12 Dec 2022

Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs

Two passages in Paul's letters make reference to the liturgical triad of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. These are Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:19. Here is the first: "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God." And the second: "addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart." What is meant by these terms?

Some people think they know. One of these is R. Scott Clark of The Heidelblog, where he posted on the topic a decade ago: Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs in the Septuagint. Clark argues that these terms reflect categories in the Greek Septuagint (LXX) translation of the Old Testament, on which the New Testament authors relied for virtually all of their Scripture quotations. Here are his categories:

2 Dec 2022

The Bay Psalm Book of 1640

For Christmas 2009 my wife gave me a copy of the 1903 facsimile edition of the Bay Psalm Book of 1640, the first book to be published in the English-speaking colonies in the New World. Although I mentioned it briefly in this blog at the time, I did not comment any further on the volume. Given that it is nearly 120 years old, it is in remarkably good condition, although only one side survives of the open-ended box it came in. An introduction to this edition was written by one Wilberforce Eames (1855-1937), a self-taught librarian and scholar known as the "Dean of American Bibliographers."

30 Nov 2022

A Trilha de Cantuária: culto e reforma

My recent post on The Canterbury Trail: worship and reformation has been translated into Portuguese and posted at Lecionário: A Trilha de Cantuária: culto e reforma. An excerpt follows the Portuguese translation immediately below.

Meu post recente sobre The Canterbury Trail: worship and reformation foi traduzido para o português e postado no Lecionário: A Trilha de Cantuária: culto e reforma. Um trecho:

Webber não me levou ao anglicanismo per se, muito menos a uma comunhão anglicana, uma invenção de meados do século XIX. Mas ler seus livros me ajudou a entender que até alguns dos reformadores do século 16 erraram, especialmente no que diz respeito às liturgias históricas da Igreja. Em qualquer esforço para reformar a igreja, os pretensos reformadores devem diferenciar entre o que pertence legitimamente à tradição da qual são herdeiros e o que são acréscimos antibíblicos. Isso requer conhecimento de como era a igreja antiga e como ela adorava o Deus trino. Infelizmente, os reformadores não tiveram acesso às fontes mais antigas que conhecemos hoje.

Leia o artigo inteiro aqui.

24 Nov 2022

Psalms of Grace: another congregational psalter project

The Rev. John F. MacArthur is the long-time pastor of Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, California, USA and has a radio and television ministry called Grace to You. After decades of ministry, he and his congregation now have an interest in incorporating sung psalmody into their liturgy. Here is MacArthur talking about their newly produced metrical psalter: Pastor John MacArthur Talks About Psalms of Grace. I hope to obtain a copy of this collection at some point.

17 Nov 2022

Good news and appeal for help

A sample of our work (click to enlarge)
As promised, I am privileged to share some good news concerning my Genevan Psalter project of which some of you may already be aware. I was recently informed by the Priscilla and Stanford Reid Trust that I have been awarded a second grant of CDN$2,200 enabling me to hire Michael Owens to format my texts for the Psalms to the Genevan melodies as arranged by Jacques Pierre Bekkers and Jacob Kort in preparation for publication. This comes the year after an earlier award of the same amount from the Reid Trust. I am grateful for this concrete expression of confidence in my ongoing work. However, we are still short approximately CDN$3,500 of the total cost of this work.

Thus we need your help. If you would be interested in making a financial contribution to completing this project, please make your donation via Global Scholars Canada. GSC's page for giving can be found here. Once you are in the page, scroll down to the heading marked DONATION DETAILS, and then choose one of the options under FUND. Americans may donate through our sister organization in the US. Please let me know if you have contributed, and I will be pleased to acknowledge you in the published psalter, unless you prefer otherwise.

Thank you so much!

