Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs - the case for Exclusive Psalmody

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dcomin

Psalm Singa
My main point was that, whatever might be your position, I myself cannot conceive of such a possibility that the readers in Paul's day would have understood the words, "psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs" to be understood as a reference exclusively to the Psalms. A reference to the Psalms? I can imagine that, yes. But exclusively to the Psalms? That comes completely out of left field for me.
Sorry for the delayed reply, John. I had a little mishap on my newly-acquired-and-soon-to-be-sold motorcycle on Saturday and I shattered the knuckle of my left thumb. Had surgery yesterday with two pins installed to hold the bone in place while it heals. God was very merciful and my injuries are relatively minor. :um:

My apologies, too, for posting an argument that is already well-known to you and the PB, but since I'm new here, I didn't want to take anything for granted. Your reply, however, leads me to wonder just how deeply you have considered the exegesis of Paul's use of the triad "psalms, hymns and songs spiritual" in Colossians and Ephesians.

You say that the idea that Paul's readers would have read his words as a reference to the Psalms exclusively is inconceivable. ("You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.") ;)

What leads me to my conclusion is not simply the fact that the three terms used by Paul were all commonly-known Psalter headings in the Septuagint version of the Psalms, but this fact, coupled with the force of the modifiers with which Paul surrounds them, as if to leave them no other option than to understand his reference as pointing them to the canonical Psalms.

"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."

First, he admonishes them to let the word of Christ dwell in them richly. In the context of songs of praise, as they were known to the apostle's readers, it is more than conceivable that they would think of the Psalms of David as being, in very fact, the Word of Christ, and that in a manner exclusive to the canonical catalogue of worship songs. To what other extant body of songs could he possibly have been referring? The very words of the Psalms were continually on our Savior's lips - He identified Himself in them to His disciples following His resurrection - and the inspired writers of the NT (particularly the author of Hebrews) often quote from the Psalter with the introduction "He said..." The reference to "the Word of Christ" combined with the mention of "psalms, hymns and songs spiritual" is a strong indicator of the apostle's intended meaning.

Add to this the modifier "in all wisdom," which adds force to the idea that the content Paul has in view is not man-made, but divinely inspired, for we can only be confident that we are admonishing "in all wisdom" when we exhort from the Word of Christ.

Now, having anchored his instruction in terms that point unmistakably to the Word of Christ, Paul proceeds to identify the particular matter with which we are to teach and admonish one another in song. His use of the words "teaching and admonishing" again direct us to Scripture, since it alone is God-breathed and profitable for such tasks. And the particular portion of God's Word to which he points us is that section delineated as "psalms, hymns, and songs" - terms which his readers, now especially being pre-disposed to think of "the Word of Christ," would have recognized as references to the Septuagint headings in the Psalter.

But the matter is put out of all doubt by Paul's immediate use of the additional modifier, "spiritual," which indicates that the psalms and hymns and songs, which are the very word of Christ and which are to be employed in mutual teaching and admonition, are not mere human compositions but are given by direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

There was only one body of songs known by Paul's readers that would fit all of the criteria he mentions here - and it was the Psalter.
 

panta dokimazete

Panting Donkey Machete
Doug, OW! Sorry for your mishap :( - hope you get a good price for your bike - since this is moving into the realm of defining the probability of the usage of psalms, hymns and spiritual songs referring exclusively to the Psalter as opposed to the OP, I am recommending that the Moderators extract JohnV's original proposition and your response into another, completely new thread. One I would would like to participate on.:)

I'd propose the title to be "Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs - the case for Exclusive Psalmody" or somesuch.

Blessings!

-JD
 

CDM

Puritan Board Junior
Originally Posted by JohnV
My main point was that, whatever might be your position, I myself cannot conceive of such a possibility that the readers in Paul's day would have understood the words, "psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs" to be understood as a reference exclusively to the Psalms. A reference to the Psalms? I can imagine that, yes. But exclusively to the Psalms? That comes completely out of left field for me.
Wait, during synagogue were they singing [uninspired] hymns and other [uninspired] songs in the worship of God? What about in the Temple? No? Then it is truly inconceivable that Paul is instructing them to sing praises that are uninspired. The opposite of what you're saying.

