Instrumental Music: Justin Martyr and the Instrument

Angel with harpJust a quick post to make the readers aware of a recent post by Danny Corbitt, author of Missing More Than Music: When Disputable Matters Eclipse Worship and Unity, dealing with the claim made by many, going back for centuries, that Justin Martyr condemned the use of instruments by the church.

Simply singing is not agreeable to children, but singing with the lifeless instruments and dancing and clapping; on which account the use of this kind of instrument and others agreeable to children is removed from the songs in the churches, and there is left remaining simply singing.

Corbitt concludes that for over 100 years, scholars have considered the manuscript from which this quotation is taken to be wrongly attributed to Justin. According to sources cited in the Catholic Encyclopedia, it appears likely the quotation actually was written by Diodorus of Tarsus in the 5th Century.

It is likely truly a statement made by an early Christian, but there is, of course, a huge difference between having been written in the Second Century by Justin and in the 5th Century.

It’s an interesting study by itself just to read through Danny’s footnotes to see the influence of this quotation based on the mistaken belief this is a Second Century quotation.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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30 Responses to Instrumental Music: Justin Martyr and the Instrument

  1. Justin Martyr or Diodorus – I can't say that it makes a difference to me. The quote seems to express a personal preference (one which also seems prejudicial against children) and unless we are willing to bestow upon either writer the mantle of inspired authorship equivalent to canonized scripture, then it is no more and no less than human preference and a teaching of man.

  2. Nick Gill says:

    More than a personal preference: an elitism bordering on snobbery from a leader in a religion whose Lord called us to be like little children.

  3. Bob Harry says:

    Jay

    Your open letter in "Profiles on Apostasy" is amusing.

    You have as much of a chance for a reply as Glen Beck's chance that his Red Phone to the white house will ring and Obama will talk to him.

    Good luck.

    Bob.

  4. Ray Downen says:

    If Jesus opposed use of musical instruments by members of His kingdom, He forgot to say so. If apostles of Jesus opposed use of musical instruments by members of the earthly kingdom of Christ, they forgot to say so. If members of the church at some later date create an anti-instrument law, they forgot to get permission to do so. It matters not if it was the 2nd or the 5th century when someone foolishly opposed Christian use of musical instruments. They spoke out of turn. Jesus is Lord. The apostles of Jesus spoke for Him by His authority. We don't. Church fathers in any century after the first cannot speak with God's authority. Our goal should be to let the Bible speak in all matters of faith and practice. And nothing in the Old Testament reflects the teaching of the Lord Jesus as it applies to us who now love and serve Him.

  5. Andy says:

    And nothing in the Old Testament reflects the teaching of the Lord Jesus as it applies to us who now love and serve Him.

    I'm sorry, Ray, but according to 2nd Timothy 3:16, that position cannot be scripturaly defended.

  6. Ray Downen says:

    Anyone who thinks the old covenant is only slightly modified by the new should read the book of Hebrews. As for scriptural teaching concerning things brought over into the new from the old, the conference reported on in Acts 15 concludes exactly what things are the same in both covenants, and that nothing else applies from the old. It's a small list! As for exhortations for us to learn what is IN the old, no one should object to doing as we're told. But we are never told to do particular things or refrain from doing particular things because the Mosaic law says so. Is that a scriptural defense?

  7. Jay Guin says:

    Ray,

    In all seriousness, read the Gospels or Paul and look for parallels back to the OT. Both Jesus and Paul routinely refer to the OT as supporting what they are teaching. Indeed, Paul wrote,

    (1 Tim 4:13) Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.

    (2 Tim 3:16) All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,

    In both passage, the primary reference of "Scripture" is to the OT.

    It's not the OT remains "binding," because we've been saved from law. Rather, it's that Jesus fulfills the OT — and you can't understand how it all fits together without the entirety of the narrative.

    I've found my studies deeply enriched by making a point to read the NT in light of the OT. Things make much, much better sense when you read it that way.

    Yes, Hebrews describes the new covenant as superior to the old. But he argues most of his case from the OLD! He can do it because God planted the seeds of the Old's fulfillment in the Old.

  8. Bob Salisar says:

    "Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture"

    I'm not so sure that Paul doesn't have at least one of the gospels, probably Luke, in mind here moreso than the OT. And it doesn't look to me like Bro. Downen is saying that we should not read the OT but that it is not binding on the Christian. I'm as puzzled as anyone else what this has to do with the topic, but I certainly don't think he is suggesting we should be Marcionites. If I could divine his point, however, I think he is objecting to using the Nadab and Abihu story to establish the regulative principle.

  9. Ray Downen says:

    I appreciate both Jay and Bob Salisar understanding my comment about Old Testament Christianity. It just isn't there. It couldn't be there. And Jay is 100% right that most New Testament teaching is with respect to the truth of the Old Testament writings. Paul was a Jew. His first attempts to win converts in each city were with his brother Jews, and he certainly never excluded Jews from the apostolic church. Of course not! But his message was not that Christians should follow Mosaic teachings. As Hebrews emphasizes, the teachings of Jesus are superior. Jesus also was a Jew. Every apostle was a Jew. All sought to remember God's dealings with the Jewish nation, and then move on to the present which was God dealing with both Jews and non-Jews. What then should we declare to seekers? Why, it's the gospel of Jesus that should be our message. What should be the chief aim in our study? Surely it's to understand and share with others the message of the Messiah. So our message might well start with Old Testament truths. But it should never stop there but always move on to apostolic doctrine! And yes, the regulative principle is strictly Old Testament theology and has no part in Christian life.

  10. Ken Sublett says:

    Justin Martyr and most of the early scholars knew the difference between the Civil-Military-Clergy under the Jacob-cursed tribe of Levi and the qahal, synagogue or Church in the wilderness: since Christ the Rock was in charge let's call it the Church of Christ. That was a school of the Word and excluded vocal or instrumental rejoicing.

