The Latin Psalters are the translations of the Book of Psalms into the Latin language. They are the premier liturgical resource used in the Liturgy of the Hours of the Latin Rites of the Roman Catholic Church.
These translations are typically placed in a separate volume or a section of the breviary called the psalter, in which the psalms are arranged to be prayed at the canonical hours of the day. In the Middle Ages, psalters were often lavish illuminated manuscripts, and in the Romanesque and early Gothic period were the type of book most often chosen to be richly illuminated.
The Latin Church has a diverse selection of more-or-less different full translations of the psalms. Three of these translations, the Romana, Gallicana, and juxta Hebraicum, have been traditionally ascribed to Jerome, the author of the Latin Vulgate. Two other translations, the Pian and Nova Vulgata versions, were made in the 20th century.
Many of these translations are actually quite similar to each other, especially in style: the Roman, Ambrosian, and Mozarabic psalters have relatively few differences between them, such that the same settings can generally be applied to sing all three. Related too is Jerome's Gallican psalter (versio gallicana), made between 386 and 389, which was translated from the Greek text of the Hexaplar Septuagint. Later, ca. 392, Jerome translated the book of psalms from Hebrew, this translation is called the versio juxta Hebraicum. The Nova Vulgata psalter (1979), though stylistically similar to these, diverges rather more from these traditional psalters insofar as it more closely follows the Hebrew Masoretic text. Two of these psalters stand apart as independent translations from the Hebrew: Jerome's juxta Hebraicum and the Pian version (1945).
Also called the Psalterium Vetus, the psalter of the Old Latin Bible. Quotations from the Psalms in Latin authors show that a number of related but distinct Old Latin recensions were circulating in the mid-4th century. These had by then substantially replaced the older Latin 'Cyprianic Psalter', a recension found in the works of Cyprian of Carthage that only survived in the 4th-century writings of the Donatists; and are all thought to be revisions of a lost common early 3rd-century version.
A 12th-century Latin bible from Monte Cassino (Ms. Cas. 557) preserves, alongside the Roman, Gallican and Iuxta Hebraeos psalters, a fourth complete version of the psalms extensively corrected with reference to the columns of the Hexapla Greek, possibly using a columnar transcription of the Hexapla psalter similar to that surviving in Milan. The underlying Latin text for this manuscript is believed to correspond with an early 3rd-century 'Cyprianic Psalter'.
The Roman Psalter, called also the Versio Romana or Psalterium Romanum, was traditionally identified with Jerome's first revision of the psalms completed in 384; which was thought to have been made from the Versio Vetus Latina, with cursory corrections to bring it more in line with the psalms in the common Greek text of the Septuagint. More recent scholarship rejects this theory. The Roman Psalter is indeed one of five known revised versions of the mid-4th century Old Latin Psalter; but, compared with the four others the revisions in the Roman Psalter are in clumsy Latin and signally fail to follow Jerome's known translational principles, especially in failing to correct harmonised readings. Nevertheless, it is clear from Jerome's correspondence (especially in the long and detailed Epistle 106) that he was familiar with this psalter text, albeit without ever admitting any responsibility for it; and consequently it is assumed that the surviving Versio Romana represents the minimally revised Roman text as Jerome had found it. The Roman version is retained in the Roman Missal and is found in the writings of Pope Gregory the Great, but for the Divine Office, it was, from the 9th century onwards, replaced throughout most of the west by Jerome's so-called "Gallican" version. It lived on in England where it continued to be used until the Norman Conquest and in Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome and fragments of it were used in the Offices at St. Mark's Cathedral in Venice from at least 1609 until 1807. It survives to this day in the Divine Office as the solemn chanted text of the Invitatory psalm, Psalm 94, where it is the sole survivor in a liturgy where the Gallican, Pian, or Nova Vulgata translation is otherwise used.
