Question about Exclusive Psalmody

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davenporter

Puritan Board Freshman
The last thread got closed so I am posting my question here:

I have a couple of questions for those who hold to exclusive psalmody.

1. Is psalms the only book that scripture may be sung from? I.e. if one took a passage from Eph 5:14 for example and sang that, or any other Biblical text, would that be a violation in your opinion? Or Song of Solomon or Ecclesiastes or Proverbs, etc.
2. Which translation of the Bible must be used, or how strict a translation must be held to in the psalms that are sung? I am assuming that using The Message or the NLT would be unacceptable. Would a "dynamic equivalent" translation be a violation?

Sorry if these questions are elementary. I'm just trying to learn how you guys practically approach this issue.
 

davenporter

Puritan Board Freshman
Thanks for reopening.

If anyone could provide me with a link to where I can find the information I'm looking for, that would be fine, too. I spent some time trying to find these answers in the archives but I couldn't find the practical answers I'm looking for.

Thanks in advance.
 

Tyrese

Puritan Board Sophomore
In trying to understand psalm only brethren, I think what they are trying to say is that we should only sing the songs in the Bible. Therefore we should only sing psalms as they are the main songs in the Bible that were sung throughout history. Now I could be wrong as I still have alot to learn about this topic.
 

Tim

Puritan Board Graduate
I think what they are trying to say is that we should only sing the songs in the Bible.
A more correct way to put this is that we should only sing what has been appointed for us to sing. There are examples of singing here and there throughout scripture, but only the 150 Psalms have been appointed for us to sing.
 

Tim

Puritan Board Graduate
2. Which translation of the Bible must be used, or how strict a translation must be held to in the psalms that are sung? I am assuming that using The Message or the NLT would be unacceptable. Would a "dynamic equivalent" translation be a violation?
If you can sing (or chant) directly from a faithful translation of the Hebrew, then great. But this usually requires a separately translated/prepared text to make it singable. The answer of "how strict" would involve the same principles as used as for scripture that is to be read (i.e., your regular Bible), except that you need to be able to sing it. For us English-speaking folks, we would seek to have a certain poetic structure to the versifications that would be familiar to us.

I believe an excellent choice is the 1650 Scottish Psalter.
 

Tyrese

Puritan Board Sophomore
Hi Tim. Lol I gave it my best. Also I agree that we were appointed by God to sing psalms. I just disagree with you guys with the meaning of hymns and spiritual songs. This is just gonna have to be one of those topics that I will have to leave alone and respect the other view.
 

davenporter

Puritan Board Freshman
Thanks, Tim. That's very helpful. One more question is whether harmony or antiphony is permitted, or strictly unison? Are there different practices regarding the form (harmony, antiphony, etc) of a cappella worship among proponents of exclusive psalmody?
 

Tim

Puritan Board Graduate
I have no scriptural principle for this question. In my congregation, we sing four-part harmony, which is provided in our psalter. This practice will vary from church to church, depending on the maturity of the congregation in singing psalms (i.e., how much experience, how many people grew up with a capella singing, etc.).

I believe antiphony can also be called "lining out" (responsive singing where the leader/precentor first sings the line and then the congregation sings that line again). This is less popular in my understanding, and may be a practice that is found among certain cultural groups (I am thinking Gaelic Scottish Highlands?). There are others on the Puritan Board who will know more than I do on this matter.
 

Tim

Puritan Board Graduate
I think you also asked about a cappella per se (wow, four latin words in a row!). Presbyterians tend to sing a cappella, while those in Dutch/Continental Reformed lines often use an organ. I disagree with this latter practice.
 
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Wayne

Tempus faciendi, Domine.
Tim:

I always thought antiphony was where one portion of a choir or group sang one section and another portion of the choir/congregation sang another section.
In my study of Psalm 104, I came to the tentative conclusion that there may have been an antiphonal structure in that psalm. Other psalms are much more evidently antiphonal in their structure. The refrain in psalm 136 for example, "For His lovingkindness is everlasting".
 

Tim

Puritan Board Graduate
Tim:

I always thought antiphony was where one portion of a choir or group sang one section and another portion of the choir/congregation sang another section.
In my study of Psalm 104, I came to the tentative conclusion that there may have been an antiphonal structure in that psalm. Other psalms are much more evidently antiphonal in their structure. The refrain in psalm 136 for example, "For His lovingkindness is everlasting".
I am most willing to be corrected on this matter. I had done quick internet check and thought antiphony referred to something for which I would have employed another term. But, I was incorrect.
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
I just want to know, Does this help in any way?
[video=youtube;id9YCiBBqnk]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=id9YCiBBqnk&list=HL1337925253&feature=mh_l olz[/video]
 

JP Wallace

Puritan Board Sophomore
Antiphony is what we might call responsive singing - where one person or a group of people sing the call and the remainder the response. In that sense Tim's Scottish model is 'kind of' antiphonal, but Wayne's model is technically correct, I think.

Re: Wayne's point - O Palmer Robertson has a book on this subject 'Psalms in Congregational Celebration' (Published in UK by EP) - he sees many psalms as antiphonal in structure. This subject is also interesting in light of the 'multidirectional' address idea which Michael LeFebrvre writes of in 'Singing the Songs of Jesus'.

Re: OP. I'm rather fond of formal equivalency in translation. However I think we ought to allow a little more dynamism in relation to poetry generally and the psalms specifically for the following reasons;

1st - Tim's point is the answer; there may be other songs in Scripture but none with context suggesting or warrant requiring their enduring use in public worship, furthermore the inclusion of a Book of Psalms/Songs is rather suggestive in itself.

