Great news, everyone, the committees have finished updating the classic Prayer Book psalter, translated by Miles Coverdale, into contemporary English!  If you’re not up to speed with what this is all about….

  • The latest report from the Liturgy Task Force (top of page 2) summarizes the background of this particular project.
  • The Texts for Common Prayer page now has a pdf and Word document form of the Psalter.

Let’s grab a sampling from this evening’s psalms – Psalm 22.  Here are verses 6-8 in three translations, for comparison.

Original Coverdale:

6 But as for me, I am a worm, and no man; * a very scorn of men, and the outcast of the people.
7 All they that see me laugh me to scorn; * they shoot out their lips, and shake their heads, saying,
8 He trusted in the Lord, that he would deliver him; * let him deliver him, if he will have him.

Renewed Coverdale:

6 But as for me, I am a worm, and no man, * scorned by all, and the outcast of the people.
7 All those who see me laugh me to scorn; * they curl their lips, and shake their heads, saying,
8 “He trusted in God, that he would deliver him; * let him deliver him, if he will have him.”

English Standard Version (ESV)

6 But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
“He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”

Beauty and taste are fickle things, easily subject to individual whim and preference, so I’m not going to hazard any sweeping statements here.  But what I can observe is that,

  1. The Renewed Coverdale looks like it’s doing a good job of sticking closely to the vocabulary and sentence structure of the original, modernizing it only gently.
  2. The ESV has a tendency to be too literal, so to speak, in the Psalms.  “they make mouths at me” is probably a more precise rendition of the Hebrew than “they curl/shoot out their lips”, but the latter is actually something the reader can visualize and understand.
  3. Modern translations use quotation marks in the Psalms when a different voice chimes in, and it will be helpful to have them brought into our Psalter, as this example demonstrates.

I have already printed out the Psalter and begun to use them in the Daily Office.  I’m hoping the excitement of trying out this newly-completed draft will help me keep up with the offices more regularly this season, and I heartily encourage all of you to do the same.  One of the beautiful treasures of our Prayer Book tradition is our classic Coverdale Psalter, and this re-translation of them is making them easily accessible to the modern reader.  I suspect this will be one of the best features of the 2019 Prayer Book.

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