15 Nov 2022

Praise God in his sanctuary: recovering the Psalms

Although evangelical protestants stopped singing the Psalms some two centuries ago, there is so much good news to share with respect to efforts to reverse this sad trend. Here is a recap, along with the promise of fresh news which I will share later this week:

  1. I have been heartened to see evangelical Christians in Romania acquiring an enthusiasm for singing the Psalms in their liturgies. The Dorz/Moldoveanu Psalter represents a considerable amount of work to make the Psalms accessible to ordinary Christians as they worship the triune God in their sanctuaries. That this is occurring within one of the heartlands of Orthodoxy is remarkable.
  2. As reported in Christianity Today, and as I pointed out below, Jesse and Leah Roberts, who call themselves Poor Bishop Hooper, recently completed their composition and performance of music to which we might sing the Psalms.
  3. This year Michael Owens published his encyclopædic Treasury of Psalms and Hymns, Revised, containing all 150 Psalms and so much more.
  4. Also this year, a Spanish-language edition of the Genevan Psalter was revised and republished, putting sung psalmody in the hands of the huge numbers of speakers of this language around the world.
  5. Then there is Psalms for the Church, the project of a single independent congregation, Grace Immanuel Bible Church in Jupiter, Florida. Imagine if all the independent evangelical congregations in North America were to use this treasury!
  6. And, of course, we have the wonderful through-composed Psalms of David Erb at New Saint Andrew's College.
  7. I will soon have good news to share about my own Genevan Psalter project, which represents a decades-long effort to put this historic psalter into the hands of English-speaking Christians around the world.

I pray for the day when every church congregation in every tradition sings the biblical Psalms simply as a matter of course. When that day arrives, it will no longer be a matter of whether to sing the Psalms but rather of how to sing them. And there will be a lot to choose from. May the Lord hasten the arrival of this day.

St. Bonaventure's adaptation of the Psalms

St. Bonaventure
I recently discovered something called the Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary, ascribed to the 13th-century Italian bishop and theologian St. Bonaventure. It consists of a reworking of the biblical Psalms to emphasize Mary. For example, Psalm 1:

Blessed is the man that cherishes thy name, Virgin Mary, thy grace will strengthen his soul. As a garden watered by springs of living water, thou wilt multiply in that soul the sweetest fruits of justice.

The archived version I linked to above was translated and edited by the Rev. John Cumming, DD, and published by the British Reformation Society in 1852. If such material seems an odd fit for the publisher, we need only read Cumming's preface for his motive in bringing it into print in the English language:

14 Nov 2022

Poor Bishop Hooper's Everypsalm project

Christianity Today carries an article about the completion of one couple's pandemic-era project to sing through all the psalms and post them on their YouTube channel: 150 Weeks of Composing Psalms Reaches Its Finale. An excerpt:

For the past three years, Jesse and Leah Roberts—who perform as the duo Poor Bishop Hooper—have sung every word of every psalm and are hoping to help revive widespread interest in the singing of Scripture. . . .

For the past three years, the Psalms have been musical and spiritual sustenance for the Robertses. Since January 2020, they have written an original song every week, releasing the new recordings Wednesdays on YouTube and music streaming sites.

They finish their collection of musical settings for the psalms with Psalm 150, which releases on November 9. The modern-day psalter is meant as a resource for Christians and churches.

The Robertses' Everypsalm project can be found here. Their YouTube channel is here: Poor Bishop Hooper.

Here is the project finale: Psalm 150:

8 Nov 2022

Psalm 23 (Moldoveanu) in English

After hearing a Romanian congregation singing the Traian Dorz/Nicolae Moldoveanu version of Psalm 23, I decided to come up with an English version to fit Moldoveanu's music. Here it is:

31 Oct 2022

The Canterbury Trail: worship and reformation

Robert Webber
Modern Reformation recently published an article by Gillis Harp with a very long title: Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail: Reflections on the Pilgrimage to Anglicanism Nearly 40 Years After Webber’s Classic. Although I am not an Anglican, I read Robert Webber's book, Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail: Why Evangelicals Are Attracted to the Liturgical Church, and I found myself deeply sympathetic to his concerns. In fact, I have worshipped in Anglican and Episcopal churches at various times throughout my life, most recently between 2003 and 2008 when our family attended regularly the Church of St. John the Evangelist here in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

