Do the Westminster Stds teach Exclusive Psalmody?

Status
Not open for further replies.

JohnV

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Yes, I understand. But is it your position to say that the Directory is not advocating the EP position?

Could you please entertain some more of my previous post? Those were sincere questions?

Thanks
By all means, Chris. Can you hold on though? Its supper time, and I don't have time right now to compose a longer post. I am very grateful for the way you posed the question, and I do want to address it more fully. It will take a bit of time, and I hope you have the patience to wait. I'll give it a go.
 

Civbert

Puritan Board Junior
If the apostle is telling them to sing *something*, obviously in the minds of the readers that *something* must already exist, else they would not be able to identify what the apostle is speaking about. Let's not raise silly objections for the mere sake of arguing. It is quite obvious that he tells them to *sing*, not to *compose*.
I'm afraid he's got you there. There is no logical exclusion of future hymns. This would be like saying Paul is only speaking about past sins being forgiven.

Eph 5:19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord,

Maybe we are only to speak to each other with words used exclusively in the Bible. How many words does the Bible contain? Trinity is not a valid word since it's not in the Bible. Do we know the old melodies. We can't use future ones.
 

CDM

Puritan Board Junior
Uninspired Music = music that is not inspired. Are hymns inspired? No. Therefore uninspired music is the clearest, most concise way to describe hymns.

Is this perjorative? No. Has the term "unispired" been used in a perjorative sense, maybe so.

I'd like to hear a better term to describe songs that are not inspired by God. If we can find one I'll use it so as not to offend brothers.



The citation in question is in Ch. 21 para. 5:

V. The reading of the Scriptures with godly fear,[17] the sound preaching[18] and conscionable hearing of the Word, in obedience unto God, with understanding, faith and reverence,[19] singing of psalms with grace in the heart;[20] as also, the due administration and worthy receiving of the sacraments instituted by Christ, are all parts of the ordinary religious worship of God:[21] beside religious oaths,[22] vows,[23] solemn fastings,[24] and thanksgivings upon special occasions,[25] which are, in their several times and seasons, to be used in an holy and religious manner.[26]​

Here are the footnotes:

[17] ACT 15:21 For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day. REV 1:3 Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.

[18] 2TI 4:2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.

[19] JAM 1:22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. ACT 10:33 Immediately therefore I sent to thee; and thou hast well done that thou art come. Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God. MAT 13:19 When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. HEB 4:2 For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. ISA 66:2 For all those things hath mine hand made, and those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.

[20] COL 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. EPH 5:19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord. JAM 5:13 Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.

[21] MAT 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 1CO 11:23 For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: 24 And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. 25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. 26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come. 27 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. ACT 2:42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

[22] DEU 6:13 Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name. NEH 10:29 They clave to their brethren, their nobles, and entered into a curse, and into an oath, to walk in God's law, which was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the Lord our Lord, and his judgments and his statutes.

[23] ISA 19:21 And the Lord shall be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians shall know the Lord in that day, and shall do sacrifice and oblation; yea, they shall vow a vow unto the Lord, and perform it. ECC 5:4 When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. 5 Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.

[24] JOE 2:12 Therefore also now, saith the Lord, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning. EST 4:16 Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish. MAT 9:15 And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast. 1CO 7:5 Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.

[25] (PSA 107 throughout) EST 9:22 As the days wherein the Jews rested from their enemies, and the month which was turned unto them from sorrow to joy, and from mourning into a good day: that they should make them days of feasting and joy, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor.

[26] HEB 12:28 Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.

You'll note in the scripture proof, footnote 20, "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, but in the actual confession it has only "psalms".

Does this strike anyone here as a bit odd? What on earth could this mean? To my mind there are a few logical possibilities:
1) The Divines forgot to add the "hymns, and spiritual songs" part of the scripture to the confession
2) They only have "psalms" listed in the Confession because they recognize in the footnotes that "psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs" meant the Psalms of the Bible.

If there are other possibilities please list them so I may contemplate them.

