Musical Intrustments commanded before, why not today?

Discussion in 'A capella Exclusive Psalmody' started by Semper Fidelis, Apr 10, 2006.

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  1. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    I didn't drop out of this discussion but it was a very busy weekend. I was looking through Edersheim's The Temple and It's Ministry here:

    If you look in the html version you can find an interesting history about instrumental music that I believe relates to the issue of "creativity"

    Understand that there was a primacy given to the human voice in the Temple Worship but I wonder the following: Was David inspired by God to invent a 10 stringed instrument for use in the Temple? Did he perhaps have incedible skill that He used for the Glory of God? There is certainly no command prior to David inventing the instrument so worship went on for centuries prior to its introduction. It was at some point, certainly, a new element in Levitical worship.

    This further got me thinking: we are specifically commanded to praise God with the harp, lyre, cymbals, hands and some other instruments in praise. It seems that Temple Worship at least obeyed those enjoinders. I have yet to see an EP person arguing that we are violating the RPW by ignoring that detail. If moving the ark of the Covenant by a cart instead of poles borne by Levites is a violation of a positive command of the RPW why are we not in violation of it by using any but the instruments commanded by God?

    [Edited on 4-10-2006 by SemperFideles]
  2. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Puritan Board Doctor

    I split this thread from the psalmody thread because it is a seperate issue than the one being discussed there.

    Rich has posted some interesting information for acepella advocates to consider.

    It is also interesting the the basic meaning of "psalm" in Greek or Hebrew means "a song to instrumental accompaniment." (HALOT and BDAG). So if this is the meaning of the word, and we must do what God commands in worship, are we not then commanded to use musical instruments in worship?
  3. ChristopherPaul

    ChristopherPaul Puritan Board Senior

    Interesting, I too noticed the meaning of "Psalm" in Greek and I just posed this exact question in my mind over the weekend. I was going to bring it up today.

    I also was reading Edersheim's book IV over the weekend - granted not related to the topic, but a coincidence nonetheless.

    [Edited on 4-10-2006 by ChristopherPaul]
  4. WrittenFromUtopia

    WrittenFromUtopia Puritan Board Graduate

    Brian Schwertley
  5. WrittenFromUtopia

    WrittenFromUtopia Puritan Board Graduate

  6. WrittenFromUtopia

    WrittenFromUtopia Puritan Board Graduate

  7. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    This is not intended to be pejorative but this argument sounds no different than dispensationalists who require a positive re-statement of infant inclusion in the Covenant in the New Testament. It also seems very convenient for the person who wants to force EP on the basis of the RPW which is primarily founded upon OT texts that show how serious God is about prescribing how He is to be worshipped. If instruments in music can be argued away based on the argument of perfection of worship then why not EP in worship itself? It weakens the EP case in my estimation as the EP folks get to use "ceremonial" examples when it suits their case for no instrumental music but deny their abrogation when appealing to EP for consistency with the RPW.

    I don't see how this even holds water as many of the Psalms had not been written during the given of the ceremonial law but were written centuries after. The commands to sing and praise with the voice, timbrel, harp, and lyre among others are not found in Leviticus but are even mixed in among Psalms that express a "New Covenant" hope. To place the "commands" of the Psalms in a ceremonial context is to say that the Psalms themselves are done away with in Christ. This the RPCNA does not do, of course, except the commands they want to claim are purely ceremonial. How covenient that they determine which parts of the Psalms are ceremonial and which are not.

    Do you sing a capella those portions of the Psalms that command you to praise Him with stringed instrument?

    How was the use of instruments "imperfect" since they were introduced along with the Psalms in many cases as David invented some of the instruments mentioned? This seems to be a strange argument from a Redemptive Historical standpoint that instruments didn't exist at an earlier point, are introduced well after the introduction of the ceremonial Law showing a Redemptive progression, but then are abrogated as part of the ceremonial Law.

    Very strange.