    Justin radically condemned the music of the Jews as well as that of the pagans. Since singing as an ACT (that legalism word) was never imposed before the year 373 there is lots of positive "patternism" of the assembly but none of music of any kind which did not exist by command and necessary inference if you can define ekklesia or synagogue.

    Danny got the number of the question right, but he and most got the WRITER of the comment wrong. It was Theodoret after singing had been imposed discordingly but he knows of no instruments.

    I have responded to Danny who follows the pattern of not going back to the Bible and church history.

  11. HistoryGuy says:

    Jay,
    I followed a link you posted to this area. I'll make one post for good fun.

    The issue over the quote from Justin has been known for a good while, but debated even among scholars. Yet, a few like Danny have created a webpage and bolster its error as some great finding that changes our understanding of history, when it does not. He and others seem to believe that the a cappella foundation is built upon Justin, as if he was the only one writing. It is false for anyone to say that opposition to IM did not begin until 250+ years after Justin. I find it interesting that in other works Justin affirms singing hymns, and historical sources corroborate such singing would have been a cappella.

    For example, in Danny’s article The Early Church on Instrumental Music in New Wineskins magazine, he cites JA Smith “The Ancient Synagogue, the Early Church and Singing¸ published in Music & Letters, January 1984” who believes early Christian singing was not adopted from the synagogue singing. However, what has not been said or updated in ANY of Danny’s articles, including the website on Martyr, is that JA Smith repeatedly defends the fact that Christians, from the time of 2nd Temple onward, sang a cappella [JA Smith, The Ancient Synagogue, the Early Church and Singing, pg. 13-16].

    Therefore, we have earlier sources affirming an early a cappella practice, but folks fail to distinguish early writings that note an a cappella practice from writings that attempt to explain the practice. The practice had a reason, and many early documents have not survived history. However, we do have latter documents explaining the earlier practice, but those documents seem to be tossed to the side as irrelevant – [strange in deed].

    I desire dates and authors to be correct, but I fail to understand what the significance is of propping up the correction about Justin. I don’t see other works from church history being discussed. The discussion on this quote being attributed to Justin is nothing more than a real thought attributed to the wrong century and person, even though other writings of the same period support the proposition. Justin is not the only writer from the 2nd century and the quote is consistent with every other ECF for the first 600 years of church history who comments on the issue.

    Every ECF who writes on the issue contrasts the Old and New Covenant in defense of Christian practices, like Psalm singing, and not from an anti-Semitic bias. Scholars have two main conclusions about the a cappella practice of the church for the first 600-1000 years, and Jewish prejudice is not in the list.

    I believe folks would find it a most interesting study to note that while the ECF discuss pagan immorality with IM, and had a moral IM religious option rooted in a Godly Jewish background, Christians sang a cappella, and when asked, defended it by contrasting God’s will in the Old and New Covenants. Reading any ECF commentary on the Psalms will reveal that the a cappella practice was not cultural, nor pagan, nor Jewish, nor moral, nor immoral, but rather God’s will in the Christian age. Agree or disagree, this is what they unanimously thought and even more clearly what they practiced from the time of the Apostles.

    Perhaps someone can tell me why this quote about Justin is being discussed, but his genuine writings affirming singing are not?

  12. Jay Guin says:

    HistoryGuy,

    I don't have access to J. A. Smith's article (it costs $25 for a 16-page article, and that's just to have one-day access).

    What are his primary sources? I admit there are countless secondary sources arguing that the synagogue and early church were a cappella (first and second centuries and earlier), but I think it's all a bunch of secondary speculation. I'm not aware of any primary sources.

    There are, of course, late second century Christian sources for a cappella at that time, but nothing I'm aware of from early second or earlier. Hence, there's a 100-year gap between NT times and the first clear evidence of a cappella music in the church.

    Even the late second century sources are ambiguous, at best, as to whether they speak to worship or other events.

    Everett Ferguson concedes the same thing. Therefore, without more than a secondary-source citation, I'm not persuaded.

    In particular, notice "Sabbath and synagogue: the question of Sabbath worship in ancient Judaism" by Heather A. McKay, available online at: http://books.google.com/books?id=lpUv8WBgx6oC&amp

    McKay does a thorough job of reviewing First Century and earlier evidence in chapter, concluding, as to the First Century and earlier —

    "For communal Jewish worship on the Sabbath, there is simply no evidence." P. 88. (Note page 60's conclusions as well.)

    The Jews worshipped at the Temple. She concludes that the synagogue was a house of prayer and study, but not a worship service as we'd think of one. That came later.

    As McKay seems to thoroughly consider the evidence that is available, I can't imagine what evidence Smith has. Perhaps he's interpreted the same evidence differently. I don't know.

    Finally, I'd add this footnote from
    Jason J. McFarland, "Early Christian Singing," Pastoral Music (Sept 1, 2010). http://www.faqs.org/periodicals/201009/2150867881… —

    Bradshaw recognizes among scholars a "growing consensus that in the first century there was no such thing as the Sabbath synagogue liturgy, in the sense that we can speak of it in later centuries. . . . It was only after the Temple had been destroyed that synagogues assumed the role of centres for worship . . . . The only possible synagogal influence on the origins of Christian worship, then, would have been the practice of reading publicly important texts." At least in larger buildings, public reading suggests that the readers cantillated the texts. Bradshaw, "Changing Face of Early Liturgy," 25. See also Daniel K. Falk, "Jewish Prayer Literature and the Jerusalem Church in Acts," in The Book of Acts in Its Palestinian Setting, ed. Richard Bauckham (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1995), 267-301; and Heather McKay, Sabbath and Synagogue: The Question of Sabbath Worship in Ancient Jerusalem (Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1994), passim.

