Sample Roundup: Psalm 23 and Culture

In a couple of weeks, we’ll be reading one of the most famous poems from the Bible, the 23rd. Psalm.  As we approach that day, I wanted to take a look at what people have been saying recently about the Psalm.

An article in The Tennessean suggests that the poetic rendering of the King James Version is preferable to contemporary English translations of Psalm 23.  People appear to be attached to the beauty of the poetry, even know biblical scholars have established that the KVJ’s “valley of the shadow of death” is not the best way to render the Hebrew.

The 23rd Psalm is near and dear to people’s hearts.  This PBS special about Godtube.com remarks on a viral video of a young girl reciting Psalm 23 from memory, which is actually something most people can do.  Over six million views? Give me a break!

When people die, their loved ones and admirers often meditate on the 23rd Pslam for comfort.  Consider, for example, the funeral service of legendary Celtics coach Red Auerbach, or the memorial for Rosa Parks, who said that the Psalm gave her comfort during her my trying moments.  America’s favorite rabbi, Harold S. Kushner, wrote a book about the Psalm and called it a “salve for the modern world” in an NPR interview.

The Psalm was a go-to text in the wake of September 11.  President George W. Bush quoted the Psalm and used it to place the United States’ retaliation in terms of a cosmic struggle against the battle between good and evil.  This seems to be the goal of this artist, who set the poem amidst the backdrop of the World Trade Center.  You can purchase your print for only $16.95 plus s/h.

The Psalm has also been controversial in culture.  In 2002, a small town in Indiana reacted to their local fire department, which placed part of Psalm 23 on the side of a fire truck.  Some people thought this was a violation of church and state, or God and politics.  Some have even argued that attempts to bring the Psalm into the sports world is just plain wrong!

What do you all think? Anything to add?

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About Andrew Battista

Andrew Battista is Librarian for Geospatial Information Systems at New York University
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One Response to Sample Roundup: Psalm 23 and Culture

  1. Pingback: Weekend Announcements | The Old Testament as Literature

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