What is the scriptural warrant to confine song in public worship to Psalms only?

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MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
all forms of Christian hymnody found in the early church are likely to have been in view.
Yes, I do consider Lincoln to be even tempered in his commentary, and the emboldened word shows that he is setting forth an historical possibility rather than an exegetical conclusion.
 
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Wannabee

Obi Wan Kenobi
Great comments Matthew.

Yes, but that doesn't mean he tells them what to speak.
My point about the dative-accusative distinction is that he is not telling them what to speak, but with what to speak. They would need to have been conversant with the instrument of speech in order to employ it.
But by using this as a proof text for EP aren't you really doing both? If we sing hymns then we're speaking with hymns, whether written by David, Augustine, Luther, Watts, Getty or somebody in the future. But by saying that these all mean psalms aren't you claiming that this passage is telling them what to speak?
The context lends itself to a worshipful and grateful heart. We all agree on that. The nature of speaking/singing from such hearts will line up with Scripture. But on what grounds can we say that it has to be precisely what the first word means in regard to one collection of psalms? Why not Mary's magnificat? Why not sing the Lord's prayer, the sermon on the mount or any of the creeds handed by Paul and others after him? Do not all of these point to the possibility that they were part of the church from the first? If the possibility exists, then EP cannot be proven by Scripture, for if it can then there are no other possibilities.
Judging by the fact that the various conjectures have only multiplied options, it is obviously something which cannot be determined, and therefore wisest to be left alone.
Perhaps I'm missing something. If it cannot be determined, then on what grounds is it proof of EP?
There is no basis for calling the synonymous view something distinctly EP. As far as I know Lincoln is not EP; his commentary is a good place to start. Besides noting the triadic expressions in Colossians, he also draws attention to the fact that the apostle synonymously uses two of the words -- psalm and song, in their verbal form in the last clause.

As noted, most commentators who venture a guess as to the differences usually qualify by stating that the words are used either synonymously or interchangeably -- Bruce, Salmond, Lightfoot, Trench, Hodge, etc. Hodge, for example, says that the terms were "loose," before going on to provide one more possibility as to the differences of meaning. If we added them all up I think there would be some ten to fifteen different schemes, which should show the impracticality of trying to fix the meaning of the terms. It is somewhat futile as various Old Testament Psalms are decribed by all three terms
Point well taken. So your position not only must prove that the three are synonymous, but that they all three mean the psalms.
Third, if Paul (the HS) had intended such specificity, then why not use the article to stress his point? The anarthrous nouns here do not lend themselves to the united specificity espoused by EP.
Not sure whence you are deriving your idea of the definite article.
In Sharp's like constructions, where nouns mean the same thing, the first one is often preceded by a definite article, linking them. To be sure, this is not such a construction. But it is a general principle in Greek, though not necessary when the context demands definiteness (proper names, for example). If it (article) was there it would add credibility to the idea that the three are, indeed, the same thing, and specifically psalms. With this in mind these were either well known to mean the same thing at the time, or they were not synonymous. It wasn't proof so much as an observation that I thought put additional pressure on the claims of synonymity (is that a word? :) It should be.). Furthermore, one does not need to define the three different terms to claim that they are not synonymous. Also, as you alluded, they can be synonymous in that they are a worshipful pouring out of a thankful heart to the Lord in song without being synonymous is form.
Fourth, the construction in Col 1:9 is a valid observation, but is it really conclusive?
It provides an example of the same syntax being used in the same letter. The person who chooses to understand the use of "spiritual" in different ways is bound to provide some reason for so doing.
Okay, fair enough. But aren't we still in a position where much has yet to be proven?

Are the three nouns synonymous? There is agreement that they could be. But doesn't the OP demand proof?
If they are synonymous, then are they synonymous in type, or only in principle? For instance, a hymn (as we know them today) and a psalm can both contain Scriptural truth and be sung with great reverence and worship toward God. In so much as they are scripturally accurate they could be considered spiritual. They would be synonymous in worship, but different in type.
If not, then discussion over; at least in regard to Eph 5:19.
If so, then do they all necessarily mean THE psalms? Why not hymns? Why not odes? Even taking "spiritual" into account, how can one know for sure that we're dealing exclusively with the psalms here? Unless I have misunderstood, by your own admission there is enough unknowable that it can't be proven in this passage.​

Thank you for the thoughtful interaction.