2nd - re: translation
a) since they are poetry there is a certain emotional content which may need attention to reflect it appropriately in English
b) a little less strictness in relation to word order etc. to translate into poetry is almost certainly necessary - Hebrew poetry largely parallelism, English rhythm and meter etc.
c) it must be singable in Western (or whatever culture) forms of music - I know folks do sing literally from the English poetry/prose rather than metrical, but I still believe this is permissible.
 

Backwoods Presbyterian

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Of course singing like this always helps to convice. ;) (By the way at the end you'll see something that speaks to another open thread on the PB)

[video=youtube;k3MzZgPBL3Q]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k3MzZgPBL3Q&[/video]
 

Pilgrim Standard

Puritan Board Sophomore
. Is psalms the only book that scripture may be sung from? I.e. if one took a passage from Eph 5:14 for example and sang that, or any other Biblical text, would that be a violation in your opinion? Or Song of Solomon or Ecclesiastes or Proverbs, etc.
I think the more proper question should be "Are the Psalms the only Songs that ought to be sung in worship?"
 

J. Dean

Puritan Board Junior
There are contemporary praise choruses that also use Psalm verses, sometimes performed at very loud levels.
 

Pilgrim Standard

Puritan Board Sophomore
A more correct way to put this is that we should only sing what has been appointed for us to sing. There are examples of singing here and there throughout scripture, but only the 150 Psalms have been appointed for us to sing.
This is a good point to keep in mind when trying to understand those who adhere to EP.

There are many examples of folk singing in the Bible, but some questions to ask would be:
1) Are they singing in "public worship," "family worship," or "personal worship?"
2) Is this an ecclesiastical singing, or a civil singing, or a personal singing?
3) Is there a dichotomy between who the writers of the songs were in any of these three instances?

Therefore, one would ask: "Do we have an appointed group of songs to sing in public worship?"
 

Christlicher Soldat

Puritan Board Freshman
I think the more proper question should be "Are the Psalms the only Songs that ought to be sung in worship?"
An excellent point. Unfortunately, the argument that "psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs" refers to the Psalms is overhashed. The main argument for exclusive psalmody has always been from the existence of the Book of Psalms itself:
(1) There is an inspired collection of inspired songs that is formatted as a manual of worship in song.
(2) There are other inspired songs in the inspired historical record, but they do not appear in the inspired manual.
(3) No new songs were added to the inspired manual with the inauguration of the New Covenant.
(4) Therefore, the regulative principle demands that in our ordinary practice, we as a New-Covenant church should continue to sing the extant inspired manual, and should not add songs of our own making or even other inspired songs.

The point that "psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs" are a triadic expression that uses three different words that referred to Psalms in the Old Testament is really more of a defensive argument against the charge that "hymns" or "spiritual songs" gives us license to craft our own new songs. The OPC's Majority Report on Worship in Song sadly completely misses the point when it focuses on possible meanings of these words, and when it argues that there is no explicit command to sing only the psalms. We never said there was an explicit command. It's deduced as a good and necessary consequence from the canon of Scripture.

When the argument for exclusive psalmody is rightly understood, then it becomes easier to understand what we are saying. If the revelatory Spiritual gifts were still in operation, there would indeed be occasion to sing new charismatic songs as the Spirit moved us, just as Mary was moved to sing the Magnificat. If you want to sing the Magnificat or Amazing Grace outside of public or private worship, that's your business and none of mine. But in the regular practice of public and private worship, the enduring ordinance is to sing the 150 Psalms and only the 150 Psalms.
 
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NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Hi; I note you don't post often but please do fix your signature per board rules; see instructions at the link in my signature below. Thanks much.
I think the more proper question should be "Are the Psalms the only Songs that ought to be sung in worship?"
An excellent point. Unfortunately, the argument that "psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs" refers to the Psalms is overhashed. The main argument for exclusive psalmody has always been from the existence of the Book of Psalms itself:
(1) There is an inspired collection of inspired songs that is formatted as a manual of worship in song.
(2) There are other inspired songs in the inspired historical record, but they do not appear in the inspired manual.
(3) No new songs were added to the inspired manual with the inauguration of the New Covenant.
(4) Therefore, the regulative principle demands that in our ordinary practice, we as a New-Covenant church should continue to sing the extant inspired manual, and should not add songs of our own making or even other inspired songs.

The point that "psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs" are a triadic expression that uses three different words that referred to Psalms in the Old Testament is really more of a defensive argument against the charge that "hymns" or "spiritual songs" gives us license to craft our own new songs. The OPC's Majority Report on Worship in Song sadly completely misses the point when it focuses on possible meanings of these words, and when it argues that there is no explicit command to sing only the psalms. We never said there was an explicit command. It's deduced as a good and necessary consequence from the canon of Scripture.

When the argument for exclusive psalmody is rightly understood, then it becomes easier to understand what we are saying. If the revelatory Spiritual gifts were still in operation, there would indeed be occasion to sing new charismatic songs as the Spirit moved us, just as Mary was moved to sing the Magnificat. If you want to sing the Magnificat or Amazing Grace outside of public or private worship, that's your business and none of mine. But in the regular practice of public and private worship, the enduring ordinance is to sing the 150 Psalms and only the 150 Psalms.
 

Tim

Puritan Board Graduate
The main argument for exclusive psalmody has always been from the existence of the Book of Psalms itself:
Well stated. We often forget this, but I believe this reasoning is sound. We only need to take a big step back and consider the Bible that we have. Look! We have a collection of praise songs right in the middle of the Bible!
 

Miss Marple

Puritan Board Junior
A point of clarification for those unfamiliar: exclusive psalm singers want psalms only sung IN WORSHIP, and have no objections to hymns or other forms of music in any other part of life.
 
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