If worship before and up to the Apostle Paul (N.T.) was inspired songs wouldn't it follow that the (predominantly) Jewish believer's mind would be thinking of the different titled Psalms (as they have been for generations) and not the local culture's uninspired music? In my mind, it seems they would be shocked to have been encouraged to sing praises made up from the culture and not the Psalms their fathers sung since the begining.
 

JohnV

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Doug:

I'm sorry to hear about your accident. I too am a biker.

And yes, I considered all those things. And a lot of other things too. And yes, I did mean inconceiveable. I can't conceive of that argument holding.
 

satz

Puritan Board Senior
Wait, during synagogue were they singing [uninspired] hymns and other [uninspired] songs in the worship of God? What about in the Temple? No? Then it is truly inconceivable that Paul is instructing them to sing praises that are uninspired. The opposite of what you're saying.

If worship before and up to the Apostle Paul (N.T.) was inspired songs wouldn't it follow that the (predominantly) Jewish believer's mind would be thinking of the different titled Psalms (as they have been for generations) and not the local culture's uninspired music? In my mind, it seems they would be shocked to have been encouraged to sing praises made up from the culture and not the Psalms their fathers sung since the begining.
Is there such a strong connection between OT and NT worship that the fact that only psalms were sung in OT worship implies the fact that only psalms should be sung in NT worship?

In any case, Paul was the apostle to the gentiles, not the jews. The places where 'psalms, hymns and spiritual songs' occur are in Ephesians and Colossians, places primarily filled with gentiles, especially if Paul description of the tearing down of the barrier between jew and gentile at the start of Ephesians and his warning against jewish legalim in Colossians is anything to go by. Should be really be assuming jewish presuppositions onto the readers to these two epistles?
 

dcomin

Psalm Singa
OK John... Might I humbly request that you elaborate upon the deficiencies of my exegesis and propose what you consider to be a more plausible explanation of Paul's terms in their historical/cultural/biblical/theological context?
 

JohnV

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I'm sorry I'm short. I had a much longer post, but edited it. A lot.

When I read "uninspired hymns" then I'm content to just sit here and read.
 

JohnV

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Doug:

I'm sorry. I know you're new here. But I'm not. I've seen enough of these threads for a while. I do want to say a lot more, but the time has to be right. If you're right you don't have to stack the deck. And the term "uninspired hymns" is only a way to cut off consideration of the rich history of hymnody.
 

JohnV

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
OK, I've got a few moments before I have to go. So a brief explanation for you, Doug. Or, rather, a question. I know you're not the one who used the term. I'm not accusing you or anyone. I'm just saying that when I see the conversation is not terminologically pejorative, then we'll have a better discussion.

Here's the question: do you think that because I will sing "Amazing Grace" in church that I have a lesser view of the Psalms? Do you think my esteem and reverence for them is at all lessened by that? I tell you, No, that is not true. I don't sing hymns that I think are equally as good or inspired as the Psalms. In fact, my reverence for them compels me all the more to sing "Amazing Grace".
 

dcomin

Psalm Singa
Is there such a strong connection between OT and NT worship that the fact that only psalms were sung in OT worship implies the fact that only psalms should be sung in NT worship?

In any case, Paul was the apostle to the gentiles, not the jews. The places where 'psalms, hymns and spiritual songs' occur are in Ephesians and Colossians, places primarily filled with gentiles, especially if Paul description of the tearing down of the barrier between jew and gentile at the start of Ephesians and his warning against jewish legalim in Colossians is anything to go by. Should be really be assuming jewish presuppositions onto the readers to these two epistles?
If you read Paul's words to the Gentiles carefully, you will see that he everywhere uses language to indicate that they are being brought into the heritage of the true Israel. They are not to be seen as a distinct people whose cultural background now shapes God's worship...