God's richest blessings,
 

chbrooking

Puritan Board Junior
Paul and I are working on a summary of the conversation so far to aid in tying up loose ends. My version didn't seem entirely fair to the EP position, so we're reworking it.

In the mean time, I have 4 points to raise:

I’ve conceded that it is my job to find exceptional verses, given that your case is a negative one. That is, since one cannot prove a negative, we would need to demonstrate that there were examples of uninspired song.

After thinking about this, however, I’m not sure I can accept the negative argument without some prior discussion.

Undoubtedly, God commands us to sing. Where the question arises is in whether he tells us WHAT to sing. Your case seems to be, 1) He doesn’t tells us to sing uninspired material, and 2) examples of song in scripture are inspired.

But I’d like to raise four points for your consideration -- I have no doubt that you’ve considered these things before, and so an answer should be ready to hand for you: 1) He prescribed instrumental worship (at least for the temple -- Mods, don’t worry, I’m not going there). But he didn’t always provide content. Sometimes he did give the tune to which it should be played (at least in the Psalms). And if you want to quibble about this, we could go to specific instruments. I’m sure that there is an instrument listed with which no tune is explicitly associated. In that case, God would have ordained the instrument, but not the content. And 2) since we have a positive command to sing, I’m not sure I can accept the onus of your negative case. I have my own negative case: God commanded singing, but nowhere commands what the content should be. That would put the onus back to where it was as the OP was originally framed. In other words, you will have to show explicit commands that limit the content.

This is similar to a point I raised elsewhere (perhaps on the other thread, I can’t remember), but never got a satisfactory answer to. And that is that I don’t see how this differs so much from preaching or prayer. As Paul has pointed out, we have a command to teach/preach. But we aren’t told the content (in terms of the inspired words to use). Similarly, and perhaps more cogently, we have prayer that is both inspired and liturgical as well as prayer that is spontaneous.

Incidentally, I think we could consider even spontaneous prayer (particularly when it is consistent with the Westminster standards) πνευματικός. We do not properly pray except by the Spirit, and even in our weakness, the Spirit intercedes on our behalf.

So, for my first two points, I’m contending

1) Ordaining the instrument (whether voice or other), or element if you prefer, does not necessitate ordaining the content. OT instrumentation, prayer and preaching are notable examples.

2) For this reason, the opposition does not necessarily bear the burden of discovery. In view of the OP, it’s negative case should be given priority, so that EP bears the burden of discovery in demonstrating that not only song, but particularly the Psalms are mandated. If you can demonstrate that the Psalms are mandated as the content, then you will have satisfied your burden, and then the burden could shift to us to disprove your negative case.

Note, however, that “inspired quality” will not suffice, since there are many inspired songs in the text. I understand your case. You are saying that 1) worship must be of inspired quality, and 2) other inspired songs in the text are not broad prescriptions but are tied to a bygone era or are redemptive-historical records of exceptional moments. But this still requires you to show that the command to sing Psalms are not so qualified.

For the remaining two points, I’d like to remind you of something I raised before, but that never received the attention I’d hoped for, and then offer one more thing in addition:

3) The cantillation marks are not confined to the Psalms. As the Masoretes are preserving ancient tradition, I think that is significant, as it indicates a musical use of other texts, particularly Psalms, Proverbs and Job, whose cantillation marks differ from the other 21 books (two-volume books being counted as one, for any who are confused by the math -- I’m not ignorant of the number of books :D).

4) The superscriptions of the Psalms (whether or not they are inspired) include melodies to which the Psalms are to be sung. And yet those melodies are not preserved except by name. Using the RPW, wouldn’t it be problematic to sing these Psalms to any other melody? I only raise this because your case maintains that not only singing, but content is ordained. I’m asking why you stop at content, and don’t include melody.

