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date: 27 January 2020

Psalm (Lat. psalmus; Gk. psalmos)locked

  • Christian Troelsgård,
  • John Arthur Smith,
  • Terence Bailey,
  • Paul Doe,
  • Alejandro Enrique Planchart
  •  and Malcolm Boyd


(Lat. psalmusGk. psalmos)

An ancient Near Eastern or ancient Egyptian sacred poem exhibiting the following main characteristics: a theocentric subject, short bifurcated units of literary construction and parallelism of clauses (parallelismus membrorum, ‘thought rhyme’); or a setting of such a poem to music. The Greek word itself, used in the Septuagint and the New Testament for the book of Psalms, referred properly to a song with plucked string accompaniment (elsewhere in antiquity it referred also to the movement of the fingers in plucking strings, or to the sound of string instruments). In later usage, the word referred loosely to a metrical or non-metrical sacred poem or song.

This article discusses the music associated with the biblical Psalms and other psalmodic texts such as the biblical canticles, in ancient Judaism, early Christianity and the traditions springing from Eastern and Western Christianity. No detailed account is given here of the various independent musical forms of the Christian liturgy that originated ultimately in psalmody, even though these often retained psalmodic texts; for these ...

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