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Reflections on the Psalms

3.92  ·  Rating Details ·  2,936 Ratings  ·  279 Reviews
Lewis writes here about the difficulties he has met or the joys he has gained in reading the Psalms. He points out that the Psalms are poems, intended to be sung, not doctrinal treatises or sermons. Proceeding with his characteristic grace, he guides readers through both the form and the meaning of these beloved passages in the Bible.
Paperback, 138 pages
Published October 7th 1964 by Harvest/HBJ Books (first published 1958)
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Douglas Wilson
Feb 23, 2009 Douglas Wilson rated it really liked it
Shelves: commentary
Glorious, but awful in parts. Finished it again in 2016, and it is still the same. Lewis has an uncanny ability to edify me and appall me simultaneously.
John
Sep 20, 2007 John rated it it was amazing
Some of my favorite things about this wonderful little book by my favorite author:

1. Right away, he takes on the difficult, hard-to-stomach psalms, the ones about such things as dashing the Babylonian babies against the stones. Hard stuff. I'm sure I would have avoided it.

2. This quote:
"But of course these conjectures as to why God does what He does are probably of no more value than my dog's ideas of what I am up to when I sit and read."

3. And this quote:
"What we see when we think we are looki
...more
Matthew
Oct 23, 2008 Matthew rated it it was amazing
Lewis is often unfairly placed at the helm of Christian apologetics. In fact, if you hear two intelligent people debating the merits of Christianity, it will probably be only a matter of seconds before one of them is refrencing Lewis. Lewis apologetic works (Mere Christianity, Miracles) are attempts to rationalize his beliefs to himself and to any who will listen - they are not the authority on Christian theology and scholarship that they are made out to be (Lewis usually outlines his shortcomin ...more
David Sarkies
Feb 15, 2014 David Sarkies rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Christians
Recommended to David by: My Dad
Shelves: christian
An English Professor's Thoughts on the Psalms
20 February 2014

I would have to say that the thing that I appreciated the most about this book was that Lewis opened it by saying that he was not writing this book as a theologian, since by his own admission he is not a theologian, but rather that he is writing this book as a normal person, and even in saying that he is suggesting that he is not the colossus of English literature that he actually is. The second point is that in writing he actually wr
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Julie Davis
Mar 19, 2014 Julie Davis rated it it was amazing
5% Done UPDATE
I'm 5% done with Reflections on the Psalms: I never ever stopped to think before about the difference between judges in Old Testament times versus judges in our very modern times. We expect impartiality, no graft, and so forth. Our system is so different from the OT Jewish system that it is no wonder we need mental adjustment before comprehending why their view of God's judgment is so much more joyous than our own. Completely different POV. Fascinating.

25% Done UPDATE
I found myself
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Joseph R.
Dec 27, 2011 Joseph R. rated it it was amazing
This book has a refreshing honesty and candor. Lewis immediately states that this writing is not scholarly, definitive, or all-encompassing. He writes as one simple Christian to another, seeking a better understanding by pondering problems he has discovered and sharing insights he has gained while reading the Psalms.

Lewis writes about a variety of topics in the Psalms that strike him as significant. First, he notes the difference in the Psalms's presentation of divine judgment and the Christian'
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Amanda G. Stevens
Feb 22, 2017 Amanda G. Stevens rated it really liked it
The thing I love most about this little book is the speculative nature of it, which Lewis owns from the first sentence: "This is not a work of scholarship." He's conjecturing based on his knowledge of ancient cultures and the context of the whole Bible. I'm not sure about some of his conclusions, but he isn't either. He asks questions such as, did the inspired writers always know what they penned was inspired? Do the psalmists ever sin with their words (cursing their enemies, etc) and if so, wha ...more
David
Jun 25, 2012 David rated it it was amazing
Lewis finds a niche for himself in these essays on the Psalms. He is no Biblical expert, he says, but the commentaries of Biblical scholars often fail to consider the questions of the average reader of the Psalms, questions that Lewis himself has. So Lewis writes his own thoughts in hopes of "comparing notes" with other students like himself. Of course, as one goodreads reviewer has already pointed out, there are hardly other students like the brilliant Lewis.

