Liturgy: coverdale psalms


Are the Coverdale psalms prayed in Anglican Use masses (or daily offices if they have them)?

Is that edition of the psalms acceptable for prayer for a Catholic, particularly those who worship at a parish with an Anglican Use liturgy?

I often pray the psalter once a month, usually without also saying the offices, and this is the edition I use, but it comes from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.


I’m sure these folks would be able to provide the information you are looking for.


The Book of Divine Worship (“BDW”) was published in 2003 by Newman House Press

The Book of Divine Worship contains two Psalters: a “traditional” English Psalter based on the 1535 translation by Miles Coverdale, and a “contemporary” English version taken from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America. This site uses the traditional Psalter only.


I originally posted the comments below in Dec 2011 at, in a thread about which translation of the psalms people prefer. You can see the full context and replies by following this link:

Since it seems germane to this thread here at, I am reposting it.

David James


I, too, prefer the Coverdale translation. Even though it was the first published translation of the psalter,* from a purely literary point of view the sonority and elegance of Coverdale’s language has never been surpassed. But, for those Churches, such as the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic, which consider the Greek Septuagint text of the psalter to be authoritative, rather than the Masoretic Hebrew text, the liturgical usage of the Coverdale psalter is problematic, because it has very many discrepancies from the LXX.

There is a nifty little book, “Notes on the Psalter: Extracts of Parallel Passages from the Prayer Book, Septuagint, and Vulgate Versions,” by the Rev. Charles Evans, London, John Murray, Albemarle Street, 1904 (available free online via google books) that reviews all these well-known divergences of the BCP Psalter from the Septuagint in detail. To give but one example:

Ps 68:11 according to the 1662 BCP (Ps. 67:12 in the LXX) reads, “The Lord gave the word: great was the company of preachers.” In St. Dunstan’s Plainsong Psalter, which uses the 1928 American BCP text, this verse reads, “The Lord gave the word: great was the company of women that bare the tidings.” The Greek is Κύριος δώσει ρῆμα τοῖς εὐαγγελιζομένοις δυνάμει πολλῇ, and the Latin is “Dominus dabit verbum evangelizantibus virtute multa,” or, in English, “The Lord shall give speech with great power to them that preach the good tidings" (my translation).

These numerous divergences are especially problematic in the Eastern Orthodox Church, of which I am a member, since the voluminous liturgical literature is saturated with quotations, imagery, and paraphrases from the psalter, in particular. The above verse, for example, is reflected in the blessing the priest gives to the deacon before the reading of the Gospel at the Divine Liturgy:

“May God, through the prayers of the holy and all glorious Apostle and Evangelist, N., give thee speech with great power, unto the preaching of the Gospel of His beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.”

I go into all this detail because, as much as I have come to love the Coverdale translation of the Psalms over the years, I realized that, in its original form, it could never be used in Eastern Orthodox worship. So, at first privately, and then much more rigorously once I had found a publisher, I went through the Coverdale Psalter verse by verse, comparing it to Rahlf’s critical edition of the Greek, as well as to the Latin and the Church Slavonic translations, revising it where necessary to conform to the meaning of the Septuagint text. The result was published earlier this year by St. Job of Pochaev Press at Jordanville, NY, and approved for liturgical use by the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.

Only time will tell whether this adaptation of the Coverdale will gain any traction, but, so far, the reception has been more enthusiastic than expected, given Orthodoxy’s general coolness to novelty [think, Old Believer or new Calendar]. To date, there have been no reviews in the print media, but there have been a few blog reviews, which one can find, if interested, by googling “A Psalter for Prayer.”

David James

*Coverdale’s psalms first appeared in print in the Great Bible of 1539, the first complete printed edition of the Bible in English. In 1549, this text of the Psalms was incorporated into the English Book of Common Prayer. Despite the publication of a new official Bible in 1611 (the “Authorized” or King James Version), Coverdale’s text, with only very slight changes, was retained in the 1662 edition of the BCP. The St. Dunstan’s Plainsong Psalter, to which MJO refers in an earlier message, reflects the text of the 1928 edition of the American BCP, which contains further changes to the original Coverdale. For a record of the changes to the text of the psalter of the 1662 English Book of Common Prayer made since 1789 in the American Book of Common Prayer, see


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