Friday, January 22, 2016

Objections to Psalmody: Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs

In Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 we see the phrase "Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs" used when the people of God are being commanded by the Apostle to worship the Lord. Many who see this cannot understand why it is not a warrant for singing uninspired songs rather than Psalms. In twelve Psalm titles alone we find both “psalm” and “song”; and, in two others we find “psalm” and “hymn.” The Psalms themselves are a mixture of Holy Spirit-inspired (spiritual) songs and hymns.

There are numerous examples of triadic expressions in scripture. It was apparently a common device used by Jewish speakers and writers. So laws can be ‘commandments, statutes and laws’ (Gen.26:5), miracles can be ‘Miracles, wonders and signs’ (Acts 2:22), and prayers can be ‘Prayers, supplications and intercessions’ (1Tim.2:1); Anger, wrath, and indignation (Ps. 78:49); Exodus 34:7—“iniquity and transgression and sin”; Deuteronomy 5:31 and 6:1— “commandments and statutes and judgments”; Matthew 22:37—“with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (cf. Mk. 12:30; Lk. 10:27) to name a few examples.

Bushell writes, “Psalmos…occurs some 87 times in the Septuagint, some 78 of which are in the Psalms themselves, and 67 times in the psalm titles. It also forms the title to the Greek version of the psalter…. Humnos…occurs some 17 times in the Septuagint, 13 of which are in the Psalms, six times in the titles. In 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Chronicles and Nehemiah there are some 16 examples in which the Psalms are called ‘hymns’ (humnoi) or ‘songs’ (odai) and the singing of them is called ‘hymning’ (humneo, humnodeo, humnesis)…. Odee…occurs some 80 times in the Septuagint, 45 of which are in the Psalms, 36 in the Psalm titles.”25 In twelve Psalm titles we find both “psalm” and “song”; and, in two others we find “psalm” and “hymn.” “Psalm seventy-six is designated ‘psalm, hymn and song.’ And at the end of the first seventy two psalms we read ‘the hymns of David the son of Jesse are ended’ (Ps. 72:20). In other words, there is no more reason to think that the Apostle referred to psalms when he said ‘psalms,’ than when he said ‘hymns’ and ‘songs,’ for all three were biblical terms for psalms in the book of psalms itself.” To ignore how Paul’s audience would have understood these terms and how these terms are defined by the Bible; and then instead to import non-biblical modern meanings into these terms is exegetical malpractice. (Schwertley)

Rev. James Kerr: "The notion that finds in these terms—‘Psalms, and Hymns, and Spiritual Songs’—a warrant for an uninspired Hymnology in the matter of the Church’s praise, has been exploded hundreds of times. In the Septuagint version of the Old Testament Scriptures, with which the Ephesians and Colossians were familiar when the Apostle wrote these words, there were various titles prefixed to the Psalms. The titles of 107 were psalmos (Psalm) or ode (Song), or both psalmos and ode. Taking the title Alleluia as equivalent to humnos (as the best critics do), 26 come under the description of humnoi (Hymns). When the Apostle used these titles—psalmoi kai humnoi kai odai—those to whom he wrote knew at once that he referred to the Inspired Collection, which may be designated Book of Hymns, or Book of Songs, as well as Book of Psalms (Sepher Tehillim). Spiritual (pneumatikais) means guided, or inspired, by the Spirit. Instead of prefixing spiritual to Songs, as if it were to be limited only to the Songs, the translation should rather run—‘In Psalms, and Hymns, and Songs, inspired by the Spirit,’ understanding ‘inspired by the Spirit’ to refer, in harmony with the idiom of the original, to all three. That these terms are used of the Psalms, and of the Psalms alone, is the opinion of … Beza, Owen, Ridgley, Gill, Bloomfield, Horne, MacKnight, Edwards, etc. Josephus alludes to the Psalms under the name of ‘Songs and Hymns.’ In the Apostolic Canons they are called ‘the Hymns of David.’ They are spoken of in the Talmud as ‘Songs or Praises and Hymns.’ Augustine vindicated the use of the Psalms in worship against ‘one Hilary, who took every opportunity of loading with malicious censures the custom that Hymns from the Book of Psalms should be sung at the altar.’ And in the fifth century Cassian (c.360-435) writes, ‘The elders have not changed the ancient custom of singing Psalms. The Hymns which were sung at the close of the night vigils, namely, the 50th, 62nd, 89th, and 148th Psalms are the same Hymns which are sung at this day."

More Triadic Expressions in Scripture:
Iniquity and transgression and sin (Ex. 34:7)
Statutes and judgements and laws (Lev. 26:46)
Commandments and statutes and judgments (Deut 5:31; 6:1)
Anger, wrath, and indignation (Ps. 78:49)
Supplications, prayers, intercessions (1 Tim. 2:1)
Signs and wonders and mighty deeds (2 Cor. 12:12)
Miracles, wonders and signs (Acts 2:22)
Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16)


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