How can someone who is a sinner hims
...more
Kris
Full of great insights, of course, but nothing hit me as being particularly awe-inspiring. I should stop reading Lewis books as audiobooks, I don't get as much out of them. One day I'll need to go back and review this.
Filip
Nov 28, 2007 Filip rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: the-dusty-shelf
Paradigm shift is a word I despise mostly because of its misuse in modern language. Though, that is exactly what happened to me with Psalms after I read the book. I finally saw them in their raw beauty. The anger, the rage, the love, it's all unmasked, not altered. Jewish poets were really something I must admit, and while reading the book it made me want to read the psalms more than the book. That's why I gave it 5 stars. This book actually encourages you to cope with the hard language and the ...more
Desclian
Jul 03, 2009 Desclian rated it it was amazing
Shelves: c-s-lewis
A very good approach, I think. Understanding the problems, world, and issues of the writers of the Psalms is key to understanding a lot of the troublesome parts of the Book (and any book, really, is better understood by knowing the context in which it was written). Lewis' comments on allegory and prefiguration were also welcome, as modern critical theory seems to deny the ability of seeing things on multiple levels at once. More is required to have a full understanding the work (I'm sure Lewis w ...more
Jeri Massi
Apr 29, 2013 Jeri Massi rated it liked it
This book presents Lewis about as far as he gets from the Fundamentalist interpretation of the Scripture. Lewis treats the Psalms much as he would treat any ancient text: with great respect but without any sense that they are more than an ancient text of the writings and songs of devout people who worship God but worship Him in a certain amount of ignorance.

First of all, for readers coming out of Fundamentalism, this is still a great book, because Lewis definitely knows the Psalms that he is dis
...more
Joshua
Oct 28, 2012 Joshua rated it really liked it
Shelves: christian
Much good in here, but some things that might, for instance, cause Jeeves to raise an eyebrow. The first chapters cause the most furrowing of the brow - Lewis' understanding of how Scripture came to be emphasizes too much the role of man in writing (and thus human error and caprice) and too little of the Holy Spirit's guidance (incidently, I think Reformed Christians sometimes make the opposite error - emphasizing the Holy Spirit to the exclusion of any human medium). I think Lewis always did be ...more
Heather
Jan 24, 2011 Heather rated it did not like it
Lewis the higher critic? Dare I say the heretic?? I kept hoping I would find one chapter in this book to embrace, but the entire volume turned out to be reflections of a C. S. Lewis I had not anticipated.

To his credit, Lewis introduces the book by stating that he is no scholar, no Hebraist, (he also says no higher critic, but that I take as a technicality since he certainly employs higher-critical reasoning throughout), but rather one unlearned writing for the unlearned. Of course the fact is t
...more
Justin
Oct 05, 2013 Justin rated it liked it
Some chapters were really good most were just average.

The two chapters to be sure and read are:

"Nature"
"A Word about Praising"

This quote is worth the price of the book, however:

"I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise unless (sometimes even if) shyness or the fear of boring others is deliberately brought in to check it. The world rings with praise--lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, player praising
...more
David Washington
Oct 28, 2016 David Washington rated it it was ok
In my quest of reading in historical/generational jaunts, I moved from the 21st century (The Case for the Real Jesus) to the mid-twentieth century with C.S. Lewis's Reflections On the Psalms. I've read Lewis's works of fiction and nonfiction which include Mere Christianity , The Pilgrim's Regress , and all of the Narnia Chronicles , so I'm familiar with his writing style.