    [Edited on 4-11-2006 by SemperFideles]
  8. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    We do not have a specific command in the NT doing away with each particular of the OT ceremonial worship. However, as Calvin said, "œIn a word, the musical instruments were in the same class as sacrifices, candelabra, lamps and similar things." John Calvin, Sermons on Second Samuel, Douglas Kelly, translator (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1992) 241.
    As far as arguing "œfor" musical instruments as a circumstance or as something commanded see the brief articles below, one a later follow up of the former.
  9. WrittenFromUtopia

    WrittenFromUtopia Puritan Board Graduate

    I disagree with both of the above comments. I think the argument made in regards to the Levitical order in the Book of Hebrews is a positive statement to the annulment of things Levitical in worship, including the instruments of David. It is not a "dispensational" argument, and to say such is a misunderstanding of the argument as a whole, not to mention simple name-calling. This topic, by the way, has been debated at much length on this board -- not to mention throughout Church history -- and there is an abundant amount of resources to which one could reference were they genuinely interested in understanding the historical/Biblical position espoused by the authors of the Westminster Confession of Faith on the issue of the proper Worship of God Almighty.

    In other words...

  10. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

  11. WrittenFromUtopia

    WrittenFromUtopia Puritan Board Graduate

    Actually, I think I agree with you. I misread you at first, probably. :handshake:
  12. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

  13. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    It was not my intent to name-call but to point out that the arguments are similar: "We don't see instrumental music re-commanded so it is forbidden...."

    I see nothing, other than an assertion, that instruments are part and parcel of the ceremonial Law. Regarding Bacon's assertion that Psalm 150 shows that instrumental music is Levitical, he points to Psalm 150 for example. While the command to praise begins in the Sanctuary, the command moves outside the sanctuary to the heavens, to people praising him with tambourine and dancing (not done or commanded in the Sanctuary) and expands to a command for "...everything that has breath..." praising the Lord.

    I asked before if you even sing these Psalms anymore. If you admit that whole portions of the Psalms are commands intended only for the Levitical priesthood and have no application for today's believers then it becomes an issue, in my estimation, of how suitable the Psalms themselves are for New Covenant worship. One could conclude, using Bacon's logic, that some Psalms are now "weak and beggarly" because, like Psalm 150, they are commands for the Levites. If Psalm 150, and those like it, speak of elements that have completely passed away then why is that Psalm still sung?

    I asked in the other thread, for instance, why you don't sing the Song of Moses or the Song of the Bow (divinely inspired songs) and was informed that they spoke of specific acts in Redemptive History and was suitable for those events (even though the Song of Moses is much like at least one Psalm that recount God's redemptive rescue at the Red Sea).

    If you accept Bacon's logic that Psalm 150 is completely ceremonial so that all the instruments mentioned are grouped under the category of "beggarly elements" then the entire Psalm category is beggarly and ought to be removed from the Psalter.

    If you don't want to discuss the issue that is fine but I am not satisfied with a "...this is a dead horse...." It is not for me. If you feel like you've debated the issue to your satisfaction then that is fine but I have not engaged in any meaningful dialogue with an Exclusive Psalmody proponent and appealing to Puritans does not settle the issue.
  14. WrittenFromUtopia

    WrittenFromUtopia Puritan Board Graduate

    Like I said... that is not the argument. It may not be namecalling, but it is, at the very least, a strawman.
  15. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Perhaps but I don't dwell on it. The problem with your quote from the RPCNA blurb is that it begins like this:
    I'm not basing my entire opposition on the fact that this sounds like those who argue in a similar fashion but the criticism ought to be considered as far as it goes. If this is not the primary argument then it should not be put forward as the first statement. You know very well that we don't normally look to get rid of things or add things based on a "New Testament pattern". I don't know how many times I've seen Presbyterians who would defend this RPCNA position tell Baptists that they cannot look at the paucity of commands for infant baptism as a basis to argue for credo-baptism because of an "New Testament pattern" of "believe and be baptized."

    That was my only point. If the argument is founded upon a more substantive basis than an "NT pattern" then the statement ought to be sharpened.

    [Edited on 4-12-2006 by SemperFideles]
  16. VirginiaHuguenot

    VirginiaHuguenot Puritanboard Librarian


    This issue has been debated many times on the Puritan Board. It might be helpful to study the previous threads on this subject. It is good to keep an open mind as to what the Puritans (and large numbers of Christian groups, notably Southern Presbyterians, Dutch Reformed, Covenanters, the Westminster Assembly, Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, Wesley, and many more) have believed concerning the understanding of instrumental music as part of the abolished ceremonial worship.

