Instrumental Music: Missing More Than Music by Danny Corbitt, Psallo and Such Like

MoreTHanMusicIn 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.

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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66 Responses to Instrumental Music: Missing More Than Music by Danny Corbitt, Psallo and Such Like

  1. Randall says:

    Did you already provide the information we would need to know how to purchase a copy of the book?

  2. mark says:

    Most of the arguments for or against instrumental music simply fall into a bias based on overt pragmatism. This is why such debate on the issue ultimately leads to a deprave war of words. But the irony too is most don’t care they just chose which side they are going be on and live in that world. I was raised in the non instrumental community and still practice, but do not believe it is doctrine. And I would suspect the majority of the coC is locked into my type of thinking. But this is not a compromise but rather a respect for endearing culture!

    The value in a cappella is found in its ability to the move the ordinary into the extraordinary. It is like the national anthem at a ball game sung with heart either by solo or the stadium crowd it can easily move someone emotionally. There are also many other venues where a cappella is appropriate a wedding, a funeral, a graduation, a birthday party….The point is part of worship is cultural. It is the teaching of the church not the Bible. Some churches connect well to the arts music and can do so to move people. Other churches are not so inclined in the hobbies and crafts as a way to teach values and might be better left alone.

    The challenge for coC is to remove the blindfold of non-denominationalism and denominate the church so that the heritage can be preserved. Along this path we might want to perserve a few other universal concepts too so that unity might grow.

  3. Joe Hegyi III says:


    That's a great argument and using Everett Ferguson to boot!

    Unfortunately, I doubt it will change many people's views.


  4. Ken Sublett says:

    Danny Corbitt is reading from a very old scrip: it probably began in earnest with O.E.Payne's use of the word PSALLO. Tom Burgess took up the gauntlet but poor Tom, all of the plucking harp strings had to do with seducting a younger "minister of the Gods." Paul speaks of them hoping their "knife would slip."

    The problem is that being a New Testament Chruch we missed out on Bible 101 in the Old Testament.

    The EVIL thread under the Civil-Military-Clergy complex the Spirit of christ identified as robbers and parasites.

    And the Spiritual thread which began with the synagogue or Church in the wilderness. The holy convocation was INCLUSIVE of Rest, reading and rehearsing or discussing the Word of God. This never changed and continued under the ekklesia or in Paul's terms the synagogue. That was a school of the bible–only.

    I have looked at Danny's stuff but it is warmed over lifting of proof texts out of a lexicon and fatally ignores the context. For now, I have tried to go back and lay some foundation which PREVENTS ever using any of the curse of the sacrificial system as out PATTERNISM for what the bible and the Campbells called A School of Christ–only. To the witness stand, singing as an ACT was imposed in the year 373 and split the East from the West churches.

    This is rough but if you don't want to get run over by those trying to do a hostile takeover of happy Churches of Christ sowing discord in the interest of UNITY you really need to take a deep breath and begin with Genesis where the serpent was a singing and harp playing prostitute. You can end in Revelation 17 where the Mother of harlots uses the same lusted after fruits Amos warns about as speakers, singers and instrument players John called sorcerers.

    The minimal success the NACC has had in creating unity by forcing churches to split ove music and build on the ashes proves that only a few have been or will be seduced. However, it is a good time to look at the Bible's universal use of the instrument to MARK those who refuse to hear God's Word and not take the "Lexicon Lifters" as serious students. It seems that most of them have a Christian Church background but now pretend to be ENLIGHTENED members of the Church of Christ. It is assuredly proof of strong delusions and lying wonders which means THE PERFORMING arts.

    You get your wish: we ARE living in something of Biblical Proportions and this may be the last test of whether you will sing and dance while the Dionysiacs pipe.

  5. HistoryGuy says:

    The quote regarding “ode and Ado” are on page 80 of the printed book. Page 48 is in the “only apply to Christian assembly” section.

  6. Rich says:

    I fully believe that the Bible tells us to use musical instruments to accompany our songs of praise and worship to God.

    Corbitt provides the basis of this position in his treatment of the Greek word, psallo, and its use in the New Testament.

    He opens his section on the subject in Chapter 9, “Psallo, our next Greek verb for sing, is never defined without mention of instruments.” Likewise, Corbitt sites several references that agree common usage of the word included the instrumental accompaniment, “Greek-speaking Jews (like those in Acts 2 and 6) always used psallo in the instrumental sense when writing to Gentiles.”

    The word, psallo, is used six times in the New Testament in its verb form. In every case, the instrument is not only mentioned but is also specified in keeping with its common usage. Let’s see what God’s communication to us says.

    From Ephesians…
    “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody [psallo] to the Lord with your heart,” (Eph 5:19 ESV)

    Here, we see we are to sing to the Lord with our heart as the accompanying musical instrument.

    From Colosians…
    “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing [psallo] psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Col 3:16 ESV)

    Paul uses thankfulness in our heart as the accompaniment.

    From 1 Corinthians…
    “What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing [psallo] praise with my spirit, but I will sing [psallo] with my mind also.” (1Co 14:15 ESV)

    Two more instruments are added here: our spirit and our mind.

    From Romans…
    “and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, "Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing [psallo] to your name." And again it is said, "Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people." (Rom 15:9-10 ESV)

    Although the connecting word ‘with’ is missing here. We see from the context that our accompaniment includes the emotion of joy based on the opening of the song “Rejoice”.

    And from James…
    “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing [psallo] praise.” (Jas 5:13 ESV)

    Let us sing with the accompaniment of cheer!