I must say at the outset that this book is one of my least favorite books by Lewis. He is not in any way a theologian even
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Matthew Richey
Jun 18, 2017 Matthew Richey rated it really liked it
C. S. Lewis wrote about 60 years ago but I still feel as if he is an extremely important and relevant conversation partner for evangelicals. My annoyance is that I don't think evangelicals really read him except to confirm what they already believe. C. S. Lewis was not really an evangelical in the sense that most today use the term; certainly not a fundamentalist. That being said, I think he anticipates some of the fault lines (then future) and that we'd do well to listen to him on those areas t ...more
John Martindale
Jan 29, 2011 John Martindale rated it it was amazing
I got little out of this work of Lewis the first time I read it several years ago, in fact it was my least favorite work of Lewis. I decided I ought to revisit the book now that I've matured a bit and I am glad I did. I appreciated Lewis' reflections on the Psalms, but most of all, in this short work, I was able to get a better glimpse of Lewis' approach to scripture and how he understands it to be the "Word of God".

When I originally read this, the good evangelical that I was, I wouldn't have b
...more
Brian
Nov 05, 2011 Brian rated it liked it
Shelves: c-s-lewis
C.S. Lewis was no Evangelical and it is for that we like him, even at his worst. Somehow, paradoxically Lewis can get me to like things I don't normally go for. Here I got a lot of questions I want to work through because of the issues he raises:

* "Judgment in the Psalms." I'm afraid this really knocked down total depravity as we often frame it. The Psalmist says, quite frankly, that "give sentence with me, O Lord, according to my righteousness and according to the innocency that is in me" (7:8)
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William Hemsworth
May 23, 2017 William Hemsworth rated it really liked it
Clive Staples Lewis is one of the most popular Christian writers of the twentieth century. He is better known as C.S. Lewis and is the author of such works as Mere Christianity, Screwtape Letters, and the Narnia series. In Reflections on the Psalms Lewis takes a look at this great book of scripture, and strives to help the unlearned discover the meaning of the book.
This can be seen in the opening paragraph of the introduction. In it Lewis writes, “This is not a work of scholarship. I am no Hebr
...more
MC
Feb 01, 2014 MC rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When one begins reading the book Reflections on the Psalms, by CS Lewis, one reads the author's initial disclaimer that the book is not a serious work of theology. Lewis notes that it is his rambling ideas and personal “reflections” that he explored in his own private devotions. This is an important caution he gave his readers, as he knew that some may take his words for the best interpretation, and he feared that often this would be a spiritual error for them.

That said, he did have some experti
...more
Rebekah Choat
Jan 26, 2011 Rebekah Choat rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned, inklings
Synopsis:
Lewis opens the introductory chapter of this book with the statement that it is not a work of scholarship; but simply "the thoughts…to which I found myself driven in reading the Psalms." He then gives a brief history and analysis of the Psalms, the main point of which is that they are poems and must be read as such in order to be understood, followed by an explanation of the primary poetic characteristic of the Psalms – parallelism.
The next eight chapters address recurrent ideas or phra
...more
Zack Mollhagen
Mar 06, 2011 Zack Mollhagen rated it liked it
Let me start off by saying how much I absolutely love C.S. Lewis. He is arguably my favorite author of all time. However, this may be my least favorite “book” of his. I use the term book loosely because of how much it reads like an essay. I think that is perhaps why it is my least favorite of his works. It definitely has a treasury of valuable information like all of Lewis’ works. It offers perspectives and explanations on multiple aspects found within the psalms, which is fitting since they are ...more
Ty Melgren
Mar 10, 2012 Ty Melgren rated it liked it
I read Psalms and Proverbs and Isaiah a lot because they're strange and good. So when Garon read some paragraphs from this in his sermon a few years ago I found this book and read it. The parts Garon read were the best parts. Also the bizarre final sentences: We are so little reconciled to time that we are even astonished at it. "How he's grown!" we exclaim, "How time flies!" as though the universal form of our experience were again and again a novelty. It is as strange as if a fish were repeate ...more
Seth Holler
Jan 05, 2013 Seth Holler rated it really liked it
Above all, this book takes an honest look at some hard questions. Some Christians doubtless call it blasphemy rather than honesty. My childhood pastor, from whom I learned so much, and who almost always championed CSL, didn't care for this book. He probably thought it irreverent, particularly the first three and final three chapters.

