Favorite psalter for praying/singing/study/etc.
  • Heath
    Posts: 854
    I'd love to hear people's thoughts on different collections of psalms for singing, study, prayer, whatever . . . for a long time now, I've wanted to memorize portions of the psalms to aid my private prayer, but I've been reluctant, thinking, "What if I memorize a bunch of verses and then find a better translation???" Stupid, I know, but that's how my brain works. : )

    Anyway, any thoughts are welcome on the Revised Grail, Revised Standard, Douay, Coverdale, whatever!

    It's the finest (now) Catholic translation of all.
    And, you don't have to worry about memorising 'a bunch of verses' and then finding a better translation:
    there IS none better to find.
  • Heath
    Posts: 854
    MJO, if I may, what makes it so superior? It's one I mostly unfamiliar with . . . though I'll familiarize myself with it posthaste!
  • I must admit that, being an Anglican Use Catholic, I am biased. But not without reason.
    Coverdale has a cadence, a musical rhythm that is lacking in any modern translation that I have experienced.
    It is a work of linguistic art which brings its subjects to vibrant life.
    There is none to compare to its rich imagery, biblical colour and faultless instinct for the spiritual dimensions of the English language.

    Some would suggest that it simply is not modern: but then, neither is Beethoven, Bach, Palestrina, chant, Michaelangelo, or St Peter's Basilica...
    what is one saying when that is the only would-be fault that one can find???

    Beside it, I know of no modern translation which has its verbal power and poetic genie.
    Even the psalter we use at Roman rite mass is lackluster; nor does it really sing well.

    Order yourself a copy of St Dunstan's Plainsong Psalter from Lancelot Andrewes' Press.
    Every psalm is pointed for chanting to Gregorian psalm tones.
    You will find it a richly rewarding experience to sing the psalms daily.

    (If really pressed, I would recommend the Mundelein Psalter over other modern editions, which does incorporate the Grail Psalter.)
  • WGS
    Posts: 239
    Without question, the Gelineau translation of the Psalms provided by the Ladies of the Grail is what has been retained in my memory. I know those translations have gone through some textual revisions. However, for my copies the Imprimatur and copyright are from 1955-1957. The very comfortable and natural phrasing of the words plus the regular flow of the musical settings complement each other and provide for me a "memorable experience".
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,347
    Coverdale is indeed one of the great English treasures. I agree with everything MJO said above.
  • I use the revised Grail Psalter. It is far superior to the Lectionary and there is no ambiguity on the 23rd Psalm!
  • I, too, prefer the Coverdale translation. Even though it was the first published translation of the psalter,* from a purely literary point of view the sonority and elegance of Coverdale’s language has never been surpassed. But, for those Churches, such as the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic, which consider the Greek Septuagint text of the psalter to be authoritative, rather than the Masoretic Hebrew text, the liturgical usage of the Coverdale psalter is problematic, because it has very many discrepancies from the LXX.

    There is a nifty little book, "Notes on the Psalter: Extracts of Parallel Passages from the Prayer Book, Septuagint, and Vulgate Versions," by the Rev. Charles Evans, London, John Murray, Albemarle Street, 1904 (available free online via google books) that reviews all these well-known divergences of the BCP Psalter from the Septuagint in detail. To give but one example:

    Ps 68:11 according to the 1662 BCP (Ps. 67:12 in the LXX) reads, “The Lord gave the word: great was the company of preachers.” In St. Dunstan’s Plainsong Psalter, which uses the 1928 American BCP text, this verse reads, “The Lord gave the word: great was the company of women that bare the tidings.” The Greek is Κύριος δώσει ρῆμα τοῖς εὐαγγελιζομένοις δυνάμει πολλῇ, and the Latin is "Dominus dabit verbum evangelizantibus virtute multa," or, in English, “The Lord shall give speech with great power to them that preach the good tidings" (my translation).

    These numerous divergences are especially problematic in the Eastern Orthodox Church, of which I am a member, since the voluminous liturgical literature is saturated with quotations, imagery, and paraphrases from the psalter, in particular. The above verse, for example, is reflected in the blessing the priest gives to the deacon before the reading of the Gospel at the Divine Liturgy:

    "May God, through the prayers of the holy and all glorious Apostle and Evangelist, N., give thee speech with great power, unto the preaching of the Gospel of His beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ."

