"Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs"-- Greeks only

Discussion in 'A capella Exclusive Psalmody' started by Puritan Sailor, Jul 31, 2005.

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  1. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Puritan Board Doctor

    \"Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs\"-- Greeks only

    I would like to pursue this topic of EP vs. non-EP from a different angle, strictly exegetical. As such, I would only like those who know Greek (and Hebrew if needed) to respond to this thread.

    There is much about Hellenistic culture that seems to be overlooked in this debate regarding what Paul meant by "psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs." To a pagan Greek, I'm sure this would have meant something completely different than to a Palestinian Jew. But what interests me more so is the fact that many of these Jews whom converted in the ministry of Paul, along with many of the God-fearing Gentiles were highly influenced by Hellenistic culture. You may recall the division in Acts that resulted between the Hellenistic Jews and Palestinian Jews which led to the appointment of Stephen et al. It was mostly to these Hellenistic Jews and God-fearing Gentiles that Paul seemed to be ministering to when he preached in the synagogues, and from this group founded most of the churches where he went.

    We know that at some point, titles were superscripted to the Psalms in the Septuagint, but we don't know by whom or why. We know that the Septuagint would probably have been the "Bible" of the day for Paul's churches. But accompanying that, were revelatory gifts, which in 1 Cor. 14, seemed to indicate revelations of new psalms as well for mutual edification.

    In light of all these things, and I'm sure there's much more cultural information that others may know, how would we better understand Paul's command of "psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs." What was he trying to communicate to the Hellenistic mind, and what would they have understood Paul to be teaching (assuming it is the same thing).

    Fred is the only one who has addressed this issue at all regarding the Greco-Roman worldview (no pun intended Fred :) ). So I would like to explore it more.

    Again, only respond if you know Greek please.

    [Edited on 8-1-2005 by puritansailor]
  2. fredtgreco

    fredtgreco Vanilla Westminsterian Staff Member

    Posters will refrain from sarcasm, especially when used in a disrespectful manner of a moderator (or Admin).

    This will not happen again, or posting privileges will be suspended.
  3. LawrenceU

    LawrenceU Puritan Board Doctor

    When a request is made such as that made by Patrick to be only those who know Greek, Koine I assume :) , then let us follow that request.

    Patrick, this is a great question. Of, course there is division upon this issue, but I believe that one of the issues that is rarely addressed is the fact the at least nine times in Scripture the Lord commands us to sing a NEW song. Couple that with the obvious penchant that God's people display for singing a song in response to what God has done, eg. Miriam's song, Mary's song, Zacarias' song, etc. then you see a pattern of responsive worship developing.

    The three words: psalmos, humnos, and wdia can be seen in extrabiblical literature to referring to various types of music. The adjective translated spiritual can grammatically refer to all three nouns. It is in the feminine because of the position of wdia. (Fred, correct me if my memory is failing here. My Greek is not as sharp in the last few months.) Thus, Paul could be saying in effect, in our singing we are to ensure that our music is not fleshly but spiritual, regardless of type.
  4. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Puritan Board Doctor

    Can you think of any other contempory references to the NT or LXX that illustrate this?
  5. LawrenceU

    LawrenceU Puritan Board Doctor

    Have you studied Greek? If not you are asked by the initiator of the thread to not post. Please comply!

    And, comparing the usage of the word in daily literature if extremely valuable in the study of any language. Koine was the language of the street. It was not and never has been an esoteric language of the divines.
  6. fredtgreco

    fredtgreco Vanilla Westminsterian Staff Member


    As a matter of fact the grammar would appear to be pretty decisive here. As I recall, both sides of the EP question take πνευματικος as modifying all three nouns. Each side simply takes the meaning of πνευματικος differently (one as "inspired" one as "not fleshly but spiritual". The phenomena you describe is common in Greek.
  7. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Puritan Board Doctor

    Once again Gabe you fail to see the deeper issue here. Where do you think the greek language came from? Pagans. This is the language which defined the theological controversies of the Church for the next 300 or so years after Christ. And we know a whole lot more sources now than Owen had. So, please sit back, and maybe you might learn something new.

    ***editorial note: this post and a couple others above were made in response to some deleted posts from Gabe. They were deleted because they were not relevant to the thread topic***

    [Edited on 8-1-2005 by puritansailor]
  8. fredtgreco

    fredtgreco Vanilla Westminsterian Staff Member

    Be assured that the discussion will go on here. No need to respond to posts of this kind, Patrick.

