’s work, I question one element of his interpretive framework. This is relevant especially to Psalm 82 but to others as well. Throughout the Psalms he sees vestiges of Canaanite polytheistic religion, with many of the traditional attributes ascribed to Baal being reassigned to YHWH, including the often-used metaphors of riding on the clouds and defeating the waters of chaos.

Of course, there is little doubt that the early Hebrews were influenced by the surrounding peoples’ religions, as the Bible itself testifies. But I think it’s possible to exaggerate these mythological remnants in such a way as to miss something more concrete and obvious, which Alter is otherwise at pains to emphasize.

Read the entire article here. And read my full review of the Alter Psalter here.

2 Feb 2022

Article in The Outlook

Not long ago I received a copy of the January/February issue of The Outlook carrying an article of mine, "The Genevan Psalter: Introduction." It is not posted online, so you will need to obtain a paper copy of the periodical to read it. A follow-up article on my own Genevan Psalter project will appear in a future issue.

28 Jan 2022

Jamie Soles: Psalm 91

Here is Jamie Soles singing Psalm 91. Although the lyrics are from the Canadian Reformed Book of Praise and were meant to be sung to the proper Genevan melody, Soles has come up with his own tune:

25 Jan 2022

Psalms in the night

The BBC carries a fascinating article about a phenomenon that is little remembered today but was thoroughly familiar with our not so distant ancestors: The forgotten medieval habit of 'two sleeps', something about which I wrote nearly a decade ago: Rising at Midnight: Sleep Patterns and Daily Prayer. Prior to the invention of artificial lighting, human beings around the world slept in two shifts, once in the late evening, followed by a period of wakefulness, and then in the early morning. In the absence of the indoor lighting ubiquitous in our dwellings and late-night television, people generally retired early, woke up again around midnight for another period of activity, and then retired for another few hours, to wake again for the day. Not only is this testified to in the literature to which author Zaria Gorvett alludes, but it is found in the Bible as well:

13 Jan 2022

Make no mistake

Must be a Portuguese or Brazilian monk . . . 

Ele deve ser um monge português ou brasileiro . . .