    I go into all this detail because, as much as I have come to love the Coverdale translation of the Psalms over the years, I realized that, in its original form, it could never be used in Eastern Orthodox worship. So, at first privately, and then much more rigorously once I had found a publisher, I went through the Coverdale Psalter verse by verse, comparing it to Rahlf’s critical edition of the Greek, as well as to the Latin and the Church Slavonic translations, revising it where necessary to conform to the meaning of the Septuagint text. The result was published earlier this year by St. Job of Pochaev Press at Jordanville, NY, and approved for liturgical use by the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.

    Only time will tell whether this adaptation of the Coverdale will gain any traction, but, so far, the reception has been more enthusiastic than expected, given Orthodoxy’s general coolness to novelty [think, Old Believer or new Calendar]. To date, there have been no reviews in the print media, but there have been a few blog reviews, which one can find, if interested, by googling “A Psalter for Prayer.”

    David James

    *Coverdale’s psalms first appeared in print in the Great Bible of 1539, the first complete printed edition of the Bible in English. In 1549, this text of the Psalms was incorporated into the English Book of Common Prayer. Despite the publication of a new official Bible in 1611 (the “Authorized” or King James Version), Coverdale’s text, with only very slight changes, was retained in the 1662 edition of the BCP. The St. Dunstan’s Plainsong Psalter, to which MJO refers in an earlier message, reflects the text of the 1928 edition of the American BCP, which contains further changes to the original Coverdale. For a record of the changes to the text of the psalter of the 1662 English Book of Common Prayer made since 1789 in the American Book of Common Prayer, see http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bcp/1928/Psalms1.htm.
  • Heath
    Posts: 854

    "Roman Catholic(s), which consider the Greek Septuagint text of the psalter to be authoritative, rather than the Masoretic Hebrew text"

    I don't believe that this is true . . . is it? Anyone care to chime in on this?

    And David, thanks for your comment! Do you have a link for the purchase of "your" psalter?
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,335
    >>"Roman Catholic(s), which consider the Greek Septuagint text of the psalter to be authoritative, rather than the Masoretic Hebrew text"

    I thought the Nova Vulgate was AUTHORITATIVE.
  • In reply to Adam Wood:

    Since Vatican II, the Nova Vulgata is the official modern LATIN edition of the Bible, displacing St. Jerome’s Vulgate translation of the Greek Septuagint text,* which had been the official text (more or less, see below) for the previous 1500 years, but it is not the official text for translation of the Bible into other languages.

    Looking on the web, I find a letter of instruction from the Congregation for Divine Worship, that clarifies the instructions in the document “Liturgicam authenticam”, saying, in part: “Indeed, some even seem to have reached the erroneous conclusion that the Instruction insists on a translation of the Bible from the Latin Nova Vulgata rather than from the original biblical languages. Such an interpretation is contrary to the Instruction's explicit wording in n. 24, according to which all texts for use in the Liturgy ‘must be made directly from the original texts, namely the Latin, as regards the texts of ecclesiastical composition, or the Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek, as the case may be, as regards the texts of Sacred Scripture’” [http://www.adoremus.org/0502NovaVulgata.html].

    However, I am unclear from this document which version of the OT (Hebrew or Greek) the Roman Catholic Church now considers paramount for liturgical translation. In my case, this was not an issue, since the Greek Septuagint is universally acknowledged as authoritative in the Orthodox Church, and St. Jerome’s Gallican Psalter is perfectly consistent with the Greek and Church Slavonic. I cannot say if that is the case with the Liber Psalmorum of the Nova Vulgata Bibliorum Sacrorum Editio, since I don’t own a copy and didn’t consult it.

    David James

    * St. Jerome was actually involved in three translations of the Latin Bible. The first was a revision of the old Latin text, the so-called 'Vetus' text (from the Septuagint), the psalms of which became known as the 'Psalterium Romanum', or Roman Psalter, which survived in use mainly in England until the Norman Conquest. The second was a more thorough translation of the Greek Septuagint, comparing several different manuscripts. This is the so-called 'Psalterium Gallicanum' or Gallican Psalter, which eventually prevailed everywhere in the Roman patriarchate, including, after 1066, in Great Britain. Lastly, St. Jerome did make a translation from the Hebrew, but it was not received into general use, and was pretty much ignored until modern times and the growing influence of the Masoretic Hebrew text. However, it is St. Jerome's second version, the Gallican text, that is generally referred to when people speak of the Vulgate psalter.
  • JamesDM49 -
    Many thanks for your elaborations and comment worthy of reflection. I shall order a copy of your psalter.
  • JDE
    Posts: 586
    A link to the GoogleBooks page would be really helpful. A search on the title and author you cite above yields a bunch of journal entries, including the Calcutta Review from 1905.
  • For Heath:

