The Psalter: I Selecting a Translation

“By far the largest single element in the Church’s Divine services is the Psalms of David. Of them St. John Chrysostom has said: “If we keep vigil in church, David comes first, last and central. If early in the morning we want songs and hymns, first, last and central is David again. If we are occupied with the funeral solemnities of those who have fallen asleep, or if virgins sit at home and spin, David is first, last and central. O amazing wonder! Many who have made little progress in literature know the Psalter by heart. Nor is it only in cities and churches that David is famous; in the village market, in the desert, and in uninhabitable land, he excites the praise of God. In monasteries, among those holy choirs of angelic armies, David is first, last and central. In the convents of virgins, where are the communities of those who imitate Mary; in the deserts where there are men crucified to the world, who live their life in heaven with God, David is first, last and central. All other men at night are overcome by sleep. David alone is active, and gathering the servants of God into seraphic bands, he turns earth into heaven, and converts men into angels.”
basil the great
“The function of the Psalms in the Orthodox Christian spiritual life has been well set forth by St. Basil the Great: “When the Holy Spirit saw that the human race was guided only with difficulty toward virtue, and that, because of our inclination toward pleasure, we were neglectful of an upright life, what did He do? The delight of melody He mingled with the doctrines so that by the pleasantness and softness of the sound heard we might receive without perceiving it the benefit of the words, just as wise physicians who, when giving the fastidious rather bitter drugs to drink, frequently smear the cup with honey. Therefore, He devised for us these harmonious melodies of the Psalms, that they who are children in age, or even those who are youthful in disposition, might to all appearances chant but, in reality, become trained in soul. For never has any one of the many indifferent persons gone away easily holding in mind either an apostolic or prophetic message but they do chant the words of the Psalms, even in the home, and they spread them about in the market place, and if, perchance, someone becomes exceedingly wrathful, when he begins to be soothed by a Psalm, he departs with the wrath of his soul immediately lulled to sleep by means of the melody.” (Homily X, 1; On Psalm I.)”

Various Orthodox translations of the Psalter into English have been published. The following are some of the more significant versions.
Orthodox Psalter full sizehr
“The Orthodox Psalter, an English translation of the Psalms and Nine Biblical Odes, translated from the Septuagint and the Greek Psalterion authorized by the Church of Greece.” [Holy Apostles Convent, Beuna Vista, CA, 2010]
This new revised and expanded 2nd edition can be used in the divine offices of the Church. Twenty groups of Psalms, called kathismata, have been arranged and versified according to the Greek Psalterion. Although the Septuagint numbering of Psalms is used, yet KJV numbering also appears. Six expanded Tables of Usage are furnished, as well as a general listing of the Psalms for daily services as provided in “The Great Horologion”, and an alphabetical list of introductory verse of each Psalm. This publication also equips the reader with Patristic Commentary and notes on select verses and inscriptions of the book of Psalms. The ecclesiastical English is most faithful to the original Greek, and diligently compared with the Psalterion of the Church of Greece, published by Apostolike Diakonia. This brand-new translation echoes the rhythms of the original Greek, which was faithful to the Hebrew idiom. The full-sized version with Commentary, reflecting the Orthodox perspective and interpretation of the spiritual insights of the holy Fathers from the East and West, promises to be an enriched reading experience that resonates with understanding of God’s word through the Psalmist David and others. Even for those who do not know Greek or Hebrew, exegetical material found within this book gives critical analysis of key words, that is not overly technical, for both beginners and scholars alike.
Psalter seventy
“The Psalter According to the Seventy” (1997) Translated by the monks of Holy Transfiguration Monastery. This is the book of Psalms of the Old Testament, in an English translation from the Septuagint version.
psalter sheehan
The Psalms of David: Translated from the Septuagint Greek, translated by Donald Sheehan, Wipf & Stock, Eugene, OR, 2013
“In this rendering, the Psalms become once again what they were for Christian believers from the very beginning: the hymnal of the Church. They remain, certainly, the songs of Israel: from its cries of lamentation to its shouts of exultation. But for the Christian reader, they become as well hymns of petition and praise that express both the joy and the longing of those who live ‘in Christ’ . . . At the same time their very language can convey to us the assurance that, as he has throughout the millennia, God hears our prayer and responds to it with boundless mercy, love, and compassion.”
—from the Preface by Fr. John Breck
Psalter new skete
“The Psalter” The Monks of New Skete (Orthodox Church in America )(1984) The 150 Biblical psalms and 11 scriptural canticles used in Orthodox Church services. Our translations have been refined by study and daily use at our services over the last three decades. Rendered in clear, modern American English, especially suitable for Lectio Divina meditation and singing in church.
agbeya 1
A translation of the Psalms from the Coptic version can be found in “The Agpeya. The Coptic Book of Hours” edited by Fr Matthias Farid Wahba [St Antonious Coptic Orthodox Church, Hayward CA, 1999]
psalter asser
“The Psalter of the Prophet and King David with the Nine Biblical Odes” Compiled by Michael Asser [Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, Etna CA, 2008] Arranged for liturgical use, with full kathismata and verses. King James and Douai version English, translated to conform to the Septuagint.
Also available as “The Psalter of David the Prophet and King According to the Septuagint with the nine Odes and an explanation of how the Psalter should be chanted throughout the whole year after the use of the Orthodox Church” [2005] on-line at
For this English translation of the Psalter of the Septuagint, the Psalter of the King James Bible has been taken as a base and then revised where it differs from the Greek, always keeping as close as possible to the King James Version.
psalter moore 2
“The Holy Psalter: The Psalms of David from the LXX” Archimandrite Lazarus Moore, [Diocesan Press, Madras, India. (1st printing 1966, 2nd revised printing 1971.)] Fr. Moore’s edition is remarkable for its innovative literary style. The translation has an abundance of fresh interpretations which capture the original meaning with amazing clarity.
Also available on-line at

For an overview of some English translations of the Psalter for Orthodox, see

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