    If we have no evidence of a cappella synagogue practice at or before NT times, and if the NT is silent on instruments (either way), and if the patristics don't discuss instruments until the late second century, what primary sources demonstrate exclusively a cappella singing in NT times or even shortly thereafter?

    Now, I repeat what I've argued many times: none of this matters. What matters I is the doctrine of worship in the NT, interpreted in context with the larger NT doctrines. Absent an inspired teaching that instruments are wrong, they are a matter of indifference and hence a matter of expedience — to be applied in missional terms.

  13. HistoryGuy says:

    Jay,
    Send me an email and I will send Smith’s article to you as an attachment [historyguy007 # yahoo.com]. My purpose for bringing up Smith was to demonstrate that he is respected enough to be cited those advocating IM, but they neither express nor accept his full view (I.e. Christian a cappella). I have had this conversation with several mutual friends, and will summarize it below.

    As to Synagogue and psalmody, there are several schools of thought among scholars. Canticles, hymnody, and psalmody each has its respective history and development. Scholars debate the development of psalmody in the 1st century synagogue, some believe it was non-existent, others believe it was well developed. However, everyone agrees that one or two psalms were canticled.

    There is disagreement as to how much or even if the early church adopted its practice from the synagogue. A minority of late scholars believe the church adopted its practice from private Jewish settings, but a majority still advocates the synagogue. However, all scholars agree the early church was not based on the Temple, mimicked something in Judaism, and sang [a cappella] its psalms, hymns, spiritual songs [Eph. 5:19].

    Thank you for the book by McKay. I will read it, but at first glance she seems to mix the data and puts herself at odds with all the main schools of thought, which I previously mentioned. Still, even if granted, which I doubt, such info on the synagogue does not affect the NT and non-inspired history on Christian singing and gathering. In the meantime, I would like to recommend the chapter Misguided Missals: Is early Christian music Jewish or is it Graeco-Roman?, within the book Christian-Jewish relations through the centuries since it will contrast the respected schools of thought that I have mentioned. It can be found at http://books.google.com/books?id=58DauSER-yIC&amp

    As to McFarland, Bradshaw, and no evidence of a cappella in the synagogue, they fit into one of the schools I have described. Still, the issue is not just a cappella in the synagogue, but singing – at all. Some will go so far as to deny there was any singing in the early synagogue, but what does doubting the synagogue have to do with Christian singing? Scholars will admit it only affects the question of “where Christian practice came,” and not “what Christian practice was.” We have inspired and non-inspired 1st century Christian descriptions, but this is not the case for the synagogue practice.

    I am not sure what you are calling a primary and secondary source in this context since we have a few 1st century & very early 2nd century sources. All music and church history scholars constantly affirm the church was born in song. Canticles of Scripture was the common practice. The hymn Jesus sang was a cappella (Mt. 26:30; Mk. 14:26). The church sang (Eph 5:19, James 5:13, etc), and history defends this..

    Clement of Rome (96ad) and Ignatius of Antioch (35-107) affirm a practice of singing. The letter of Pliny (110ad), the Greek Apologist, Justin Martyr (100-165; Apology1, Dialogue with Trypho), and Tatian (160ad), and Athenagoras (175ad; Supplications for the Christians) affirm singing. Clement of Alexandria (150-215) and Tertullian (170-225) say allot about singing. Eusebius of Caesarea (260-339) though much later, presents a church history of singing a cappella by referring to must earlier documents and tradition from the 1st century, that have since been lost [we don’t have them]. Though a second hand account, there is no reason to doubt him.

    We don’t know what documents have been lost over the years, but there is a consistent testimony from the earliest times that the church sang, and accounts both early and late corroborate the practice of a cappella. Yes, early documents simply state the practice, and later documents begin to defend it, but that does not change the historical practice of a cappella which both confirm. Each document is fairly clear as to the setting, but I am happy to discuss if you refer to a specific example.

  14. HistoryGuy says:

    …I repeat what I've argued many times: none of this matters. What matters I is the doctrine of worship in the NT, interpreted in context with the larger NT doctrines. Absent an inspired teaching that instruments are wrong, they are a matter of indifference and hence a matter of expedience — to be applied in missional terms…

    Jay,
    It does pain me that you say “it does not matter.” You believe lexicons matter, and they are non-inspired history, but you deny the “living lexicon” of the early church. The NT reveals certain doctrines and we ask “well, what does that look like?” we then have contemporary church history records that tell us, yet you say, “Oh, those don’t matter.” I rhetorically ask you; on what grounds do you say it does not matter? It mattered to those who walked with the apostles and it mattered to those hundreds of years later. In an IM world, the first 600 years of the church was “missional” and a cappella.

    I ask you to continue to consider what evidence leads you to believe that the universal testimony of church history before 700ad about a cappella is incorrect. If we cannot trust their testimony on this matter, what can we trust? They were split over much larger issues and after all, these are the folks that preserved the inspired documents. Neither the Bible nor Christianity happened in a vacuum, yet you continue to reject the universal testimony of Christianity in favor of your own interpretation. To go further, your modern interpretation tells the entire church before 700ad that they stand opposed to the Bible knowing nothing of how to sing.

    Please give me your thoughts: The canon of Scripture doesn’t list a canon, but you believe the testimony of the early church that its complete. Why doubt their unanimous views on how to sing?

    I leave the last word to you on IM, as I currently have a limited amount of time for posting.

  15. aBasnar says:

    It is false for anyone to say that opposition to IM did not begin until 250+ years after Justin.

    Absolutely. But what really bothered me, and this made my view of Danny Corbitt's work pretty final, was his treatment of the Ode's of Solomo. Claiming there is a late first/early secend century source that shows that Chrsitians worshipped with a kithara really was very disturbing. when I looked up the Odes'a and read all of them, compared them to the Psalms – not only wre the referemces to instruments very few (3 or 4 in total) but ALL of them were clearly symbolic! The kithara (the only instrument mentioned) is a type of the Spirit or our body touched by the Spirit, which is TOTALLY in line with all later ECF on the matter.