    So we have from scripture that our songs of praise to God are to be accompanied by our heart, our attitude of thankfulness, our spirit, our mind and our joyous emotions. There is a deliberate absence of any physical instruments. The NT authors knew the proper use of the term psallo and used it to clearly paint a picture of acappela singing.

  7. Anonymous says:

    A person who sings with instrumental music is still singing from their heart with joy cheerfully.

  8. Rich says:

    The NT writers intentionally left out the phyical instruments when using the word psallo 'to play'. In modern English, they said to sing acappela.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Why not say God forbids instrumental music you are not to sing with instrumental music ever again. The Scriptures show that they had no problem with people who sang with music. God never ever said we are to no longer use instrumental music.

  10. Rich says:

    The context is only when singing praises to God. You may still enjoy your country, rock, pop, jazz or whatever secular genre you wish.

  11. Anonymous says:

    The Scriptures show that God had no problem with people who sang with musical instruments.God never ever said we are to no longer use instrumental music in any setting.

  12. Rich says:


    Where does the Bible say that God had no problem with New Testament Christians who sang with musical instruments?

  13. Anonymous says:

    Where does God say He had any problem with people who sang with musical instrument?

  14. Alan S. says:


    Danny addresses the "heart as the instrument" argument in his book. He states that both in the Hebrew in Psalms and in the Greek in Ephesians, that "sing and play" are BOTH do be done with the heart. If we can sing with our voices and wth our heart, then the original Hebrew and Greek allow us to also play with an instrument and with our heart.

    It is a valiant attempt, but not consistent with the Hebrew and Greek.

    Incidently, the NT does not have a deliberate absence of any physical instruments of music. They are referenced by Jesus, Paul, and John the revelator. In every case, the reference is either neutral (as in referencing to make a point) or positive (as in Revelation) for physical instruments of music, and never negative.

    Danny's book seems to be thorough and is worth buying or getting the free version, even if you disagree.

    God bless

  15. Rich says:

    Alan S.,

    Thanks for the feedback. Yes, Corbitt tries to dismiss this reasoning in a short paragraph. He references an older commentary. It took awhile for me to find it since it wasn't available online (reason for my late response). Both Corbitt and the reference basically say that the NT writers were redundant in including the spiritual instrument. I have a hard time believing that Paul was intentionally redundant. It is far more likely he was intentionally being clear on the need for our musical accompaniment to God to be only with our hearts.

    Also from Corbitt quoting another source concerning the word psallo,
    "Delling, 1972. [Of the Septuagint translation of the Psalms:] often the obvious sense is "to play," especially when an instrument is mentioned…"

    Therefore, the proper translation of Eph 5:19 is "… singing and playing with your heart to the Lord."

    Corbitt mentions how the Bible translators intentionally applied neutral language in our Engish versions. I suppose the motive is the same as transliterating the Greek word, baptizo, rather than properly translating it as immersion. There was too much religious politics to be as precise as the original.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Alan S.-Incidently, the NT does not have a deliberate absence of any physical instruments of music. They are referenced by Jesus, Paul, and John the revelator. In every case, the reference is either neutral (as in referencing to make a point) or positive (as in Revelation) for physical instruments of music, and never negative.

    Excellent point. i thought about pointing that out to Rich but his mind is made up that God has "silently" told us to no longer use instrumental music.

    Rich how are we to pray, are we to pray with our hands lifted up, are we to pray with our hands folded, are we to pray with our eyes open, are we to pray with our eyes closed?

  17. Rich says:


    The highly figurative language in Revelation should still be considered neutral. For example, Rev. 14:1-4 tells us that only 144,000 virgins will make it to heaven and sing the new song with a voice that will sound like water, thunder and harps. I sure hope this is only figurative. I have three kids.

    While in college I questioned every teaching of the cofC. It was my own personal study of the Greek word psallo and its usage in the NT and society at the time that drew me to this conclusion. I had no strong ties to the cofC. I was only seeking truth. My parents would have liked for me to join their belief system, but I couldn't.

    As far as prayer, I'm not aware of any required posture. I know that the tax collector was too humble to lift his eyes so I tend to bow down. But I have been known to talk to God while I'm driving. Don't worry, I keep my head up and eyes open.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Revelation 14:2 "And I heard a voice from heaven, like the voice of many waters, and like the voice of loud thunder. And I heard the sound of harpists playing their harps."

    He heard a voice like many waters and thunder. And he heard the sound of harpists playng their harps.

    The harp sounds were not coming from the voice but from harpists playing their harps.

    I don't believe God has any problems with instrumental music.

  19. Rich says:


    It looks like only the KJV and NKJV leave out the simile. Here are a few other versions:

    And I heard a voice from heaven like the roar of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. The voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps, (Rev 14:2 ESV)

    2And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. NIV

    2 And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and the voice which I heard was as the voice of harpers harping with their harps: ASV

    2And I heard a voice from heaven, like (A)the sound of many waters and like the (B)sound of loud thunder, and the voice which I heard was like the sound of (C)harpists playing on their harps. (New American Standard Bible)

    In all of the above, what was heard was a voice or sound that sounded like harpists and like rushing water and like thunder. This is obviously figurative, metaphorical, poetic license, a simile.

  20. Anonymous says:

    I'm sorry I don't use those other Bibles that were interpreted more recently by men who easily could have paraphrased biased opinions in them. I'd rather stick to the Scripture more as is so I can make my own decision leaning on the guidance of the Holy Spirit to help me understand what it says than leaning on other men.

