Friday, April 1, 2011

A literary approach to Psalms (and the Bible)

Layout 1 What must be said, however, is that the Psalms are poems, and poems intended to be sung: not doctrinal treatises, nor even sermons. Those who talk of reading the Bible ‘as literature’ sometimes mean, I think, reading it without attending to the main thing it is about; like reading Burke with no interest in politics, or reading the Aeneid with no interest in Rome. That seems to me to be nonsense. But there is a saner sense in which the Bible, since it is after all literature, cannot properly be read except as literature; and the different parts of it as the different sorts of literature they are. Most emphatically the Psalms must be read as poems; as lyrics, with all the licences and all the formalities, the hyperboles, the emotional rather than logical connections, which are proper to lyric poetry. They must be read as poems if they are to be understood; no less than French must be read as French or English as English. Otherwise we shall miss what is in them and think we see what is not.

C.S. Lewis, ‘Sweeter Than Honey,’ Reflections on the Psalms (1958) as republished within C.S. Lewis: Selected Books (London: HarperCollins, 2002) 310.


  1. Amazing news! There's a new C.S. Lewis book being published next month! It's pretty incredible, but going through his notebooks, they've been able to retrieve enough "bits" of Lewis's translation of Virgil's The Aeneid to make it worthwhile to publish.

    His strong background in literature is what gave Lewis such tremendous insight into the Bible. One of the big lessons I learned at seminary was to approach the Bible as literature, to use a literary approach to interpretation. I guess I could've read Lewis instead ;) "The Bible, since it is after all literature, cannot properly be read except as literature..."

  2. Hi Ken, if you get more info on this book send it to Gail, she would be interesred.