    So instead of being a proof that the Early Christians also used instruments this source backfired on Danny Corbitt. But he did not admit it did.

    And even you, Jay, seem to ignore my comments on the Odes:

    There are, of course, late second century Christian sources for a cappella at that time, but nothing I'm aware of from early second or earlier. Hence, there's a 100-year gap between NT times and the first clear evidence of a cappella music in the church.

    There is no 100 year gap. The Odes were written somewhere between 100 and 130 AD. Here's again, what I wrote to Danny Corbitt:

    The Odes date (as some say) betwenn 100 and 130 AD. I have these Odes in German, there are 42 songs. What is interesting in all of them: They are set up like the Psalms, which means, they use the same kind of poetry, similar imagery and are often quite personal (1st person singular). Therefore I doubt that this reference (Ode 26:3) can be used as an argument for IM. Especially when you go to Ode 6:1-2 where the kithatara is clearly used in an allegorical sense (my translation from German to English):

    Ode 6:1-2 As the wind makes the strings of the kithara sing, so the Spirit of God in my body makes me sing through the love of the Lord.

    This is quite in line with Clement of Alexandria who wrote, that we humans are an instrument of peace.

    Or in Ode 14:8 we read: Make me sound through the kithara of your Holy Spirit, that I can praise you in al modes.

    Here the intrument is the Holy Spirit!

    To my knowledge (I just went through all 42 odes quickly) these are the only verses mentioning an intrument. Two of them clearly in a figurative sense, but also Ode 26:3 seems to be figurative: Because it is HIS kithara; which according to Ode 14:8 is the Holy Spirit.

    We can also compare the Odes to the Psalms by counting the occurence of instruments:

    In all 42 Odes the kithara is mentioned 3x. If there were 150 Odes (such as 150 Psalms) kithara would be mentioned 10x … and this is the only instrument mentioned.
    In my German Bible kithara is found 13x; harp 8x; tamburine 3x, trumpet 1x and maybe a few others = 25 intruments compared to 10. And while all the instruments in the Psalms are used in a literal sense, all the kitharas in the Odes are used is a figurative sense!

    So, we can rather build a case for a-capella on the Odes than for instrumental music.

    Alexander

  16. Jay Guin says:

    HistoryGuy wrote,

    "In the meantime, I would like to recommend the chapter Misguided Missals: Is early Christian music Jewish or is it Graeco-Roman?, within the book Christian-Jewish relations through the centuries since it will contrast the respected schools of thought that I have mentioned."

    I just read it. It's a survey of research regarding the origins of Christian music but doesn't reach firm conclusions or attempt to survey the primary sources. It's interesting, though, to see how little consensus there is among the scholars.

    The big question is the unanswerable question re how far back 4th and 5th century Jewish writings relate when they describe synogogal practice. Contemporary evidence (First Century and earlier) for synagogue worship practices says very little about singing, much less instrumentation.

    I think the ultimate answer is we just don't know what the First Century synagogue worship was like — even if it had singing, much less whether the singing was a cappella. Neither may we assume a uniform practice. Indeed, recent research reveals that Western synagogues were Greek-speaking, with very little contact with the rabbis in Judea and Galilee, whereas the Eastern synagogues were very closely tied to Hebrew and the homeland.

    HistoryGuy wrote,

    "I am not sure what you are calling a primary and secondary source in this context since we have a few 1st century & very early 2nd century sources."

    By "primary sources" I mean sources from early second century and earlier — not some guy's opinion about what might have been the case. But I'm speaking of Jewish sources, as McKay writes about the synagogue.

    There are sources, such as the Apocrypha, NT, Philo, Josephus, and the Dead Sea Scrolls, which she reviews. But they say very little about the synagogues having singing. It was pretty much study and prayer, so far as the evidence goes.

    Of course, we know the early church sang. The scriptures are entirely plain on that. That's not at issue. The issue is whether the early church was a cappella and, if so, whether they borrowed their practice from the synagogues.

    At this point, we cannot say with any certainty that the early church assemblies were built on the synagogues. The routine claim that this is so cannot be defended from contemporary sources.

    It's unpersuasive to argue that early Christian worship was a cappella based on the singing after the Lord's Supper. Mat 26:20. The text says nothing of instruments or no instruments. If a cappella were a theologically important issue, you'd think Matthew would have mentioned it, just as he mentioned the institution of the Lord's Supper. Moreover, this was hardly an organized, routine, Sunday Christian assembly. I'm sure that Chris Tomlin has been known to sing a cappella when his piano wasn't convenient. That doesn't mean he condemns the instrument.

  17. Jay Guin says:

    aBasnar,

    I'm no expert, but I've done some looking at these "Odes of Solomon." http://users.misericordia.edu//davies/thomas/odes

    Ode 6

    "As the wind glides through the harp and the strings speak,
    So the Spirit of the Lord speaks through my members, and I speak through His love."

    I grant that this is a metaphor, but if the early church considered the instrument sinful, it's a strange metaphor choice indeed.

    Ode 7

    "And because of his salvation He will possess everything. And the Most High will be known by His holy ones:
    To announce to those who have songs of the coming of the Lord, that they may go forth to meet Him and may sing to Him, with joy and with the harp of many tones.
    The Seers shall go before Him, and they shall be seen before Him.
    And they shall praise the Lord in His love, because He is near and does see."

    "The harp of many tones" doesn't seem like a metaphor at all. It sure reads like an exhortation to instrumental music.

