In chapter 9 of Missing More Than Music: When Disputable Matters Eclipse Worship and Unity, Danny Corbitt disassembles the psallo argument — thoroughly. Corbitt finds six different Greek words used for “sing” in the New Testament, and not a one means “sing a cappella.” Some can refer either to a cappella singing or singing with an instrument. Others always refer to singing with an instrument.
On page 48, Corbitt comments,
Ode and ado always occur together in the New Testament. They mean song and sing, respectively. Besides Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16, they only occur in the Revelation of John, in 5:9, 14:3, and 15:3. All three instances in John’s Revelation occur with harps (or the sound of harps) specified in the preceding verse.
In fact, he points out, in Revelation, there is no separate verb for “to play” the harps, as ode and ado are sufficient for the purpose, even though these are the Greek works found in both of the classic proof texts!
On the following page, Corbitt points out —
Indeed, Ferguson concedes the instrumental implications of the word outside of the New Testament. He writes, “Hellenistic Jews writing for Gentile audiences kept to the classical meaning of psallo.” Put more clearly, Greek-speaking Jews (like those in Acts 2 and 6) always used psallo in the instrumental sense when writing to Gentiles. Ferguson provides examples of two first century, Hellenistic Jews who were prolific writers – Josephus and Philo. Though not Christians, these contemporaries of Paul wrote in the same common (called “Koine”) Greek as the New Testament. Ferguson assures us that the historian Josephus always used psallo in an instrumental sense. In contrast, the philosopher Philo never used the word at all. As a first century champion of a cappella (and “silent”) singing, his influence was felt for centuries. In guessing why Philo never used psallo, Ferguson offers, “A plausible hypothesis would be that Philo is aware of the primarily instrumental connotation of the word to pagan readers.”
It’s astonishing, isn’t it, that so many have argued that psallo demands a cappella singing, when contemporary writers writing to much the same audience (Hellenized Jews, for example) use psallo to refer to singing with an instrument!
On page 54, Corbitt concludes a review of the major Greek dictionaries,
Put another way, no lexicon teaches what Exclusion [those who argue for exclusively a cappella singing] commonly asserts, that psallo had completely changed its meaning in the first century. The closest that selected lexicons come is to say that the meaning in the New Testament might not demand accompaniment.
Ultimately, Corbitt reviews every word used in the New Testament for “sing” or “song” or the equivalent, and he finds that not a one means “sing a cappella” and all permit the meaning “sing with an instrument.” Indeed, this was the normal meaning of psallo in First Century Greek.
Oh, wow! He just destroys the arguments used for so long to insist on a cappella singing.
Buy the book.