I did not know Webber very well personally, although I grew up in Wheaton, Illinois, home of Wheaton College, where he taught for many years. But he was a colleague of my wife, who was a faculty member in the same department for six years, and he was a guest at our wedding. I also contributed at least two articles to his Complete Library of Christian Worship. What drew many Christians to his project to recover the ancient glories of Christian worship was a recognition of the superficiality of their own traditions. As Harp observes,

27 Oct 2022

How to read the cursing Psalms

William Eby has posted something in First Things today that has relevance to my own interests in this blog: How to read the cursing Psalms. An excerpt:

For Christians, the Cursing Psalms raise a further difficulty: Within the Christian mind, the words of the psalms and the voice of Christ often converge. The Gospel writers frequently interpose the words of the psalms into the mouth of their Savior, who most famously quotes Psalm 22 at the hour of his death: “My God my God, why have you forsaken me?” Like the Psalmist in Psalm 69, Christ is given vinegar and gall to drink while on the cross (Matt. 27:33). However, he then expresses the opposite sentiment of the psalm: He petitions his Father to have mercy on his executioners.

How are we, then, to understand these words coming out the mouth of a righteous disciple of the Law of Moses, and how are we to understand them as coming out of the mouth of the most Holy Son?

Read here for the author's answer. My own approach to these Psalms can be found here: God as judge: praying the imprecatory Psalms.

26 Oct 2022

Psalm/Psalmul 130

Another gem from the Dorz/Moldoveanu Psalter, recently republished in a new edition: Psalmul 130 la Conferința "Cântați lui Dumnezeu Psalmi". This was sung at the Psalm conference in Oradea, Romania, a few weeks ago.

19 Oct 2022

Daily Prayer: current pattern

Since I was a young man, I have followed the ancient western pattern of daily prayer associated with the Benedictines, known as the daily office. I first encountered this pattern in Herbert Lindemann's The Daily Office, published in 1965 by Concordia, the publishing arm of the Lutheran ChurchMissouri Synod. You can read some of this story here: Daily prayer: a new pattern. Although I have maintained this basic pattern for decades, I have occasionally changed some of its elements, such as putting aside the Daily Office Lectionary for a lectio continua approach to the Scriptures. The Psalms are at the very centre of daily prayer. Accordingly, I follow the 30-day schedule for praying through the Psalms as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer's Psalter. As of today, I am in the book of James at morning prayer and in Joshua at evening prayer. Here is the pattern of morning and evening prayer I am following at present:

The Phos Ilaron, "O Gladsome Light," is an ancient Greek hymn possibly dating back to the 3rd century AD. It is thought to be the oldest Christian hymn still in use today.

11 Oct 2022

Psalm/Psalmu 42

Of all the tunes I've heard from the Dorz/Moldoveanu Romanian metrical psalter, I find the tune for Psalm 42 the most haunting. See what you think.

Psalm/Psalmul 134

10 Oct 2022

El canto de los salmos en el siglo XVI

Un video sobre el Salterio de Ginebra en español:

Contrariamente a la narración, el Salterio se completó en 1562, no en 1564. La música es del Salmo 2.

A video on the Genevan Psalter in Spanish. The music is from Psalm 2. Contrary to the narration, the Psalter was completed in 1562, not 1564. An excerpt from the script: "The Calvinists would sing the Psalms freely not only in their churches but also in the homes and workplaces, in the streets and in the field."

6 Oct 2022

Psalm/Psalmul 19 in Romanian

Our Romanian brothers and sisters are still busily posting performances of the Moldoveanu/Dorz metrical Psalms on the Psalmii Cântați YouTube channel. The most recent is Psalm 19:

4 Oct 2022

Links to Genevan and Sternhold & Hopkins Psalters

I have placed in the right sidebar links to Les Pseaumes mis en rime francoise, par Clement Marot, & Theodore de Beze, that is, a scanned copy of the first complete edition of the 1562 Genevan Psalter, and to The Whole Book of Psalms collected into English metre, better known as the Sternhold & Hopkins Psalter, also completed in 1562. These are, of course, the two major metrical psalters that would come to influence continental Europe and the English-speaking world respectively. In fact, some scholars believe that Thomas Sternhold (1500-1549) virtually invented ballad metre, or what our hymnals call common metre (CM), consisting of alternating iambic lines of eight and six syllables. Ballad metre became the standard for successive metrical psalters, including Tate & Brady's "New Version" Psalter of 1696 and the Scottish Psalter of 1650.

