Psalter Workshop

This project has in view the construction of a liturgical psalter which would form the basis for a thorough revision of the whole body of liturgical texts for the Horologion and the other books.  Since the Psalter forms the very basis for all of the prayers and services of worship in the Orthodox Church, the very first step in establishing a sound liturgical basis for any further translations lies in the choice of a text for the Psalter. This is where we meet problems. The Psalters which form the basis for these texts currently exist in an eclectic blend which is most unfortunate: KJV, BCP, HTM, RSV, “home-brew” (!) and others.

Desiderata for the new Psalter would be the following:

1. the text is based upon the authorized Septuagint (“the Seventy,” LXX).  The LXX, the divinely-inspired translation of the Hebrew Old Testament into Alexandrian Greek, provided the form of the Holy Scriptures used by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself and His holy Apostles. The first phase of this translation was accomplished by 72 pious Jewish elders, whence its name.

2. the English language translation would stand in as close agreement to the LXX as possible, with reference to the Hebrew where needed.  It appears that the HTM version was constructed with little reference to the Hebrew text (compare Ps 150: 1)

3. classical, long-standing hieratic English usage would be preserved. This would mean that the Orthodox English Psalter would exist self-consciously in direct linguistic descent from the Coverdale, BCP, and Authorized Version sources.  This language has formed the English Christian language of prayer for countless souls over many centuries.

4. There are points at which the new Psalter would of necessity break from the lineal descent of #3, due to demands of the LXX source. These points of departure would be managed by preserving, as far as possible, poetic and metrical continuity with the English language received tradition. At issue here is the fact that the classical English Psalter (as described in #3 above) is based upon Jerome’s Vulgate, with comparison to the Hebrew Old Testament, not the Septuagint.

Here I comment regarding the already-existing English-language translations of the Psalter from the Septuagint:

1. The Holy Transfiguration Monastery (Boston) version (HTM). This preserves classical hieratic English, but introduces awkward diction and phrasing. Its translation is almost slavish to the Greek, thus sacrificing good English style, especially where that already exists in the 16th century authorities.

2. The Orthodox Study Bible psalter is not a liturgical psalter and is not composed in hieratic language. Its purpose is strictly informational rather than liturgical.

3. The Etna Project departs in some respects from the KJV, which it claims to follow. The end result appears to be somewhat idiosyncratic.

Brother Philip: can you give account for any other already existing English language Psalters?

  1. Dear Fr. Patrick,

    Have we talked about the translation of the Psalms that Archimandrite Lazarus Moore (of blessed memory)completed just before he passed away?

    If not, we should. 🙂

  2. I’ve been meaning to send you the URL for the text that is on the OCA Diocese of the South web site (http://www.dosoca.org/psalter.html). It might be the same as what you refer to as ‘the Etna Project.’ CTOS just published a colourful edition of a translation that was done by Michael Asser, in GB, based upon the KJV and the Douai translation but corrected according to the LXX. The DoS file is without all the artwork of the CTOS edition. I sometimes want to scream when I’m reading their Apostol and Evangelion, the punctuation is so erratic (not to mention syntax and other problems). For people that ‘pride’ themselves on their academic standards, they certainly don’t know how to punctuate.

  3. Dear Fr. Patrick,

    I have a copy of the CTOS/ETNA Psalms. I love the layout and the icons – I have not studied how close it is to the KJV text but it is much easier to chnat and to me at least closer to what I remember of the Pslams. We use the HTM Psalter here in Malaysia but I have not gotten used to it after 4 years of being Orthodox

  4. Dear Fr. Patrick:

    I just learned of your project today. I am a layman of ROCOR and have been working on an adaptation of the Coverdale Psalms to the Septuagint for a number of years. It is pretty much in its final form. In fact, I am about ready to publish it on Amazon Kindle (downloadable to your iPhone!) for feedback. Our vision (I have recently joined forces with Nikita Simmons, a member of an Old Rite community in Oregon) is to produce a liturgical Psalter in the Russian tradition (a “sljedovannaja Psaltir'”), which has quite a bit of didactic and liturgical material not found in contemporary Psalters acccording to the Greek usage. The Psalter, of course, is the same. I would love to have your critique of my effort. I am not a shrinking violet, so you can be candid. If you send me your e-mail, I will be happy to send you the latest draft. It would be wonderful to have a Psalter that transcended jurisdictional lines.