    Early Christians on instrumental music in public worship

    Dabney and Girardeau on Instrumental Music in Public Worship

    Breckinridge Against Musical Instruments in the Worship of God

    Hislop on the Instrumental Music of Judaism

    Johnson's Discourse on Instrumental Music in Public Worship

    Blaikie on Instrumental Music in Public Worship

    From Abraham Van de Velde's The Wonders of the Most High (A 125 Year History of the United Netherlands 1550-1675)

  17. Arch2k

    Arch2k Puritan Board Graduate

    Because we are commanded to! :)

    Just because there are ceremonial aspects in Revelation, should that stop a minister from reading those passages in public worship?
  18. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Puritan Board Doctor

    I guess my question was more intrinsic to the nature of the song. Many of the psalms were specifically commanded to be sung with instruments. They were designed by God to be sung that way. It would seem to run contrary to the divine intent of the psalm to sing them without instruments.

    Andrew, do any of those articles deal with that specific aspect?
  19. WrittenFromUtopia

    WrittenFromUtopia Puritan Board Graduate

    It would seem contrarty to divine intent to worship God without sacrifices as well, but Christ has died once for all.
  20. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Puritan Board Doctor

    But the practice of sacrifice was clarified. Song was not.
  21. Robin

    Robin Puritan Board Junior

    Revelation 14:1--3

    Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven like the roar of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. The voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps, and they were singing a new song before the throne....

    Selah.... :detective:

  22. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Puritan Board Doctor

    Robin, this verse does not support musical instruments. Clearly, the "sound of the harpist" is describing a characteristic of the voice John heard, not a reference to literal harps. It's a mixed metaphor just like the "roar of many waters" and "loud thunder" in the verse before, again describing a voice.
  23. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    But, like your assumption that certain portions of the Psalms are ceremonial, all I have from Paul is a general command to praise Him with Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs. We can eliminate the ceremonial Psalms and still meet the command as the command does not say "...praise Him with all 150 Psalms...."

    I agree with Patrick. Instruments are so intrinsic to certain Psalms that to sing them anymore would be like praying a ceremonial prayer if that's all they represented.

    Also, Jeff, how can you seriously exegete Psalm 150 and state that the Psalm refers to worship solely within the sanctuary.
  24. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Always a sage warning. I owe many of those men very much. I am not close minded about the issue. I'm not always as thoroughgoing as some of the Puritans and Reformers were in some of the elements of worship. Perhaps I might be if I was reacting to the religion of their day. I sometimes think that some of the "Reforms" went a bit too far but I always study them and haven't ever really made up my mind.

    To people who criticize EP folks as dour and Pharasaical, I defend them if their criticism is based on complete ignorance of the reasons. I'm not at a place where I would be an apologist for or argue for EP-only and that all else is "strange fire" but I wouldn't lose any sleep if the Church I attended was EP.
  25. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Puritan Board Doctor

    Just to clarify my position thus far, I wasn't arguing for musical instruments. I was just positing the question in light of the undeniable intent of the psalm. I'm still in limbo on this issue personally. If an adequate explanation is given, then I certainly will concede the point to my Accapella-only brethren.
  26. Kaalvenist

    Kaalvenist Puritan Board Sophomore

    I appreciate your honesty in dealing with this issue. Many simply argue for whatever is their respective status quo (for most, this is arguing for hymns and instruments; for a Covenanter or other "strict" Presbyterian, this would be arguing against hymns and instruments); it is good to hear where people are on this issue, and that they are open to arguments from either side.

    To clarify my own position: I have believed in unaccompanied exclusive psalmody for almost six years now. I have frequently argued the merits of both sides of the issues, and can honestly say that there has been very little to shake me in my belief that I have encountered in this time.

    One problem that I have with that argument is that it seems to assume that, if a Psalm mentions a ceremony (sacrifices, altars, incense, priests, temples, musical instruments, etc.), then the Psalm itself is ceremonial. I would first challenge this assumption as I have stated it (or stated similarly, if you would prefer to employ your own language).

    1. I do not find any biblical rationale for this assumption.

    2. This does not simply oppose the practice of exclusive psalmody, or unaccompanied exclusive psalmody; it would oppose the practice of psalmody itself, because it attacks the idea of singing Psalms which make mention of Old Testament ceremonies.