The very fact they used these scriptures as prooftexts is very compelling to me.

My question: Why did they deliberately leave off "hymns and spiritual songs" in the confession? is this not exactly how a modern day EPer reasons, argues, and writes? See, again, Brian Schwertley's article.

I agree it shouldn't "take a book" to explain Psalmody but there are many gainsayers aren't there?

In The Directory for The Publick Worship of God we find:

Of Singing of Psalms.

IT is the duty of Christians to praise God publickly, by singing of psalms together in the congregation, and also privately in the family.

In singing of psalms, the voice is to be tunably and gravely ordered; but the chief care must be to sing with understanding, and with grace in the heart, making melody unto the Lord.

That the whole congregation may join herein, every one that can read is to have a psalm book; and all others, not disabled by age or otherwise, are to be exhorted to learn to read. But for the present, where many in the congregation cannot read, it is convenient that the minister, or some other fit person appointed by him and the other ruling officers, do read the psalm, line by line, before the singing thereof.​

What is meant by "psalms" and "to sing with understanding" and read the psalm line by line"? It appears the authors desire is for the people to understand the Psalms of David they are singing.

Serious question: are the non-Epers also claiming the Directory of Public Worship of God is also referring to uninspired music like the WCF?

This particular debate (does the WCF teach EP) is new to me. I have always assumed that everyone knew the WCF was referring to the Psalms in the Bible. I just figured people took exception to it.
Just in case my post was overlooked, I'll post again.

Can someone please engage with my question here:

Why did they deliberately leave off "hymns and spiritual songs" in the confession? is this not exactly how a modern day EPer reasons, argues, and writes?​

And,

You'll note in the scripture proof, footnote 20, "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, but in the actual confession it has only "psalms".

Does this strike anyone here as a bit odd? What on earth could this mean? To my mind there are a few logical possibilities:
1) The Divines forgot to add the "hymns, and spiritual songs" part of the scripture to the confession
2) They only have "psalms" listed in the Confession because they recognize in the footnotes that "psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs" meant the Psalms of the Bible.​

How about this: The Divines were not united in excluding songs other than the Psalms of David, so purposely left the door open to other hymns.

We have precedents for this position in the supra vs. infra debate. The WCF seems infra, but they clearly did not make infra mandatory.
Anthony, could you please elobarate on this, brother. Thank you for engaging with my logical proposition. I admit, I am not understanding this comment you made here. I am not willing to put this WCF psalm debate in the same camp as the very vague infra vs. surpra debate (in the WCF).

By all means, Chris. Can you hold on though? Its supper time, and I don't have time right now to compose a longer post. I am very grateful for the way you posed the question, and I do want to address it more fully. It will take a bit of time, and I hope you have the patience to wait. I'll give it a go.
Certainly, brother. I may not be able to get to it tonight though. Have a paper on Perocherisis due tomorrow. :book2:
 

Civbert

Puritan Board Junior
Back to the question of the thread. Is the issue settled? The WCF does not teach EP - it teaches only RPW. Surely we can agree on this point.

EP, if it is correct, must be proven with Scripture. This is what the WCF does teach - the RPW. If Scripture proves EP, then EP is correct.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Chris,
I do not know if this affects anything but the WCF originally only had the Scripture references, not the full texts. A lot of confusion was subsequently caused when later editors decided when they added the full texts of the references that they should italicize what seemed appropriate. In the case of "v" the editor italicized psalms, hymns and spiritual songs in the Colossians reference.
 

CDM

Puritan Board Junior
Sorry if I am double posting or mising someone in the meantime...

How about this: The Divines were not united in excluding songs other than the Psalms of David, so purposely left the door open to other hymns.
With respect: If their intention was to leave "the door open to other hymns" they would have most certainly included "hymns, and spiritual songs" in the very confession they formulated wouldn't they? Instead they limited it to singularly the psalms.

It appears one would or could argue how unbiblical the Divines were being by deliberately leaving off half of the scripture verse they were using as a prooftext for the position.
 