  21. paul says:

    God commanded the people to worship Him with instruments specifically in the scriptures. To be technical, the new testament was not "scripture" at least for nearly a hundred years after Christ ascended- where the word "scripture" is mentioned it is a reference to "the old testament" ONLY. How can I say that? Because history proves that the collection of bible books we call the new testament did not exist as a 'book' until sometime during the Second century!!! Thus 2nd Chronicles 5 and other related passages are valid in regard to examples of singing with musical accompaniment worship.

  22. HistoryGuy says:

    This is not a full review, but some points to ponder about the psallo issue he presents. Mr. Corbitt seems to be genuine in his concern for unity and I am thankful for a new book available on the subject. Hopefully more people will discuss the issue in a mature fashion. However, while he has done allot of tweaking, he has not presented anything new for those who study the literature produced by those of both positions. He certainly has not crushed anything.

    Mr. Corbitt presents several well written arguments. However, they are factually incorrect or incomplete, as well as contradictory in nature. Not only is the cultural music preference in the first century misrepresented, but the prophecy and cultural propositions are two of many contradictory examples of argumentation that he uses.

    The basic premise of the book is that instruments are scriptural, but optional based on psallo and some entwined arguments. Be unified, and if in doubt about the practice of the early church, remember that it was culture, not Jesus, that taught the Apostles to sing without instruments. After all, “It was not God that changed praise” [inferring it was man…pg159]. I think this statement creates a sin issue, but I will let someone else talk about that.

    While Mr. Corbitt removed instruments from inclusion with the Old Covenant to avoid having them nailed to the cross or dealing with the book of Hebrews, he granted that there is no evidence for instrumental use in the apostolic church.

    He was creative with several grammar and exegetical rules to avoid making the instrument mandatory, which OE Payne argued in “Instrumental Music is Scriptural”. Yet, in so doing Mr. Corbitt presented the same proposition as Mr. Boswell in the Hardeman-Boswell Discussion, which was “instrumental music is optional”. Moving past how a command can be optional, after the debate everyone realized the duplicity of such a statement and the proposition was abandoned by most, until recently with Mr. Corbitt.

    Tom Burgess recognized the problem with the “instruments are optional” argument so he added a slight variation in “Documents on Instrumental Music”. With great fervor he actually made the instrument mandatory or optional depending on what type of music you sing. Burgess clearly stated that, “psallein meant to sing with instrumental accompaniment in the NT [mandatory]” (pg14), but Eph 5:19 allows for three types of music. Psalms are sung with instrumental accompaniment [mandatory], hymns are sung and spiritual songs can be sung with or without [optional].

    Burgess went on to say that if in doubt about the practice, the safe position is for everyone to USE the instrument to ensure that nothing is left out of the Greek (pg 117-118). Mr. Corbitt relied heavily on Burgess, but seemed to miss the fact that psallo cannot be with or without instruments at the same time/context (see Hardeman-Boswell Discussion).

    Don Dewealt felt there were much better arguments than using psallo and chose to argue against worship assemblies, which Mr. Corbitt picked up on. Given O. Blakely avoided the pitfalls of the past and broke new ground by proposing that the Apostles did not give directives for corporate worship and no authority is needed to use the instrument. With my deepest respect, I can only say that it seems that Mr. Corbitt has managed to not only ignore but also contradict his predecessors, while breaking new ground in practically every argument he put forth. I would like to believe that much of this was missed due to those assisting his research.

  23. Rich says:


    Both the KJV and NKJV are excellent translations. The issue with the KJV is that the English language has changed so much, but the NKJV has helped a lot. Both are based on a Greek original that has been determined to be too new. Other translations like the ASV , NASV, and ESV are based on older Greek texts discovered after the original KJV was created.

    The differences in the Greek manuscripts are minor in the grand scheme of things but details can be problematic at times. For example, in Acts 2:47 the KJV and NKJV say that God added to the 'church' on a daily basis. The original Greek word in the KJV generically means assembly, crowd, or group. The older Greek manuscripts use a word that is generically a synonym meaning 'number' or group. The meaning of the passage is really unchanged, but the pat answer of adding to the 'church' is weakened.

    The answer is to read multiple translations when doing a deep dive study. If they all sound the same then you can have confidence in the meaning. If they seem different, then it is best to look up the Greek when it really matters. All translations have some level of bias since they are produced by humans.

    I assume you intended some sarcasm in your post, but I hope this serious answer is a help.

  24. Anonymous says:

    If people want to say the gift God gives people to play music He doesn't want them to use those gifts to accompany us singing praises to Him, I consider that their opinion but nowhere does the Bible say that. I will still sing praises to God whether instrumental music is being played or not.

  25. Anonymous says:

    And those modern day bibles where made by modern day men who still had to interpreted those older Greek texts.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Not meaning to sound sarcastic just being honest.

    God Bless

  27. Rich says:

    None of the popular translators (including those for the KJV and NKJV) had the guts to properly translate baptizo as immerse or psallo as play when it was warranted.

  28. HistoryGuy says:

    I respectfully comment on the Revelation text, Ode and ado. Mr. Corbitt seems to misunderstand the value of symbolism and Greek, resulting in an assumed “playing” when the text says no such thing.

    I summarize Mr. Everett Ferguson from the 1998 Innman Forum again:
    Is Instrumental music present in the heavenly worship? Revelation draws on Old Testament practices in order to symbolize spiritual realities. Few would insist on literal harps in heaven, any more than they would a literal altar, literal streets of gold, or any of the other items described.