Thanks. And remember, I don’t mind a slow pace. I’d rather have a careful answer in a slow conversation than a quick back and forth that is cryptic or overly simplified. I appreciate your time constraints. Don’t feel the need to “get right back to me.”
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
But by using this as a proof text for EP aren't you really doing both? If we sing hymns then we're speaking with hymns, whether written by David, Augustine, Luther, Watts, Getty or somebody in the future. But by saying that these all mean psalms aren't you claiming that this passage is telling them what to speak?
Earlier I pointed to the fact that there are two levels of reference, an implicit premise and an explicit prescription. Your comment concerned the brethren's speech to one another, which is the explicit level. On that level the apostle directs their speech to be with psalms, hymns, and songs spiritual.

The EP argument is concerned with the implicit premise on which the explicit prescription is based. What is sung to God is on the implicit level, on the level of their ordinary experience.

The context lends itself to a worshipful and grateful heart. We all agree on that. The nature of speaking/singing from such hearts will line up with Scripture. But on what grounds can we say that it has to be precisely what the first word means in regard to one collection of psalms?
If one reads the Book of Psalms it will be apparent that the Book is made up of psalms, hymns, and songs. For example, Ps. 65 includes all three terms in the first two verses in Hebrew, which in English is the title and the first verse. Acquaintance with this fact would undoubtedly bring the Book of Psalms to mind upon reading the triadic expression, "psalms, hymns, and songs spiritual."

In Sharp's like constructions, where nouns mean the same thing, the first one is often preceded by a definite article, linking them.
This is a rule for the presence of the article, not the absence of it. The absence of the article is expected in a case where the referent is the superscription of a text, as in the titles of the Greek translation of the Psalms. The lack of the article thus substantiates the point that "psalms, hymns, and songs spiritual" refers to the Book of Psalms.

Okay, fair enough. But aren't we still in a position where much has yet to be proven?
If the natural reading is fair enough, then the proof must come from the side which seeks to impose an unnatural reading.

Unless I have misunderstood, by your own admission there is enough unknowable that it can't be proven in this passage.
The unknowable only arises from the questioner multiplying questions to cast doubt on the plain meaning of words. If words were accepted at the same face value with which they are otherwise received, there would not be a great cloud of unknowing cast over the discussion.
 
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MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
1) Ordaining the instrument (whether voice or other), or element if you prefer, does not necessitate ordaining the content. OT instrumentation, prayer and preaching are notable examples.
We have the ordination of the content of song in the appointment to sing the Psalms. A mere man does not possess the authority to ignore a divine pattern.

EP bears the burden of discovery in demonstrating that not only song, but particularly the Psalms are mandated.
What was all that discussion over 2 Sam. 23 and 2 Chron. 29? If you do not believe these refer to the content of praise song then you are obliged to demonstrate that the words do not mean what they plainly convey.

3) The cantillation marks are not confined to the Psalms.
Cantillation was not the frst purpose of the marks, but the logical structuring of parts of sentences to assist reading. The three books which employ different marks are presenting a poetic system as over against a prose system to suit the poetic structure of the books.

I’m asking why you stop at content, and don’t include melody.
The superscriptions nowhere indicate that these are necessarily melodies. Interpreters sometimes take them that way with a view to peering behind the text to some practice which is otherwise obscure to the modern reader. Compositional studies, however, have demonstrated that these references are often used to structure smaller units of Psalms. E.g., the word "son" in the titles of Pss. 3 and 9 binds that group of Psalms into a mini-series. In Ps. 3 it is part of an historical allusion and in Ps. 9 it forms what has mistakenly been regarded as a tune, but is obviously better considered as a theme. Again, Pss. 55, 56 are thematically linked by the "dove" theme which appears in 55:6 and the title 56.
 

Prufrock

Arbitrary Moderation
All right guys, we're going to take a bit of a break with this one for a while. These threads take a lot of time and energy. Most have expressed contentment with taking the debate slowly, so this will provide us all with an extra chance to make sure we know what's been said.

We just want to make sure we can keep the focus narrow, and hopefully a "time out" will help quell potential rabbit trails and side issues.
 
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