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Catholic Dictionary

Term

PSALMS, BOOK OF

Definition

A collection of divinely inspired hymns or poems, also known as the "Psalter of David if 150 Psalms" (Council of Trent, Denzinger 1502). The Hebrew title of the book is Tehilim, hymns or songs of praise. Although David is the principal author, he is not the only author of the Psalms. They are divided into five sections, each section closing with a doxology, thus 1-40, 41-71, 72-88, 89-105,105-150, according to the Vulgate. About 100 Psalms have titles that indicate the author, historical occasion, musical notation, or type of poetry. These titles, though not inspired, have great historical value. Each Psalm has its own theme and purpose, with eight such themes commonly distinguishable, namely: 1. hymns of praise and gratitude to God (8,17, 102-6, 145-150); 2. petitions (29, 63, 73, 93); 3. didactic or moral instruction (1, 48, 118); 4. penitential (6, 31, 37, 50, 101, 129, 142); 5. imprecatory (17,34, 58, 68, 78, 93, 108, 129, 142); 6. historical account of God's providential care of Israel (75, 104, 105, 113, 134, 135); 7. gradual or pilgrim songs (119-33); 8. Messianic (2, 15, 21, 44, 68, 71). Use of the Psalms for divine worship was adopted by the Church after apostolic times. Today they are the main part of the Liturgy of the Hours.