    Rev 5:8-9… Although they hold harps, one could point out that they are not said to play, but only to sing. This may not be just a quibble, for the bowls of incense are said to be the prayers of the saints. The harps would seem to symbolize singing in the same way that incense symbolizes prayers. We are expressly told that the golden bowls of incense represent something else–prayer. It would follow that the harps too stand for something else; although not as expressly interpreted, the immediate connection of the harps is with the song quoted in verse 9. Such an interpretation is strengthened by Rev 14:2-3. [Mr. Corbitt assumed that those singing were also playing the harp, when the harp could have symbolized the singing, which fits the context and Greek grammar more accurately and naturally].

    Rev 14:2-3 what is heard is a "voice." It is compared to the sound of rushing water, the sound of thunder, and the sound of harpists. There is no literal water, thunder, or harp; only a voice. And the voice is the singing of the redeemed. [This has been noted in this blog already].

    Rev 15:2-3 … The sea of glass mixed with fire is a comparison, imagery, so one should be careful about pressing the nature of the harps in the hands of those who have overcome the beast. Once more, all that is stated as being done is that they sing a song. Although one's first assumption is that the harps are there to be played, their presence may be symbolic, part of the imagery of the scene, which probably alludes to the song of Israel in Exodus 15 celebrating the deliverance from Pharaoh at the Red Sea.

    The words for "sing" and "song" are words that never refer to anything other than vocal music. [Singing authorizes singing and playing authorizes playing. They are not mutually inclusive or exclusive, but they have different meanings]. Even the voices are not literal voices. The voices and singing in these contexts also must be understood as expressing a spiritual condition appropriate to the resurrected, spiritual body.

  29. Anonymous says:

    That's your interpretation and your opinion, doesn't mean everyone agree that what you say is right. Many can see Mr. Corbitt as being closer to the right interpretation than you.

  30. Anonymous says:

    Where does God say instrumental music is a sin, please give th Scripture.

  31. Anonymous says:

    Are we worshiping God only when we are in a church buliding or are can we worship God other places too. Is it a sin to worship God outdoors the Bible is silent about that.

  32. HistoryGuy says:

    Mr. Anonymous-
    The interpretation that I gave is actually Mr. Fergusons, but the symbolic view of Revelation is held by most scholars. Mr. Corbitt made his case by saying “whether the instruments are symbolic or not” then stating on page 80 of the printed book that, in Rev. 14:2 “john hears the sound of harpist playing their harps…the music is as loud as thunder… John doesn’t seem surprised to hear harps”. He then joins the harps and singing (Rev. 5; 15) by stating though there is no separate verb for “to play” the harps, ode and ado are sufficient for the purpose.

    I appreciate Mr. Corbitt writing the book, but here is the problem. Regardless of the interpretation you hold of harps or singing, his whole case for using ado and ode in an unnatural meaning, including in the Epistles, is based on incorrect exegesis in Rev. 14:2. The sound john heard was “singing a new song (14:3)”. The singing was like rushing water, like thunder, and like harps (14:2). Mr. Corbitt makes his case based on something that John never heard. John never heard harps playing, he was making a contrast to describe the singing. That is not an interpretation, “like the sound of harps” is what the Bible says.

    Regarding the interpretation of the text, the harps, altar, 144,000, and incense, etc are either symbolic or literal. Given the concern of physical items in a spiritual world (I Cor. 15:50-54), and the Old Testament practices, I am interested to know how you hold a literal view.

  33. HistoryGuy says:

    Both the scripture about IM as sin and worship are off the topic of this blog which deals with Greek words and Revelation so I am reluctant to respond. I am happy to correspond with you in email or in another area of Mr. Guins site, though I don’t have a lot of spare time. Perhaps he will open a section on the books comments regarding the relationship of instruments to the Old Covenant. Still, I will respond here if he says that it is okay.

    The short answer is that instruments are not sinful; the context of sinfulness pertains to their addition to the worship of God. Regarding worship in a church building, by contrasting locations, Jesus authorized his people to worship anywhere, anytime, inside or outside (Jn. 4:21-24). Also, there are numerous examples in scriptures of Christians gathering in many locations, both inside and out. Worshiping God in song is authorized for daily life (James 5:19) as well as the assembly (1 Cor. 14:15).

  34. HistoryGuy says:

    CORRECTION: James 5:19 should be James 5:13

  35. Jay Guin says:


    Revelation says,

    5:8 And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

    14:2 And I heard a voice from heaven like the roar of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. The voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps,

    15:2 And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire—and also those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands.

    18: 22 and the sound of harpists and musicians, of flute players and trumpeters,will be heard in you no more,and a craftsman of any craftwill be found in you no more,and the sound of the millwill be heard in you no more,

    I grant that the translators take 14:2 to be referring to the sound of the voice. However, 5:8 and 15:2 refer to harps accompanying vocal worship of God.

    Are the harps mere symbols? It's hardly self-evident that all nouns are either symbolic or literal. But the point is unchanged even if true. The verbs refer to singing to instrumental accompaniment and so plainly do not mean "sing a cappella."

    But, to me, 18:22 is the most important passage. It speaks of a curse on Babylon — that the sound of instruments will never be heard in the city again. If the absence of instruments is a curse, then their presence is surely a blessing.

  36. Rich says:


    Let's continue the context of Rev. 18:22. It says that the beautiful 'secular' things will be no more. Music, workers, millstones, merchants are as a whole symbols of secular power and not worship. Babylon was short on worship. Again, there is no problem with instruments in secular music.

