Another Look at Exclusive Psalmody

One of the most used critiques of EP is the pointing to supposed snippets of “hymns” in Paul’s letters and other places in the New Testament. The simple response to this is: Where are they? By that I mean if hymns had been use and were being written why do we have zero archaeological evidence for it? We have fragments of nearly every conceivable thing from the 1st and 2nd centuries but why no hymns? Now these arguments are weak mainly because they are arguments from silence but also because they are hardly enough for those who speak against EP. I would also like to as well repeat the refrain that I am not an EPist but I must admit that I do have sympathy for their position.

That all being said I have included a snippet so we can see how serious the Reformers took this issue:

‘All worshipping, honouring, or service invented by the brain of man in the religion of God, without His own express commandment, is Idolatry’– John Knox

By the way this weekend/next week I am going to begin a couple posts on the non-use of Instruments in Worship.


9 thoughts on “Another Look at Exclusive Psalmody

  1. We do have a hymn from the second century. Some do want to date it to the early third.

    Oxyrhynchus hymn
    …Let it be silent,
    Let the Luminous stars not shine,
    Let the winds and all the noisy rivers died down;
    And as we hymn the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,
    Amen Let all the powers add “Amen Amen”
    praise always, and glory to God,
    Amen Amen The sole giver of good things, Amen Amen.

  2. Not to quibble but I have always heard it dated to the third century. Interestingly enough the Church Fathers are nearly unequivocally against Hymnody and the use of instruments in Stated worship.

  3. The Psalms are certainly pro-Instruments. And unlike the church fathers the Psalms are the inspired Word of God. I think the church fathers were influenced by the circumstances that they lived in. Would you use something that’s going to draw the attention of the persecutors to your location? Instruments are typically louder than people singing.

  4. Even the Church Fathers that did not have to worry about persecution, like Origen and John Chrysostom were uniformly against Hymnody. Even if we do have examples of hymnody in the earliest of manuscripts we also have examples of heresy and gnostic texts. Their existence does not necessarily equal church acceptance.

    I will deal with the Psalms mentioning of “instruments” in the subsequent posts on instrumental worship.

  5. What do you say to those who claim that Paul quotes from hymns in his letters? (For example, Philippians 2) It’s true that they aren’t designated as hymns by the writer, but lots of people do that (I’ll sometimes quote a hymn in a sermon without saying that it’s a hymn or giving the title, because everybody listening knows that–Paul could be doing the same thing). It really makes sense that the NT church would use hymns–many of which would would be orally transmitted, as the Psalms originally were in all likelihood–that would specifically of what Christ had done, naming Him and speaking of His death and resurrection, in addition to continuing to use the Psalms.

  6. I think the EP response would be why do we have no manuscriptal evidence for them? In other words if Paul and his colleagues had knowledge of hymns why did he make no mention of it (especially so for Luke in Acts when he describes early worship). Even so the EP argument does not preclude the writing of hymns for personal and family worship or even occasional services (weddings, etc) but that Scripture demands that we only sing Psalms in Stated, Lord’s Day worship.

  7. The regulative principle of what?

  8. Hi,
    I’m curious, why are you not an exclusive psalmodist when you clearly seem to agree with their arguments? Are there other things that you believe we are commanded to sing? (I ask this as one who is not totally convinced by the arguments for EP, but is convinced enough to be an EPer by practice.) Thanks!

  9. My best response is this.

    I probably should be EP but am too tied to tradition to commit myself fully.

    As far as “other things” I am persuaded that we should only sing “Inspired” text, but not uninspired hymnody. I would be more than happy to be in an EP situation.

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