The Versio Gallicana or Psalterium Gallicanum, also known as the Gallican Psalter (so called because it became spread in Gaul from the 9th century onward) has traditionally been considered Jerome's second Latin translation of the Psalms, which he made from the Greek of the Hexapla between 386 and 389. This became the psalter of the Sixto-Clementine Vulgate bible, and the basis for Gregorian chant. It became the standard psalter used in the canonical hours throughout the West from the time of Charlemagne until it was replaced in the 2nd edition of the Liturgy of the Hours by the Nova Vulgata in 1986. It is still used today in some monasteries and churches and by traditionalist Catholics.
This most influential psalter has a distinctive style which is attributable to its origins as a translation of the Septuagint. Following the Septuagint, it eschews anthropomorphisms. For instance, the term rock is applied to God numerous times in the Hebrew Psalter, but the Latin term petra does not occur as an epithet for God in the gallicana. Instead more abstract words like refugium, "refuge"; locus munitus, "place of strength"; or adiutor, "helper" are used.
The versio juxta Hebraicum or versio iuxta Hebraeos was the last made by Jerome. It is often informally called the "Hebrew Psalter" despite being written in Latin. Rather than just revise the Gallicana, he translated these psalms anew from the Hebrew, using pre-Masoretic manuscripts ca. 392. This psalter was present in the Bibles until Alcuin's reforms linked to the Carolingian liturgical reform: Alcuin replaced the versio juxta Hebraicum by a version of the psalter used in Gaul at the time. The latter became known as the Gallican psalter (see the section above), and it superseded the versio juxta Hebraicum. The versio juxta Hebraicum was kept in Spanish manuscripts of the Vulgate long after the Gallican psalter had supplanted it elsewhere. The versio juxta Hebraicum was never used in the liturgy.
Under Pius XII, a new Latin translation of the psalms, known as Versio Piana, Psalterium Vaticanum or Novum Psalterium, was published by the Pontifical Biblical Institute. This translation was made from the Hebrew. Its Latin adopted a classical rather than a biblical style. This version is sometimes called the Bea psalter after its author, Augustin Bea.[a] In 1945, its use was officially permitted by the pope throught the motu proprio In cotidianis precibus, but not required.
In 1969, a new psalter was published which translated the Masoretic text while keeping much of the poetry and style of the Gallican psalter. It has proved to be a popular alternative to Jerome's Gallicana. While it is based on the Gallican, it shows the influence of other versions, e.g., in Psalm 95 it follows the Piana in translating and as the proper names Meriba and Massa rather than as common nouns meaning exasperation and temptation; likewise ? is transliterated as the proper name Misar rather than translated as a common adjective meaning "small" in Psalm 42. The 1969 psalter deviates from the previous versions in that it follows the Masoretic numbering of the psalms, rather than the Septuagint enumeration. It is the psalter used in the edition of the Roman Office published in 1986.