    Here's the link to "A Psalter for Prayer" at amazon.com:

  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,347
    I can already tell that it's well worth the 44 bucks - that's less than a buck a week. It's on my end-of-year wish list already!
  • Where are you shopping? It's only $29 at Barnes & Noble and Amazon. An e-reader version is due out in late Feb/early March.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,347
    I didn't check Amazon or BN ... thanks.
  • Heath:

    It occurs to me that one solution to the "which version to memorize" quandary, would be to memorize the psalms in Latin - either the classic translation of St. Jerome or the Nova Vulgata that is now standard in the Catholic Church. Not only would you then be able to amaze your friends, but you would be praying with the same words that your ancestors have used for most of the past two millennia. I find that a consoling thought. I only bring this up because I myself had learned so many different versions of Ps 50 in English over the years, that I couldn't keep them straight. Finally, I just gave up and memorized it in Church Slavonic. What I discovered is that memorizing the psalms in a foreign language isn't as hard as one might imagine, plus it helps one learn. As for which psalms to memorize for prayer, in whatever language, Ps 50 (Misere mei Deus) is indispensable. Other good choices (among my favorites, at least) might be:

    Ps. 67, Exurgat Deus (Let God arise)
    Ps. 90, Qui habitat in adjutorio Altissimi (Whoso dwelleth in the help of the Most High)
    Ps. 22, Dominus regit me (The Lord is my shepherd), Ps. 23 Domini est terra (The earth is the Lord's) and Ps. 115 Credidi (I believed, so I spake), which are all part of the preparatory prayers for Holy Communion in the Byzantine Rite

    Etc., etc. open the Psalter and choose.

    If you have not read St. Athanasius the Great's "Letter to Marcellinus" on the interpretation of the Psalms, then I highly recommend it. Among many other useful things, he teaches where to find in the psalms words appropriate for every situation, whether of repentance or thanksgiving. The Letter to Marcellinus is available online here: http://www.athanasius.com/psalms/aletterm.htm

    I commend you for your good intention. Memorization is the way to go with prayer. Then, as the popular Russian saint, Theophan the Recluse, writes, "You are always armed and ready for [spiritual] combat."

    David James
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,335
    >>It occurs to me that one solution to the "which version to memorize" quandary, would be to memorize the psalms in Latin - either the classic translation of St. Jerome or the Nova Vulgata that is now standard in the Catholic Church.

    This (and this thread) is why I was asking in another thread about a Vulgate/Coverdale side-by-side.

    Apparently I'm not the only who is thinking about new spiritual disciplines for 2012.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,494
    I have been using "The Psalter According to the Seventy," published by the OCA Archdiocese of Canada. It's not bad.
  • My heart leaps with joy to know that others here have also discovered this spectacular book. A book which can potentially give english speaking world a new standard ecumenical book of prayer. Mr. David James deserves an award for creating it.

    A Psalter for Prayer: An Adaptation of the Classic Miles Coverdale Translation,

    Augmented by Prayers and Instructional Material Drawn from Church Slavonic and Other Orthodox Christian Sources [Hardcover]


    There is no better english language psalter than this book.
    despite the fact that it says septuagint, it took influence from the latin vulgate as well.
    It is the only book that is superior to the original Coverdale psalter. (although I also think the douay rheims 1610 combined with 1752 versions are superior)
    I am hoping that the new ordinariate will grant permission to use it officially. I intend to organize a campaign to encourage that. I also intend to create a version of it which is includes the proper ferial antiphons and is pointed, just as I am doing with the revised grail psalms. They are my two main psalters.
  • jamesdm49
    Posts: 12
    The electronic version is now available for your favorite mobile device. Here is the link to the IPG site (Independent Publishers Group - the wholesale distributor).


    Click on the pull-down menu on the "Book Type" tab for the electronic formats available.
  • I use the revised grail--freely available online, and very singable.