Ephesians 2:11-22

Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh -- who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands -- that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
 

satz

Puritan Board Senior
If you read Paul's words to the Gentiles carefully, you will see that he everywhere uses language to indicate that they are being brought into the heritage of the true Israel. They are not to be seen as a distinct people whose cultural background now shapes God's worship...
Pastor Douglas,

I agree. My point was merely that Paul was writing to gentiles when he wrote 'psalms, hymns and spiritual songs' so I do not believe it is a good argument to immediately ask 'what would a jew have thought of when he heard that phrase?'
 

dcomin

Psalm Singa
I'm just saying that when I see the conversation is not terminologically pejorative, then we'll have a better discussion.
I'm trying to be sensitive to your expressed concern here, John. But I honestly never thought of the phrase "uninspired hymn" as a "deck-stacking" term or even a pejorative. One of the main issues surrounding the EP debate is the difference between singing the divinely-inspired psalms and singing songs of human composition. To distinguish the two is merely to acknowledge this very important difference between the two kinds of song being considered. The descriptives "inspired" and "uninspired" are, when I use them, nothing more or less than statements of an important distinction.

Here's the question: do you think that because I will sing "Amazing Grace" in church that I have a lesser view of the Psalms? Do you think my esteem and reverence for them is at all lessened by that? I tell you, No, that is not true. I don't sing hymns that I think are equally as good or inspired as the Psalms. In fact, my reverence for them compels me all the more to sing "Amazing Grace".
It's really not my place, nor my desire, to judge your heart, brother. I have no reason to question your sincerity, or to conclude what emotional response may be provoked in you through the singing of Amazing Grace. But sincerity is not the measure of acceptable worship. Nor is the issue one of comparative reverence for psalms and hymns. The only question, as I understand the issue, is reverence for God's revealed will concerning His worship. If He commands me to sing His own inspired songs of praise, and He nowhere commands me to compose my own songs to sing alongside or in place of His songs, then how I feel about the Psalms or the hymns that I sing does not justify or excuse me.

I do not doubt, John, that you hold the Psalms in high esteem. Nor do I conclude, merely from the fact that you sing Amazing Grace in worship that you necessarily reverence the Psalms less. I contend, however, that your feelings about the Psalms (as well as my own) are not relevant to the discussion. The issue is simply, "What saith the Lord?"
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
The issue is simply, "What saith the Lord?"
Moderator comment. Agreed; keep on track to the OP and subject line folks. Also, I'm working to get the formal EP debate set up. If I can do so, there will be a moratorium on all EP threads when the debate ensures and until it is completed. So, "make hay" as they say with this opportunity.
 

JohnV

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Thank you for your response, Doug. If I seem short or curt in my responses, its because I want to change the rhetoric if we're going to discuss this.

You answered me sufficiently. Now I ask you to think about that more carefully. It's not songs, but people that worship God. I suggest to you that comparing the two, Psalms and hymns, in that light is both forced and unnecessary. I, for one who sings hymns, do not dispossess the Psalms from their inspired status or high esteem at all by singing hymns. It's not my heart that I was referring to.
 

CDM

Puritan Board Junior
Thank you for your response, Doug. If I seem short or curt in my responses, its because I want to change the rhetoric if we're going to discuss this.

You answered me sufficiently. Now I ask you to think about that more carefully. It's not songs, but people that worship God. I suggest to you that comparing the two, Psalms and hymns, in that light is both forced and unnecessary. I, for one who sings hymns, do not dispossess the Psalms from their inspired status or high esteem at all by singing hymns. It's not my heart that I was referring to.
The term uninspired is a perfectly descriptive term which communicates the real and major difference between the songs of David and all other songs that are not inspired. So I don't unnecessarily offend you or anyone else what should I /we call "praise songs" that are not inspired by God, and composed by men?
 

dcomin

Psalm Singa
It's not songs, but people that worship God.
You are making an unsound distinction here, John. By the same token, Nadab and Abihu could well have protested, "It's not fire, but people that worship God." Yes, people worship God, but God reserves the right to establish the means by which they do so. Nadab and Abihu may well have been sincere, but they offered "strange fire, which the Lord commanded them not." This was their offense - they chose to offer to God what He had not commanded. God did not judge the fire... He judged the men who offered it, because they led His people astray by their disobedience.

