10 Comments

  1. Pauline Costianes

    Wonderful article! I especially am grateful for the paragraph regarding the Psalm mentioning use of instruments “Praise him with timbrel and harp,etc” as not being literal. I’ll get challenged with that by Protestants and Romans alike, and tell them that in pre-diaspora Judaism the only thing they used was the shofar to
    signal the start of Sabbath. No instruments!

    1. Benedict Sheehan

      Many people are simply not aware that the use of instruments in both Jewish and Christian worship is a relatively recent development. It’s worth noting that even our usual Western term for unaccompanied singing — a cappella — means ‘as in church.’ In the ancient Jewish and early Christian mind, instrumental music was closely associated with pagan worship (and all the debauchery that usually went along with it), so the Church Fathers were very careful to discourage any use of instruments in church. I’ll talk some more about this in my next installment.

      1. Dear Benedict

        It is a delight to read your wonderfully enlightening articles. I especially enjoyed the reference to “Let us attend!” What a powerful almost visual description of Spiritual Warfare that started in the heavens and must be continued by us in our own hearts.

        And I never realized that Sacred Song and Liturgical Music is one of the weapons we are given in that battle.

        Thank you also for explaining why we do not use musical instruments.

        I enjoyed meeting you very much during the Gorbik workshop and will continue to follow your articles with great interest.

        Thanks — Tanya

    2. “It is well known among Judaic scholars that the use of musical instruments was proscribed from ancient Temple worship just as it is still forbidden in the Orthodox Church today.”

      “…in pre-diaspora Judaism the only thing they used was the shofar to signal the start of Sabbath. No instruments!”

      I’m sorry, but this is simply not the case. The Scriptures record, as a historical matter, the explicit use of instruments in the worship of God, under David: See I Chronicles 16:5, 6, 42.

      And that these were officially set over “the service of song”, and not just common people who in their enthusiasm busted out their instruments to play along, see I Chronicles 6:32-47 (cf. 16:42, mentioned previously), and I Chr. 25:1-7.

      Again, 2 Sam. 6:5, cf. I Chr. 13:8, shows that instruments were a key part of Israelite worship.

      And lest you say, “Well, that was only prior to Temple worship”, no, I Kings 10:12 shows that king Solomon provided instruments for use in the Temple as well. And this cannot be a mystical meaning referring to their voices, because he MADE the instruments. In fact, he gave those instruments over to the very same people his father had appointed: 2 Chr. 5:12.

      Nor was all of this merely David’s idea that got scrapped later. See 2 Chr. 29:25 & 26, which says that it was the LORD’s command by his prophets.

      This is also evidenced by the fact that the practice was renewed in second temple worship: Neh. 12:27.

      I have no problem admitting that the angelic song is vocal. However, please don’t try to tell me that the Judaic Temple worship was without instruments, and that the Psalms are referring to some mystical meaning and NOT (as opposed to in addition to) literal instruments. Because that’s just plain false.

      1. Benedict Sheehan

        Steve, I’ve done some more research and I stand corrected regarding my remarks. I will make appropriate revisions in the article. Thank you for your comments.

  2. Mat. Mary Balmer

    Hi Benedict…
    Thank you for this lovely article! I look forward to the next one! I like to share this sort of thing with our choir, always striving to enlarge their understanding of the church and our place within it as singers to the glory of God.

    1. Benedict Sheehan

      Thank you, Matushka Mary! I hope your choir finds it helpful.

  3. Robert

    The most difficult part of this would seem to be to define the meaning of “the style of its composition and in the manner of its execution.” What this may mean is open to a wide variety of interpretations, no? How would we go about finding guidance about this?

    1. Benedict Sheehan

      You’re absolutely right. I’m hoping to discuss this issue in more detail in another article.

  4. Mike Abrahamson

    Hello my old friend! This is a wonderful beginning to what I’m certain will be an enlightening series. I look forward to reading more. My challenge is knowing how to share this with others without coming across as vainglorious. It’s difficult to suggest to those in leadership positions that there might be a better way of doing things, in all humility.

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