    [Edited on 8/1/2005 by fredtgreco]
  9. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Puritan Board Doctor

    You are correct Fred. I only responded because I think his objection was probably held by others under the guise of Sola Scriptura. People need to understand that the original language of the NT has a history of it's own which God providentially used to His glory. Perhaps then they will see why my original question is important.
  10. doulosChristou

    doulosChristou Puritan Board Freshman

    All three words occur many times in the LXX as well to refer to compositions other than those found in the book of Psalms. For example, psalmos (psalm) is used in Lam 3:14, humnos (hymn) in Isaiah 42:10, and wdia (song) in Deut 31:19. There are many such examples in the LXX and NT where these terms refer to musical compositions outside of the psalter.
  11. LawrenceU

    LawrenceU Puritan Board Doctor

    Off the top of my head. . . no it's too late, but I'll put some stuff up in the morning or tomorrow afternoon.

    Well, there is one I remember. Josephus, in recalling the Maccabees and the origination of the Fesitval of Lights uses humnos and psalmos in the same sentence seemingly refering to varied type of music in that celebration. It's been a long time since I've read it though.

    In my sleep deprived stupor I misread your request, I think. I was trying to recall contempory to the NT or LXX reference and usages of the words.

    [Edited on 8-1-2005 by LawrenceU]
  12. fredtgreco

    fredtgreco Vanilla Westminsterian Staff Member

    Is this it?

    JOE Ant 12:323 Now Judas celebrated the festival of the restoration of the sacrifices of the temple for eight days; and omitted no sort of pleasures thereon: but he feasted them upon very rich and splendid sacrifices; and he honoured God, and delighted them by hymns and psalms.

    JOS Ant 12:323 ~Ew,rtaze de. o` VIou,daj meta. tw/n politw/n th.n avna,kthsin th/j peri. to.n nao.n qusi,aj evfV h`me,raj ovktw. mhde.n avpolipw.n h`donh/j ei=doj avlla. polutele,si me.n kai. lamprai/j tai/j qusi,aij kateuwcw/n auvtou,j u[mnoij de. kai. yalmoi/j to.n me.n qeo.n timw/n auvtou.j de. te,rpwn
  13. LawrenceU

    LawrenceU Puritan Board Doctor

    Yes!! How did you do that?

    And, wow, my memory is not as bad as I thought.
  14. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Puritan Board Doctor

    Cool. But that appears to be a temple festival. Wouldn't that imply songs from the Psalms? Or did the Macabees include other things?
  15. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher

    Just for the sake of the thread, it looks like some posts are missing. Patrick and Lawrence are responding to things that are not there anymore. BE sure to "fill in any gaps" that we need in order to keep a flow of thought.


    I have some things I can post as well from Philo, Pliny and others that may be of help. I'll find them tomorrow. I think, also, Andrew had quoted some things too in another thread. I'll check on those as well.

    Just a note: Consider here on these passages (Eph. and Col.) that Calvin did not see either passage on "psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs" relevant to corporate worship. He saw the exegetical context to be something other than in corporate worship. If that were true, then the study takes a turn all its own. I'm not judging one way or the other (I don't' necessarily agree with Calvin there), but it is interesting that the exegetical structure of the passage seems to say something different for him than simply outlining corporate worship. For Calvin, exegetically, those passages did not sway him one way or the other. If by prudence, then, the passages are "mysterious" in that light, Calvin did not use them to weigh in on the matter or element of worship. Taking those out of the overall exegetical work on the EP issue would be detrimental to the non-EP position. They would have to prove, conclusively, then, some exegetical ideas around thier NT argument for "new songs" and make them stick from other passages if they follow Calvin's line of thought.

    This was something I was thinking about in terms of the exegetical nature of Eph. and Col. in that argument for or against EP overall. For 1) either EPh. and Col. are exegetically conclusive for non-EP and can be proven to be without any shadow of a doubt, or 2) non-EP rests on a 50/50 chance of being right. Prudently, I think that kind of exegesis is dubious. If we were to take these two passages away based on (for argument sake) special pleading for each position) then EP would "win" hands down after displaying the rest of the OT/NT arguments for EP without those verses.

