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Of Psalms, Hymns, And Spiritual Songs And The RPW

This comment about psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs in Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:19 is an important one that I regularly teach when I lecture on these passages:

If you were in Ephesus when Paul’s letter arrived, and you had a Bible in your church, it was a Septuagint. As you browsed through the Book of Psalms three terms would keep appearing in the titles and you would be quite familiar with them – psalmos, humnos and ode. In 67 Psalms the word psalmos is found eg Psalm 23; in 6 titles the word humnos appears eg Psalm 8; in another 35 Psalms ode is in the title eg Psalm 45. Furthermore, in 12 Psalms the words psalmos (psalm) and ode (song) are found together in the title e.g. Psalm 65, and in 2 titles psalmos (psalm) appears with humnos (hymn) eg Psalm 6. If you had studied the title of Psalm 76 all three terms are found in the Septuagint title, ‘For the end, among the hymns, a psalm for Asaph; a song for the Assyrian’. The Ephesian Christian would know that one Psalm could be a psalm and a song, or even a psalm and a song and a hymn together. All three terms were found in the titles of the Psalms and even in the title of one composition in the Book of Psalms. Paul exhorted them in biblical terms they were familiar with.

Now, I disagree with the author’s conclusion; I believe there are other reasons to warrant the singing of on non-inscripturated songs, but I do agree with this point.

Scott Aniol

About Scott Aniol

Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is Chair of the Worship Ministry Department at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He is the author of Worship in Song: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship, Sound Worship: A Guide to Making Musical Choices in a Noisy World, and By the Waters of Babylon: Worship in a Post-Christian Culture, and speaks around the country in churches and conferences. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX where he resides with his wife and four children. Views posted here are his own and not necessarily those of his employer.

2 Responses to Of Psalms, Hymns, And Spiritual Songs And The RPW

  1. Thanks Scott – so if I understand you correctly, this means all three types can be find within the Book of Psalms, not only psalms. Have you been able to distinguish what differentiates these three types? We will probably never know what music they used, but it would be interesting to fully understand what each of these three is characterized by. Or do you agree these are completely interchangeable terms, as indicated in the above quote?

    Unrelated question: how sure are you that the early Christians had a Septuagint? I realize the majority view is that the Greek translation was made BC, yet there is a diverging view that assigns the Septuagint to Origen in Egypt. the argument that the writers of the NT quoted from the LXX is countered with the argument that they only sometimes did, but in many instances translated themselves, such that we no longer know who copied whom. Given the LXX diverges in many places from the Massoretic Text, which one should take preference is certainly an important question. Just wondered if you had a form opinion on that question.

  2. Hi, Martin. I’m sure they had specific meanings, but I’m not sure we know what that is now.

    And, I’m no Septuagint expert, but my understanding is that it is what was commonly used in NT times, Jesus quoted it, etc.

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