I suggest to you that comparing the two, Psalms and hymns, in that light is both forced and unnecessary.
The comparison between (inspired) Psalms and (uninpired) hymns is neither forced nor unnecessary. It is one of the principle points of contention in the debate over EP. It is a fact that God has written, by divine inspiration, a compendium of songs which He has commanded His people to sing in His public praise. It is also a fact that men have written hymns, without divine inspiration, which have been incorporated into the corporate worship of the church. If the latter have been introduced into the church's worship without divine warrant, as we contend, then their nature as mere human compositions (thus subject to error) is a material fact relevant to the larger discussion.

I, for one who sings hymns, do not dispossess the Psalms from their inspired status or high esteem at all by singing hymns. It's not my heart that I was referring to.
It goes without saying that your singing of hymns does not dispossess the Psalms of their inspired status, but "esteem" is a bit more difficult to address. How, exactly, does one quantify or measure "esteem"? You say that when you sing Amazing Grace, it does not in any way lessen your esteem for the Psalms. You add that it is precisely your high esteem for the Psalms that compels you to sing Amazing Grace. But the issue is not one of subjective esteem, but of objective obedience (which is really the only certain way to demonstrate esteem - "If you love [esteem] Me, you will keep My commandments.")

If God has commanded us to sing His Psalms in worship, and has nowhere commanded us to sing songs of our own composition in His corporate worship, then to sing such man-made compositions, however much we may feel motivated by reverence for the Psalms, is an act of disobedience no different from Nadab and Abihu's strange fire, which the Lord has commanded not.

Further, to subtitute our own songs in the place of those that God has given us (since the choice of one thing necessarily displaces another) is an evidence itself of where our esteem truly lies.

Please understand that I am not impugning your motives. I do not doubt your sincerity. But sincerity cannot be made the round of truth or practice. The question remains: "What saith the Lord?"
 

JohnV

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Sorry, guys. I've been going in and out all day. I really didn't want to get into the EP discussions again too. I think I've read all the arguments a few times now. I don't need to read them again.

In the Repent and Orthdoxy threads I said that I should just butt out of these kinds of discussions. The arguments don't persuade me, and there seems to be a lot of personal collateral tied up in EP. So just to keep the peace on the Board I didn't want to jump in anymore. So I was hoping that my short answers would lose the interest of you folks, and that you'd discuss back and forth amongst yourselves. But instead it seems that your posts are more focused on me instead of less.

That's fine. I'm not going to anti-social either. I'll talk with you guys if you want. And I'll try to keep my head. I'm not accusing you of anything concerning "uninspired hymns". I'm just saying that this kind of talk only makes it worse, not better. If you insist on it, that's your business. But if you insist then you should know that it has a tendency to move me away from rather than towards your points. Just so you know. It's the same with some of the other arguments too. So I think its best for me to just keep out of this, because I've said enough in the Burden of Proof thread. I really don't think anything more needs to be said.
 

panta dokimazete

Panting Donkey Machete
Doug - looks like John is done... Hi, John! :wave: :handshake:

Doug, you stated:

God has written, by divine inspiration, a compendium of songs which He has commanded His people to sing in His public praise.
I think we would both heartily agree to that statement.

However, wouldn't you rather say, "commanded His people to exclusively sing"?

Would you also post the Scripture you use to support this assertion?

Thanks!
 