    Something to think about in light of "exegesis".
  16. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Puritan Board Doctor

    Would you conclude then that even if Paul were refering to the LXX usage of the term it would not prove EP? Of course that would still limit our songs to strictly Scripture songs. :detective:
  17. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher

    Are there any examples of "all three terms being used together" other than in Eph. and Col.? :detective:

    That would be an important note to make.
  18. doulosChristou

    doulosChristou Puritan Board Freshman


    Yes, I would at the least conclude that even if Paul were referencing the Ephesian and Colossian saints back to the LXX, the usage of the terms does not result in EP per se. Another factor is that there are many compositions in the Psalter (could even be a majority; I haven't counted) that are not identified as psalmos, humnos, or wdia. There is no evidence that the OT or NT assembly ever referred to or identified the psalter as psalmos, humnos, and wdia, and there is really no reason to think that the phrase would be referring exculsively to the psalter. If one were inclined, due to the presence of pneumatika (spiritual), to think these terms all must reference God-breathed compositions, then it would indeed limit such compositions to Scripture songs, specifically those scattered throughout the LXX bearing these designations, which would necessarily exclude many compositions from the psalter itself.
  19. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Puritan Board Doctor

    That is interesting thanks Greg.

    I suppose another consideration, again trying to understand the mind of the apostles in this time, is that they had no problem using uninspired material to teach spiritual truths. We have the example of Paul in Athens quoting pagan poets, and Peter and Jude quoting apocraphal works. How would this factor in to the discussion?

    Matt, can you think of any other instances where that phrase occurs?

    Perhaps I'm asking too many questions at once. I'll sit back now and wait.

    [Edited on 8-1-2005 by puritansailor]
  20. fredtgreco

    fredtgreco Vanilla Westminsterian Staff Member

    Perhaps a related question would be how many pagan works that we know of were style "hymnoi" as opposed to how many psalms were so styled?

    [Edited on 8/1/2005 by fredtgreco]
  21. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher

    We know the biblical writers used the phrase in different combinations.

    Luke 20:42; 24:44; Acts 1:20; 13:33:
    yalmos is being used to introduce the Book of Psalms.

    Matthew 26:30; Mark 14:26:
    Hallel Psalms 113-118.

    Acts 16:25 umnoun
    Paul and Silas sang hymns, of the Psalter. They sang something together, in unison.

    James 5:13 yalletw
    Sing praises or psalms, the title for the Book of the Psalms.

    1 Cor. 14:14-26 yalw tw pneumati yalw de kai tw noi and ekastos yalmon exei
    But I don't think any of us would see this as anything other than a charismatic utterance, which would not be inconsistent with singin the inspired Psalter. But, since interpreation woudl have had to occure, these woudl not have been used again and again. Soemone woudl have to have the gift to interpret, which is pointed out by "by the spirit" through the passage. It does not have any bearing on the argument.

    Philo uses a partial combination to refer to the psalms in "words and songs and hymns" (Sobr., 58). And in other places explaisn the same things of the Psalter as psalms and hymns and songs; Fug., 59; Conf. Ling., 52; Migr. Abr., 157.

    Justin uses the three terms exatly the way Paul does to refer to the Psalms in Epist. as Zenam et Serenum, 9, but leaves out the word "spiritual." For him the Psalter is "psalms and hymns and songs."

    Clement defines yalmos as a "spiritual song". Paed. 2, 4 (PG VIII. 443).

    Jospehus says David composed "songs to God and hymns", rendering the same words (Ant. Jud. 3, 3; 7, 4, 2 and 12, 3; 12, 7, 7)

    Obviously the LXX headings uses these terms over and over.
  22. LawrenceU

    LawrenceU Puritan Board Doctor

    Matt, one question:

    How do we know that the umnoi sung by Paul and Silas were canonical psalms?
  23. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher

    Some thoguhts -

    1) It was what Paul was raised on, having sung the Psalter from his youth. (That is a three hour conversation on temple worship and the syngaogue of the OT and intertestamental eras.)
    2) The whole jail heard them sing, so they must ahve known what they were singing together.
    3) It would be strange to "come up with" a new song, and then put it to music, memorize it, and then sing it together. (In one night?)
    5) There were no use at the time other than the Psalter for "hymn praying."
    4) The Greek is being what it is, is "hymn praying" which points to the same usage in other OT and NT texts about Psalm singing. (cf. Matthew 26:30).
    5) Luke wrote it and he was specific with word usage, the same as in other palces.
    6) What they were singing they knew by heart.
  24. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    I'm prepared to be straightened out by the least logician here. Go ahead, lay it on me.

    But I have yet to see this point faced, and more than summarily dismissed. Part of the LXX Psalter legacy is the "extra" Psalm. Supernumerary it certainly is (ekswthen tou arithmou, as the superscription reads), but it is part of the Greek Song-book! Whether it was sung or not (and which position gets the presumption?), the matter of "psalmos", the usage stares us in the face, does it not? The linguistic arguments (debating about terms, and the LXX use of such) cannot, as far as I can see, conveniently drop this point as unimportant (or inconvenient?).

