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A Book of Psalms: Selected and Adapted from the Hebrew Paperback – April 8, 1994


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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Stephen Mitchell's many books include the bestselling Tao Te Ching, Gilgamesh, and The Second Book of the Tao, as well as The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke, The Gospel According to Jesus, Bhagavad Gita, The Book of Job, and Meetings with the Archangel.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reissue edition (April 8, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060924705
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060924706
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #439,290 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Stephen Mitchell was born in Brooklyn in 1943, educated at Amherst, the Sorbonne, and Yale, and de-educated through intensive Zen practice. His many books include the bestselling Tao Te Ching, The Gospel According to Jesus, Bhagavad Gita, The Book of Job, Meetings with the Archangel, Gilgamesh, The Second Book of the Tao, and the Iliad. When he is not writing, he likes to (in no particular order) think about writing, think about not writing, not think about writing, and not think about not writing. He is married to Byron Katie and cowrote two of her bestselling books: Loving What Is and A Thousand Names for Joy. You can read extensive excerpts from all his books on his website, www.stephenmitchellbooks.com.

Customer Reviews

This is my favorite collection and translation of the psalms.
K. Ashbrook
Stephen Mitchell does an excellent job capturing the sentiments behind the prayer of the psalmist if he were writing in today's idiom.
Marion
Everyone should read it, one psalm a day is a good way to go at it.
Ann D. Flessas

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 45 people found the following review helpful By John S. Ryan on May 29, 2001
Format: Paperback
When you open to Psalm 1 and find that it begins: "Blessed are the man and the woman / who have grown beyond their greed," you know that this is not your fathers' Psalter.

Fair enough. Stephen Mitchell gives fair warning in his title (it's "a," not "the" Book of Psalms) and his short introduction (in which he states his intent to "[s]ing to the Lord a _new_ song" by following the spirit rather than the letter).

And like all of Mitchell's work, these are lovely poetic renderings. But be aware that quite a few of them are (or at least include) improvisations that depart radically from the original text. Then, too, the local references to Jerusalem and/or the Temple have been erased and replaced with more universal allusions. (Other portions of the text are rendered even more politically correct.)

My biggest beef is that Mitchell has turned most of the "complaining" Psalms (when he includes them at all; there are only fifty "psalms" in this volume) into statements of spiritual acquiescence. And he characterizes that acquiescence itself in terms that are foreign to the Psalms: e.g. Psalm 133's "my heart is not proud" is Buddhized to "my mind is not noisy with desires."

But it's excellent poetry, and Mitchell at least has the good sense not to stray too far from the text when he renders perennial favorites like Psalm 23.

As poetry, then, this book is one of Mitchell's better works. Just don't expect the biblical Psalms.
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Mr. William G. Batz on September 28, 1998
Format: Paperback
Regrettably this author only treats us to a selection of psalms, not the whole psalter, but his translation from the Hebrew into contemporary idiom is strikingly beautiful, as one might expect from a poet. This book opened my eyes to new meanings in some of my favorite psalms.
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25 of 30 people found the following review helpful By M. J. Smith VINE VOICE on August 4, 2002
Format: Paperback
Imagine the Tao Te Ching translated into Islamic terms, the Rg Veda reworked as a Judaic text, the Diamond Sutra translated as a Christian text; you are imagining something similar to these reworkings of the Psalms by Stephen Mitchell. While Norman Fischer in his Opening to You: Zen-Inspired Translations of the Psalms tried to translate the psalms into the universal religious concepts shared with Zen Buddhism, Mitchell recreates the psalms with Zen-specific terminology and contemporary scientific terminology which may clash with the images of the original psalms.
Example: from Psalm 148 "Praise him, you bodhisattvas, / you angels burning with his love. / Praise him in the depths of matter; / praise him in atomic space. / Praise him, you whirling electrons, / you unimaginable quarks."
The result is a set of poems which are sometimes "selected & adapted" as the book title implies, but which are often "inspired by". In those poems which speak from a consistent viewpoint, in which the mix of Judaism, Zen and science does not clash, there are excellent poems - the quality and sensativity one associates with Mitchell. Otherwise, this is one of his weaker efforts. It may be read as poetry but does not serve as a way into the psalms.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Walter G. Fitzsimons on December 2, 2005
Format: Paperback
Year after year, people have come to the Psalms in their spiritual quests. Here, the author adds one more layer of experience and tradition to the unnumbered people who have added their own input to the historic tradition. For people looking for a fusion with eastern thought, this could be helpful. Also, there is a rich variety of resources on the psalms interconnecting with tradition and experience, particularly those written or editted by Stephen Breck Reid
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Chris K.M. on February 12, 2013
Format: Paperback
There are some interesting and strange interpretations and digressions here (bodhisattva?--that's just weird in a book of Psalms). If you want tradition, definitely go with another translation. I found some bits off-putting (I wish he hadn't at times "disregarded the letter [of the original] entirely" in order to "follow the spirit" (his words in the foreword) because why use the Psalms at all if you just want to write your own thing? But if you don't mind a very free translation, approach the Mitchell version with an open mind and you'll find much beauty here.

Be aware that the paper in the paperback edition is very poor, almost like newsprint. In my copy, the pages in the last third or so are wavy, as if they've been wet, but I don't think they have been (bought this directly from Amazon, not from another seller), I think the paper is just very cheap. If you want to keep the book for many years you may want to invest in the hardback.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By S. Taylor on May 26, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
First of all, do NOT let this be your only translation of the Book of Psalms. It is a selection, and the translations are often VERY free. Get yourself a good, mainstream translation. (I like the NRSV.) Having issued my caveat, this is, in my opinion, an illuminating and sometimes spiritually profound interpretation. Mitchell is ecumenical, even syncretic, so he often introduces concepts from other religious traditions. For me, this sometimes enriches and deepens the text; sometimes, I find it jarring. Overall, a worthwhile and spiritually moving collection.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By George Macdonald on November 22, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This well done and interesting -- but it just doesn't seem quite up to the usual Stephan Mitchell standards. Plus, he states up front that his translation was done quite freely. While this is typical of Stephan Mitchell, he normally tries to stick closely to the essence if not the literal meaning of the subject. I am not sure that he did either here.
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