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IN GRATEFUL RECOGNITION OF HIS IMMENSE SERVICES
OF THE OLD TESTAMENT.
THE Editors believe that much force will be added to the
1 moral and religious lessons of the Psalter by an examination of the time and circumstances in which the several Psalms were written ; that much light will be gained from an endeavour to attain the point of view of the writers, and that each Psalm so looked at will in most cases tell its own tale. They believe also that the spiritual meaning, though it may appear for a moment obscured, will in the end come out all the more fully from this historical treatment.
For the common arrangement of the Psalms into five books and for the order of these books no principle has been discovered which commands anything like general assent or which even claims to throw any light upon the meaning of the Psalms; nor does the difficulty of rearranging them with reference to their several times and occasions appear insuperable. If, with the utmost care bestowed upon the language of the Psalms and the history of the times to which they may apply, it is impossible to discover the exact time and occasion of every Psalm, yet there are few of which we cannot ascertain to what group
and to what period they belong, while to many the exact time and occasion may with reasonable certainty be assigned.
Another circumstance, which has in no small degree impaired a due appreciation not only of the lyrical beauty but often of the very meaning of the Psalms, is the loss of the strophes and lines of the original. In both the Bible and the Prayer-Book Versions they are printed like those portions of the sacred writings, which were written in prose, while the division into verses generally adopted in our Bibles has, equally in poetry and in prose, destroyed the connection of the thought. In the arrangement here adopted, while the number of each verse has been retained for the sake of reference, the larger and smaller divisions—the strophes and the lines—have been restored. The eye is everywhere the minister of the mind; it is so in a more than usual degree in the poems of a language, which deals so largely as the Hebrew in curious parallelisms and nicely wrought balance of structure.
Further, many errors have crept into the version of the Prayer-Book of the Church of England,—chiefly owing to the influence of Jerome's Latin Translation,—which leave the verses in which they occur unintelligible.
To restore the Psalter as far as possible to the order in which the Psalms were written,—to give the division of each Psalm into strophes, of each strophe into the lines which composed it,—to amend the errors of translation, are the objects of the present Edition.
No single person seemed so well qualified to afford the necessary guidance in this work, both by his consummate ability and erudition as an Oriental scholar and by his wonderful insight into Jewish history and by the devotion of a long and laborious life to these and kindred subjects, as Professor Henry Ewald.