    3. It seems that it would attack the authority of the Old Testament in general, and not just the belief and practice of unaccompanied exclusive psalmody. If we are not to sing Psalms that contain mention of ceremonies, should they also not be read? If we should not read those Psalms, why should we read the portions of the Old Testament that likewise contain mention of ceremonies? What of the passages in the New Testament that contain ceremonial language, and not always to explain what that language meant in the Old Testament? And if we are not to read them, of what authority would those scriptures have in the church? Why should we regard them as the inspired Word of God, if they are to be done away with just as the ceremonies of old (Matt. 5:18, 24:35, etc.)?

    This is, of course, taking it for granted that instruments and the other things mentioned above were ceremonial in their nature. I am simply making the point that this line of argument is illegitimate, without addressing the more basic question of whether the instruments themselves were ceremonial (which I will probably address at a later time).
  27. VirginiaHuguenot

    VirginiaHuguenot Puritanboard Librarian

    Most, if not all, of the articles I cited make the point that instruments were used with the psalms in temple worship but not in synagogue worship, and then go on to point out that Christian worship follows the synagogue model. Thus, instruments are not intrinsic to the psalms.

    See Girardeau (citing Calvin and others) and Johnson (citing Thomas Goodwin) in particular on this point.

    Simply put, the idea that the psalms are so closely tied to the instruments named in them that instruments must be used (can be used is not an option for those who adhere to the RPW) is an argument that proves too much. If true, it only proves that those specific instruments are valid. The use of instruments is also conjoined with dance (notably in Psalm 150) -- shall we then dance in worship as well (rhetorical question)? When we sing in the psalms of "paying vows" and "offering sacrifices," is there not a spiritual, Christian sense in which we take those words on our lips? John Brown's notes on the Psalter are helpful in discerning that spiritual, Christian sense over and above the carnal, Jewish sense that is strictly literal.

    See Matthew Henry on Ps. 150:

    It [the "instrinsic" argument] overlooks the historical reality that instruments were not used in synagogue worship or in Christian worship, without detriment to the praise of God (there are many examples of psalms being sung or commanded to be sung in the New Testament but not one example or command of an instrument being played; on the contrary, the command is to make melody in your heart). The Psalter has been used all around the world a cappella and is not tied to the specific instruments named therein. One can praise God using the word of God without musical instruments. In fact, that is exactly what we are called to do. The duty to sing psalms is clear in the NT, but no command to use instruments exists in the NT. Thus, what is instrinsic to the psalm is not the instruments but the words and their spiritual meaning.

    Robert Nevin says in Instrumental Music in Christian Worship (1873):

  28. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Puritan Board Doctor

    Thanks Andrew. More food for thought... :detective:
  29. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Puritan Board Doctor

    Just thinking out loud here. Would the Accapella-only folks then argue that all those Psalms (which command musical instruments) were only used in the temple?
  30. VirginiaHuguenot

    VirginiaHuguenot Puritanboard Librarian

    You're welcome, Patrick. :handshake:

    I believe there are around 20 or so psalms that make reference to musical instruments. Only the Levitical priests were appointed to serve as musicians in public worship. The psalms were composed on various occasions by various persons (some Levitical priests were named specifically) and when reference is made to instruments, it is understood that Temple worship is in view.

    Psalm 137.2 is interesting in that it makes references to the Levitical harps used formerly in worship but laid aside during the Babylonian diaspora. The psalm itself, of course, was sung without harps.

    However, there is no legitimate reason that I can think of to suppose that those 20 or so psalms were not sung in synagogues or should not be sung today. Many psalms speak of sacrifices which could only be offered in the Temple -- were they sung only in the Temple and not in synagogues or family worship, and should they not be sung today? If that is the case, probably only a few psalms could be sung outside the Temple. I think that is an unreasonable and unwarranted supposition.

    On the contrary, instruments, incense, altars, offerings, etc. were understand dimly even in the Jewish era to have a deeper spiritual meaning that was not tied to the Temple, though the literal activities and objects mentioned were; in the Christian era, we make use of those allusions in our praise songs (compare Ps. 4.5 [the title of which indicates instrumental accompaniment] or Ps. 27.6 with Heb. 13.15) by the commandment of the Lord (Eph. 5.19; Col. 3.16; James 5.13) and in doing so apprehend that they point to Christ in whom all ceremonies, sacrifices and offerings are fulfilled. The instruments were used in Temple worship but point symbolically to Christ, and that means that the psalms are tied to Christ not the instruments, and thus allusions to instruments and other ceremonial aspects of worship are perfectly consistent and suitable for Christian worship.
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