    Ode 14

    "Teach me the odes of Your truth, that I may produce fruits in You.
    And open to me the harp of Your Holy Spirit, so that with every note I may praise You, O Lord.
    And according to the multitude of Your mercies, so grant unto me, and hasten to grant our petitions.
    For You are sufficient for all our needs.
    Hallelujah."

    "Harp of Your Holy Spirit" is, again, a metaphor, but why compare the Spirit to something considered sinful?

    Ode 26

    "I poured out praise to the Lord, because I am His own.
    And I will recite His holy ode, because my heart is with Him.
    For His harp is in my hand, and the odes of His rest shall not be silent.
    I will call unto Him with all my heart, I will praise and exalt Him with all my members."

    "I will recite His holy ode … For His harp is in my hand" doesn't read like a metaphor. Indeed, "I will … exalt Him with all my members" is an obvious reference to physical worship (such as plucking the strings of a harp).

    Alexander,

    You cannot assume, without proof, that once "harp" is used once for the Spirit that it always means the Spirit. These are not one long ode. These are separate odes and should be interpreted as such.

    And even if you make such an assumption, why would someone who considers worship with an instrument sinful call the Spirit — who moves us to worship — a "harp"? Even if you find all four references to be symbolic, you have to explain the symbol.

    We consider fornication a sin. Would we DARE refer to the Spirit as a "fornicator" even in symbolic language? Why use a supposedly sinful image for the Spirit?

    (You consider it sinful for women to worship in the assembly without a head-covering. Imagine referring to the Spirit as "woman with an uncovered head"!)

    The word frequency argument carries no weight. I'm sure I use "kithara" and other instrumental words with much less frequency that the Psalmist. That doesn't mean I consider instrumental worship a sin.

    At best, you've argued that the Odes don't prove that instrumental music was approved in the early second century, but that hardly shows that instrumental music was condemned. No one could read the Odes with an open mind and find condemnation of instrumental music in them.

    And they look very much like an approval of the instrument to me. Many argue that the author was a disciple of the apostle John, based on his use of Johannine imagery and phrasing.

  18. aBasnar says:

    You are right, I overlooked Ode 7. This is the only clear literal use of kithara in the odes – Ode 26 is debatable, but since the instrument is called "HIS" kithara, I refer it to the Holy Spirit.

    Anyhow, the point is: in contrast to the Psalms, the instruments as primarily used in a metaphorical sense – and even in Ode 7 (although put in literal language) the auther could use it metaphorically.

    if the early church considered the instrument sinful, it's a strange metaphor choice indeed.

    I do understand from the background of the debates within the CoC that "sinful" and damnation" are "key-words" – but they hinder us to really understand the issue. The ECF don't call the instruments sinful in themselves.

    But missing the point is missing the point. The Odes are the first example of understanding the instruments in a figurative sense, and this is confirmed in all letaer writuings of the ECF. So the claim, Danny Corbitt made, that the Odes proove that the Earlöy CHurch used instruments, is wrong. The Early Church was a-capella from the beginning (according to all available records).

    Alexander

  19. Jay Guin says:

    HistoryGuy,

    Thanks for sending me the Smith article. It's very similar to the McKay article I've cited before. Both conclude —

    * There is no evidence that the First Century synagogue Sabbath service was anything other than prayer, scripture reading, and a homily explaining the passage read. There is no evidence for singing or chanting. There is no evidence that the text was chanted that early.

    * However, early Christian services had singing as well as many other elements, such as a common meal, not found in the First Century synagogue.

    * Therefore, the long-taught assumption that the early church's assembly was modeled on the synagogue is unsustainable.

    * After the destruction of the Temple, in AD 70, over time, the synagogue service changed and took on new elements, including singing.

    As to First Century Christian worship, he writes (p 13),

    "The incidental nature of the relatively few New Testament references to singing among the Christians, coupled with the New Testament authors' unconcern for the mechanics of Christian worship, means that in many cases it is impossible to determine the circumstances in which singing took place, the form of the singing and even the type of text that was sung."

    He cites the Acts of John (p 14) as representing mid-Second Century practice —

    "The text of the responsorial hymn mentions dancing, piping and lamenting, and includes frequent interjections of 'Amen'."

    He does say (p 15) –

    "On the other hand, the formalized, instrumentally accompanied Levitical singing in the Temple contrasts markedly with the simple, informal, unaccompanied singing of men and women at Jewish and Christian religious assemblies away from it."

    He assumes early Christian singing to be a cappella, but it is not a point he is arguing. He is writing about the synagogue. And so he doesn't, for example, consider the Odes of Solomon or otherwise investigate the a cappella question in any depth.

    I'm intrigued by his observation that the early Christian assemblies had much more in common with Jewish Passover celebrations (which took place in private homes) than anything else in Judaism. Singing of the Psalms was customary at such meals. Given that the Lord's Supper was founded at a Passover meal, and that the early church met in homes for common meals, it's a very real possibility.

    The ultimate conclusion is that the Christian assembly was quite different from the Sabbath synagogue. I rather like Clyde Symonette's argument that the synagogue was awaiting the end of Exile and the coming of the Messiah, whereas the early church celebrated the end of Exile and the Messiah's coming.

    Therefore, the synagogue and early church began with radically different understandings of their place in God's history and purposes, leading to the church honoring the prophetic expectation of celebration at the coming of the King in contrast to the much more subdued synagogue services.

    Hence, I'm not at all surprised to see references in the Odes of Solomon (ca. 100 -130 AD) to instrumental accompaniment.

    The harder question is to figure why the early church came to reject instrumental music. Was it the influence of the synagogues, which banned instruments even while introducing singing after AD 70? Was it the association of instruments with paganism in Gentile culture — so that as the church became less Jewish and more Greek, instrumental music, which the OT speaks highly of, came to be rejected as culturally inappropriate in Gentile settings?

