Dec 18 2009

Playing praise to God is just fine

Category: Uncategorizedharmonicminer @ 10:23 am

My former colleague of long ago, Bill Mounce, has a nice post on the Greek word ψαλλω, and Musical Instruments in worship:

Someone asked me the other day about the precise meaning of the Greek word ψαλλω and any relationships it has, if any, to the ancient debate of musical instruments in worship.

I hesitate to blog on this because I am sure there has been much discussion in the Worship Wars literature about this and I am not aware of the pitfalls lying in wait for me. (Can pitfalls “lie in wait” or am I mixing my metaphors? Oh well, you understand.) My books on worship are at school and I can’t get to them. So much for disclaimers.

But the person mentioned that some lexicons support one position, and others lexicons support the other. Let’s see.

The latest version of BDAG gives this meaning to ψαλλω: “to sing songs of praise, with or without instrumental accompaniment.” The suggested glosses are “sing, sing praise.” The cognate noun ψαλμος is defined as “song of praise, psalm and is used in the NT as a reference to the Psalms or more generally to a hymn of praise.”

It is interesting that Liddell and Scott give these meanings for classical Greek: “to play a stringed instrument with the fingers; later, to sing to a harp, sing, N.T. Louw and Nida agree. “to sing songs of praise, with the possible implication of instrumental accompaniment.”

Both words are used in the LXX to refer to the Psalms, which were often sung with musical accompaniment. However, the word can be used just of singing apart from mention of an instrument (Ps 33:2).

The New Testament inherits the culture of the Old Testament, and the later was full of instrumentation. The burden of proof would lie on the person assuming that instruments were not used in New Testament worship, and then it would have to be proven that the absence is normative for all worship of all time.

Good ‘ole Jubal, of course, is the first musician mentioned in the Bible… and he was an instrumentalist, it seems.