Singing Psalms in Hebrew

Discussion in 'A capella Exclusive Psalmody' started by Daniel M., Dec 22, 2016.

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  1. Daniel M.

    Daniel M. Puritan Board Freshman

    I've got a penchant for languages, and have recently taken up biblical Hebrew. My hope is that one day, I'll be able to sing the Psalms in my personal and family worship in Hebrew, using the traditional Jewish synagogue recordings as a framework.

    Obviously it would be impossible in a corporate setting, but I think it'd be enriching and neat to be able to do it privately.

    Has anyone else considered doing this? For those of you more seasoned in your Hebrew, have you tried this?
  2. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Senior

    Why would this be better than singing in the vernacular?
  3. ZackF

    ZackF Puritan Board Graduate

    Why is reading Greek or Hebrew advantageous?
  4. RobertBruce

    RobertBruce Puritan Board Freshman

    I did it as a neophyte Hebrew student in Seminary. Our prof taught us Ps 133 and 136 as a way of helping us memorize a little, learn a little vocab and encourage us few EPs in the class. We did it in our first lesson and I remember them still after decades.
  5. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    Wouldn't you love to see and touch the ark of the covenant? The Law on the actual tables of stone? Etc.? Also, I think it would be wonderful to be able to sing Hebrew poetic verses using the very words that Jesus sang with his disciples and that were used in the temple worship. As it is, I absolutely love singing the Psalms in English meter making up my own tunes. I can't wait to see what the Lord gives me tomorrow morning.

    I am not thinking superstitiously that this is somehow holier than English. I am only thinking how aesthetically pleasing it would be for me. But, I think it could be argued that when it comes to Hebrew poetry converted into English that, as they say, something is lost in the translation.

    Just my opinion, but people Like John Owen, think likewise. I am not alone
  6. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    See post #5 for an answer to the same question.
  7. VictorBravo

    VictorBravo Administrator Staff Member

    Yes. I use simple tunes of my own composition. It helps me memorize. I don't do it with anyone else--it's just a private exercise.

    My current goal is to have all of Ps. 119 committed to memory in this fashion.

    When I first started learning Hebrew, I did something similar with Genesis 1 and 2. I still have retained most of it without practice after many years.
  8. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    I don't think it has the same value as reading. In reading the mind is learning original connections between words and thoughts which are not apparent in translation. Once this is known it doesn't really hit you while singing, especially since you are effectively translating in your mind while you sing. There is not the same kind of "flow" and "resonance" that one finds with his mother tongue.

    Also one has to choose a medium, like chanting, and that will probably tie you in with a non Christian tradition; and by participating with them, even over something like youtube, you are effectively joining in worship with them. And as noted in the OP, there is little likelihood of being able to join with other like-minded Christians in this exercise, which makes you feel rather silly.
  9. Daniel M.

    Daniel M. Puritan Board Freshman

    To clarify, I agree that Hebrew is not a "holy" language - God hears His people in every language.

    I also see the danger in engaging in Talmudic tradition, etc. I disagree, however, that the elect of God singing the words of Psalms equates us to those apart from Christ.

    The Holy Spirit has revealed to us the true meaning of Psalms. Whether we sing them in meter or not does not consign us to apostasy, though I do concur that chanting is inappropriate.

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
  10. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    To be clear, I think chanting is appropriate; it is just that you will probably need help to learn it, and that might entail association in worship with non Christians. You could of course make something up that is entirely unique.

    At any rate, I wasn't implying it involved apostacy; just that it might entail getting involved with a non Christian tradition to do it properly.
  11. ZackF

    ZackF Puritan Board Graduate

    I was being cheeky if not snarky. I agree with you.
  12. ReformedInSweden

    ReformedInSweden Puritan Board Freshman

    Actually I myself am learning some biblical Hebrew just because of this reason. I'll never come that far to be able to read the whole OT in Hebrew, and that's not my goal either. But I'd love to use some portions from the psalms in my private praise. Not because God doesn't understand my other languages of course, not because it would be better, holier or more advantageous in any way. Just because I'd love it.
    It's like when you love another person who has another mother language. Although you can communicate perfectly in the language you have in common, it's so sweet to study the other person's mother language and being able to say some things in that language. It would be lovely to be able to praise the Lord in exactly the same wording as he gave us originally.
    Maybe a little childish, but anyway...
  13. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Senior

    Languages are great. Study them, by all means. And go right ahead and use Hebrew Psalms in private worship. If that is for you an enriching experience, why not?

    My concern is with understanding. If one understands all the words, that's great. However, if this is used in family worship, I think it is necessary to know that everyone is able to understand. It should not become meaningless chanting, right?

    Even so, from my experience with languages I know that no poetry touches me so deeply as English. I love singing the psalms out of the 1650 Psalter. (However, I don't really know whether Hebrew poetry might be somehow more affecting.)

    My opinion is that worship, like preaching, should be carried out in the tongue of the assembly of believers.
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