    David James

    • thanks for the note! I have been keeping this project under cover… I would like to see your work and would be more than happy to comment on it.
      I shall send you an email message via that medium.

  5. […] About Fr Patrick|Typikon project: Systema Typikou|Psalter Workshop| […]

  6. I had heard that Glorious Ascension Monastery (Resaca,GA) used (uses?) a “corrected” version of the Coverdale. Does anyone know about this?
    Fr. David

    • I do not know of it.
      The issues of correcting Coverdale or KJV Psalter are monumental in scope. Consider: St Ieronymos (Jerome of Bethlehem) thought it impossible to get the two recensions of the Psalter together, the Hebrew (basis of Coverdale and KJV) and Greek (Septuagint), so he translated TWO Psalters: Iuxta Hebraios and Iuxta LXX!
      It may be that this Project is un-doable. Frankly, I am at the point of thinking that the Orthodox Church will have to speak to the issue from one place to another.

      I am in favor of a LXX-based Psalter, hewing as close to the language and expression of the Coverdale-KJV tradition of English usage, as much as possible. So that is the basis of my work.
      More psalms to come…

    • That “corrected” version is based on an early version of an adaptation of the Coverdale Psalter for Orthodox use that I sent to Abbot Damian in the mid 1990s. He subsequently shared it with Fr. Andrew of St. Michael’s Skete in New Mexico, who is working on his own adaptation. No doubt, both versions have been substantially edited in the interim, and I have not seen either one. I do note that the Monastery of the Glorious Ascension’s online bookstore sells the Boston Psalter.

      In the meantime, my own adaptation of the Coverdale is finally nearing completion, but, unlike the other Psalters currently available in English, it has all the kathisma prayers and other liturgical and didactic material usually found in a Russian Orthodox liturgical Psalter. It is currently being beta-tested (with the blessings of Bishop Jerome and Bishop George)at the Hermitage of the Holy Cross in West Virginia and at St. Seraphim Church in Boise, ID.

      David James

  7. While the HTM is great, a better Psalter has come out. I am reviewing it now and like the associated Orthodox New Testament, it literal from the LXX and contains Patristic Commentary. You canorderone for yourself at http://www.holyapostlesconvent.org/HacWebStore/product_info.php?products_id=39&osCsid=f36d4771cde126513cfb9649b3cea403. As a disclaimer, I am in no way associated with said Convent.

  8. Fr Patrick, are you planning to take into account the differences between the Greek liturgical Psalter and the LXX (at least as published by the Würtemburgische Bibelanstalt Stuttgart)?

    • The pressures of parish life, and the effort to be expended in completing my book on Orthodox liturgics, is keeping me away from the Psalter project.
      Anyway, here is the problem in some relief:
      1. there are two major recensions of hte Psalter: the Hebrew and the Greek (Jerome includes both in his Vulgata). Since our English-language liturgical tradition is based upon the Vulgate Bible (Coverdale Psalter, etc.), this tradition must be taken seriously.
      Frankly, I am at the stage of examining other Psalter projects to see how they handle this basic conundrum. So far, I am not really impressed with their solutions (The Orthodox Psalter, The Psalter and the Holy Fathers, The Psalter according to the Seventy, and the new Jordanville Psalter). Do you have any constructive ideas on this issue?
      2. in the Greek text, there are many little variations; your question indicates this. My ultimate goal is to base everything on the established text of the Psalter as is utilized by Orthodox Churches; namely, the Psalterion (the one I have is published in Thessaloniki by To Perivoli tis Panagias (2001). This text is “mainstream” and fairly universal. I may just wind up sticking to this text.
      3. the critical text of the Psalter needs careful comparing with the commonly used text (Greek Psalterion). Points of variation need careful editing… All this MUST be included, but in a way that does not interfere with the fluidity of the text…

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