Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 8, 1960
NUMBER 31, PAGE 7,10a-11a

"Instrumental Music Can Be Justified"

Bob Haddow, Temple City, California

The February 25, 1960, issue of the GOSPEL GUARDIAN carried a review of my article, with the above title, by Donald P. Ames. Some additional remarks seem called for.

Meaning Of "Psalms" In Eph. 5:19 And Col. 3:16

Donald starts his review by saying he is "not concerned with these words" ("psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs") but, rather with the word psallo. I am not surprised that Donald wants to get away from the evidence I presented on psalmos (Greek word for psalm) as used in Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16. In his translation and revision of Grimm's Wilkes Clavis Novi Testamenti (outstanding Greek-English New Testament dictionary) Thayer (who was, incidentally, secretary of the American Standard Revision Committee) makes the following addition, so devastating to the anti-instrument position:

"Syn. humnos, psalmos, ode: ode is the generic term; psalm and hymn are specific, the former designating a song which took its general character from O. T. 'Psalms' (although not restricted to them, see 1 Cor. 14:15, 26), the latter a song of praise. "While the leading idea of psalm is a musical accompaniment, and that of hymn praise to God, ode is the general word for a song, whether accompanied or unaccompanied, whether of praise or on any other subject. Thus it was quite possible for the same song to be at once psalmos, humnos, and ode, (Bp. Lightfoot on Col. 3:16). The words occur together in Col. 3:16 and Eph. 5:19." (From page 637.)

In an effort to soften this blow, Donald says the addition made by Thayer is from Lightfoot and doesn't necessarily represent Thayer's position at all. The truth is that the quotation (from Lightfoot's Commentary on Col. 3:16) is simply a part of Thayer's addition. The reader will note that Thayer's words both precede and follow the quotation of Lightfoot. It is Thayer who says, referring to psalmos: "designating a song which took its general character from O. T. 'Psalms' (although not restricted to them, see 1 Cor. 14:15, 26)." In a letter from Dr. Luther A. Weigle of Yale (secretary of the RSV Committee), in answer to my question as to whether Thayer agrees with Lightfoot, he says: "I would say also, in answer to your question, that Thayer's quotation of Lightfoot on page 637 means that Thayer agrees with Lightfoot." I think the setting and context of the quotation would make this self-evident to the unbiased.

But who was Lightfoot? Donald passes him off as though his testimony didn't amount to much. The Ency. Americana (1940) says that Lightfoot's " 'commentaries' and 'apostolic Fathers' formed the apex of British Biblical scholarship." The New Standard Encyclopedia says, "Bishop Lightfoot was a Biblical and classical scholar of the first rank; was especially accomplished in Greek.... HE WAS AN IMPORTANT MEMBER OF THE BODY OF SCHOLARS WHO REVISED THE AUTHORIZED VERSION OF THE N. T." (emphasis mine, B. H.). Thus when Thayer quotes Lightfoot, he quotes another reviser, and one whose authority is no less than his own. When Lightfoot (with Thayer's approval) says, "the leading idea of psalm is a musical accompaniment," you should listen with respect, Donald.

My friend does recognize that Grimm and Vincent admit that the O. T. usage of these words may include instrumental accompaniment. Ponder that in the light of Bauer's statement, "in our literature (New Testament, B. H.), in accordance with O. T. usage;" and also this statement in the article "Current Trends in New Testament Study" by Dr. William R. Baird, Jr. in the July 1959 issue of the scholarly JOURNAL OF RELIGION published by the University of Chicago: "If one is to understand the meaning of a New Testament term, he will find little help from classical Greek or even papyri usage; he should, rather, consult the Bible of the New Testament writers — the Septuagint." (The Septuagint is the Greek translation of the O. T. made before Christ.)

Donald tacitly admits that the very latest and best (said to be such by J. W. Roberts of Abilene Christian College) New Testament Greek-English lexicon, edited by Arndt and Gringrich, completely explodes his anti-instrument position. It defines psallo, the cognate verb of psalmos:

"In our literature, in accordance with O. T. usage, sing (to the accompaniment of a harp), sing praise.... Rom. 15:9 (Ps. 18:49)"

Note that Rom. 15:9 is a direct quotation of Ps. 18:49, being a prophecy.