    22The music of harpists and musicians, flute players and trumpeters,
    will never be heard in you again.
    No workman of any trade
    will ever be found in you again.
    The sound of a millstone
    will never be heard in you again.
    23The light of a lamp will never shine in you again.
    The voice of bridegroom and bride
    will never be heard in you again.
    Your merchants were the world's great men.
    By your magic spell all the nations were led astray.

  37. Jeremy says:

    If you're inclined, would you care to explain your last comment on moving towards denominationalism so that the heritage can be preserved. At first, I strongly disagree with your statement. However, I am curious and eager to understand your point. I do not wish to entertain a debate. Just to understand your thoughts. Thanks for your time. Please feel free to reply privately if you wish.

    Jeremy Schopper
    [email protected]
    Curry church of Christ
    Jasper, AL

  38. Anonymous says:

    How are we to pray, are we to pray with our hands lifted up, are we to pray with our hands folded, are we to pray with our eyes open, are we to pray with our closed.

  39. Anonymous says:

    1Chronicles 16:8-10, “Oh, give thanks to the LORD! Call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples! Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him; Talk of all His wondrous works! Glory in His holy name; Let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the LORD!”

    David used the word sing a couple of times but he never mentions instrumental music. So did David mean for them to sing “only” without instrumental music, or is that something someone would assume in their own opinion?

    A person who says they heard someone sing a really good song, does that mean the person sang without instrumental music?

  40. Alan S. says:


    Commenting on two of your observations:

    "Corbitt tries to dismiss this reasoning in a short paragraph."

    I would not judge an argument solely on its length. Afterall, an entire church of Christ magazine and doctrinal position were founded solely on an interpretation of part of Acts 2:38.

    "Therefore, the proper translation of Eph 5:19 is “… singing and playing with your heart to the Lord.”""

    Based on the Greek, the proper translation of Ephesians 5:19 is "singing with and playing with your heart to the Lord". Both are qualified by "the heart".

    What you have ommitted in your point of view, but which Corbitt emphasizes over and over it this – all we are discussing ARE our interpretations. And we we call intruments during worship sin, we are doing something that God did not do – calling something a sin that God did not.

    God bless.

  41. Rich says:

    Alan S.

    Thanks again for feedback.

    The more this layman (me) studies the Greek in Eph. 5:19 the more it seems the following is a very reasonable paraphrase:

    … singing with your hearts as the musical accompaniment to the Lord.

    Paul, well skilled in the Greek language, intentionally substituted the heart into the phraseology normally meant for physical musical instrument accompaniment. This is a substitution rather than an addition as Corbitt seems to imply.

    Well documented church history on the subject seems to verify this interpretation.

    Thanks for challenging me. I don't mind that at all. It helps in the process of seeking truth.

  42. Rich says:

    Dear Anon.

    You asked, "How are we to pray, are we to pray with our hands lifted up, are we to pray with our hands folded, are we to pray with our eyes open, are we to pray with our closed.'

    I gave the following answer a few days ago:

    'As far as prayer, I’m not aware of any required posture. I know that the tax collector was too humble to lift his eyes so I tend to bow down. But I have been known to talk to God while I’m driving. Don’t worry, I keep my head up and eyes open. '

  43. HistoryGuy says:

    Mr. Jay,
    Mr. Corbitt does not make any of his arguments from Rev. 18 so I didn’t mentioned that chapter. He also grants that instruments in heaven don’t authorize them in Christian worship (pg49 pdf book) so I have not said anything about that either. However, the meaning of the text completely changes when distinguishing between the harps as symbolic or literal. What evidence leads you to believe “5:8 and 15:2 refer to harps [literal] accompanying vocal worship of God”? The text says they have fallen down and sing or they are holding harps and sing. Also, how do you distinguish between literal and symbolic (i.e. literal harps) versus other items of the same passages being symbolic? I am intrigued by your statements and truly appreciate your thoughts.

    On page 48-49 (pdf book) he said “ode and ado…mean song and sing…” but makes his case upon literal singing joining literal harps in heaven, then applying it to Eph. and Col. He is redundant about this point so I infer that he wishes to stress it. Somebody lead him to believe that singing (ado) excludes playing, which might be what caused him to misunderstand not only the argument being made, but the unanimously agreed upon meaning of ado.

    Putting a side symbolism, metonymy, genre, and other forms of speech, at an elementary level a word only authorizes what it means. If this rule of language is broken, words can be made to mean anything, which happens to be why we study the etymology of words. Other actions must be authorized by other commands. When an instrument and supporting grammar are present in the text one can sing (ado) and play. The playing is not inherent or excluded in ode/ado, instead the addition of playing authorizes the playing. Ps. 33:3 and Eph 5:19 (ado/psallo) are good examples. Many apply this rule when pointing out the Rev. verses where singing and harps are stated. Yet, Mr. Corbitt seems to present that if one is told to ado, and no instrument is present, then one can still choose to play, which denies every lexicon meaning of the word.

    [Focusing solely on Ado] If God says that ado and psallo mean to sing and make melody (Eph. 5:19), what does it mean when God just says ado? To (1) sing or (2) sing and play/make melody? Context determines much, thus an example might be “Let the child ado amazing grace”.

  44. Anonymous says:

    The Bible being silent about ways to pray is no different than the Bible being silent on ways to sing.