    I won't rest a case on this point, but I would like to see it acknowledged as relevant to the "Greek/LXX usage" question, and either accomodated or refuted.
  25. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher

    Wouldn't the title in the 151st Psalm be of note - that it was not of the 150 and added in? Why would that not rest the case right there?
  26. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    #2. As a pagan in that culture they could understand words whether they were from a Hebrew psalm in Greek, or a portion of New Testament text, that was scripture or adopted later as scripture.
    #3 This is an assumption that they made up a song in one night. mute point.
    #5. They may have sang both a Psalm and so called uh.
    #6 Again a redundant statement as #3. Where is the idea they couldn't have already had scripture praying songs by this time.

    I don't understand your line of thinking Matt. Maybe I don't have the knowledge to. But your points seem a little off by my understanding.

    Just some questions and statements. Okay, maybe just statements so that you can help me understand.

    {EDITED to combine posts}

    [Edited on 8/2/2005 by fredtgreco]

    Thanks Fred.

    [Edited on 8-2-2005 by puritancovenanter]
  27. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher

    But the point is that history alone, and Jewish worship demosntrates they did not do it. The NT was not even completed at this time, nor woudl they impose it on religious worship wihtout the Jewish Chrsitians putting up a HUGE fight on adding to the Psalter.
  28. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    Here is how I hear one of the arguments for EP: "The LXX uses psalmos, hymnos, and wdes referring (mainly) to various compositions (not all) in the OT book of worship-praise (i.e. the Psalter). Therefore, when we find the same terms used together in the NT, they must refer to the Psalter (including those parts not refered to by any of these terms)."

    OK. Is that the Greek Psalter that includes # 151?

    "Oh no, its not included. It's excluded. See the superscription?"

    I'm sorry, its not that simple, unless you are predisposed to be dismissive! Sure, its "outside the number," but it's inside the Psalter! It's given "credit". A "Psalm of David," "idiographos" "his own writing" i.e. genuine. Whatever we think of it's origin, it was put where it was not to be "excluded" but so as not to be left out! And this demands that we answer the question: "Was this composition sung in worship?" Perhaps it is going too far to claim that it was, after all the only evidence is its existence, in the Psalter. But surely it is a greater assertion to claim, in the face of the evidence, i.e. its presence, that it never was!

    I'm not in favor of "special status" for this uninspired composition myself. And I agree that happily a distinction seems to be made in the Greek between canonical and non-canonical in this case. BUT, it is false to claim that this piece is NOT part of the Greek Psalter, when manifestly it is.

    When Little Gregory was reading through the Psalter, and he came to the last one, and he ran to Mommy and said, "I know about David and Goliath! Can we sing this one now? Teach me it!" is that when Mommy, a little embarrased turned to him and said, "Oh son, that one isn't in the Hebrew Psalter! We don't sing it. Just ignore it." ?!?

    There has never been a time in New Testament church history when there was ONLY the "pure" Greek Psalter, which was subsequently corrupted. Such a time never exsted. Never. And such a book didn't exist until one was was "purged". (When was that?) In the end, pointing to the first NT church song-book, starting with the very first Greek Psalter, it included a single non-inspired composition.

    Where does this leave us? Back to the original languages of the text. LXX usage of "psalmos" doesn't add extra strength to the EP case. What some of the titles give, the last one taketh away.
  29. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member


    Remember also exegetically I just want to remind you that the Colossian 3:16 passage and the Ephesians 5:19 passage was not an order of New Testament Worship. It was an admonition to walk in the spirit. I see these passages referred to as an order of worship set up by Paul according to the EP guys in connection with the LXX. And I don't believe that is the case.

    If EP is looking to these passages, the outcome should be that EP should be a continual command and nothing else could ever be sang by Christians. This would be a hard grilled cheese sandwich to swaller. I couldn't sing love songs to a woman then. No good christian could either. The women would have Pauls head.:lol:

    I also wanted you to add that one to your list of arguments. Sorry I didn't mention that to you earlier when we discussed this.

    [Edited on 8-2-2005 by puritancovenanter]
  30. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Puritan Board Doctor

    Bruce, I think you raise an important point. There is also the fact that Greg mentioned above that other songs outside the psalter are also labeled with the same titles in the LXX. And there are several psalms with no titles at all.

    Another thing I would like to explore, is the relationship between the historical use of those greek words, "psalm, hymn and song," with the labelling of the OT songs. Is there any commonality of the pagan Greek usage with the LXX labelling? I imagine the authors of the Septuagint understood what they were doing with superscripting such titles.
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