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Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble:

for the day of the LORD cometh, for it is nigh at hand, Joel 2:1.

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Monday, 29 October 2012

Over a dozen reasons why the argument for Exclusive Psalmody doesn't stand up, Part 9

9. The early New Testament Church did not believe in Exclusive Psalmody 

Exclusive psalmody cannot claim that this was the view of the early New Testament church. A number of different sources can be quoted:

1. There are some interesting comments made by Tertullian in chapter 39 of his Apology [Apology = a defence of Christianity]. Tertullian lived ca. 160-220 AD. He was born in Carthage, North Africa and is believed to have been converted in middle age. He was also believed to have been the son of a Roman army officer, who was stationed in North Africa. He did good work in formulating the doctrine of the Trinity. He also wrote a long defence of Christianity

Tertullian makes reference to the fact that the early New Testament Church did not sing Psalms exclusively. In the section where he writes about the observance of the Love Feasts in his day his apology reads:
… If the object of our feast be good, in the light of that consider its further regulations. As it is an act of religious service, it permits no vileness or immodesty. The participants, before reclining, taste first of prayer to God. As much is eaten as satisfies the cravings of hunger; as much is drunk as befits the chaste. They say it is enough, as those who remember that even during the night they have to worship God; they talk as those who know that the Lord is one of their auditors. After manual ablution, and the bringing in of lights, each is asked to stand forth and sing, as he can, a hymn to God, either one from the holy Scriptures or one of his own composing,* —a proof of the measure of our drinking. As the feast commenced with prayer, so with prayer it is closed. Chapter 39 of his Apology.

*The footnote gives an alternative rendition of this sentence: Or, perhaps—“One is prompted to stand forth and bring to God, as every one can, whether from the Holy Scriptures, or of his own mind”—i.e. according to his taste. 

Here is a simple and undeniable reference to the fact that the early New Testament Church, in public corporate worship, did not sing psalms exclusively. A 'hymn' in their times was defined as: either one from the holy Scriptures or one of his own composing. The phrase: 'One of their own composing', does not support exclusive psalmody. The last thing an exclusive psalmist would permit is for someone to compose a hymn of their own and for that hymn to be sung in public worship. Yet this is what Tertullian states happened in the early New Testament Church.

2. Comments made by Eusebius, ca. 263 – 339 AD. Eusebius is sometimes spoken of as 'the father of church history'. In his writings he makes reference to the multiplication of hymns at the end of the second century AD. In writing about Artemon, who was the leader of a nontrinitarian sect found at Rome in the third century, Eusebius writes:
For they say that all the early teachers and the apostles received and taught what they now declare, and that the truth of the Gospel was preserved until the times of Victor, who was the thirteenth bishop of Rome from Peter, but that from his successor, Zephyrinus, the truth had been corrupted. And what they say might be plausible, if first of all the Divine Scriptures did not contradict them. And there are writings of certain brethren older than the times of Victor, which they wrote in behalf of the truth against the heathen, and against the heresies which existed in their day. I refer to Justin and Miltiades and Tatianand Clement and many others, in all of whose works Christ is spoken of as God. For who does not know the works of Irenaeus and of Melito and of others which teach that Christ is God and man? And how many psalms and hymns, written by the faithful brethren from the beginning, celebrate Christ the Word of God, speaking of Him as Divine. How then since the opinion held by the Church has been preached for so many years, can its preaching have deen delayed as they affirm, until the times of Victor? 
This account is found in Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History, Book 5, Chapter 27.

Again this emphasises the point that among the early New Testament Church there was the practice of composing hymns. In the context of these words quoted it to composing hymns which celebrate Christ the Word of God, speaking of Him as divine. This is not compatible with exclusive psalmody. Eusebius writes against the heretic Artemon but in his mind the composing of hymns was not a concern.

3. Another source that can be quoted is Dr Millar Patrick. He wrote an excellent book entitled: The Story of The Church’s Song, it was originally published in 1927. In that book, still purchasable in hardback,  Millar Patrick also makes the point that the early New Testament believers did not only sing inspired praise. Speaking of the doctrinal hymns and doxologies that are to be found in the New Testament he writes:
So late as the ninth century Walafrid Strabo explains that by hymns he does not mean only metrical compositions such as those of Hilary, Ambrose, Prudentius and Bede, but such other acts of praise as is offered in fitting words and with musical sounds. And Augustine lays down the same rule, that any composition of a rhythmic character, whether in verse or not, which is capable of being sung, must be reckoned a hymn. The Story of the Church's Song page 20.

It is not the Psalter that is in view in these comments but the fragments of hymns found in the New Testament. This book by Dr Millar Patrick is well worth reading in the context of exclusive psalmody. He presents a substantial body of evidence that argues strongly against exclusive psalmody.

Previous posts on this subject:
1. The terms 'Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs' inEphesians 5:19 & Colossians 3:16 do not refer to the 150 Psalms of the Book of Psalms.
2. Old Testament and New Testament saints did not live by this exclusive psalmist rule.
3. The angels and glorified saints did not sing the psalms.
4. There are possible remnants of hymns/canticles/doxologies quoted in the New Testament.
5. Progressive Revelation argues against Exclusive Psalmody.
6. Exclusive Psalmody leads to different levels of worship.
7. The Exclusive Psalmist's position requires them to reject ever singing the 'very best song' in public worship.
8. If 'inspired praise' is required then an equally valid argument could be made for 'inspired praying' and 'inspired preaching' in public worship.

1 comment:

Talmidin said...

I think one of the strongest arguments against exclusive psalmody, is that the 150 psalms don't -directly- refer to Jesus, only in veiled or shadow form. I have become aware that many EP congregations also forbid musical instruments. Even though the word 'psalm' (among others) has the sense in the Greek of striking or plucking a stringed instrument, same as the word 'mizmor' in Hebrew. It sems a strange doctrine to me.