Tag Archives: early music

Music In The Early Church — post by Michael J. Findley

lastsupperJesus and the disciples attended Jewish synagogues and temple worship. These services included stringed, brass, woodwind, and percussion instruments. The book of Psalms was the hymn book of the second temple. After finishing the Passover meal they sang a hymn, presumably not a Psalm, and presumably without instruments, before walking across the Kidron Valley to the garden of Gethsemane. Until forced out, first century Christians continued to worship in synagogues and follow Jewish customs.

Paul wrote to the new Gentile converts “Let the word of the Messiah inhabit you richly with wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, and singing to God with thankfulness in your hearts.” Colossians 3:16 and “Then you will recite to one another psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; you will sing and make music to the Lord with your hearts,” Ephesians 5:19. This admonition was taken by some to mean antiphonal singing, with either two choirs or dividing the congregation into two parts and alternating the parts of the hymn or song.

Pliny the Younger wrote a letter to Trajan (61-113) about the proper punishment of Christians. “They had been accustomed to come together on a fixed day before daylight and to sing responsively a song to Christ as God.” (AD 112?)

Five times in the book of Revelation a song is sung in heaven; 5:9, 5:11, 14:1, 14:3, 15:3. Harps are played heaven. Revelation 5:8, 14:2, and 15:2. The musical instruments of Babylon are condemned, Revelation 18:22. Trumpets in heaven are sounded, but not used as musical instruments. Zechariah 9:14, Matthew 24:31, 1 Corinthians 15:52, 1 Thessalonians 4:16, Hebrews 12:19, Revelation 1:10, 4:1, 8:2, 6,7,8,10,12,13, 9:1,13,14

Justin the Martyr wrote (AD 155?) in his Apology to the Emperor Chapter 13 “to use [material possessions] for ourselves and those who need, and with gratitude to Him to offer thanks by invocations and hymns for our creation …”

“Chapter 41. The crucifixion predicted And again, in another prophecy, the Spirit of prophecy, through the same David, intimated that Christ, after He had been crucified, should reign, and spoke as follows: Sing to the Lord, all the earth, and day by day declare His salvation. For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, to be feared above all the gods. For all the gods of the nations are idols of devils; but God made the heavens. Glory and praise are before His face, strength and glorying are in the habitation of His. Give Glory to the Lord, the Father everlasting. Receive grace, and enter His presence, and worship in His holy courts. Let all the earth before His face; let it be established, and not shaken. Let them rejoice among the nations. The Lord has reigned from the tree.”

Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus of Rome, approximately AD 235? “Then, rising up after supper, the children and virgins having prayed, they shall sing psalms. Then the deacon, holding the mixed cup of the offering, shall say a Hallelujah Psalm. Then, the presbyter having commanded, ‘And also such-and-such Psalms,’ after the bishop has offered the cup with the proper thanksgiving, all shall say “Hallelujah” as the Psalms are sung. And they shall say: We praise Him who is God most high; Glorified and praised is He, Then, when the Psalm is completed, he shall give thanks over the bread, and shall give the fragments to all the believers.”

Music had only two purposes in the earliest Church. It was used to instruct, build up, edify, believers. It was also used in direct address to God to worship God. There are no recorded instances of performing music to please those who listened. Performing music just to please the listeners has been condemned as a sin by thousands of pastors for over 1500 years. At the same time, music to glorify God is essential to worship in the Christian Church. The Spirit of the prophet must be controlled by the prophet and this includes music.
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