Casey

Puritan Board Junior
If the apostle is telling them to sing *something*, obviously in the minds of the readers that *something* must already exist, else they would not be able to identify what the apostle is speaking about. Let's not raise silly objections for the mere sake of arguing. It is quite obvious that he tells them to *sing*, not to *compose*.
There was nothing silly about my objection. The word "existing" is not in the text. You can indeed be commanded to "sing songs" without the song already existing. Actually, that the Apostle commands for Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs seems to me to be a rather clear command to compose hymns and songs.
 

Civbert

Puritan Board Junior
Anthony, could you please elobarate on this, brother. Thank you for engaging with my logical proposition. I admit, I am not understanding this comment you made here. I am not willing to put this WCF psalm debate in the same camp as the very vague infra vs. surpra debate (in the WCF).
Sure. The Divines were divided on the infra vs supra issue. Most were infra, but a few key figure were supra. In order to come to an agreement, the WCF was written to take absolutely no mandatory position on the issue. One can be either infra or supra and not take any exceptions to the WCF.

The WCF is very carefully written. If the divines did not say "only" psalms, it was because not everyone agreed with EP. They all agreed with the RPW. There is not question that the WCF teaches the RPW. But one can be either EP or not EP and not have to take any exceptions to the WCF. That's because the WCF is finely written logical statement on Christianity. If they left off the "only", then there's a good reason. The same reason they did not included "hymns and spiritual songs".

Had they included that phrase "hymns and spiritual songs", the WCF could easily be said to be anti-EP. Unlike Scripture, the WCF does not use any "triadic form of expression". Any EP would immediately reject including "hymns, and spiritual songs" because the WCF is systematic and this language would prove against EP.

But the non-EP would object to the term "only". The clear position of the WCF is the RPW. Therefore I conclude the WCF is written strictly to allow both EP and non-EP to sign the WCF without any logical conflict.
 

Civbert

Puritan Board Junior
The WCF does not only teach the RPW, but also teaches what the parts of ordinary worship are. It gives us a list of what is warranted by the Word of God. The "exclusivity" of the argument is to be found in the fact that worship is LIMITED by God's revealed will. Nothing else having been revealed, nothing else may be added to the worship of God.

I agree with you completely.

But could you show me that RPW excludes hymns and spiritual songs. There seems to be several cases where God is worshiped in song in the OT and NT, when there is not clear indication (logical or otherwise) that it was exclusively by singing psalms. There are many examples of songs given in the OT and NT that are not the Psalms of David.
 

Casey

Puritan Board Junior
There are numerous defences of EP, many of them online, and not one of them grounds it on this "fact." It is based on the fact that the natural referent for Paul's words is to be found in what the Psalms describe themselves as. The title "Psalms" is English; it is "tehillim" or "praises" in Hebrew. Throughout the Psalter one will find the words "psalms," "hymns" and "songs" to describe the compositions contained therein. Just as when we read the words, "commands," "precepts," and "ordinances," we think of the Law, likewise the natural referent to "psalms," "hymns," and "songs" are the compositions which go by that name in the book of Psalms.
Paul does not say "you may only exclusively sing the 150 Psalms," he says, "sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs." If you want to include inspired psalms/songs, fine -- but then why may we not sing the Song of Moses and the Song of Deborah, which were just as inspired as the 150 Psalms? The same Greek word for "song" in Eph. and Col. is also used in Rev. 15:3 in reference to the Song of Moses. And the same Greek word is applied to the Song of Deborah in Judges 5:12 (LXX).
 

Casey

Puritan Board Junior
Just in case my post was overlooked, I'll post again.

Can someone please engage with my question here:

Why did they deliberately leave off "hymns and spiritual songs" in the confession? is this not exactly how a modern day EPer reasons, argues, and writes?​

And,

You'll note in the scripture proof, footnote 20, "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, but in the actual confession it has only "psalms".

