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Reflections on the Psalms

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  5,284 ratings  ·  569 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, 151 pages
Published October 7th 1964 by Harvest/HBJ Books (first published 1958)
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Douglas Wilson
Feb 23, 2009 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.
Oct 23, 2008 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
Sep 20, 2007 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
Mar 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, c-s-lewis, faith
C.S. Lewis begins this work by comparing it to two school boys studying together because they understand the same sort of questions that have long since ceased to puzzle--and in fact, become incomprehensible to--their schoolmaster.
The analogy works beautifully for this book.
I particularly enjoyed his analysis of how the Christian should approach portions of the Psalms where the psalmist proclaims his innocence and demands retribution. It seems to counter the very tenants of Christianity in som
Cindy Rollins
Mar 08, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2020
Not my favorite Lewis book. I am on a quest to read everything he wrote and this has been on my shelf for many years. My son read it years ago as a young teen and did not like it at all. Now I understand why. It still has all the lovely Lewis conversations but some of his reasoning on the Psalms seem to take away the mystery, if that were possible. The Psalms are my favorite book of the Bible and though Lewis is my favorite author his thoughts here did not make me love the Psalms more or less.
David Sarkies
Feb 15, 2014 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
Julie Davis
Mar 19, 2014 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
Aug 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation...”

“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.”

Reflections on the Psalms was unlike any other C.S. Lewis book I’ve read - mostly because he rarely writes d
Jan 24, 2011 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
May 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
I love being in the mind of the great C.S. Lewis!
Miss Clark
Sep 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Those seeking to better understand and appreciate the Psalms
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Alan Carrillo
Feb 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2021
I read this for the first time and it won’t be the last. I grew up learning to read the Bible, but I can’t say I really learned how to read it properly. In this lovely work, C.S. Lewis shares his perspective on how the Bible should be read and understood. Although he does so through the lens of the Psalms (as poetry, which of course is one of Lewis’ expertises), the principles he shares can be applied elsewhere in the Bible. I’ll be thinking through and revisiting this work often.
Jeff Miller
Apr 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
First time I have read this. Lots to reflect upon here and many good insights. This will be re-read at a future date.
David Bradley
"It is surely, therefore, very possible that when God began to reveal himself to men, to show that He and nothing else is their true goal and the satisfaction of their needs, and that He has a claim upon them simply by being what he is, quite apart from anything that he can bestow or deny, it may have been absolutely necessary that this revelation should not begin with any hint of future Beatitude or Perdition."
Despite his disclaimer that he is a mere "amateur" when it comes to interpreting the
Joseph R.
Dec 27, 2011 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'
G.M. Burrow
Apr 17, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: theology
Fantastic book with some truly dreadful moments. This is the only time I’ve known Lewis’s insight and logic to fail him so hard. His thoughts on the imprecatory psalms are hilariously (and uncharacteristically) bad. But that doesn’t perturb me. Jack loved disagreeing with his friends as much as he loved agreeing with them, so just cheerfully disagree with his gosh-awful exegesis in your mind, and be grateful for the rest.
Jun 25, 2012 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
Oct 05, 2013 rated it liked it
Some chapters were really good most were just average.

The two chapters to be sure and read are:

"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
Amanda G. Stevens
Feb 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Ray LaManna
Mar 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: old-testament
This is not an exegesis of the's instead a spiritual reflection by a world-renowned author. While his writing is a bit stilted, his reflections made me think deeply about the psalms. ...more
Overall, Reflections on the Psalms isn't my favorite Lewis, though the chapter called "A Word about Praising" is one of the best things I've read from him. Here, Lewis counters "the miserable idea that God should in any sense need, or crave for, our worship" with these wonderful reflections:

"The most obvious fact about praise—whether of God or anything—strangely escaped me. I thought of it in terms of compliment, approval, or the giving of honour. I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneo
Sep 28, 2016 rated it liked it
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. ...more
Nov 28, 2007 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
Jul 03, 2009 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
David Washington
Oct 28, 2016 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
Ryan Hawkins
Jul 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful masterpiece. I don’t say that lightly. This was my second time reading this book, and this time his insights struck me over and over and over. Basically every chapter had one of those “Wow, that’s brilliant” moments. Previously, I put this equal to books like *The Four Loves* (which I also just read for the second time). But this is far superior. Of course, being Lewis, I do not commend all his theological points. But those few disagreements are swallowed up by dozens upon dozens of ...more
Graham Reynolds
Jul 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
A good book reflecting on the writing style of the psalms and helpful in that Lewis wrestles with literature I found troublesome to extract meaning from. What I like most is that he is more so modeling how to read and wrestle with psalms as opposed to explaining what they mean.
Mar 29, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2021
Whew what a whipsaw. One moment Lewis is stunning you with a breathtaking insight, the next he's presenting an appalling interpretation of Scripture. Despite the disagreements I have with some of his views—and they're ardent—his total candor is what makes his writing so winsome. There's no pretense. He speaks plainly and honestly of the Psalms as he sees them, for better or worse. And the better is really something—the chapters on worship ('Fair Beauty of the Lord'), praise ('A Word About Praisi ...more
Crisan Paul
May 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
His thoughts on Psalms and the Bible, as literature are eyes opening!!

I gave only 3.5 stars because I found the romanian translation hard to follow sometimes.
Davis Smith
Feb 14, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: theology
Lewis’s nonfiction writing is always warm and engaging, but I still can’t get past the feeling that he’s doing “popular” rather than “real” theology. The last chapter was by far my favorite, while the rest are an intriguing mix of unorthodoxy, eccentricity, and imagination.
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Clive Staples Lewis 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 at Cambridge

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47 likes · 10 comments
“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.” 91 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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