But Donald charges that I have failed to tell the reader that the parenthetical phrase "(to the accompaniment of a harp)" was supplied by Arndt and Gingrich and is not a translation of Bauer. This charge is baseless and unfounded. Donald doesn't read very carefully. In my article, I specifically stated, "While the parenthetical phrase '(to the accompaniment of a harp)' was supplied by Arndt and Gingrich...." But I hastened to add that "that doesn't mean it is any less justified." I went on to show how Arndt and Gingrich call attention to M-M: Moulton and Milligan's VOCABULARY OF THE GREEK TESTAMENT. This great work was considered by Arndt and Gingrich as "invaluable" (see preface of lexicon). This work deals exclusively with the New Testament vocabulary and is illustrated by Koine Greek inscriptions and papyri, which would apply to words in the N. T. era. But Donald doesn't even refer to their defination of psalmos which I gave. The reason seems obvious. M-M define psalmos: " 'psalm' or 'song,' sung to a harp accompaniment."

Then follows the reference from the Sylloge of Greek Inscriptions, dated 2nd century A. D. definitely proving that instrumental music accompaniment was not foreign to psalmos even by then.

All Donald does is charge that I have misapplied Moulton and Milligan (without saying how, of course), then quotes them on psallo ("sing a hymn") as though this somehow nullified their definition on psalmos, and then moves on to something else. Like so many others who, when they see "faith" conclude "faith only," when Donald sees "sing" he concludes "sing only," completely disregarding all that lexicons as Thayer's, Moulton and Milligan, Abbott-Smith, and Arndt and Gingrich have to say on walk, and psalmos. Donald would make them go north on the verb and south on the noun.

The Scope Of Making Melody

Even our English word "melody" allows instrumental music as well as vocal. Eph. 5:19 reads, "singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart" (RSV). The word "melody" may include instrumental melody as well as vocal. Both our singing and making melody (whether vocal or instrumental) must be rendered "with all your heart," meaning a heartfelt manner. Moffatt's translation renders Eph. 5:19: "praise the Lord heartily with words and music." It doesn't say vocal music only, does it? — just music. The AMPLIFIED NEW TESTAMENT, recently compiled by a company of scholars, effectively routs the anti-instrument tradition, thusly: "offering praise with voices and instruments], and making melody with all your heart to the Lord." (Eph 5:19) In making this very helpful translation, which supplies justified, clarifying words, completely based on the Greek text, the scholars compared twenty-seven different translations.

Donald wonders how an instrument can "teach." I would say that an instrument can very effectively teach the tune component of a song as well as maintain correct pitch and tempo.

Instrumental Music At Home

Donald is very frank in admitting that he thinks it is sinful to sing hymns in the home accompanied by the instrument. At least this is consistent. He rightly observes that Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16 are individual in nature and not limited to the assembly. We will now expect to hear him start reproving the multitudes of his brethren, who are anti-instrumental music in the assembly but not when singing hymns at home, for their utter inconsistency.

How Authorized; How Condemned?

Donald makes an attempt to answer what he calls the "pitch fork argument." He says there's no parallel. Reader, should we merely take his assertion that there's no parallel? But what of this "parallel" business anyway? Must all aids be parallel to be lawful? If so, in what respects must they be parallel? The song book isn't "parallel" to the pitch pipe in a number of respects. So what? Donald's "no parallel" argument assumes that for an aid to be lawful it must be "parallel" to the pitch fork. This makes the pitch fork the model aid by which all others are to be judged before being considered lawful. Dare I ask Donald for his authority for this presumption?

He quotes one writer who said, "At least the pitch pipe has sense enough to shut up before the singing begins." How do you like that! According to this it would be all right to play the piano just so long as it "shuts up" before the singing begins.

But what difference does it make if the pitch pipe "shut up" before the singing? Does Donald think this constitutes AUTHORITY to sound mechanical pitch (another kind and an addition) to aid in getting vocal pitch that is involved in singing? I repeat, THERE IS AS MUCH AUTHORITY FOR MECHANICAL TUNE TO AID IN GETTING VOCAL TUNE AS THERE IS FOR USING MECHANICAL PITCH TO AID IN GETTING VOCAL PITCH. If not, why not? Pitch is no more essential to singing than tune. Let Donald give us the AUTHORITY for sounding the first note, and then he should have no trouble finding the authority to sound the second note and so on.

It does not follow from my position that playing an instrument is essential to fulfilling Eph. 5:19. I hold that instrumental music accompaniment (not that everyone must have his own instrument) is lawful and permissible in the definition of "psalm" and also in "melody." As Lightfoot says, "the leading idea of psalm is a musical accompaniment," not that this is the only idea or that simply singing is excluded. Let all brethren unite their minds and hearts in "psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody," and as Lightfoot puts it, "whether accompanied or unaccompanied."