Review of the New Psalter

Dear Reader,

As you will know if you read here frequently, our church sings psalms exclusively.  We have a book called the psalter which sets the psalms to music. We do this because we belive that the psalms are God’s Word, that were given to us to use in worshipping Him, and that we are commanded to worship Him in this way. In an earlier post I discussed the fact that although the theory behind psalm-singing is great, our application of it is not perfect.

Our denomination came out with a new psalter this year. I have now been through the whole new psalter, selection by selection, comparing it with the Hebrew text. This is my summary of what I found:

Evaluating the psalm translations is a subjective process. What seems poor to me may be acceptable to you, and vice-versa. I have chosen to give letter grades to the psalm selections. I am a tough grader. A “C” grade should be seen as an average psalm. Most of the selections fall here. They would not pass for good translations in a version of the Bible. However, given the necessities of putting the psalms to music, they are acceptable. I would call them mediocre translations and would love to see the bar raised for all psalm selections, but C’s to me will do. To get an A, a psalm selection has to be perfect or very nearly perfect. There are only a handful of A’s. B grades are given for psalm selections which are very good but not perfect. I would that all selections could be B’s (if not A’s). D selections are below average. They are poor. I would prefer not to have to sing D’s, but there are so many of them this is impossible. F’s are failing grades. Occasionally, we only have F-level selections available. My personal preference, however, would be to avoid singing F’s.

Though I had also been through the old psalter, I approached it in a different way and so I don’t really have hard evidence I can compare to say which is better. My gut feeling is that the old psalter was a little better. While there are some very good psalms in the new psalter, there are also many that make me wonder what the translator was thinking. In the old psalter, I did not get that feeling as much.

Next time: why does it matter? and how should we be translating the psalms?



2 responses to this post.

  1. […] is a follow-up post to this one so look at the previous one first if this makes no […]


  2. […] the new psalter selection by selection and compared it to the Hebrew text. I wrote about my results here. The upshot is I am not overly pleased with the new psalter. I wish we had higher standards for the […]


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