  45. HistoryGuy says:

    Mr. Anon,
    This blog is on revelation & Gk words so I will be brief. In response to your I Chron. 16 question, David is reorganizing the Tabernacle worship, which is also continued in I Chron. 23; 25. David could be using sing to instruct certain ones to sing [There was a choir that sang while others played] or he could be using sing as a figure of speech to represent many other actions that the text has already discussed, including instruments and sacrifices. Though you quoted v8-10, the entire chapter describes the context with instruments numerous times. David tells who to play and the families of instruments to be used. If you were not a Levite man then you were excluded from playing and singing and could only observe from a distance.

    Regarding prayer, God instructs his people to pray to him. There are numerous scriptural examples of prayer in many postures

  46. Anonymous says:

    1 Chronicles 16:37-42 "So he left Asaph and his brothers there before the ark of the covenant of the LORD to minister before the ark regularly, as every day's work required; 38and Obed-Edom with his sixty-eight brethren, including Obed-Edom the son of Jeduthun, and Hosah, to be gatekeepers; and Zadok the priest and his brethren the priests, before the tabernacle of the LORD at the high place that was at Gibeon, 40to offer burnt offerings to the LORD on the altar of burnt offering regularly morning and evening, and to do according to all that is written in the Law of the LORD which He commanded Israel; and with them Heman and Jeduthun and the rest who were chosen, who were designated by name, to give thanks to the LORD, because His mercy endures forever; and with them Heman and Jeduthun, to sound aloud with trumpets and cymbals and the musical instruments of God. Now the sons of Jeduthun were gatekeepers."

    David did not mention instrumental music until after he left Asaph.

    And the Levitical law no longer binds anyone and God no where said people are not to sing with instumental music ever again, God did not say sing only He said sing.

  47. HistoryGuy says:

    Mr. Anon,
    Regarding 1 Chron. 16: You quoted v8-10, then v37-42. I was referencing v1-6, which preceded David talking about singing and leaving Asaph. He names several instruments and who must play them, then gave his Psalm. I hope that reading v1-6 will assist you with my statement.

    Sing “only”? God gives an instruction and people do it. This principle is seen in the OT with the Levites that you are talking about. A word only authorizes what it means. II Chron. 5:13 and II Chron. 29:28 reveal singers singing and players playing. Neither do both, though they could have if God had commanded them. Instead, one group sings and the other group plays because God, through David, told them to do such with specific commands. Am I to assume that you are saying the singers would have responded to David with “God did not say for us to sing ‘only’ therefore we can play the cymbals as an option?”

    I agree the Levitical law no long binds anyone, but I can only say such based on Scripture. The Hebrew writer does not distinguish dispensations of the Old Testament. We listen to Christ, not the law or the prophets (Mt 17:3-8). We have the old and the new; the old is gone and the new is binding (Heb. 8:7-13; 9:10; 10:9-10).

    Please contact me in email for further discussion on these topics. Out of respect for Jay, I am trying to stick with the topic of this blog, which is Revelation and Greek words.

  48. Anonymous says:

    My point of 1 Chronicles 16:7-36 is that when David delivered the psalm and told them to sing he never told them to sing with music.

  49. Anonymous says:

    Also, praising God with instrumental music was not limited to the Levites, the tribe of Judah praised the LORD with instrumental music. 2 Chronicles 20:27-30 “Then they returned, every man of Judah and Jerusalem, with Jehoshaphat in front of them, to go back to Jerusalem with joy, for the LORD had made them rejoice over their enemies. So they came to Jerusalem, with stringed instruments and harps and trumpets, to the house of the LORD. And the fear of God was on all the kingdoms of those countries when they heard that the LORD had fought against the enemies of Israel. Then the realm of Jehoshaphat was quiet, for his God gave him rest all around.”

  50. Anonymous says:

    And as for when we pray the Bible never specifies that we are to fold our hands when we pray or to close our eyes when we pray, or to pray in a whisper, all ways that people pray, so are people sinning praying in a way God did not specify.

    1 Timothy 2:8 "I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting."

    When you pray do you always lift your hands, the Bible specifically says that is how you are to pray.

  51. Alan S. says:


    Thanks for offering your interpretation. History bears out that the early church likely did not use instruments (except for Clement's reference to singing praise with the harp as David did). But if we are to rely on the church fathers for support our anti-instruments arguments, we should not fail to note that not one of the church fathers ever called praise with instruments a sin, not one of the church fathers ever used the psallo argument they way it is done today, and not one of the church fathers ever quoted from Ephesians 5 or Colossians 3 to support their positions (and the church fathers always quoted scriptures when making a Biblical argument).

    Why is it that the opponents of instruments today seem to know more about scriptural arguments than the church fathers apparently did?

    When we today call instrumental accompaniment a sin, we are calling something a sin that God never did, and calling something a sin that the earliest church fathers never did.

    God bless.

  52. HistoryGuy says:

    Mr. Anon,
    I find these conversations most interesting and appreciate your participation. Assuming that we agree about the Hebrew writer, then a discussion about I and II Chronicles is merely academic.

    Still, in discussing I Chron. 16; 23; 25; II Chron. 5; 29. The context of those passages is Tabernacle/Temple worship, which only the Levites could perform since others were excluded. II Chron. 20 is a victory celebration for Israel and the two are completely different settings. I have stated elsewhere that God commanded [those who were able] to sing and play instruments in daily life. Psalm 150 is a prime example and perfectly contrasts II Chron. 5:13 and II Chron. 29:28 exemplifying the nature of Gods instructions for different settings.