Puritan Sailor

Puritan Board Doctor
The comparison between (inspired) Psalms and (uninpired) hymns is neither forced nor unnecessary. It is one of the principle points of contention in the debate over EP. It is a fact that God has written, by divine inspiration, a compendium of songs which He has commanded His people to sing in His public praise. It is also a fact that men have written hymns, without divine inspiration, which have been incorporated into the corporate worship of the church. If the latter have been introduced into the church's worship without divine warrant, as we contend, then their nature as mere human compositions (thus subject to error) is a material fact relevant to the larger discussion.
Where does Scripture ever make such a distinction of inspired vs. uninspired song in the worship if God?

It is an issue of authorization not inspiration.

And to argue that the Jews sang psalms exclusively in the OT is an argument from silence. The Psalms were not even finally compiled until the Exile. And what did they sing before Moses provided a few psalms? Perhaps a historical case can be made for exclusive psalmody in the intertestamental period, but that was also the time when the Pharisee's reigned. Not necessarily the precedent I would want to build on historically.

"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."
A perfectly legitimate interpretation of Paul's exhortation here (especially in light of a predominantly Gentile audience) is to use the instrumentality of song to better learn the word of Christ in their hearts. The word of Christ encompasses much more than just the Psalms of David.
:2cents:
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Where does Scripture ever make such a distinction of inspired vs. uninspired song in the worship if God?
This is really the point, isn't it? The Scriptures nowhere make this distinction because the quality of Scriptual psalmody is inspired. So we are back to the proper application of the regulative principle. Are we bound to the quality of song which Scripture prescribes, i.e., inspired; or are we free to add qualities which suit us, i.e., uninspired?
 

panta dokimazete

Panting Donkey Machete
This is really the point, isn't it? The Scriptures nowhere make this distinction because the quality of Scriptual psalmody is inspired. So we are back to the proper application of the regulative principle. Are we bound to the quality of song which Scripture prescribes, i.e., inspired; or are we free to add qualities which suit us, i.e., uninspired?
I am still not convinced that there is evidence of a Scriptural prescription for exclusively "inspired" song for public worship. Particularly not for the NT church - Paul put prayer and song into the same category:

1 Corinthians 14:15

What is the outcome then? I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also; I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
I am still not convinced that there is evidence of a Scriptural prescription for exclusively "inspired" song for public worship. Particularly not for the NT church - Paul put prayer and song into the same category:

1 Corinthians 14:15

What is the outcome then? I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also; I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also.
I'm not inclined to debate this passage with you again. As noted in previous threads, your idea of mixed forms of worship does not provide a basis for uninspired hymns, it simply undermines the RPW basis for singing altogether.
 

panta dokimazete

Panting Donkey Machete
I'm not inclined to debate this passage with you again. As noted in previous threads, your idea of mixed forms of worship does not provide a basis for uninspired hymns, it simply undermines the RPW basis for singing altogether.
The mixed-modes are incidental to the EP debate, not foundational. You have not rebutted the categorization, which is.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
The mixed-modes are incidental to the EP debate, not foundational. You have not rebutted the categorization, which is.
Your "categorization" adds nothing to the issue for or against. The apostle is speaking of inspired speech, as the context makes plain. The "spirit" is unintelligible speech, such as tongues, whereby a man speaks mysteries with his spirit; whilst the "mind" refers to intelligible speech, such as is delivered in prophecies. Further, the fact that the apostle specifically divides up the two actions of praying and singing shows that they were two distinct modes of communication.
 

panta dokimazete

Panting Donkey Machete
Your "categorization" adds nothing to the issue for or against. The apostle is speaking of inspired speech, as the context makes plain. The "spirit" is unintelligible speech, such as tongues, whereby a man speaks mysteries with his spirit; whilst the "mind" refers to intelligible speech, such as is delivered in prophecies. Further, the fact that the apostle specifically divides up the two actions of praying and singing shows that they were two distinct modes of communication.
Actually - he draws the distinction that prayer and song should be intelligible and spirit filled - not one or the other is to be unintelligible in worship - thus placing song and prayer in distinctively the same category. That is to say - with composition ruled by the influence of the mind and the spirit...but composed nonetheless.
 
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