A Hebrew Bible/Old Testament scholar looks at the Bible and culture…

Calling for Psalms Stuff

On Wednesday, I begin teaching a seminary course on the book of Psalms.  After months immersed in the narratives of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, a turn to poetry/liturgy will take some adjustment.

I will begin the class with Psalms artifacts–concrete examples of the diverse ways in which biblical psalms are used in the present and have been used in the past.  I have funeral bulletins, hymnals, Psalters, CD’s, children’s books of Psalm 23, and some images of Psalm verses on jewelry. The idea is for students to reflect on how the psalms are used as poetry, liturgy, music, instruction in prayer, atropaically, etc.

Do readers have other examples that I can add the mix of how Psalms are used?


6 Responses to Calling for Psalms Stuff

  • Often, the Psalms are used to in worship of the Baptist tradition as the call to worship. A verse or particular pericope is lifted up to announce that it is time to worship the Lord as Creator and Sustainer of creation.

  • In many churches we sing/chant the psalms liturgically but looking through the hymnals, it seems we may do this more often than we realize. It would be interesting to explore the ways the Psalms have both formed and informed our hymns….theologically and pastorally.

  • Julia,

    You’ll forgive me for some BSP, I started a series of Cyber-Psalms more than two years ago. http://lingamish.com/cyber-psalms/

    These are inspired by the Psalter although they don’t make overt reference to them. The participation of others through recordings has been one of the most interesting parts since the Cyber-Psalms that people connect with most tend to be imprecatory 🙂

  • A few thoughts off the top of my head –

    The U2 song “40” takes its lyrics from Psalm 40. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AjtpplE39_g)

    The imprecatory psalms have been in the news a lot lately, not that it’s such a good thing in this case (see, e.g., http://www.religionnews.com/index.php?/rnstext/does_god_answer_prayers_to_do_someone_ill1/).

    Allusions to Psalm 23 are all over the place, some in unexpected places. A couple that come to mind are the 90’s rap song “Gagnsta’s Paradise” (from the movie Dangerous Minds) and the film “The Elephant’s Man.”

  • As I translated the psalter in order to learn Hebrew, I experienced each psalm in unique ways. I recorded some of this experience on my blog during the translation process. E.g. from a post in 2006: These poems are dangerous. I find it impossible to avoid the reality they portray – judgment and mercy; enemy and chosen; how can one cry out or whisper in safety when the answer comes from consuming fire?

  • Julia:

    A great book on the reception history of the Psalms (including the Holocaust) is Holladay’s The Psalms through Three Thousand Years: Prayerbook of a Cloud of Witnesses. I think it would be advantageous to look at that.

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