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Bible Encyclopedias

The Catholic Encyclopedia

Alphabetic Psalms

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Alphabetic psalms are so called because their successive verses, or successive parallel series, begin with the successive letters of the alphabet. Some of these formations are perfectly regular, others are more or less defective. Among the regular Alphabetic Psalms must be reckoned Psalms 110, 111 and 118. The praise of the strong woman in Proverbs 31:10-31, and the first four chapters of Lamentations exhibit a similar regular formation. Psalms 110 and 111 consist of twenty-two verses each, and successive verse begins with the corresponding successive letter of the alphabet. Psalm 118 consists of twenty-two strophes containing each eight distichs; the successive twenty-two strophes are built on the twenty-two letters of the alphabet in such a way that each of the eight distichs of the first strophe begins with the first letter, each of the eight distichs of the second strophe begin with the second letter, etc. Proverbs 31:10 consists of twenty-two distichs, each successive distich beginning with the successive corresponding letter of the alphabet. Lamentations 1, 2 and 4 consist each of twenty-two short strophes beginning with the successive letters of the alphabet. In Lamentations 3, each successive letter of the alphabet begins three lines, so that the chapter consists of sixty-six lines in which each letter of the alphabet occurs three times as the initial of the line. Defectively Alphabetic Psalms may be found in Psalms 9, 24, 36 and 145. But the device is not limited to the Book of Psalms; it is also found in other poetical portions of the Old Testament.

Sources

VIGOUROUX, Dict. de la Bible (Paris, 1895).

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Bibliography Information
Obstat, Nihil. Lafort, Remy, Censor. Entry for 'Alphabetic Psalms'. The Catholic Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/a/alphabetic-psalms.html. Robert Appleton Company. New York. 1914.

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