Does this strike anyone here as a bit odd? What on earth could this mean? To my mind there are a few logical possibilities:
1) The Divines forgot to add the "hymns, and spiritual songs" part of the scripture to the confession
2) They only have "psalms" listed in the Confession because they recognize in the footnotes that "psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs" meant the Psalms of the Bible.​
3) A part for the whole -- in quoting the first, the second and third are likewise included without being said. This is easily proved in that they referenced those Scripture passages including not only Psalms, but also uninspired hymns and spiritual songs.
 

Casey

Puritan Board Junior
Sorry if I am double posting or mising someone in the meantime...



With respect: If their intention was to leave "the door open to other hymns" they would have most certainly included "hymns, and spiritual songs" in the very confession they formulated wouldn't they? Instead they limited it to singularly the psalms.

It appears one would or could argue how unbiblical the Divines were being by deliberately leaving off half of the scripture verse they were using as a prooftext for the position.
Also with respect: You seem to be suggesting that the divines left out "and hymns and spiritual songs" purposely because . . what? Paul messed up when he included those words?
 

Casey

Puritan Board Junior
Please try and look at this exegetically. The title "Psalms" is English." Paul knew the book of "Psalms" as "Tehillim." When he used the word "psalms" he was not referring to the book of Psalms as a whole, and then added "hymns and spiritual songs" to provide warrant to sing something else. To a Jew, psalms and hymns and spiritual songs were those compositions sung in the synagogues from the book of Tehillim, just as commandments and precepts and ordinances were read from the book of the Law.
With all due respect, this is but one man's opinion. We clearly have technical jargon in the New Testament that refers to the Old, such as "the law and the prophets," which refers to the entire Old Testament Scriptures. And this is validated by the New Testament itself. But what you're claiming cannot be validated from the New Testament itself. I'm not denying that there is a place for historical inquiry and context for the meaning of terms -- certainly not! But even if there were an occurrence of that language in contemporary Jewish literature, it still does not prove the point beyond a doubt. You are forcing a particular interpretation that is not evident from the text of Scripture itself -- and Scripture is, of course, it's own interpreter. The entire EP position is based on this sort of questionable and even forced exegesis.
 

Casey

Puritan Board Junior
We're moving back from the interpretation of the confession to the biblical argument again.

Let's look at what we know. Fact 1: We have a book of Psalms. Fact 2: These were appointed to be sung in the corporate worship of God. Fact 3: The other songs were not included in the book of Psalms. Presumably, the other songs were not appointed to be sung in corporate worship.
Here is where you presume wrong. Your argument one of silence -- Since they did not print a book of uninspired hymns, you conclude they must have been against it. But an argument from silence is not a very strong one.
But this is beside the point. Even if the other "inspired" songs are included, there is no basis for adding "uninspired" songs. Christian hymnody is inspired hymnody. We sing the words of Christ, Heb. 2:12, the Superintendent over the house of God.
To claim that "Christian hymnody is inspired hymnody" is plainly a denial of Christian liberty and binding the conscience to the commandments of men. No where in Scripture (or in the Confession, as is the topic of this thread) are we told we may exclusively sing "inspired" songs.
 

Civbert

Puritan Board Junior
We're moving back from the interpretation of the confession to the biblical argument again.

Let's look at what we know. Fact 1: We have a book of Psalms. Fact 2: These were appointed to be sung in the corporate worship of God. Fact 3: The other songs were not included in the book of Psalms. Presumably, the other songs were not appointed to be sung in corporate worship.

But this is beside the point. Even if the other "inspired" songs are included, there is no basis for adding "uninspired" songs. Christian hymnody is inspired hymnody. We sing the words of Christ, Heb. 2:12, the Superintendent over the house of God.
OK. Then as long as the songs are biblically inspired, we can use them. As long as the truths presented in the hymns come directly from scripture (therefore spiritual), then they are allowed by the RPW.

I've got no problem with that.
 

