Jewish and Christian Approaches to Suffering in the Reception of Psalm 137


his paper illustrates how Psalm 137 is used to address the question of suffering by Jews and Christians during various crises of faith. In Jewish tradition, the psalm has a “meta-narrative” which meant reading it as a story set in poetry, speaking to the people as a whole not only emotionally but also materially. Only in later Christian reception does the engagement with this psalm become more obviously physical; Christians tend to avoid seeing the psalm as a meta-narrative and instead select single verses or phrases from it in order to teach spiritual lessons, often through the use of “allegory”, where different words are used to speak to more individual concerns. A selective survey of Jewish and Christian approaches to suffering in the reception of Psalm 137 suggests that the Christian reception of Psalm 137 in times of suffering is distinct from the Jewish one. Whereas early Jewish readings had a more corporate and physical emphasis, as crisis after crisis threatened the identity of the Jews as a people, early Christian readings are more personal and spiritualised, heightened through the use of allegory.


Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:

  1. Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
  2. Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
  3. Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).