Psalms, Hymns vs Spiritual Songs – Difference and Comparison

What are Psalms?

Psalms are broader terms for Hymns and spiritual songs. They are a collection of hymns used to worship god. Psalms can be in collection state or individual. Often multiple psalms are composed into a singular set.  

Psalms are an important part of Christianity. Psalms are chanted in churches using psalm tones. The common themes of most psalms revolve around praising God, his beneficiaries, and his power.  

The origin of Psalm exists in the 5 century BC. The majority of which are said to be originated in the southern kingdom of Judah as part of temple worship. The book of Psalms is linked to the name of David, but modern scholarship rejects his authorship, instead of placing the composition of the psalms to various authors writing between the 9th and 5th centuries BC.

The psalms are considered an integral part of Christianity and Jewish culture but mentions are also witnessed in Islam. The psalms are also referred to as the communal and traditional methods of expressing spirituality.

Examples of Psalms include

  1. The lord is My Shepherd
  2. Have mercy on me O God
  3. By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, the Eastern Orthodox. Church uses this type of Psalm during the lament or sad occasion

What are Hymns?

The word hymn originates from the Greek word ‘Hymnos’ which means song of praise. The writer of the hymn is known as a hymnist and compositing is called hymnody. The hymn books collecting hymns are called hymnals.

Hymns are written as a prayer to adore gods or any specific deity The hymns are used for the personification of major figures. Hymns are common in Christianity but they are omnipresent in different religions. Marking existence in Greek, Egyptian, and Indian Vedic cultures. ‘Great Hymn to the Aten’, ‘The Hurrican Hymn to Nikkal’ and ‘Rigved’ are certain examples of hymns lasting from ages.

The Christians use Hymn sometimes a synonym to Psalm. But it is considered a subpart of Psalm. The Christian hymn praises mostly Jesus Christ. The Catholic hymn is done on special religious days or occasions like Christmas. The hymns are also medium for the encouragement of Christianity.

The hymns are more like words with interchangeable melodies. Unlike Psalms, they are never instrumental.

Examples of various types of Hymns

  1. Te Deum in Christianity
  2. Shiva Stuti in the Hindu religion
  3. Bhaktamara Stotra in Jainism 
  4. Guru Granth Sahib Ji in Sikh

What are Spiritual Songs?

The spiritual songs also known as devotional songs are Chants done to praise god. The songs carry music and poetic words adorning the deities. The spiritual songs are part of various cultures existing as traditions. Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Buddhism all religions have their holy songs sung for ages.

The spiritual songs have devotional lyrics carried along with inspiring and captivating music in the background. They are considered sacred and a medium to connect with god. Spiritual songs can encompass songs of different religions, which is why they are universal.

In Eastern culture, spiritual songs are also termed communication music. These songs are also considered as part of meditation. Spiritual songs consist of a particular way of rhyming. The rhymes are said to provide a mystical experience. Spiritual music has different forms in traditions like Hinduism kirtan, aarti and bhajan are a few observed.   

Examples of various types of Spiritual Songs

  1. Bhajan is a Hindu or Sikh devotional.
  2. Borgeet- Assamese devotional.
  3. Qawwali is the devotional music of the Sufis, a mystical tradition of Islam.
  4. Guna type of Bajan
  5. Dapha type music
  6.  Sufi type of music

Difference Between Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs

  1. Psalms mean a collection of verses dedicated to the almighty whereas Hymns are a subpart of Psalms for preaching. While Spirituals songs are a musical channel for adoring God.
  2. Psalms have a Biblical form of Origin. Hymns have an Egyptian form of Origin whereas Spiritual Songs have an African-American form of origin.
  3. Psalms can be royal or lament in nature. Hymns are usual sonnet types of poems or Haiku whereas Spiritual songs are plantation or work-related songs.
  4. Psalms have a completely devotional characteristic. Whereas Hymns are emotive while Spiritual songs carry mostly religious characteristics.
  5. Psalms translate into instruments. Hymns translate into song with praise to god while Spiritual song translates into Sacred song.

Comparison Between Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs

Parameters of ComparisionPsalmsHymns Spiritual Songs
DefinitionGroup of Biblical versesA poem in the praise of GodRhythmic and inspiring musical verses
OriginBiblical Greek African-American
TypesSad and Royal types of PsalmsSonnet Poem and HaikuPlantation songs, the Folk related song
CompositionCan be sung without an instrumentCan be chanted without instrumentsRequire a musical Instrument
Characteristic In praise of AlmightyEmotive kinds of chantingMostly religious