Casey

Puritan Board Junior
It would be folly to insist that the referent for the apostle's words must be found in the NT. Anyone who knows anything about Pauline theology knows that his language is steeped in the OT. The language of psalms and hymns and songs abounds in the OT book of Psalms. One only needs to have a passing knowledge of the book to see that. And the apostle speaks of "singing," which naturally brings the book of Psalms to mind. The OT is Scripture. The OT referent is natural. You are the one going outside of the Bible to make sense of the apostle's words.
Maybe you misread my post -- I didn't say the referent had to be in the NT, I said it ought to be in Scripture itself. If you run a quick search on "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" you will see that that phrase is not used in the OT, so the referent for the Apostle's words is not naturally the book of Psalms. You are imposing an interpretation on the Apostle's words that isn't there.
 

Civbert

Puritan Board Junior
Do you have difficulty with a person reading the church's confession of faith and calling it a reading of inspired Scripture? There is obviously a difference between inspired material and material which presents inspired truth.
I'm not sure. We are in danger of saying the Scripture is the particular words in a book. If that's the case - which version? Or do we need to go back to the original language and original autographs. We don't have the originals, but we should at least understand and sing Hebrew.

I believe the WCF is inspired in-so-far as it correctly conveys the truths of Scripture. But Scripture is not the words in my copy of the NKJV. It's the meaning of the sentences in the Bible. A proposition is "the meaning" of a declarative statement. It is not the words, but what the words mean. If one can put the meaning of Scripture into a different language, using different words (as we must if we consider the KJV or NKJV to be a instrument of truth) then we can also do so with a song that conveys those same truths.

Inspired truth is inspired truth - whether it's found in Psalms or Galatians. I believe we are saved by "faith alone". That is Scriptural truth. But the phrase "faith alone" is not found in my KJV. Why can I not worship God with Scriptural truths that come from the Word of God. Can they not be the same truths. They must be or we would have to go around speaking bible verses to say anything true.
 

Casey

Puritan Board Junior
Yes, I can see that you feel it is a denial of Christian liberty, which is obviously why you are so vehement against it. As far as I can see, it is those who require more who curtail Christian liberty. It is those who add to the word of Christ, and who introduce man made hymns into the worship of God, who are binding men's consciences with the productions of men. Those, OTOH, who maintain we should sing only the words of Christ, are simply adhering to divine commandment, Col. 3:16; Heb. 2:12.
I never claimed that the hymns we sing are "adding to the word of Christ." Perhaps if someone were to preach a sermon on a hymn, that would be binding consciences and adding to God's Word -- but I haven't seen anyone trying to do that.

I'm sorry, but you aren't adhering to a divine command, you're adhering to a man-made command (unless you can plainly show a command: "you must sing exclusively the 150 psalms"). The EP position is very much like the whole KJV-only movement. It simply cannot be proved from Scripture (or the Confession, for that matter).
 

Civbert

Puritan Board Junior
..., so the referent for the Apostle's words is not naturally the book of Psalms.
No it's not. But a reasonable exegetical argument can still be made for it a reference to just the Psalms of David. I've read it in the piece by Brain S. referenced earlier. I'm hoping someone can give a similar argument here.
 

Casey

Puritan Board Junior
The EXCLUSIVE part of the argument comes from the fact that Scripture ALONE is our rule of faith and practice, and in worship we are LIMITED by God's revealed will. One is either committed to these principles or not.
I am committed to the principle that our worship is limited by God's revealed will. But it by no means follows that we ought to limit our singing to the 150 Psalms. If the logic was as tight between the RPW and EP as you seem to suggest, we wouldn't be having this discussion. One can hold to the RPW and not to EP, since EP is not a necessary conclusion of the principles.
 

Casey

Puritan Board Junior
I think if Presbyterian churches hadn't introduced uninspired hymns we wouldn't be having this discussion.

Let's try something new. We start with the RPW, and that we are limited by God's revealed. I can show that God's revealed will warrants the singing of the Psalms of David in corporate worship. Should no other warrant be provided from the revealed will of God, we are bound to acknowledge the conclusion that ONLY the Psalms of David should be sung. So we are left with the question, does God's revealed will warrant the singing of uninspired hymns? To that question, you have not provided the slightest piece of evidence.
Paul explains that we ought to sing "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" -- this in and of itself proves contrary to your opinion.
 