    One thing I'm confident of: It wasn't because the apostles issued instructions to ban all instruments intending to create a permanent ban while not bothering to write the ban in the scriptures.

  20. aBasnar says:

    * Therefore, the long-taught assumption that the early church's assembly was modeled on the synagogue is unsustainable.

    That's true. But was it modelled after the Temple? Not really.
    And you still bypass the typological aspects of everything that belonged to the temple. The instruments belinged into the hands of the Levites.

    Now the church is the temple – but on a very differernt level. We don't have temples of stones. Church buildings blurr this fact a little: So saying "We go to church" in fact very often means: "We go to the building".
    We don't offer sacrifices oter than spiritual sacrifices.
    These sacrifices are not according to the Levited priesthood but to a new kind of priesthood following Melchisedek.
    Thus we don't have any of the elements of the temple-worship in a literal sense. Why should the instruments of the Levites be the big exception to this rule?

    Hence, I'm not at all surprised to see references in the Odes of Solomon (ca. 100 -130 AD) to instrumental accompaniment.

    I simply CANNOT understand HOW you can persistently IGNORE the figurative use of the instruments in the ODES (except for one verse) – HOW you can overlook the huge differences (relative number of references to instruments, number of kinds of instruments) between the Odes and the Psalms (the Odes, according to my German translation, only have ONE kind of instrument, the kithara).

    Both (not understanding typology and misreadingthe Odes) is quite frustrating in our discussions on this subject. The reason is – perhaps – that you have not started to think like 1st century Christians thought. You still approach the Scriptures like an academic Westerner rather than from a Jewish-Christian way of reasoning. That's why – I believe – you cannot grasp the importance of typology in understanding the scriptures.

    Alexander

  21. HistoryGuy says:

    Jay,
    Please review my earlier posts in order for me to avoid redundancy. In summary, I posted on this topic because of my concerns that the original website is factually incorrect, ignores other works, treats Justin’s works as if the AC teaching has been primarily built upon it, and fails to discuss any of Justin’s authentic works affirming the AC practice… yet it remains live and unchanged.

    I’m glad that you enjoyed and studied the Smith article. I bought it for another gentleman, but he did not want to talk with me about it, so please keep it. While Smith is in a particular school of thought, be mindful that there are respected scholars with other conclusions and works cited. For example, Eric Werner and several German musicologists critiqued the view of folks like Smith. However, Werner did correct some flaws and strengthen possible conclusions in The Sacred Bridge Vol. 2, before his death.

    I am concerned that some have confused the question of "what was practiced" with "why it was practiced", which are two different questions. Some have gone so far as to claim that the church used IM, and then stopped for a long period, even though there is absolutely no evidence they ever did. Although some on this forum have made such a claim, I hope you see from all of the reading that you are doing that scholars accept the Christian AC practice as historical fact. I desire to learn, so I would be interested in any scholar who believes Christians used IM before 700AD.

    The study of the Synagogue and private Jewish life is only a means to an end. Since scholars agree that the church from its earliest days sang AC, they are attempting to answer the question "where did the AC practice originate?" This is a question worth talking about, if you would like.

    It would greatly help me if you would tell me your opinion as to where AC originated. I will make myself vulnerable! My view is that AC originated with the apostles as part of the New Covenant, which also brought many other new features more suited for didactic nature of the church. I believe this is supported by implicit Scriptural teaching and explicit historical evidence. AC was exclusively practiced until the 700s.

    Please read my next post…

  22. HistoryGuy says:

    Jay,
    This is about the best summary that I can give. I pray that you will read it a few times and reflect on it. I truly do as I search for answers.

    When needed, I can give sources, but I will try to only present some names to conserve space. We have 3rd-5th century ECF giving church history and commentary on the Psalms, Eph 5, Col 3, and other verses defending a continued AC practice as from God. Yet, these seem irrelevant to you because the date of the sources are not early enough. We have documents as early as 1st-2nd century affirming an unbroken AC practice, but these seem irrelevant to you because they don’t explain "why" AC.

    Our earliest surviving explicit account against IM comes from Tatian (110-180). Tatian precedes Clement of Alexandria by a few decades. This is the 2nd century, and less than 80-100 years from the apostle John. If Tatian wrote around 155, grant me 50yrs from John’s death. Things did not change as fast in those days as they do today. Those who knew the apostles still lived and their attitude was one of keeping what was handed down (1 Cor. 11:34; 2 Th. 2:15; 3:6; 2 Tm. 2:2). They thought differently than we do. Also, consider that from the late 2nd-5th century, we have a plethora of documents on AC spanning East to West and regardless of philosophical and hermeneutical positions. AC was everywhere.

    Scholars admit the allegorical view of IM, such as that by ECFS or even the Odes (100-130), which Alexander keeps pressing you on, confirms the AC practice and rejection of IM. Allegory placed various instruments in classes in order to convey different thoughts. Still, writers like Eusebius (260-339) cite much earlier works that were abundant in his day. However, they have been lost or purposely destroyed.

    In the 1st century, the church preached and did miracles everywhere, but they primarily met in homes for "worship." Their original setting was centered on table and word, so it should not be a surprise that AC singing is at a meal in early sources. As you know, it was not until the beginning of the 2nd century that the Lords Supper began to be separated from the agape. By the 3rd century they seem completely separate. Knowing this, earlier worship practices, which scholars say appear to be a listing style, include "singing AC". These issues must be remembered when reading Clement of Rome (96), Ignatius of Antioch (35-107), Pliny (110), Justin Martyr (100-165), Tatian (110-180), Athenagoras (175), Clement of Alexandria (150-215), and Tertullian (170-225) some denying IM, but all affirming singing while writing within 1st and 2nd generations of the apostles.