Below is a comparison of Jerome's two versions of the first five verses of the psalm Venite exsultemus (psalm 94 (95)) with the Vetus Latina, Ambrosiana, Mozarabica, Romana, Gallicana, and Hebraicum versions, as well as the two 20th century versions (Piana and Nova Vulgata), which illustrates some of the distinctions noted above:
|Versio Vetus Latina||Versio Ambrosiana||Versio Mozarabica||Versio Romana||Versio Gallicana||Versio juxta Hebraicum||Versio Piana||Versio Nova Vulgata|
|Psalmus 94||Psalmus 94||Psalmus 94||Psalmus 94||Psalmus 94||Psalmus 94||Psalmus 94||Psalmus 94 (95)|
|Venite, exultemus in Domino: jubilemus Deo salutari nostro.||Venite, exultemus Domino: jubilemus Deo salutari nostro.||Venite, exultemus in domino, iubilemus deo saluatori nostro.||Venite, exsultemus Domino; iubilemus Deo salutari nostro.||Venite, exsultemus Domino; jubilemus Deo salutari nostro;||Venite laudemus Dominum iubilemus petrae Iesu nostro||Venite, exsultemus Domino, Acclamemus Petrae salutis nostrae:||Venite, exsultemus Domino; iubilemus Deo salutari nostro.|
|Præveniamus vultum ejus in confessionem: et in psalmis jubilemus ei.||Præveniamus faciem ejus in confessione: et in psalmis jubilemus illi.||Preoccupemus faciem eius in confessione, et in psalmis iubilemus ei.||Præoccupemus faciem eius in confessione, et in psalmis iubilemus ei.||præoccupemus faciem ejus in confessione, et in psalmis jubilemus ei:||praeoccupemus vultum eius in actione gratiarum in canticis iubilemus ei||Accedamus in conspectum eius cum laudibus, Cum canticis exsultemus ei.||Praeoccupemus faciem eius in confessione et in psalmis iubilemus ei.|
|Quia Deus magnus est, et rex magnus super omnes deos: quia non repelet Dominus populum suum.||Quoniam Deus magnus Dominus: et Rex magnus super omnes deos.||Quoniam deus magnus dominus, rex magnus super omnem terram.||Quoniam Deus magnus Dominus, et rex magnus super omnes deos.||quoniam Deus magnus Dominus, et rex magnus super omnes deos.||quoniam fortis et magnus Dominus et rex magnus super omnes deos||Nam Deus magnus est Dominus, Et Rex magnus super omnes deos.||Quoniam Deus magnus Dominus, et rex magnus super omnes deos.|
|Quia in manu ejus omnes fines terræ: et altitudines montium ipsius sunt.||Quoniam in manu ejus sunt omnes fines terræ: et altitudines montium ipsius sunt.||Quoniam non repellet dominus plebem suam, quia in manu eius sunt omnes fines terre, et altitudines montium ipse conspicit.||Quoniam non repellet Dominus plebem suam, quia in manu eius sunt omnes fines terræ, et altitudines montium ipse conspicit;||Quia in manu ejus sunt omnes fines terræ, et altitudines montium ipsius sunt;||in cuius manu fundamenta terrae et excelsa montium ipsius sunt in cuius manu fundamenta terrae et excelsa montium ipsius sunt||In manu eius sunt profunda terrae, Et altitudines montium ipsius sunt.||Quia in manu eius sunt profunda terrae, et altitudines montium ipsius sunt.|
|Quonian ipsius est mare, et ipse fecit illud: et arridam manus ejus fundaverunt.||Quoniam ipsius est mare, et ipse fecit illud, et aridam fundaverunt manus ejus.||Quoniam ipsius est mare et ipse fecit illud, et arida manus eius fundaberunt.||quoniam ipsius est mare, et ipse fecit illud: et aridam fundaverunt manus eius.||quoniam ipsius est mare, et ipse fecit illud, et siccam manus ejus formaverunt.||cuius est mare ipse enim fecit illud et siccam manus eius plasmaverunt||Ipsius est mare: nam ipse fecit illud, Et terra sicca, quam formaverunt manus eius:||Quoniam ipsius est mare, et ipse fecit illud, et siccam manus eius formaverunt.|
The enumeration of the psalms differs in the Nova Vulgata from that used in the earlier versions. The earlier versions take their enumeration from the Greek Septuagint. The Versio Nova Vulgata takes its enumeration from the Hebrew Masoretic Text.
|Old enumeration used by the Vulgate and other early versions; taken from the Septuagint||New enumeration used by the Versio Nova Vulgata and most modern English bibles; taken from the Masoretic Text|
Apart from the schemata described below, it was customary in medieval psalters to divide the text of the psalms in numerical sequence into sections or divisions, the start of which were typically marked by a much larger and more decorated initial letter than for the other psalms. The "B" of Psalm 1, Beatus Vir, usually was the most enlarged and decorated, and often those two words occupied a full page, the rounded shape of the letter being very suitable for decoration. These are often referred to as "Beatus initials". In Early Medieval psalters a three-fold division with decorated letters at Psalms 1, 51, 101 was typical, but by the Gothic period French psalters were often divided into eight sections, and English ones into ten, at Psalms 1, 26, 38, 51, 52, 68, 80, 97, 101 and 109.
