Following ancient precedent, most English versions of Scripture entitle this anthology of sacred songs “(The) Psalms” (e.g., ASV, RSV, NASB, JB, NEB, NIV) or “The Book of Psalms” (KJV, DV, NAB, NKJV). In the NT Luke uses the titles “The Book of Psalms” (Lk 20:42; Ac 1:20) and “The Psalms” (Lk 24:44), calling each individual composition therein a “psalm” and showing awareness of their numbering in the expression “the second psalm” (Ac 13:33). Luke may reflect the custom of the Greek-speaking Jews of the Diaspora here. Their Scriptures, the Septuagint (LXX), contained these titles, if manuscript evidence from the early Christian era (Vaticanus) attests pre-Christian tradition at this point.
The Greek word psalmos, meaning “a stringed instrument,” “a song sung to stringed accompaniment,” or simply “a song,” stands behind these titles. The LXX translates the Hebrew designation mizmôr (see Ps. 0:5 below), found in the superscription of 57 psalms and apparently taken as characteristic of the majority of the collection. LXX tradition (Alexandrinus) also shows the title psaltērion, “a stringed instrument.” Common Christian reference to “the Psalter” and Luther's translation reflect this.
Hebrew- or Aramaic-speaking Jews came to call these 150 songs tehillîm, “Songs of Praise,” using a special plural form of a word that appears only once in a psalm title (145:1). This use to designate a favorite type of song in the collection (see Ps. 0:9 below) reflects a time when the Psalter had become the “hymnal” of the Jewish worshiping community.
Step 1 - Create an account or log in to start your free trial.
Starting your free trial of Bible Gateway Plus is easy. You’re already logged in with your Bible Gateway account. The next step is to enter your payment information. Your credit card won’t be charged until the trial period is over. You can cancel anytime during the trial period.
Click the button below to continue.
Step 1 - Create an account or log in to start your subscription.
You’ve already claimed your free trial of Bible Gateway Plus. To subscribe at our regular subscription rate of $3.99/month, click the button below.
Want to get the most out of Bible Gateway? Find out why Bible Gateway Plus is the ultimate toolkit for anyone seeking to grow closer to the Word. For less than the cost of a latte, Plus membership gives you access to a complete digital Bible study library and reduced banner ads. Try it free for 30 days!