    I subtly acknowledged your point that “1 Chronicles 16:7-36 is that when David delivered the psalm and told them to sing he never told them to sing with music.” I humbly ask you to review the text again and I will be clearer. David did not give his Psalm of thanks and tell them to sing until after v1 Brought the ark into the tent, v2-3 made offerings, v4 appointed Levites to minister, v5-6 gave instructions about musical instruments… v7 “That day” [the day he did v1-6] he committed this psalm of thanks (v7-36) to Asaph and his associates [the same associates from v5-6] that were to play.

    v37-42 David left Asaph and his associates to minister according to the daily requirements of the Law, which included offerings, singing, and instrumental music. The chapter begins and ends with God commanding instrumental music

  53. HistoryGuy says:

    Mr. Anon (regarding prayer),
    The NT regulates [guides like a parent] and commands Christians to pray for many reasons, but does not regulate posture. To present an accurate comparison, you need to contrast the posture of singing and the posture of praying, which was avoided. Comparing singing and instruments is not equivalent to posture and prayer. However, singing and instruments is equivalent to praying and incense and the Hebrew writer repealed both in NT worship. Still, both the OT and NT speak loudly about the posture of prayer [not silent], though the only regulation today is that Christians pray to God by the authority of Jesus as Lord and Savior.

    Several NT examples are: Kneeling (Acts 7:60; 9:40; 20:36; Eph. 3:14); Standing with hands up and open, head up, and eyes open (Lk. 9:28-32; Jn.17:1; I Tm. 2:8); Standing with hands clasped at the waist, head bowed, and eyes averted or closed (Lk. 18:10-13); Kneeling, either with the head up, eyes open, hands open, or with head down, eyes closed, and hands clasped (Mt. 18:26; Lk. 22:41-44); Lying on one’s belly, hands up, either with the head up and eyes open or with the head down and the eyes averted or closed (Mt. 26:38-39).

    I have supplied commands and examples of prayer and posture from scripture. The NT repeatedly affirms having no other Gods, singing to God, and praying to God through Christ. Unfortunately, this is not a claim that IM advocates can make. I don’t believe that IM is a salvation issue. However, I do believe that we have the responsibility to reason with each other (Acts 17:2) and explain the way of God more adequately (Acts 18:26).

  54. Anonymous says:

    Where does the Bible say "posture of prayer" please give the Scripture? The Bible specifies ways to pray, but people pray in ways that are not specified. Do women at the church you attend wear head coverings when they pray, the Bible says they are suppose to. And you still haven't given the Scripture where God says we are to "sing only".

  55. Anonymous says:

    Where does the Bible give you authority to have song leaders when you sing, to use song books when you sing, to have choirs, to have separate Sunday school classes, to use visual aids other than the Bible when teaching the Scriptures, all in which the church of Christ denominations do.

  56. Anonymous says:

    The Levites were not the only ones who praised God in the house of the LORD with instrumental music.

    Nehemia 12:31-36 “So I brought the leaders of Judah up on the wall, and appointed two large thanksgiving choirs. One went to the right hand on the wall toward the Refuse Gate. After them went Hoshaiah and half of the leaders of Judah, and Azariah, Ezra, Meshullam, Judah, Benjamin, Shemaiah, Jeremiah, and some of the priests' sons with trumpets–Zechariah the son of Jonathan, the son of Shemaiah, the son of Mattaniah, the son of Michaiah, the son of Zaccur, the son of Asaph, and his brethren, Shemaiah, Azarel, Milalai, Gilalai, Maai, Nethanel, Judah, and Hanani, with the musical instruments of David the man of God. Ezra the scribe went before them.”

    Nehemiah 40-42 “So the two thanksgiving choirs stood in the house of God, likewise I and the half of the rulers with me; and the priests, Eliakim, Maaseiah, Minjamin, Michaiah, Elioenai, Zechariah, and Hananiah, with trumpets; also Maaseiah, Shemaiah, Eleazar, Uzzi, Jehohanan, Malchijah, Elam, and Ezer. The singers sang loudly with Jezrahiah the director."

  57. HistoryGuy says:

    Mr. Anon,
    Once again I believe that you have sincerely misunderstood the text. The Levites [Levitical Priesthood] were the only ones that ever played instruments in the Temple/Tabernacle. As a fellow Christian wanting the best for you and those who hear you, I would encourage some research about Levites and instruments before posting anything contrary in the future. Levite is a general term that is broken into many classes, orders, and priestly duties of those sanctified and chosen by God. A study of the Levitical Priesthood will explain this in detail and should be done to avoid confusion of the biblical references.

    Even in Neh. 12, only the Levites and priests [priests are just a class of Levites] played instruments (Neh. 12:27-29, 35-36) and offered the sacrifices on the altar (v40-47). Normally, only the Levites sang and played [I & II Chron.]. Because of the resettling of the land, theocracy, national celebration, and Temple dedication, this is a merged environment where two choirs were organized and everyone was welcomed to sing (Neh. 12:43; Ezra 3:10-13). This is a rare event and the Levite singers were still present to lead the singing (Neh. 12:28). The inclusion for everyone to sing was at the command of the Lord through his chosen leader (Neh. 12:31).

    Anything performed in the Temple/Tabernacle worship was always at the “command of David”, “according to the Law”, “according to the daily requirement”, “as in the day of David and Asaph”, etc. Though everyone was singing, only the Aaronic priest [a type of Levite] played the trumpets, which was according to what was spoken to Moses (Neh. 12:35-36, 41, 44; Nm. 10:1-10) and only the Levites played the cymbals, harps and lyres [the instruments] (Neh. 12:27). A commentary might assist your understanding of the others named in the text and their function.

