The Human Truth Foundation

The Book of Psalms, Number 14

By Vexen Crabtree 2013

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1. Book Summary

Psalms is a collection of 150 poems1 and songs, each with their own individual authors. The word psalms means a "song accompanied by string plucking"2. Hence, a hymnbook. Much of Psalms was written between 1050-600 BCE and after the Babylonian period3, with minor edits continuing into the 2nd century CE. Multiple collections of Hebrew songs had been made for various purposes, and the Book of Psalms is a compilation of 5 of those collections. 73 Psalms are attributed to King David1 although modern scholars (and many theologians) know that most of them were not written by him2, and perhaps, none of them were. But this attribution was popular in ancient times, and multiple New Testament verses also say (wrongly) that some Psalms were 'by David'. The psalms use lots of symbolism (much of which is now obscure) and are very open to subjective interpretation. Because of the varied authorship and vague text, it is not appropriate to use Psalms in doctrinal arguments.

2. Chapter Summary

BibleSummary.Info: The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." There is no one who does good. Will evildoers never learn? God is with the righteous.4

Vexen Crabtree: Atheists are fools. No-one seeks God. All are godless. A small and self-contradictory psalm.

Psalm 14 is a moody and negative diatribe against all of humankind, the 14 verses of Psalm 14 are emotional and depressed, but, even though this is just a tiny poem, it makes little logical or rational sense and manages to contradict itself just a few verses in. It is best not to refer to Psalm 14, except perhaps when you prefer an emotional outburst, to a logical, theological or philosophically accurate statement. No valid beliefs can be supported by Psalm 14.

3. Psalms chapter 14 has 7 verses


Psalms 14:1 - Atheists are Fools

KJVYLTNotes
1The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.To the Overseer. -- By David. A fool hath said in his heart, `God is not;' They have done corruptly, They have done abominable actions, There is not a doer of good. Psalms 14:1 has frequently been used by Christians to excuse discrimination and prejudice against atheists. But, such bigots normally only quote the first verse. It is merely part of a negative and misanthropic diatribe which tarnishes everyone as worthless.

Note: The NIV notes that the Hebrew words rendered "fool" in Psalms denotes one who is morally deficient.

Psalms 14:2-3 - None Seek God, All are Godless

KJVYLTNotes
2The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God.Jehovah from the heavens Hath looked on the sons of men, To see if there is a wise one -- seeking God.

This is a bitter condemnation of everyone. That verse 1 mentioned atheists is largely irrelevant, and mitigated its context. If you accept the first verse as being universal, then, you must accept the second verse, that there are no godly people. This means that even the one quoting the verses is wicked, is not seeking God, and is corrupt. So why listen to such a person? If instead you argue that verses 2 and 3 are talking of a historical time when people forgot God, then, verse 1 is of course part of that same context. If we are no longer in that time, then, it is no longer true that all people are godless, and no longer true that all atheists are bad too. With this in mind, it is hard to see what relevance or applicability the first 3 verses could ever have.

3They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.The whole have turned aside, Together they have been filthy: There is not a doer of good, not even one.

Psalms 14:4-7 - Contradictions

KJVYLTNotes
4Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? who eat up my people as they eat bread, and call not upon the LORD.Have all working iniquity not known? Those consuming my people have eaten bread, Jehovah they have not called.

After Psalm 14:2-3 says that there are no people who seek god, that everyone is corrupt, and that everyone has turned away, verse 4 mentions that the evildoers are devouring God's people as though eating bread. This means that there are God's people after all, and, God is present in their company (v5). So, if verses 1-3 are correct then there are no people seeking god, and there cannot be evildoers devouring god's people. Or, if verses 4-5 are correct then verses 1-3 are wrong.

5There were they in great fear: for God is in the generation of the righteous.There they have feared a fear, For God `is' in the generation of the righteous.
6Ye have shamed the counsel of the poor, because the LORD is his refuge.The counsel of the poor ye cause to stink, Because Jehovah `is' his refuge.
7Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! when the LORD bringeth back the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad.`Who doth give from Zion the salvation of Israel? When Jehovah doth turn back `To' a captivity of His people, Jacob doth rejoice -- Israel is glad!

You would do well to ignore Psalm 14 as an emotional outburst by an unknown song-writer, and put it into the same basket as you put the latest EMO, goth or counter-cultural lyrics of a song, and certainly, do not use them to inform your opinions and beliefs about the world.

Links:

Current edition: 2013 Jan 23
http://www.holybooks.info/psalm_14.html
Parent page: Tehillim (Book of Truth) / Psalms

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References: (What's this?)

The Bible (NIV). The NIV is the best translation for accuracy whilst maintaining readability. Multiple authors, a compendium of multiple previously published books. I prefer to take quotes from the NIV but where I quote the Bible en masse I must quote from the KJV because it is not copyrighted, whilst the NIV is. Book Review.

Breuilly, O'Brien & Palmer
(1997) Religions of the World. Hardback book. Subtitled: "The Illustrated Guide to Origins, Beliefs, Traditions, & Festivals". Published by Lionheart Books. By Elizabeth Breuilly, Joanne O'Brien & Martin Palmer. Published for Transedition Limited and Fernleigh Books.

Eliade, Mircea
(1987, Ed.) The Encyclopedia of Religion. Hardback book. Published by Macmillan Publishing Company, New York, USA. 16 huge volumes. Eliade is editor-in-chief. Entries are alphabetical, so, no page numbers are given in references, just article titles.

Roberts, Jenny
(1997) Bible Facts. Hardback book. Originally published 1990. Current version published by Grange Books, London.

Footnotes

  1. Breuilly, O'Brien & Palmer (1997) chapter 1 "Judaism" p28.^
  2. Eliade (1987) Volume 12 entry "Psalms".^
  3. Roberts (1997) p41-42.^
  4. www.biblesummary.info was host to a daily Twitter tweet from its author, each of which summarizes a chapter from the Bible. Accessed 2014 Feb.^

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