Author: David, Solomon, Asaph, others and many unknown authors

Date Written: 1400-450 BC


Psalms is not really a book.  It is a collection of 150 songs, prayers, poems and hymns gathered over a very long period of time.  There are different types of psalms.  Some tell stories.  Some are songs of praise.   Some are prayers of repentence.  Each psalm has its own unique character but they are all deeply emotional and profoundly spiritual.  The Psalms are not meant to be simply read, but to be prayed.  They encompass the whole range of human emotions from sorrow, lament and depression to joy, praise and celebration.  The whole collection of psalms is often referred to as The Psalter.


The compilers of the Psalms divided them into five books: 1-41, 42-72, 73-89, 90-106 and 107-150.  The ancient Greek translation of the Bible, the Septuagint (LXX), numbered the Psalms differently than the Hebrew.  St. Jerome's Latin translation, the Vulgate, followed the LXX numbering, yet most modern translations use the Hebrew numbering.


The ancient Israelites prayed the Psalms in the tabernacle and then in the Temple from the time of David down to the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD.  Since then the Jewish people have continued to pray the Psalms.  The earliest Christians also prayed the Psalms (see Eph 5:19; Col 3:16) and the Psalms were incorporated into the liturgy of the Mass.  The Psalms are still prayed by the Church daily in the Liturgy of the Hours.  The 150 Psalms are the basis for the 150 Hail Marys of the Rosary (until the recent addition of the Luminous Mysteries), so that the Rosary has often been called the Little Psalter.


The Levites sung psalms in the Temple.  Unfortunately, we do not know the melodies they used nor their methods of praying the Psalms.  Yet it is likely that many of the Psalms were sung antiphonally, with one person leading a group in a call-and-response or with two groups of people responding to each other.  Early Christian monks adopted these forms of antiphonal prayer of the Psalms.  The contemporary liturgy of the Mass also uses an antiphonal psalm.  Similarly, the Psalms in the Liturgy of the Hours are often spoken or chanted antiphonally with two "choirs."  The Liturgy of the Hours adds a doxology, the "Glory to the Father...," at the end of each psalm.


The Psalms express the delight of the Lord in his people and their delight in him.  They show the deep love which exists between the two.  The Psalms are both personal and communal.  Their varied themes and concerns require us to change our attitudes of prayer to correspond with the particular psalm.  St. Augustine taught that "if the psalm prays, pray.  If it laments, lament.  If it rejoices, rejoice.  If it hopes, hope.  If it fears, fear.  For everything which is written here is a reflection of us."  The Psalms mirror human emotions and simultaneously reveal God's heart for us.


Some of the Psalms are prophetic and find their fulfillment in the life of Christ.  For example, Ps 22 speaks of his Passion.  The New Testament specifically links a few psalms to Christ (e.g. Acts 1:20, 13:33-35).  The Psalms' Hebrew poetry does not contain rhyme and meter like English poetry.  Rather, the poetry is built on parallelism in which a phrase is paired with a similar or contrasting idea for emphasis.  Some psalms have an acrostic structure meaning that the words or phrases are in alphabetical order according to the Hebrew alphabet (e.g. Ps 119).


The Psalms are the key to the spirituality of the Old Testament and they are an essential and permanent part of Christian prayer (CCC 2597).


By Mark Giszczak

Ads by Google
(What's this?)


Ads by Google (What's this?)
Ads by Google

Featured Videos

Little Sisters of the Poor press conference in Denver
Little Sisters of the Poor press conference in Denver
Family thrilled to see Pope Francis in Istanbul
Syrian Refugee, Sara, 14, Before Meeting Pope
Ebola orphans thousands of children in West Africa
One year after Haiyan: Philippines rebuilds homes, lives
An Indian contribution to the Vatican's Synod on the Family
Christ Cathedral CNA video Sept 2014
Alejandro Bermudez of CNA accepts ice bucket challenge
'The Real Albania,' remembering those who fled
Pope Francis in Albania, "one of the most important visits of the post-communist era in Albania"
Pope Francis greets paralyzed man who risked all to see him
Franciscans on the banks of the Tiber in Rome, working for the New Evangelization
Pilgrimage from Czech Republic to Assisi and Rome for intentions
Testimony of young Indian who met Pope in Korea
Preparations of the Closing Mass of 6th Asian Youth Day
Missionary of Charity, Korea
Testimony of Christian Love during Pope's Visit to Korea
Religious Sisters in South Korea react to Pope Francis kissing a baby
Warm atmosphere during Holy Mass at Daejeon World Cup Stadium
Images inside Pope Francis flight to South Korea

Liturgical Calendar

December 22, 2014

Advent Weekday

All readings:
Today »
This year »

Catholic Daily

Gospel of the Day

Mt 21:23-27


Daily Readings

First Reading:: 1 Sam 1: 24-28
Gospel:: Lk 1: 46-56

Saint of the Day

St. Romuald »


Homily of the Day

Mt 21:23-27

Text only

Follow us: