Calvin Stapert makes the following observation about the difference between Jewish worship music and pagan worship music:
Jewish psalmody was word-oriented, a characteristic that set it apart from the music of the sacrificial rites of the Israelites’ pagan neighbors. Pagan sacrificial music typically featured the frenzy-inducing sound of the loud double-reed instruments and the rhythms of orgiastic dancing. Words were superfluous. Temple music was different from pagan music in all these respects: words were primary in it, and they governed the rhythms; instrumental accompaniment was by stringed instruments that supported the monophonic vocal line, perhaps with some heterophonic embellishments, but never covering or distracting attention away from the words; instruments were used independently only for signaling purposes, as when trumpets and cymbals signaled the beginning of the psalm and the places at the end of sections where the worshipers should prostrate themselves.1
Stapert makes this observation in the context of view of the early church, which he argues were similar when compared to the pagan worship of Greece and Rome.
What comparisons and application could be made from these observations to music in worship today?
- A New Song for an Old World: Musical Thought in the Early Church (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007), 153. [↩]