Bible Study - Psalms - Tehillim - Psalter - Writings - Ketuvim

PsalmStudy ™ - The Psalter

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The first sentence in the Confessions of St. Augustine, a Father of the Christian Church, is from the Psalms:  Great are You, O Lord, and greatly to be praised; great is Your power, and of Your wisdom there is no end. (Psalm 96:4)  Here and throughout the Confessions Augustine cites many Psalms.  Reading the Confessions leaves us with the impression that for Augustine the Psalms were more than devotional and instructive texts, but rather means to prayer and knowing God and His only begotten son, Jesus.  A more recent perspective was provided by Dietrich Bonhoeffer in an article, The Secret of the Psalter, in his book, Life Together  Bonhoeffer wrote:  The Psalter is the prayer book of Jesus Christ in the truest sense of the word.  He prayed the Psalter and now it has become His prayer for all time. ... The Psalter can be both man's prayer to God and God's own Word, because we encounter the praying Christ.  Jesus prays through the Psalter in His congregation.  His congregation and the individual prays also.

And the words of the LORD are flawless, like silver purified in a crucible, like gold refined seven times.  (Psalm 122:6)The Psalms, a book of the Bible, represent about 1000 years of Israel's history. Psalms are the first book of The Writings which are the third section of the Hebrew Bible: The Torah (Teaching, also known as the Five Books of Moses), Nevi'im (Prophets) and Ketuvim (Writings).  The term Psalter is from the Greek psalterion (i.e., the book of songs).  The titles Psalms and Psalter come from the Septuagint (the pre-Christian Greek translation of the OT), where they originally referred to stringed instruments (such as harp, lyre and lute), then to songs sung with their accompaniment.  The Greek word translated as Psalm means to touch (or strike) a chord, referring the use of stringed instruments to accompany them.  The traditional Hebrew title is Tehillim (meaning praises), even though many of the psalms are Tephillot (meaning prayers).

Historically, there are five sections of the book of Psalms, thought by some to be a counterpart to the Law, the five books of Moses.  Talmudic tradition and Christian commentary ascribe most of the Psalms to King David, largely because of the superscriptions that precede many of them.  For example, the superscription A Psalm of David could indicate one written by David, about him, or one dedicated to him.  Some commentators treat the superscriptions as later [i.e., later than David] additions.

Reading the Psalms we are overhearing a private, passionate conversation between a person and God.  The Psalms are all passion and emotion, often intense.  They are prayers, poetry, and songs.  But, they are even more a person's opening of the heart to God as to a friend.  In the book of Psalms, we find many prayers that wouldn't make good public prayers in church.  But a person who talks to a good friend is freed to say things that aren't meant for all of society.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his book Life Together, wrote that the two parties to the conversation are Jesus and His Father.  The Psalter can be both man's prayer to God and God's own Word, because we encounter the praying Christ.  Jesus prays through the Psalter in His congregation.  His congregation and the individual prays also.

Some have viewed the Psalter as a gateway to the rest of Scripture, because of the numerous Scriptural themes found in it.  Like a gateway requiring two posts, one on either side, the collection of psalms begins with two introductory statements - happiness and misery - between which we must pass.  It sets the stage, places us in a position of choices, and lays out the consequences for us.  Psalm 1 is considered to be the gateway to the rest of the Psalms and indeed to the rest of Scripture.  It shows us the following:
  The holiness and happiness of the good (verses 1-3),
  The sinfulness and misery of the wicked (verses 4- 5, and
  The ground and reason of both (verse 6).

Please see the articles listed below.

Brief articles about individual Psalms will be listed below.

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