Casey

Puritan Board Junior
As already said, you lack evidence.
Friend, I've provided more evidence than you have so far. You've just said that Paul was referring to the 150 Psalms, without giving any proof at all. I showed that the Greek words Paul employed cannot be limited to the 150 Psalms. That's enough evidence for me.
 

CDM

Puritan Board Junior
Paul explains that we ought to sing "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" -- this in and of itself proves contrary to your opinion.
A quick note that may be helpful, then back to term paper...I will check in later...:book2:

In regard to the above quote, an excerpt from Brian Schwertley's aforementioned article:


Two passages which are crucial to the exclusive Psalmody debate are Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16. These passages are important because they are used as proof texts by both exclusive Psalm singers and those who use uninspired hymns in worship. Paul writes,

And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:18-19).

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. (Colossians 3:16).

Before we consider the question of how these passages relate to public worship, we first will consider the question “what does Paul mean by psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs?” This question is very important, for many advocates of uninspired hymnody (who claim to adhere to the regulative principle) point to this passage as proof that uninspired hymns are permitted in public worship by God. When examining passages such as Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16, one should not make the common mistake of importing our modern meaning or usage of a word, such as hymn, into what Paul wrote over nineteen hundred years ago. When a person hears the word hymn today, he immediately thinks of the extra-biblical non-inspired hymns found in the pews of most churches. The only way to really determine what Paul meant by “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” is to determine how these terms were used by Greek-speaking Christians in the first century.

When interpreting religious terminology used by Paul in his epistles, there are certain rules of interpretation which should be followed. First, the religious thinking and world view of the apostles was essentially from the Old Testament and Jesus Christ, not Greek heathenism. Therefore, when Paul discusses doctrine or worship, the first place to look for help in understanding religious terms is the Old Testament. We often find Hebrew expressions or terms expressed in koine Greek. Second, we must keep in mind that the churches that Paul founded in Asia consisted of converted Jews, Gentile proselytes to Old Testament Judaism (God-fearers), and Gentile pagans. These churches had a Greek version of the Old Testament called the Septuagint. When Paul expressed Old Testament ideas to a Greek-speaking audience, he would use the religious terminology of the Septuagint. If the terms hymns (humnois) and spiritual songs (odais pheumatikais) were defined within the New Testament, then looking to the Septuagint for the meaning of these words would be unnecessary. Given the fact, however, that these terms are rarely used in the New Testament and cannot be defined within their immediate context apart from a knowledge of the Old Testament, it would be exegetically irresponsible to ignore how these words are used in the Septuagint version of the Old Testament.

When we examine the Septuagint, we find that the terms psalm (psalmos), hymn (humnos), and song (odee) used by Paul clearly refer to the Old Testament book of Psalms and not to ancient or modern uninspired hymns or songs.

Bushell writes:

Psalmos occurs some 87 times in the Septuagint, some 78 of which are in the Psalms themselves, and 67 times in the psalm titles. It also forms the title to the Greek version of the psalter. Humnos occurs some 17 times in the Septuagint, 13 of which are in the Psalms, six times in the titles. In 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Chronicles and Nehemiah there are some 16 examples in which the Psalms are called ‘hymns’ (humnoi) or ‘songs’ (odai) and the singing of them is called ‘hymning’ (humneo, humnodeo, humnesis). Odee occurs some 80 times in the Septuagint, 45 of which are in the Psalms, 36 in the Psalm titles.[25]

In twelve Psalm titles we find both psalm and song; and, in two others we find psalm and hymn. “Psalm seventy-six is designated ‘psalm, hymn and song.’ And at the end of the first seventy two psalms we read ‘the hymns of David the son of Jesse are ended’ (Ps. 72:20). In other words, there is no more reason to think that the Apostle referred to psalms when he said ‘psalms,’ than when he said ‘hymns’ and ‘songs,’ for all three were biblical terms for (the) psalms in the book of psalms itself.”[26] To ignore how Paul’s audience would have understood these terms and how these terms are defined by the Bible; and then instead to import non-biblical modern meanings into these terms is exegetical malpractice.

