Which Psalms Numbering Is Better?


One of my pet hates is that there are, quite confusingly, two different systems for numbering the Psalms. Can anyone tell me if there is one system which is better, more widely accepted, or more Catholic, please? Thank you!


One system is used by the Vulgate (hence the D/R or Knox Bibles) the other is based on the Greek/Hebrew (Masoretic) texts (all other modern Bibles.) Sometimes the NAB rearranged verses to suit its own idea of propriety, but was restored to normalcy in the NABRE. Sorry to say I don’t see how uniformity can be restored. :shrug:

Since I use the D/R Bible in my daily readings, I subtract 1 from the Psalm number called for by the USCCB (which is NABRE based) Of course the first few and last few Psalms coincide in numbering in all Bibles.


There is no “better”, just different. It’s not even a matter of “Catholic” vs “Protestant”. It’s whether it comes from the Hebrew or Greek/Latin.

I prefer the King James/RSV system.


The Cloverdale (protestant) numbering is better for the simple reason that everyone else uses it. Its ridiculous talking about Christian unity when we can’t even adopt the same system of numbering the Psalms as everyone else. By the same token, would it really be so bad calling the final book of the Bible “Revelation” instead of “Apocalypse”.


Jimmy Akin has a nice article on it:


I generally find myself going to the Wikipedia article on the Psalms and the section on numbering:


No matter how many times I look at it, I can never keep it straight without going back and checking again. :o


Why did it happen?

I like the one that has Psalm 22 as My God My God why have you forsaken me?


For the sake of argument, why do we have to be the ones to change? We make up the largest portion of Christians in the world. I think the Eastern Orthodox use a completely different numbering as well.


Its not an essential doctrine of the faith, but something we can easily compromise on.


Hmm, okay - a little confusing, to be sure! Can anyone tell me which system prominent Catholic apologists (Akin, Hahn, Staples, etc. favour? 'Cause I’d happily follow their approach on this one. :wink: I know there seems to be a consensus among Catholic theologians that the RSV is a good modern translation, so that would seem to suggest the Masoretic system.


The Psalm numbering is just one facet of the situation resulting from translation sources and philosophies. There are also various changes in the Old Testament verse numbers depending on the book, and even the NT occasionally.

Since 1950, the days of a standard Catholic Bible have ended. We can no longer just cite chapter and verse, and expect all bibles to follow suit.

It is bothersome and even confusing, but such is the current world order. :shrug: I don’t think you will find any Catholic authority preferring one over another (Psalm numbering, chapter/verse numbering) because it is dependent on the translation’s sources/philosophy.

I think for situations like bible study groups, it would be helpful to standardize on a Bible. RC Liturgy in the USA has standardized on an unpublished, modified NABRE.

For private study/reading it is just necessary to understand the differences and make allowances when switching between various translations. :shrug:


Most modern Catholic apologists are going to use the numbering used by most modern translations, which—as you have noted—suggests the Masoretic numbering.

Even the Vatican website is inconsistent. Years back, John Paul II did his Catechesis on the Psalms and Canticles of Lauds and Vespers. On the Vatican website, at the start of his catechesis, they use the Greek numbering. Then they start adding the Hebrew numbering in brackets. Then they flip-flop and use the Hebrew numbering while putting the Greek numbering in brackets.

So, yes, it gets a little confusing. :stuck_out_tongue: In the footnotes of the Catechism, they use the Hebrew numbering when citing the Psalms. But that’s probably because they use the RSV in the Catechism (and I believe most all modern Church documents).

So the Hebrew numbering is definitely the most widely used in the present day. That’s why I go with that numbering.


Hebrew / Masoretic it is then! Thanks a bunch y’all for your help. :slight_smile:


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