The Psalms of David in Metre

According to the Version
Approved by The Church of Scotland

Often referred to as "The Scottish Psalter of 1650" because the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland approved the text of this Psalter for use by the church in 1650. Sometimes, as is our practice on this site, the name is shortened to just "The Scottish Psalter." This Psalter has been in continuous use since its initial publication, and has remained unaltered, except for some modernized spelling, from its original wording during all that time.

The text of the 1650 Psalter was originally the work of Francis Rous, who completed his text around 1644. But before the text was finally approved for use in the Scottish churchit was subjected to six years of scrutiny and revision by two different groups of highly learned and devout leaders of the church. Literally every word and phrase was carefully weighed for faithfulness to the original Hebrew texts.
          The work that resulted from these revisions contained only a small part of Rouse's original text. Instead, what emerged was a composite of the work of the review committees plus lines taken from several other Psalters that were in circulation at the time.
          As we mentioned in our history of the Bay Psalm Book, Millar Patrick described the work of a Dr. W.P. Rorison, who "with incredible patience and particularity, carried out a detailed comparison of the 1650 version with ten others, in order to trace every line, so far as might be possible, to its source." (Today we would probably say that he had too much time on his hands.) Here is Rorison's table of the various sources that went into the 1650 Scottish Psalter:


1564 Scottish version


Henry Dod (1620)


King James (1631- 6)


George Wither (1632)


Sir William Mure of Rowallan


The Bay Psalm Book (1640)


William Barton (1644)


Zachary Boyd (1644 – 48)


Westminster version (1647)


Francis Rous (1638 – 46)


Total (of 8,620 lines in entire Psalter)



To its devotees the Scottish Psalter is the only one that is acceptable. If one's goal is the closest possible representation of the original Hebrew, then this may well be the best Psalter, even though its language and poetry sometimes seems awkward and contrived. (The Bay Psalm Book was also a very close translation, but its poetry is even more problematical.)
       In spite of its age and sometimes quaint wording, the Scottish Psalter still retains great power even today. If one had to use only one metrical Psalter, this one would be a good choice.

There are probably very few Christians who don't know this Psalter's wording of Psalm 23 almost as well as they know the Psalm from their Bibles.

The entire contents of the Scottish Metrical Psalter of 1650 are online on this web site. You can access the Psalter through:
     Scottish Metrical Psalter of 1650 an index of just this psalter
     The Workshop - all Psalm versions on this website.


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Page last modified on: 07/29/2004