A scheme (Latin schema, plural schemata) is an arrangement of all or most of the psalms for distribution to the various canonical hours. In addition to the psalms proper, these schemata typically include psalm-like canticles from other books of the Bible. Historically, these schemata have distributed the entire 150 psalms with added canticles over a period of one week, although the 1971 Liturgy of the Hours omits a few psalms and some verses and distributes the remainder over a 4-week cycle. Some of the more important schemes are detailed below.
In addition to the rotating schema, the order of service has ordinary texts that are fixed. These include the Invitatory, normally psalm 94(95), and the canticles Benedictus Dominus, Magnificat, and Nunc dimittis.
As commissioned by the Council of Trent, St. Pius V published a reform of the Roman Breviary in 1568 for use by the churches of the Roman rite. The scheme used in this breviary differs in some details from the Scheme of St. Benedict, but follows its overall pattern. Some obvious differences are that Sunday had three nocturns, while the other days had but one; Lauds and the daytime hours had less variation in the Psalmody; and Compline added Psalm 30. In addition, while St. Benedict made heavy use of "divided" Psalms, the Roman rite divided only Psalm 118.
In 1911, Pope Pius X reformed the Roman Breviary, re-arranging the psalms into a new scheme so that there was less repetition and so that each day of the week had approximately the same amount of psalm-chanting.
Psalm 94 (the Invitiatory) was recited every day at the beginning of Matins. With Lauds, there are two schemes. Lauds I were celebrated on all Sundays and ferias, except from Septuagesima until Palm Sunday inclusive, and on feasts celebrated at any time of the year. Lauds II, having a more penitential character, were used on the Sundays and ferias of Advent until the vigil of Christmas and from Septuagesima until Monday of Holy Week inclusive. They were also used on vigils of the second and third class outside of Paschaltide. When Lauds II were said, the omitted psalm was said as a fourth psalm at Prime, in order to include all 150 psalms each week during penitential seasons; on Sundays with Lauds II, the scheme became 92, 99, 118i, and 118ii. On feasts which used the Sunday psalms, 53, 118i, and 118ii were said at Prime. On Sundays after Epiphany and Pentecost, the Athanasian Creed was said fourth at Prime; it was omitted if a commemoration of a Double feast or of an octave occurred.
In 1971 with the release of a new edition of the Divine Office under Pope Paul VI, the Liturgia Horarum, a new schema was introduced which distributed 147 of the 150 psalms across a four-week cycle. In addition to the three omitted psalms, some 59 verses of other psalms are removed along with parts of two verses. These omissions are intended to make the psalms easier to understand so that the Divine Office can better be prayed by the laity. The reduced psalmody resulting from dividing the psalter over 4 weeks instead of 1 is also intended to ease lay participation.
Although the psalter of the 2000 edition of the Liturgy of the Hours uses the translation of the Nova Vulgata, the numeration used is that of the older editions of the Vulgate, with the new numeration in parenthesis where it differs. For instance, the psalm beginning Dominus pascit me is numbered 22(23), and Venite exsultemus is numbered 94(95).
The Psalterium Monasticum is a psalter produced by the monks of Solesmes Abbey in 1981 "[t]o allow monks and nuns to celebrate in Gregorian chant" the Benedictine Office reformed by Vatican II. It contains all 150 psalms and uses the Latin of the Neo-Vulgata. It contains four schemas (A, B, C, D).
Vulgatae textui addimus in altera columna novam versionem latinam Instituti Biblici a Pio XII pro usu liturgico approbatam, die 24 martii 1945.