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Sacred song or poem. The term is most widely known from the book of Psalms in the Bible. Its 150 psalms, ranging in subject from songs of joyous faith and thanksgiving to songs of bitter protest and lamentation, rank among the immortal poems of all time. They have had a profound influence on the liturgies of Judaism and Christianity. Their dating and authorship are highly problematic, and the tradition of assigning them to King David is no longer accepted. In the original Hebrew text the book had no name. When the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek (the Septuagint), it was titled Psalterion, referring to a stringed instrument that would accompany such songs.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on psalm, visit Britannica.com.