One of the most common objections against the idea that in Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 Paul is speaking of the book of Psalms is that it would be absurd for apostle to say, “sing psalms, psalms, and psalms.” This objection fails to consider the fact that a common literary method among the ancient Jews was to use a triadic form of expression to express an idea, act, or object. The Bible contains many examples of triadic expression. For example: Exodus 34:7—“iniquity and transgression and sin”; Deuteronomy 5:31 and 6:1—“commandments and statutes and judgments”; Matthew 22:37—“with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (cf. Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27); Acts 2:22—“miracles and wonders and signs”; Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16—“psalms and hymns and spiritual song.” “The triadic distinction used by Paul would be readily understood by those familiar with their Hebrew OT Psalter or the Greek Septuagint, where the Psalm titles are differentiated psalms, hymns, and songs. This interpretation does justice to the analogy of Scripture, i.e., Scripture is its own best interpreter.”[27]

The interpretation that says that “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” refers to the inspired book of Psalms also receives biblical support from the immediate context and grammar of these passages. In Colossians 3:16 we are exhorted: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” In this passage the word of Christ is very likely synonymous with the word of God.

In 1 Pet. 1:11 it is stated that ‘the spirit of Christ’ was in the Old Testament prophets and through them testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glory which should follow. If, as is definitely stated, the Spirit of Christ testified these things through the prophets, then Christ was the real Author of those Scriptures. Prominent among those prophecies, which so testified concerning Christ, is the Book of Psalms, and therefore Christ is the Author of the Psalms.[28]

After Paul exhorts the Colossian church to let the word of Christ dwell in them richly, he immediately points them to the book of Psalms; a book which comprehends “most beautifully and briefly everything that is in the entire Bible;”[29] a book far superior to any human devotional book, which Calvin called “an anatomy of all parts of the soul;”[30] a book which is “a compendium of all divinity.”[31] Do we let the Scriptures, the word of Christ dwell within us when we sing uninspired human compositions in worship? No, we do not! If we are to sing and meditate upon the word of Christ, we must sing the songs that Christ has written by His Spirit—the book of Psalms.

The grammar also supports the contention that Paul was speaking of the book of Psalms. In our English Bibles the adjective spiritual only applies to the word songs (“spiritual songs”). In the Greek language, however, when an adjective immediately follows two or more nouns, it applies to all the preceding nouns.

John Murray writes,

Why does the word pneumatikos [spiritual][32] qualify odais and not psalmois and hymnois? A reasonable answer to this question is that pneumatikais qualifies all three datives and that its gender (fem.) is due to attraction to the gender of the noun that is closest to it. Another distinct possibility, made particularly plausible by the omission of the copulative in Colossians 3:16, is that ‘Spiritual songs’ are the genus of which ‘psalms’ and ‘hymns’ are the species. This is the view of Meyer, for example. On either of these assumptions the psalms, hymns, and songs are all ‘Spiritual’ and therefore all inspired by the Holy Spirit. The bearing of this upon the question at issue is perfectly apparent. Uninspired hymns are immediately excluded.[33]

If one wants to argue that spiritual does not apply to psalms and hymns, then one must answer two pertinent questions. First, why would Paul insist on divine inspiration for songs, yet permit uninspired hymns? We can safely assume that Paul was not irrational. Second, given the fact that psalms refers to divinely inspired songs, it would be unscriptural not to apply spiritual to that term. Furthermore, since we have already established that the phrase “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” refers to the divinely inspired book of Psalms, it is only natural to apply spiritual to all three terms. Since the book of Psalms is composed of divinely inspired (or spiritual) psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, we obey God only when we praise Him using the biblical Psalter. Uninspired hymns do not meet the scriptural criteria for authorized praise.