Honesty notwithstanding, REFLECTIONS is not my favorite of Lewis's books. Odd thing: my favorite CSL books were published in the late 1930s and early 1940s. THE DISC
...more
Elizabeth
Lots of good stuff in here. My favorite quote: "But of course these conjectures as to why God does what He does are probably of no more value than my dog's ideas of what I am up to when I sit and read."

And another: "I cannot be the only reader who has wondered why God, having given [St. Paul] so many gifts, withheld from him (what would to us seem so necessary for the first Christian theologian) that of lucidity and orderly exposition." Yes!

One more: "The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise
...more
Lindsey
Feb 20, 2013 Lindsey rated it liked it
I'm torn between 2 and 3 stars . . . this is totally not what I expected from Lewis. There are parts that are beautifully said as only Lewis can say, lovely observations about the quality of the Psalms that someone with a history in literature makes the best.

And then there are parts that are weird and totally unexpected . . . like his apparent separation of "Jewish" from "Christian" throughout the book, as though they were completely separate "religions," not something I would expect from someo
...more
Patrick Chester
Mar 09, 2016 Patrick Chester rated it really liked it
C.S Lewis in his typical analytical fashion dives into his personal insights when reading the psalms. He does not consider his thoughts authoritative, but rather likens it to students "sharing notes". His notes do not fail to engage. Tackling subjects from the most accepted to the most troubling, C.S. Lewis presents logical explanations and theories about the psalms, including why God should be praised, the apparent self-righteousness of the psalmists, blessings, curses, and deriving second mean ...more
Robert
Aug 16, 2009 Robert rated it it was amazing
Lewis introduces the book by saying he is not presenting himself as a teacher of the Psalms, but as a novice student sharing his thoughts with fellow novice students. Thus, the things that trouble him about the Psalms may trouble other novices, whereas the experts have long since moved past them and perceive far different things that warrant our attention. This proved quite true in my case where many of the things that trouble Lewis, also trouble me. I found his reflections helpful and insightfu ...more
Daniel Wright
Nov 14, 2012 Daniel Wright rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion, bible, psalms
The word 'reflections' in the title of this book is entirely appropriate; it is not the studies of a scholar but the devotions of a layman. Lewis nevertheless continues to display his customary wisdom and perception in dealing with all the difficulties and distractions in the text he knows practically off-by-heart, while also considering the phenomenon of 'accidental prophecy' both in the psalms and in some pagan texts with which he is familiar. The result is at once comforting, intriguing and c ...more
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Madison Mega-Mara...: ##21 - Reflections on the Psalms 1 1 Feb 27, 2015 06:53PM  
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CLIVE STAPLES LEWIS (1898–1963) was one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century and arguably one of the most influential writers of his day. He was a Fellow and Tutor in English Literature at Oxford University until 1954. He was unanimously elected to the Chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature
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“I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed. It is frustrating to have discovered a new author and not to be able to tell anyone how good he is; to come suddenly, at the turn of the road, upon some mountain valley of unexpected grandeur and then to have to keep silent because the people with you care for it no more than for a tin can in the ditch; to hear a good joke and find no one to share it with. . . . The Scotch catechism says that man’s chief end is ‘to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.’ But we shall then know that these are the same thing. Fully to enjoy is to glorify. In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.” 48 likes
“Lead us not into temptation' often means, among other things, 'Deny me those gratifying invitations, those highly interesting contacts, that participation in the brilliant movements of our age, which I so often, at such risk, desire.'
Reflections on the Psalms, ch 7
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