    I enjoy the study of instruments in the OT, but I would like to return to Greek words and Revelation.

  58. HistoryGuy says:

    Regarding your response about prayer: I summarized your questions and statements about bodily positions with the word “posture” [see “Anonymous, on July 13th, 2009 at 8:31 pm”]

    Regarding “sing only”, I answered this on [HistoryGuy, on July 13th, 2009 at 6:08 pm] I didn’t expect such semantics from a person of your knowledge. In addition to the OT examples, the NT does not say immerse believers only (Mk. 16:16) or faith only (Eph. 2:8), etc, etc but that is what is meant. One would normally ask if you are advocating the sprinkling of a baby and salvation by faith + works, but I will not participate in such a style of conversation.

    The role of women, their symbols of submission, and the numerous other questions are not tangents that I am interested in pursuing. I am confident that you know the scriptures that authorize such activities. If you don’t then the only thing proved is that you lack authority not only for the instrument, but many other practices and you should stop. I am not concerned with what the church of Christ denomination does, but I enjoy the a cappella discussion.

  59. HistoryGuy says:

    This discussion is a long way from its beginnings regarding ado or psallo authorizing instrumental accompaniment and the book Revelation. I was hoping that someone or Jay would respond to my questions about the topic from [HistoryGuy, on July 13th, 2009 at 3:35 pm] I look forward to a meaningful conversation in the future.

  60. Anonymous says:

    Check the geneologies of those listed not all of them were of the tribe of Levi, you can make up what you want, that is your opinion you haven't given the Scripture that says they were exceptions. It was never commanded when God included the Levites in worship that the Levites were to be the only ones to ever praise the Lord with instrumental music.

  61. Anonymous says:

    Where does the Bible give you authority to have song leaders when you sing, to use song books when you sing, to have choirs, to have separate Sunday school classes, to use visual aids other than the Bible when teaching the Scriptures, all in which the church of Christ denominations do?

  62. R.J. says:

    Originally "Psallo" meant to play but by New Testament times evolved into meaning "to sing or chant. Weather with an instrument or not became irrelevant(the same can be said for Ode and Psalmoi).

    Ado generally means "to sing" or "I sing". Again singing with an instrument or not is irrelevant to the meaning of the word.

    Now about Ephesians 5:19 the grammatical structure is 5 adjective participles all linked to a passive present command to "Be filled with the Spirit".

    By their nature participles(and adjectives) were never meant to specify and regulate how something ought to be done. But rather describe what happens when we let the Holy Spirit's word control our lives. Colossians 3:16 is pretty much a parallel to this text.

    Thus I believe the instrument is nothing more then an expedient(material opinion). As long as it doesn't substitute singing(Classical music is not true worship).

    The Lord's Church has been divided on this issue for too long. I pray and plead for the two to become one.

  63. Blituri says:

    Psallo never meant to 'play an instrument.'
    Psallo (same root as SOP) means to pluck with your fingers and NEVER with a plectrum.

    If you tell someone to "psallo" a "bow" then it is the literal heart being abraded.

    If you tell someone to "psallo" a lyre (finger only, please) then you make it twang: a twang does not music make.

    Psallo is always translated to SING in the Greek Old Testament.

    If you want to sing AND play AND upon an instrument it takes three words.

    Amos 5:23 Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols.
    Amos 5:24 BUT let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.

    Is. 23:15 And it shall come to pass in that day, that Tyre shall be forgotten seventy years, according to the days of one king: after the end of seventy years shall Tyre sing as an harlot.

    Which goes:

    Is. 23:16 (1) Take an harp, go about the city, thou harlot that hast been forgotten; (2) make sweet melody, (3) sing many songs, that thou mayest be remembered.

    If you grasp that ekklesia/synagogue is A School of the Word the fight is over.

  64. R.J. says:

    The grammatical syntax doesn't allow the heart to be an instrument.

    Both adontes and psallantes are connected by a conjunction with two common modifiers(heart and the Lord). In other words, both the singing and music making equally take place in the heart!

    The previous participle (lalontes=communicating) is an external audible activity done for the benefit of others(through the full range of religious expression). And in reality, we'll be singing and making music from our hearts(internally) for the benefit of God's ears. The latter two participles modify the former. So the heart is not a musical instrument but merely the sphere. And neither does it have to stay in the heart.

    Also these are Greek participles, not commands. They only describe the results of being filled by the spirit. According to Daniel Wallas, implied imperative participles don't exist in Greek like they do in English. These five modifiers(nor the ones in Colossians 3:16) should be read as regulations.

    All in the context of daily lifestyle(not the assembly as in 1 Corinthians 14).

    God Bless, R.J.

  65. R.J. says:

    I believe he was rather saying that the Greek word ode cannot specifically mean "unaccompanied singing" but rather to general vocal music(weather accompanied or not) since both in secular Greek literature and the Septuagint the word was used in both settings. And John uses it in association with harps three times(Revelation 5:8; 14:2; 15:2).

    The harps of Revelation are indeed symbolic of praise, sweet music, and jubilation. In Revelation 5:8 the 24 Elders represent the saints of all ages. From both the old and new testaments(12 tribes + 12 apostles=24 Elders). Because of what the Lamb did for them, they are singing and performing songs of jubilee for the ears of God!

    In Revelation 14:2 it's sweet music and in 15:2, I believe God gave them tunes to compose(weather with or without accompaniment).

    However, I don't think the Harp represents singing per se. But praise in general(which can include singing). This seems to agree more with OT usage.

    regards, R.J.

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