Another question that needs to be considered regarding these passages is: “Do these passages refer to formal public worship services or to informal Christian gatherings?” Since Paul is discussing the mutual edification of believers by singing inspired songs in private worship situations, it would be inconsistent on his part to allow uninspired songs in the more formal public worship settings. “What is proper or improper to be sung in one instance must be seen as proper or improper to be sung in the other. Worship is still worship, whatever its circumstances and regardless of the number of people involved. ”[34] “If psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs are the limits of the material of songs in praise of God in less formal acts of worship, how much more are they the limits in more formal acts of worship?”[35]​
 

Casey

Puritan Board Junior
When we examine the Septuagint, we find that the terms psalm (psalmos), hymn (humnos), and song (odee) used by Paul clearly refer to the Old Testament book of Psalms and not to ancient or modern uninspired hymns or songs.
Here is just one point. The word for "song" is not exclusively limited to the 150 Psalms -- the Greek word for "song" also applies to the Song of Moses and the Song of Deborah, which are just two examples. What Paul said could just as well include them. Now let's look at the Song of Deborah for a moment: No where in the text is it suggested or hinted that this song was inspired -- for all we know, Deborah and Barak composed the song and sang it, without the assistance of being inspired.
 

Casey

Puritan Board Junior
Where did you show that the Greek words Paul employed can be applied to uninspired compositions? I just had a quick look through the thread, but did not see anything of this nature. I did, however, see that you confused "psalms" with Psalms, and tried to argue from the use of hymns and songs that Paul is allowing for something more than Psalms. But as I said there, Paul did not know the book of Psalms as "Psalms" but as "Tehillim" or praises.
Friend, I believe you misread my post. I said this: "I showed that the Greek words Paul employed cannot be limited to the 150 Psalms." And I showed this in this post. What I was showing there is not that Paul's words can refer to uninspired compositions (which they can), but that they may not be limited to the 150 Psalms (that is, the words may just as easily refer to other songs in Scripture).
 

Casey

Puritan Board Junior
These songs have come to us through narrative. At the point at which they are inscripturated they are an historical record of what was sung, not a song per se. At any rate, even if these other songs are a part of what the apostle had in mind, uninspired compositions are not in view. So you have still provided no Scriptural evidence to warrant the singing of uninspired compositions as is required by the RPW.
Well that's my very point. Nothing in the text suggests that the Song of Deborah was an inspired song, and yet she sung it! In no place is she chastised for singing this uninspired song, or looked unfavorably upon by the narrator -- and, indeed, her entire song is recorded in Scripture (which seems to suggest a favorable opinion towards her uninspired composition)! And so, there is nothing in Scripture anywhere to suggest that the RPW leads to the exclusion of uninspired songs in the public worship of God. "Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" does not exclusively limit our singing to the Psalter, much less to inspired songs in general. We may sing anything in accord with God's Word.
 

Casey

Puritan Board Junior
You are leaping from an individual's worship to a corporate context.
Okay -- so now you're going to argue that the application of Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16 "exclusively" refers to the corporate worship setting? Incidentally, according to your view, what makes it acceptable to "devise" uninspired songs in a non-corporate worship service? We may not "practice idolatry" in public worship, but we may do so in the privacy of our own homes?
 

Casey

Puritan Board Junior
Friend, I must say -- though we disagree in principle -- I love to sing Psalms and give them precedence to other songs, both in public worship and family worship. :) But I must admit, the EP argument seems paper thin to me, and I have yet to see a solid argument contrary to my present opinion. :(
 

crhoades

Puritan Board Graduate
Looking at the Schwertley piece above, I see where a person arguing for EP gets their definition for psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. They primarily go to the Psalter and find evidences for all three in the titles of the psalms.

For non-EP'ers:

I think we all agree on what the term Psalm means.

Letting scripture interpret scripture primarily (bring in historical information secondarily to buttress), please define hymn and spiritual song.

What is the difference between the two? If we are going to split the three words from signifying one thing and have them be three separate things then we should be able to define and differentiate them.

If I were to sing something other than a psalm in worship today, how would I know if I was singing a hymn or if I was singing a spiritual song?
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top