    Further, everyone one from Quasten, Ferguson, Werner, and Smith, to McKinnon has acknowledged the ECF commentaries contrasting religious practices under OC & NC. ECFs admitted to pagans that God commanded IM in the Old Covenant. The ECF note cultural/pagan immorality with instruments, but they claim their AC practice to be from God. Even if one believes the date is too late to matter, one must respect that the ECFs give a reason for AC, and it is NOT cultural separation.

    Further, the ECFs welcomed IM as a liberal art and did not hate instruments in all settings, as some lay historians have claimed. In fact, Christians shared many common practices with pagan neighbors such as, philosophy, flesh vs. spirit, liberal arts, musical allegory, singing, etc. Many ECFs used musical imagery in their writing because it was a product of their day, pagan and Christian. Even those employing a literal-historical hermeneutic still used allegory at times. These facts coupled with clear explanations in ECF Commentaries on Scripture removes the supposed cultural bias.

    Even if one grants these historical facts and implicit Biblical teaching about AC, one may wonder why no explicit legal ban "thou shall not use IM" in Scripture exists. It’s a real question, but it could be asked about many practices which have been implicitly denied. Further, was there a need? We are not talking about a hypothetical or some late introduction. We are asking "why" about a clearly established practice stemming from the apostolic church and defended within 80yrs of it by those dying for and preserving the Scriptures.

    Many musicologists and historians have found it is not so much the case that IM was excluded by legal ban, but rather given the didactic [inward] nature of the New Covenant, IM was simply irrelevant. One should reflect on the fact that the explanation of AC, opposition to IM, and mass Christian conversions from paganism all correlate. didactic setting? irrelevant? conversion correlation? That is significant.

    Therefore, I ask you to consider who revealed and taught the inward didactic nature of New Covenant Christian worship where a cappella flourished and IM was irrelevant, if it was not the Apostles? (Mt. 28:20; Jn. 14:26; 1 Cor. 14:36-38; 1 Th. 4:2)

  23. Price says:

    "The text of the responsorial hymn mentions dancing, piping and lamenting, and includes frequent interjections of 'Amen'." Hey! At least we got the Amen settled…Awesome…er Amen !!

    Alexander…no doubting your passion !! You however question Jay why he would ignore the "Odes"…even when it refutes your argument…I think the obvious question to those of us untrained is, why would you hold on to an argument and source that contradicts the point you are trying to make? If it refutes or contradicts in even ONE instance, that instance is sufficient to discount the point you are trying to make with it…In order for one to put much confidence in a theory, that theory must be consistent and reliable. 2+2 can't EVER equal 5 or we have no confidence in the mathematical concept…If the Odes clearly presents IM then one can't with any credibility say that IM didn't exist because it isn't mentioned elsewhere..Once is enough.

  24. Price says:

    @ History Guy…obviously, you have studied this subject at great length where most of us haven't…so a question from the great unwashed….do you believe that Paul's reference to "psalms" would have been interpreted by all people in all home churches in the first century to specifically exclude musical instruments ?? Those of us who have not researched this matter for decades find that the majority, even those that oppose IM, conclude it would not be possible to exclude them based on this word, that it actually, it is permissible language…so, your statement "a clearly established practice stemming from the apostolic church" is based upon what specific passage of scripture relative to corporate worship? Or is your conclusion based upon the review of the scant historical data available? And, one last question…if the removal of IM from corporate worship settings wasn't based on authoritative command from God, what was it based on and what does that say about the freedom to choose, if anything, and the decision of Elders to prohibit unity and promote division among brothers and sisters in Christ based entirely on IM…

  25. aBasnar says:

    do you believe that Paul's reference to "psalms" would have been interpreted by all people in all home churches in the first century to specifically exclude musical instruments ??

    The early NT churches did not live by scripture alone, Price. They also had the oral teaching of the Apostles. Paul spent YEARS in Ephesus – all we have are a few letters! Of course they knew how to understand it!

    And – seriously – where the ECF agree on an given subject, it is MORE than likely that they preserve the original Apostoilic teaching and practice. That#s why we can't dismiss them as irrelevant, because we have the Bible. Our disagreements prove, that we don't understand the scriptures, don't they.

    As for the Odes: You have to read the whole works and compare it to the Psalms. This one mention of an instrument in a literal sense stands in stark contrast not only to the rest of verses that conatin instrumehts in a figurative sense, but as well (and even more) to the Psalms, where we have 2 and a half times more references to instruments (relative to the number of songs!), which all are used in a literal sense. You may add, that the Psalm mention a great variety of instrumehts, the Odes but one kind.

    And even Ode 7 – which has the only literal mentioning of an instrument – can hardly be used as a proof for IM, since the Odes (as the Psalms) are not dogmatic statements about Early Chrsitian Worship Practices, but poetry which is heavily inspired by the Psalms. And it's this that makes their metaphorical use of instruments (in general) so significant. Because these are not meant to be an exhorctation to AC-worship, but reflect (en passant!) the way the Early Church interpreted the instruments. This makes the Odes rather a strong witness for AC-worship than vice versa.

    And this is confirmed by the later examples of allegorical/typological interpretation. The Odes are just the earliest example, but the whole argument rests on the totality of the witnesses, not just a single source. And the testimony of the ECF is unambiguous. This means: We have actually no choice: If we really claim to restore the NT church, we cannot ignore the historical facts about the NT church. AC therefore is a MUST if we want to be consistent in our attempts to restore the Church. To be more clear: One must among a number of other issues where we are equally inconsistent.

    Alexander

  26. HistoryGuy says:

    Price,
    On 01/25/2011 8:11 AM you asked some compound and quite involved questions! (lol). I will do my best to separate and answer them quickly.

    Do you believe that Paul's reference to "psalms" would have been interpreted by all people in all home churches in the first century to specifically exclude musical instruments?