3 Oct 2022

Psalm conference: Oradea, Romania

This past weekend, the long anticipated Psalm conference took place in Oradea, Romania, coinciding with the republication of Cântările Psalmilor, containing the versified texts of Traian Dorz and the music of Nicolae Moldoveanu. If you understand any of the western romance languages, you may be able to pick out bits of these lectures and discussions, but do listen to the music, which is an international language.

Book of Common Prayer: Miles Coverdale's Psalter

Two months ago I acquired a copy of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer: International Edition, which was recently published by InterVarsity Press. Although there were earlier editions of the BCP published in 1549, 1552, 1559, and 1604, the 1662 became the standard Prayer Book enduring throughout subsequent centuries in the Church of England and in the other Anglican provinces around the globe. This edition was adopted two years after the restoration of the Stuarts to the thrones of the three kingdoms under King Charles II, and it represents the definitive version of the BCP, coming at the end of a period of intense civil strife and religious turmoil.

The heart of the BCP is, of course, the 150 Psalms. Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, who was responsible for the first BCP during the reign of the boy king, Edward VI, combined the monastic prayer offices used throughout the day into the two offices of Morning and Evening Prayer, which are found at the beginning of the volume. He organized the Psalms to be prayed through in their canonical order every thirty days at these two prayer offices. Last month I followed this schedule and used the Psalms in this volume, as translated by Miles Coverdale. Unlike the King James Version, which was translated from the Hebrew, Coverdale translated the Psalms from the Latin Vulgate and from Luther's German Bible.

27 Sept 2022

More Romanian Psalm recordings

Coinciding with the publication of the new edition of Cântările Psalmilor, Psalmii Cântați has posted several new recordings of some of the Psalms in this collection on its YouTube channel. Here are a few of these posted recently. Incidentally, the Psalm conference in Oradea is only days away.

Here is Psalm 2:

26 Sept 2022

The enduring success of the Sternhold and Hopkins Psalter

I recently came across a five-year-old article on the 16th-century Sternhold & Hopkins Psalter, which was used in the English churches for nearly two centuries and in some places even longer than that: The enduring success of the Sternhold and Hopkins Psalter. This coincides with my reading of the sample chapters from Beth Quitslund, The Reformation in Rhyme: Sternhold, Hopkins, and the English Metrical Psalter, 1547-1603 (Routledge, 2008), on which the author of this article draws. The essay's author is Dan Kreider, of Grace Immanuel Bible Church in Jupiter, Florida, a congregation responsible for compiling its own metrical psalter which I reviewed last year. Here is an excerpt:

22 Sept 2022

Treasury of Psalms and Hymns, Revised

Along with the copy of Goudimel's arrangements of the Genevan Psalms, I received as well a copy of a new psalter and hymnal, Treasury of Psalms and Hymns, Revised, which has just been published by NoteWorthy Music Services. Michael Owens, who sent me this, is compiler and editor. Like Cantus Christi, which I reviewed two years ago, it is an encyclopaedic collection of liturgical music covering several centuries and incorporating a range of traditions. In fact, it is almost certainly the most extensive and impressive collection I have come across, boasting 1,133 songs! As you might imagine, this makes for an exceedingly heavy volume, one which someone my age or older might find difficult to hold while standing throughout the course of several stanzas.

21 Sept 2022

The seeds of the gospel: remembering the Queen

Over the past not quite two weeks, the world has witnessed the grandest of ceremonial and pageantry in honour of Her Late Majesty the Queen, beginning with the memorial service at St. Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh, then the funeral a week later at Westminster Abbey, and finally the committal service at St. George's, Windsor, where she was laid to rest. Great Britain is, of course, famous around the globe for the pomp and circumstance with which it surrounds its monarchy—something which other constitutional monarchies long ago put behind them.

