In other words, are the Psalms considered Jewish-specific or deemed equally useful as prayers and songs for Christians? For example, is the first Psalm a Christian Psalm as well as a Jewish Psalm?

KJV Psalm 1: 1Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

2But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

3And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

4The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.

5Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.

6For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

2 Answers 2


Reformed theology includes covenant theology, whereby the nation of Israel is understood to be the church of the Old Testament. In this light, there is no distinction between an Israelite Psalm and a Christian Psalm; they are one and the same.

Not only this, but the Reformers consistently sang almost only the 150 Psalms from the Book of Psalms (as well as the Songs of Simeon, Zachariah, and Mary, the Apostle's Creed, the Ten Commandments, the Lord's Prayer, and a very small number of other hymns).

John Calvin, who was the single largest influence on the Reformed understanding on how to worship, said in his Letter to the Reader introducing the Genevan Psalter the following:

But what St. Augustine says is true, that no one can sing things worthy of God unless he has received them from him. For when we have searched here and there, we will not find better songs nor ones more appropriate for this purpose than the Psalms of David, which the Holy Spirit has spoken to him and made. Therefore, when we sing them, we are certain that God has put the words in our mouth as if they themselves sang in us to exalt his glory. Consequently Chrysostom exhorts both men, women and little children to learn to sing them in order that they may be like a meditation to associate them with the company of angels (Chrysostom, In Ps. 41.1,2).

Calvin was in the habit of preaching from either the New Testament or the Book of Psalms every Sunday afternoon, and it is from these sermons on the Psalms that we get his commentary on the Psalms.

In addition, the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 21 Article 5 says the following (emphasis mine):

The reading of the Scriptures with godly fear, the sound preaching and conscionable hearing of the Word, in obedience unto God, with understanding, faith and reverence, singing of psalms with grace in the heart; as also, the due administration and worthy receiving of the sacraments instituted by Christ, are all parts of the ordinary religious worship of God: beside religious oaths, vows, solemn fastings, and thanksgivings upon special occasions, which are, in their several times and seasons, to be used in an holy and religious manner.

While this is not to mean the exclusion of non-Book of Psalms songs, certainly the creators and users of the Westminster Standards (a classic Reformed summary of what the Bible teaches) primarily sang Psalms and considered them to be appropriate for the Christian church.

I will also note that it is not completely precise to refer to the Book of Psalms as a Jewish book; it is an Israelite book, from before the splitting of the nation of Israel into two kingdoms.


John Calvin wrote a commentary on the Psalms. He believed that the Psalms were essential to the Christian as they illustrate man's need for God, but also the proper way to ask for that need. In the preface to the commentary , he comments

The Psalms, it follows, that in proportion to the proficiency which a man shall have attained in understanding them, will be his knowledge of the most important part of celestial doctrine. Genuine and earnest prayer proceeds first from a sense of our need, and next, from faith in the promises of God. It is by perusing these inspired compositions, that men will be most effectually awakened to a sense of their maladies, and, at the same time, instructed in seeking remedies for their cure. In a word, whatever may serve to encourage us when we are about to pray to God, is taught us in this book.

Calvin also assets that the Psalms serve as the best instructor for worshipping God:

there is no other book in which we are more perfectly taught the right manner of praising God

This carries a great deal of weight in Reformed theology, especially its historic manifestations, through the regulative principle of worship. In some Reformed traditions, the Psalms are the only hymns offered to God.

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