    Paul’s use of the word "psalms" did nothing more than identify what was to be sung. How the psalm should be sung [AC or IM] came from other factors. I have previously discussed many of them. Concerning interpretation of Paul, 1st and 2nd generation Christians confirm an AC practice. 3rd-4th generation Christians believed they were handed an unbroken apostolic teaching from the 1st generation, which excluded IM. Given these historical facts and the nature of Christian worship in Scripture, I believe IM was excluded by the apostles. When one asks the early Christians what they believe, they say AC, so one needs strong evidence on this point to call early Christians liars. I’m leery of "all people" without qualification. Some early Christians broke the mold on every topic, so historians say such dissenters are abnormal and extremely rare. Bruce Morton would be a good person to talk with about life in Ephesus.

    it would not be possible to exclude them [IM] based on this word [psalm]… actually, it [psalm] is permissible language…

    Psalms were OT psalms, including the Book of Psalms with and without IM, and NT psalms. The word "psalms" is used generically to cover a broad range of music, to say the least. Given the generalness of the word, one can no more claim it permits IM, than one can excludes IM. If you would like to further discuss why the "word" psalms doesn’t "permit" IM, the history of that line of argumentation, and why it was abandoned, I am happy to do so.

    …your statement "a clearly established practice stemming from the apostolic church" is based upon what specific passage of scripture relative to corporate worship? Or is your conclusion based upon the review of the scant historical data available

    I am not sure what you mean by "scant historical data". I believe AC is a clearly established practice stemming from the apostolic church based on both implicit Scriptural teaching and the clear testimony of Christians who were so faithful to the apostles that they preserved the Scriptures. My view is consistent being supported by lexicons, plausible interpretation of Scripture, and the testimony of the early church. The IM advocates are inconsistent since they must use a plausible interpretation of Scripture and lexicons, but DENY the testimony of the early church.

    …if the removal of IM from corporate worship settings wasn't based on authoritative command from God (a) what was it based on (b) what does that say about the freedom to choose

    I am not sure what date that you are giving the first sentence. There is a transition period for Jews between the OC & NC, but there is no evidence that IM was ever in NC worship. In general, if you are you suggesting that the apostolic church used IM, but non-inspired Christians then excluded IM by 90-130AD, I would respond with a request to see the scholar who is advocating that theory and review the evidence.

    If you are asking a straight forward question to see if I have considered all the options, then I would respond… I have considered the possibility that the apostolic church may have been permitted by God to use IM, but did not use IM based on some cultural concession. However, the cultural concession view [choice] absolutely crumbles when scrutinized upon multiple factors that I have listed in previous posts. To add new point, Acts 6:7 records Jewish priests converting to Christianity who would have had a bias for IM, not against it. Since their life had been spent praising God with IM in the Temple, one wonders why such converts with moral IM backgrounds did not bring IM into the NC worship. I am happy to discuss why the cultural concession view cannot explain the AC practice, if you would like.

    [if God permits IM what about] decision of Elders to prohibit unity and promote division among brothers and sisters in Christ based entirely on IM…

    I’m leery of even addressing this question. We have an IF question and a Division question. First, using IM was not an option in the initial 600 years of the church. Second, the church was AC until Papal authority (not Scripture) introduced IM, which caused division in a local region (700). Sadly the division over IM only grew worse in time. The IF question is truly a double edged sword. IF God excluded IM, then those introducing IM are divisive; IF God permitted IM, then those rejecting IM are divisive. Few IM advocates realize they are calling the entire AC church of the 1st six centuries divisive.

  27. HistoryGuy says:

    Price,
    Not knowing your position, how would you respond to the following questions?

    (1) What is your evidence that the Ephesians of Paul’s day used IM?

    (2) What is your evidence that the word "psalm," without supporting context, permits the use of IM?

    (3) Upon what evidence do you tell the ECFs they were wrong to reject IM?

    (4) IF the Apostles did not teach the didactic nature of Christian worship where a cappella flourished and IM was irrelevant, who did? (Mt. 28:20; Jn. 14:26; 1 Cor. 14:36-38; 1 Th. 4:2; Heb 7:11-12; 8:13; 9:1, 9-10; 10:5-9; 13:10-12)

  28. R.J. says:

    There is evidence(by some encyclopedias) that Greek Christians(mainly from Alexandria) used harps, lyres, and flute accompaniment in worship by the late first century through the second before being denounced because of their immoral connection by the 3ed century(with no evidence of accusation against these Christians around the turn of the second century).

  29. HistoryGuy says:

    There is evidence(by some encyclopedias) that Greek Christians(mainly from Alexandria) used harps, lyres, and flute accompaniment in worship by the late first century through the second

    RJ,
    Can you please list the sources so that I can read them?

    thank you

  30. Patricia says:

    Hello Mr. History Guy,

    You wrote: These issues must be remembered when reading Clement of Rome (96), Ignatius of Antioch (35-107), Pliny (110), Justin Martyr (100-165), Tatian (110-180), Athenagoras (175), Clement of Alexandria (150-215), and Tertullian (170-225) some denying IM, but all affirming singing while writing within 1st and 2nd generations of the apostles.

    Can you please provide the SPECIFIC quotes from each ECF who wrote denying the use of instrumental music and please also provide a web link where I can also view this information.

    I keep going back and forth on the instrumental music…should we or should we not use it. There is only a vague, somewhat pieced-together pattern of worship that we can gather from the Scriptures alone. That is another reason we have so many divisions and understandings. Is it possible that our “pattern” of worship/assembly under the New Covenant was not a specified plan or program since we now worship in spirit and truth and from our heart…Maybe it wasn’t cut in stone for a reason.
    I would like to read what the ECF have to say, however, I don’t agree with using them when it is convenient to prove a point or preconceived thought or teaching, yet when they talk about the Catholic Church, the Pope….and so on, their words become invalid and untrustworthy.
    Thank you Mr. History Guy!

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