Nevertheless, what stood out for me in these three memorial services is the extent to which they focussed, not so much on the Queen's life and witness, but on the person of Jesus Christ whom she trusted as her Saviour. To be sure, there was some eulogizing, especially by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, during the funeral.

16 Sept 2022

Goudimel's Psalms

This week I received in the post a package from my friend Michael Owens containing among other things, a ring-bound copy of The Genevan Psalms, arranged by Claude Goudimel 1565, edited and adapted by Harry van Dop, Revised Mazmur Edition. The Genevan Psalms were originally meant to be sung a cappella by the 16th-century Reformed congregations, but only three years after its completion, Goudimel arranged them for four-part harmony. This collection originated with a similar collection published in Indonesia in 1987, which became popular in the Netherlands, Germany, and Canada.


If you speak or understand one of the western Romance languages, you may be able to make sense of much of this video, introducing this impressive-looking Romanian-language metrical psalter, the product of the collaborative effort of Nicolae Moldoveanu and Traian Dorz. I'd love to receive a copy of this. At the end is an announcement for the upcoming conference devoted to the Psalter to take place in Oradea, Romania, on 30 September and 1 October 2022.

12 Sept 2022

Service of remembrance for Her Majesty: the Psalms

Today a service of remembrance was held at St. Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh, for Her Majesty the Queen. Because St. Giles is a congregation of the Church of Scotland, the service included portions of the Psalms. The worshippers sang the familiar Psalm 100 from the Scottish Psalter of 1650, All People that on Earth Do Dwell. The choir sang the opening sentences from Psalms 51:15 and 40:13/70:1. The presiding minister followed with the votum from Psalm 124:8. The choir then sang Psalm 116 to Anglican chant. Finally, the congregation sang Psalm 23 to CRIMMOND.

2 Sept 2022

Psalm conference: Oradea, Romania

A conference devoted to singing the Psalms will take place in Oradea, Romania, on 30 September and 1 October 2022. Here is Jonathan Hunt issuing an invitation in English with Romanian subtitles: Invitație la Conferința despre cântul Psalmilor, de Jonathan Hunt.

1 Sept 2022


Psalmii Cântați has posted another Romanian-language Psalm. This one is the very first, and it's a lovely rendition: Psalmul 1 cântat de Felicia Guriță din CÂNTĂRILE PSALMILOR (N. Moldoveanu & T. Dorz):

18 Aug 2022

Psalm 23 in Martinů's Czech Rhapsody

We know that Czech protestants once sang the Genevan Psalms, as indicated in a psalter and hymnal dated 1900 which I purchased in Prague in 1976. This collection uses the Czech versifications of Jiří Strejc (1536-1599). I doubt they are still remembered today, as Czechia appears to be one of the least church-going countries in Europe. However, the composer Bohuslav Martinů (1890-1959) knew the tune for Psalm 23 well enough to quote it repeatedly in his Czech Rhapsody, which you can hear below:

17 Aug 2022

Psautier de Genève: blog

I found this blog via Twitter and thought I should link to it from my blog: Psautier de Genève. It is operated by Philippe Lacombe, who has posted an information page here: Qui je suis. Here is my translation of the page:

Married and father of two children, I studied Hebrew and Greek in pursuing distance courses at the Faculté Jean Calvin [Aix-en-Provence, France] for two and a half years.

It is with great interest that I took part in the digitization of the ancient translations of the Bible, notably the Ostervald version for its publication in 1996, and the versions of David Martin of 1707 and of Lausanne, which I posted online.

I am currently working on a new edition of the Bible in French under the direction of the Société Biblique Trinitaire [Trinitarian Bible Society].

As a lover of the Genevan Psalter, the collection of songs of the 150 Psalms translated at the beginning of the Reformation, I also digitized the 1729 version and added the musical parts.

Finally, I love to share short texts of protestant literature on my blog, Pensées 365, where you can find excerpts from sermons, meditations, and prayers for spiritual devotion.

