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The Book of Books Book Club weekly blog

Psalms 1-75

A few thoughts about working your way through the Psalms this week and next:

- Try a couple different translations: NRSV, King James, and particularly the Book of Common Prayer's translations, which are quite wonderful.


- Bounce around in the book; that may be easier than trying to read the psalms straight through. See which ones grab your interest.


- Know the classics – see the list on the reading schedule for the bare minimum.


- Enjoy the ways different poets use the standard Hebrew poetic form of parallelism: it sets up an expectation of repetition and deepening within each verse, but some psalms cut against that grain for other effects (Ps. 14:7, for example, uses the parallelism to contrast the hope that deliverance would come from the people with the faith that it will come from God).


- Explore the variety of emotions and subjects covered in these poems: lamentation, triumph, pleading, assurance, revenge, careful teaching, etc. Do any catch your heart as you read?


- Note that these were probably written for use in worship much as we use our hymns: to offer praise, to offer prayers, and to teach the standard images of the faith, so think of them as sung or chanted as well. Attend to the rhythms and musicality and imagine a congregation singing them, or medieval (and modern!) monks chanting them.


- Many of our classic lines in prayer and literature come from the psalms; keep an eye out for them and see how finding them in their original context changes your sense of how others then use them.


Stay the course, and enjoy!