2 Aug 2022

Psalmul 150 -- Psaltirea Franceză de la Geneva

This was posted on the Psalmii Cântați YouTube channel a year ago. It's a Romanian-language versification of Psalm 150 set to the Genevan tune, as arranged by The Psalm Project in the Netherlands. Sung by Anca, wife of Eugen Tămaș:

Psalmii Cântați

Yes, even the Christians of Romania, a largely Orthodox Christian country whose people speak a Romance language, sing metrical psalms. At right is a copy of their psalter, CÂNTĂRILE PSALMILOR, published by Editura Comorile Harului (Treasures of Grace Publishing), in 2000. As far as I can determine, it is made up largely of original texts set to verse by Traian Dorz and music composed by Nicolae Moldoveanu, famed church musician who, during the era of communist persecution, shared a prison cell with Richard Wurmbrand. This year marks the centenary of Modoveanu's birth. He died at a good old age in 2007.

Performances of these Psalms can be found at the YouTube channel, Psalmii Cântați, which was set up by Eugen Tămaș. Here is the description of the channel translated into English by Google:

1 Aug 2022

The Ecstatic Companionship Of The Psalms

I have been participating in a discussion on The Heidelblog below a post titled, The Ecstatic Companionship Of The Psalms. The post itself consists of a passage from Diarmaid MacCulloch's Reformation: Europe’s House Divided 1490–1700 (Penguin, 2004), 307–09:

The metrical psalm was the perfect vehicle for turning the Protestant message into a mass movement capable of embracing the illiterate alongside the literate. What better than the very words of the Bible as sung by the hero-King David? The psalms were easily memorized, so that an incriminating printed text could rapidly be dispensed with. They were customarily sung in unison to a large range of dedicated tunes (newly composed, to emphasize the break with the religious past, in contrast to Martin Luther’s practice of reusing old church melodies which he loved). The words of a particular psalm could be associated with a particular melody; even to hum the tune spoke of the words of the psalm behind it, and was an act of Protestant subversion. A mood could be summoned up in an instant: Psalm 68 led a crowd into battle, Psalm 124 led to victory, Psalm 115 scorned dumb and blind idols and made the perfect accompaniment for smashing up church interiors. The psalms could be sung in worship or in the market-place; instantly they marked out the singer as a Protestant, and equally instantly united a Protestant crowd in ecstatic companionship just as the football chant does today on the stadium terraces. They were the common property of all, both men and women: women could not preach or rarely even lead prayer, but they could sing alongside their menfolk. To sing a psalm was a liberation—to break away from the mediation of priest or minister and to become a king alongside King David, talking directly to his God. It was perhaps significant that one of the distinctive features of French Catholic persecution in the 1540s had been that those who were about to be burned had their tongues cut out first.
The Heidelblog is the creation of R. Scott Clark.

22 Jul 2022

Psaume 2 en français

Psalm 2 sung in French according to the arrangements of Claude Goudimel and Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck.

21 Jul 2022

Hosea in the 1650

Along with the 150 Psalms, the Scottish Psalter of 1650 also contains 67 metrical paraphrases from elsewhere in the Scriptures. These have been a constant over the centuries, with the same number assigned to each paraphrase. Last sunday morning I heard a sermon preached on Hosea 6, and during the reading I immediately recalled to mind this versification of Hosea 6:1-4, which is numbered 30 in the Scottish Psalter:

Here are the words as found in my split-leaf psalter, but with the suggested tune of KILMARNOCK. Click on it to enlarge it.

Addendum: It seems that the scripture paraphrases were added to the Psalter only in 1781 and are not original to the 1650. I have a copy dated 1788 containing the paraphrases in addition to the Psalms. My copy was published only seven years after the addition of the scripture paraphrases to the collection.

19 Jul 2022

Psalmul 42 cantat in romana

In Romania one is far more likely to hear the Genevan Psalms sung in the Hungarian language, but here is Psalm 42 sung beautifully in Romanian.

18 Jul 2022

Psalm 24: Scottish metrical version

We used to sing this version of Psalm 24 in our church, especially on sundays when the Lord's Supper was celebrated:

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 lengua 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 (or thought 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: