1. Passages in the New Testament containing the Greek noun, “psalmos,” or the verb, “psallō.”


Eph 5:19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms [#5568 psalmos] and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody [#5567 psallō] in your heart to the Lord;


Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms [#5578 psalmos] and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts unto God.


1Corinthians 14:15 What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing [#5567 psallō] with the spirit, and I will sing [#5567 psallō] with the understanding also.


1Corinthians 14:26 What is it then, brethren? When ye come together, each one hath a psalm [#5568 psalmos], hath a teaching, hath a revelation, hath a tongue, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.


James 5:13 Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms [#5567 psallō].


Romans 15:9 and that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, Therefore will I give praise unto thee among the Gentiles, and sing [#5567 psallō] unto thy name.


  1. The Psalms, with which Eph 5:19 urges us to speak to each other, clearly reveal their instrumental nature.


1.      Headings of the Psalms, long before the New Testament, indicate use of instruments.

Psalm 4:1  To the chief Musician on Neginoth

Psalm 6:1  To the chief Musician on Neginoth

Psalm 8:1  To the chief Musician upon Gittith

Psalm 54:1  To the chief Musician on Neginoth

Psalm 55:1  To the chief Musician on Neginoth

Psalm 61:1  To the chief Musician upon Neginah

Psalm 67:1  To the chief Musician on Neginoth

Psalm 76:1  To the chief Musician on Neginoth

Psalm 81:1  To the chief Musician upon Gittith,

Psalm 84:1  To the chief Musician upon Gittith


2.      Instrumental music is very much a part of the teaching of the Psalms.

Ps. 33:2, 3.Give thanks unto Jehovah with the harp: sing praises unto him with the psaltery of ten strings. Sing unto him a new song; play skillfully with a loud noise.”

Ps. 57:7-9.Awake, psaltery and harp...I will give thanks unto thee, Lord, among the peoples: I will sing praises unto thee among the nations.”

Ps. 71:22-23. “I will also praise thee with the psaltery, ... “Unto thee will I sing praises with the harp....”

Ps. 81:2. “Raise a song, and bring hither the timbrel, The pleasant harp with the psaltery.”

Ps. 92:1-3.It is a good thing to give thanks unto Jehovah, And to sing praises unto thy name, O Most High; ...With an instrument of ten strings, and with the psaltery: With a solemn sound upon the harp

Ps. 98:4-6. “Sing praises unto Jehovah with the harp; With the harp and the voice of melody. With trumpets and sound of cornet Make a joyful noise before the King, Jehovah.”

Ps. 108:1-3.I will sing, yea I will sing praises, even with my glory. Awake, psaltery and harp...I will give thanks unto thee, O Jehovah, among the peoples; And I will sing praises unto thee among the nations.”

Ps. 144:9.I will sing a new song unto thee, O God: Upon a psaltery of ten strings will I sing praises unto thee.”

Ps. 147:7. “Sing unto Jehovah with thanksgiving; Sing praises upon the harp unto our God

Ps. 149:3.Let them praise his name in the dance: Let them sing praises unto him with timbrel and harp.”

Ps. 150:3-5.Praise him with trumpet sound: Praise him with psaltery and harp, Praise him with timbrel and dance*: Praise him with stringed instruments and pipe. Praise him with loud cymbals: Praise him with high sounding cymbals. Let everything that hath breath praise Jehovah.”

* (Some commentators think the “dance” in some of these passages is a kind of instrument.[1])


If it were sinful to accompany singing with instrumental music then the admonition to teach with Psalms would certainly have been qualified by warnings against doing so.  Unless a restriction is stated how can it be expected that when teaching with the Psalm, “Praise God with the harp,” we must understand that if we do so we are sinning against God? Anti-instrumentalists do not fail to see that this is made clear. Why did God not do the same? Why do they speak where God has not spoken? Why are they not as silent on the matter as the scriptures?




1.      Eph 5:19; Col. 3:16. Christians were told to speak to each other in “psalms.”


It makes no sense that we are to speak to each other the psalms that teach us to praise God with the harp if it is sinful to do so.


When psalms were used to teach and admonish in the Old Testament they were commonly accompanied. Without some clear scriptural teaching restricting such use, one would not reasonably be expected to consider it sinful.


From the time of the Septuagint until long after the New Testament, “psalmos” was used of a song with instrumental accompaniment, “hymnos,” a song of praise to God, and “odē,” a song in general, with or without an accompaniment.


It is maintained that in Eph 5:19, “psalmos” just means the composition rather than a musical performance with instruments. Nothing in the sentence requires this. On the contrary, the force of the infinitive in the verb form, “psalein” (“making melody”), suggests performance.


The fact that “psalms” may refer to the book of Psalms does not remove the difficulty.  Psalms were designed to be sung to accompaniment, and doing so is perfectly consistent with the meaning of the word.  When sung with instrumental accompaniment, they are still “psalms.”  Without a clear prohibition, one could not know it is wrong


This is much like our use of the word, “song.” A “song” may be either the piece of music or a musical performance. Unless it is otherwise clearly indicated, nothing restricts one from doing either. It is just as unreasonable to conclude that if we are told to speak to each other in Psalms, the action of making melody by plucking strings is prohibited unless specified.


Some authorities feel this is not restricted to the 150 Psalms. The fact that it is included with other music not found in the scriptures and use of the verbal forms, may well indicate this is speaking of music that has the character of psalms. A distinguishing character of the psalms was clearly instrumental.


2.      Standard entomological dictionaries, Bible dictionaries, Commentaries, translations and Lexicons.


The Greek word, “psalmos,” and its verb form, “psallō” expressed the idea of plucking with the fingers. This was extended to simply indicate music or a melody and finally a psalm fitted for that purpose or singing with or without an instrument. While it may have been sometimes used of music in general, at no time did the word mean “sing a-cappella.”


-The American Heritage Dictionary, 1980, College edition.


Psalm...from Greek psalmos, song sung to the harp, psalm (translation of Hebrew mizmor, song, psalm), from psallein, to pluck, play the harp.”


-Strong’s Concordance Lexicon,


5567, psallō; probably strengthened from psaō (to rub or touch the surface; compare 5597; to twitch or twang, i.e. to play on a stringed instrument (celebrate the divine worship with music and accompanying odes):--[translated] make melody, sing (psalms).”


5568, psalmos; from 5567; a set piece of music, i.e. a sacred ode (accompanied with the voice, harp or other instrument; a “psalm;” collection of the book of the Psalms:-- [Translated] psalm. Compare 5603.”


-Young’s Concordance:


SING 14. To sing praise with a musical instrument, psallō.”


The translators recognize that “psallō” cannot be restricted to singing. Almost all translate Eph. 5:19 indicating “melody.” Even anti-instrumentalists concede as much, although they claim the instrument here is the heart.


M. C. Kurfees, the classic of anti-instrumental writers, says:


“I have conceded and do now concede that there is in Ephesians 5:19 an allusion to and a play upon the original meaning of psallo...”[2]


-Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament


James 5:13 Is any among you suffering? Let him pray. Is any cheerful? Let him sing praise.

         [Let him sing praise] [psalletō (Grk 5567)]. Present active imperative of [psallō] (Grk 5567), originally to twang a chord as on a harp, to sing praise to God whether with instrument or without, in the New Testament only here, <1 Cor. 14:15; Rom. 15:9; Eph. 5:19>. “Let him keep on making melody.


-Vincent's Word Studies of the New Testament

James 5:13

[Let him sing psalms] [psalletō (Grk 5567)]. The word means, primarily, “to pluck or twitch.” Hence, of the sharp “twang” on a bow-string or harp-string, and so “to play upon a stringed instrument.” Our word “psalm,” derived from this, is, properly, a tune played upon a stringed instrument. The verb, however, is used in the New Testament of singing praise generally. See <1Cor. 14:15; Rom. 15:9>


            The fact that adō and psallō are placed together in conjunction makes it nonsense to translate them as “singing and singing.” Thus, they are translated, “singing and making melody.” This then shows that the Old Testament concept of making melody with an instrument had not disappeared.  So, all of the New Testament passages could have been translated with the idea of making melody as some translators suggest.


One reason for this may be that we have no exact English equivalent for the Greek word.


Lexicons say the “proper” usage is, a psalm is a song sung while plucking strings with fingers. We have no word to fully express all of this. If we translate it, “play,” we fail to express the associated idea of singing. If we translate it, “sing,” we fail to express the underlying idea of making melody by plucking strings. If we employ too many words the translation becomes cumbersome.


Accordingly, in Eph. 5:19 it is commonly translated, “making melody,” while in other passages it is translated “sing” or “sing psalms,” --recognizing that both ideas may be included.

McKinnon says of this, “...The traditional translation `making melody', incidentally, is retained here for want of a better alternative. The verb ya,llein [psallein] originally meant `to pluck a string instrument', but by New Testament times it came to mean simply 'to sing', with or without an instrument. To translate it here as `singing', however, would create an obviously undesirable repetition.[3]


Actually, there is no contextual or grammatical reason why all the passages containing psallō could not be translated as “make melody” or “make music.”

Eph. 5:19. singing and making melody [psallō] in your heart to the Lord

1Cor. 14:15. I will make melody [psallō] with the spirit, and I will make melody [psallō] with the understanding also.

James 5:13. Is any merry? let him make melody [psallō].

Romans 15:9 Therefore will I give praise unto thee among the Gentiles, And make melody [psallō] unto thy name.


A second factor that probably influenced the translators is its use in Byzantine and later Greek (after AD 300).


Because of traditional non-use of psallō in the Greek chapels, the primitive idea was almost entirely lost in later usage.


Anti-instrumentalists often press the point that surely the Greeks should know their own language. They do know their language, as it is now spoken, but, as anti-instrumentalists themselves argue, language usage changes—sometimes a great deal over thousands of years. The ancient Greeks knew what their language meant at that time. They used psallō to indicate instrumental music for hundreds of years before and after the New Testament. Even today in the Greek language, psallō does not mean “sing a-cappella.” Instruments are normally not used in the churches but elsewhere the word is used in reference to making music in general, whether accompanied or unaccompanied.


A third influence is Calvinistic tradition.


Just as the strong tradition of pouring for baptism restrained most translators from rendering “baptizō” in its original sense of “immerse,” so Calvinistic tradition influenced translators to render psallō as “sing.”  When a translator or lexicographer suggests the original meaning, those whose traditions are disturbed turn on a lot of pressure.


A prime example is the clamor made for removal of the qualifying phrase “(to the accompaniment of a harp)” added by Arndt and Gingrich for clarification in their revision of Bauer. Anti-instrumentalists attacked with a vengeance, making it sound like this was a distortion of Bauer, whereas the editors were doing what Lexicographers commonly do -- insert additional clarifying information. There is a lot of money wrapped up in publication and such pressures are keenly felt. The result was that after Professor Arndt died, Gingrich and Danker made a second revision which attempts to straddle the issue, although still conceding that the original meaning of psallō was ‘pluck’ which continued at least to the time of Lucian (AD 160).


For those who may choose to rely heavily on this, the third edition of Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich and Danker also changed the definition of baptizō to mean “to use water…” -- thus including pouring and sprinkling.[4] 




Amplified Translation,

-Eph.5:19.  “Speak out to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, offering praise with voices (and instruments), and making melody with all your heart to the Lord.”

Ballantine, William G. : The Riverside New Testament 1923 and 1934 Revised Edition

-Eph.5:19. “Playing the harp heartily to the Lord

-James 5:13. “Let him Sing with the harp


Barclay, William, Translation, C.1969

-Eph.5:19.  “Speak to each other in psalms and hymns and songs inspired by the Spirit.  Sing and make music to the Lord with all your heart.”


Beck, W. F., Translation, C.1963

-Eph.5:19.  “As you speak psalms, hymns and songs to one another, and with your hearts sing and play music to the Lord.”


Berkeley Version by Gerrit Verkuyl, -7th Printing 1965

-Eph.5:19. “As you converse among yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, heartily singing and making your music to the Lord.


Centenary Translation of the NT by Helen Montgomery, -C.1924, 1941 printing

-Eph.5:19. “When you talk together; with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and with all your hearts make music unto the Lord.”

-James 5:13. “Is any in good spirits? Let him sing unto his harp.”


Emphasized NT by J.B. Rotherham, C.1897 (Non-instrumental Church of Christ in England.) 

-Eph.5:19. “Speaking to yourselves with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs; singing and striking the strings with your heart unto the Lord.”

-Rom.15:9.  “And unto thy name will I strike the strings

-1Cor.14:15. “I will strike the strings with the spirit, [But] I will strike the strings also with the mind.”

-James 5:13.  “Cheerful is any?  Let him strike the strings;”


Lenski, R. C. H. (translated in his commentaries)

-Eph.5:19.  “be filled in spirit, making utterance for yourselves by means of psalms and hymns and spiritual odes, singing and playing with your heart to the Lord

-Rom.15:9. “And will sing and play psalms to thy name.”


Moffatt, James: A New Translation of the New Testament

-Eph 5:19. “praise the Lord heartily with words and music


Verkuyl, Gerrit, see: Berkeley Version by Wand, J. W. C., NT Letters, 2nd Imp. 1947

-Eph.5:19.  “To imbibe him will give you the kind of joy that expresses itself naturally in our antiphonal chanting of psalms and hymns and songs of the spiritual life, a lightheartedness of voice and music in the Lord.”




In spite of economic pressure, a number of translators have broken with tradition and specifically indicated instrumental accompaniment. To this, anti-instrumentalists respond by declaiming them as “committee translations.” However, while the larger committees do tend to follow tradition (How many “committee translations” use “immerse” for baptizō?), that does not mean that they have accepted the anti-instrumental case. A number of them have written in books or letters that in their judgment psalmos and psallō indicates accompaniment, and some deny they ever intended their translation to indicate it meant a-cappella.


Joseph Henry Thayer, D. D., Chairman of the American Standard New Testament Revision Committee, in editing Grimm’s Lexicon, under “psalmos,” cited Bishop Lightfoot on Col. 3:16. At the end of the article he inserts another note for us, “Synonym, see Humnos, at the end.” On p. 637 of his lexicon he states that psalms took their character from the Old Testament Psalms and then cites Lightfoot on Col. 3:16.


[SYN. humnos, psalmos, ode: ode is the generic term; psalm and humn are specific, the former designating a song which took its general character from the O.T. ‘Psalms’ (although not restricted to them, see 1Cor. 14:15, 26), the latter a song of praise. “While the leading idea of psalm, is a musical accompaniment, and that of humn, praise to God, ode is the general word for a song, whether accompanied or unaccompanied, whether of praise or on any other subject. Thus it was quite possible for the same song to be at once psalmos, humnos and ode” (Bishop Lightfoot on Col. 3:16). The words occur together in Col. 3:16 and Eph. 5:19. See Trench, Syn. §78.]


Anti-instrumentalists go to considerable lengths to get around the force of this.  Sometimes they try to represent the above as not representing Thayer.  However, on p.18 of his introduction he says, "Square brackets have been used to mark additions by the American Editor."  Thayer was the American Editor and he added this to clarify the distinction between these synonyms.  Note that he uses the present tense, “...the leading idea of psalm, IS a musical accompaniment...”


They point out that Thayer let Grimm’s statement, “in the N.T. to sing a hymn, to celebrate the praises of God in song,” stand without correction. However, on p.VII, he says, “On points of etymology the statements of Professor Grimm have been allowed to stand, although, in form at least, they often fail to accord with modern philological methods.” Furthermore, under the noun form, Thayer specifically cited Lightfoot on Colossians and referred the reader to Synonyms at the end of humnos for further information. The claim that he said nothing is incorrect.


They further attempt a defense by citing Thayer’s Preface, p.VIII, where, concerning his additions (in brackets “[ ],” see p.VI) he cautions,


“Accordingly, a caveat must be entered against the hasty inference that the mention of a different interpretation from that given by Professor Grimm always and of necessity implies dissent from him. It may be intended merely to inform the student that the meaning of the passage is still in debate...”


This statement hardly puts Thayer into the anti-instrumental camp. It merely indicates that his citation of a different interpretation should not provoke “hasty conclusions that “always and of necessity” he was differing with Professor Grimm. If anything, this suggests that at times he did differ. As we have shown above, Thayer saw Grimm’s definitions at times were lacking “in form at least” and gave his own reason why he may or may not have changed it.


On p.VIII he says that his supplementary references and remarks have been governed at different times by different considerations. On p.VI he indicates two of his “leading objects,” (which appear in this case), were “to introduce brief discussions of New Testament synonyms” and to givethe best English and American Commentaries (Lightfoot...)”


Thayer clearly added his judgment that a psalm, “took its general character from the O.T. ‘Psalms’, (although not restricted to them. See 1Co. 14:26)...” To illustrate what he meant, at this point he cited Lightfoot, who indicated the character is instrumental. The nature of the statement indicates this serves to express his view. This is no, “hasty conclusion.”


The fact that three words are employed, “psalmos,” “hymnos” and “odē,” clearly suggests they are speaking of three types of music.  It makes little sense to claim this means, “speaking to one another in songs, songs and spiritual songs.”


Bishop Lightfoot, quoted above on Col. 3:16, who Thayer says is one of the “best” commentaries (see Introduction, p.6)


The Ency. Americana (1940) Vol. 3, p. 637, says that Lightfoot's " 'commentaries' and 'apostolic Fathers' formed the apex of British Biblical scholarship."


The New Standard Encyclopedia says, "Bishop Lightfoot was a Biblical and classical scholar of the first rank; was especial­ly accomplished in Greek but he was also well versed in English literature, history and philosophy. He was an important member of the body of scholars who revised the authorized version of the N.E.”


Bishop Lightfoot said: “The three words psalmos, humnos, ode, are distinguished, so far as they are distinguishable, in Trench N.T. Syn. par. 78, page 279. They are correctly defined by Gregory Nyssen in Psalm 100:3 (I. p. 295)”



Both Thayer and Lightfoot cite Trench’s Synonyms. Going to his comments on “psalmos, humnos and ode,” we read:


“When some expositors refuse even to attempt to distinguish between them, urging that St. Paul had certainly no intention of classifying the different forms of Christian poetry, this statement, no doubt, is quite true; but neither, on the other hand, would he have used, where there is evidently no temptation to rhetorical amplification, three words, if one would have equally served his turn. It may fairly be questioned whether we can trace very accurately the lines of demarcation between the ‘psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” of which the Apostle makes mention, or whether he traced these lines for himself with a perfect accuracy. Still each must have had a meaning which belonged to it more, and by a better right, than it belonged to either of the others; and this it may be possible to seize, even while it is quite impossible with perfect strictness to distribute under these three heads Christian poetry as it existed in the Apostolic age....”


Psalmos, from psaō, properly a touching, and then a touching of the harp or other stringed instruments with the finger or with the plectrum (psalmoi toxōn, Euripides, Ion, 174; cf Bacch. 740,... was next the instrument itself, and last of all the song sung with this musical accompaniment. It is in this latest stage of its meaning that we find the word adopted in the Septuagint; and to this agree the ecclesiastical definitions of it...”


Of course, when they cannot in some way make it appear that the authority favors their cause they then seek to destroy their credibility. This may be done by citing his theological background or statements made on some other subject, such as baptism. Of course, when these people seem to favor their position on instruments their other errors are of no import. However, they seem to forget that the sword cuts both ways!


3.       Early translations of the Bible into other languages indicate Psallō and Psalmos included instrumental accompaniment. 


Classic Latin Dictionary 1948  (927 pages) Latin-English and English-Latin, Follett Publishing Company, Chicago, Illinois

psallo, psalli, 3. psallo, to play on, sing to a stringed instrument, especially the cithara; psallere docta, skilled in singing, Hor. [Q Horatius Flaccus, 8 B.C.]


4.      Contemporary usage in and following early church times indicates that Psalms included instrumental accompaniment.


a.      Instruments were certainly used in the temple to express psalms during New Testament times.


1)      The Bible indicates instrumental music was to be used in the Temple.


-2Chron. 29:25-28

25.“And he set the Levites in the house of Jehovah with cymbals, with psalteries, and with harps, according to the commandment of David, and of Gad the king’s seer, and Nathan the prophet; for the commandment was of Jehovah by his prophets. 26. And the Levites stood with the instruments of David, and the priests with the trumpets. 27. And Hezekiah commanded to offer the burnt-offering upon the altar. And when the burnt- offering began, the song of Jehovah began also, and the trumpets, together with the instruments of David king of Israel. 28. And all the assembly worshipped, and the singers sang, and the trumpeters sounded; all this continued until the burnt-offering was finished.”


This was re-instituted in the second temple.


-Ezra 3:10, 11. “And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of Jehovah they set the priests in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites the sons of Asaph with cymbals, to praise Jehovah, after the order of David king of Israel. 11. And they sang one to another in praising and giving thanks unto Jehovah...”


2)      Historians agree that instrumental music continued in the temple.


McClintock & Strong, p. 753, 3.

The Talmud also contains some notices of the liturgical music of the Herodian temple. The ordinary Levitical orchestra (according to Erachin, 10a, and Tamid, vii, 3), consisted of only twelve performers, provided with nine lyres, two harps, and one cymbal, with the addition, on certain days, of flutes.... ...mention is made in the Talmud of the use of an instrument in the later temple, which would seem to have been of the nature of a wind- organ, provided with as many as a hundred different keys, and the power of which was such, according to Jerome, that it could be heard from Jerusalem to the Mount of Olives, and even farther.”


b.      The non-Christian world, in and following New Testament times, defined and used Psalmos and psallō to indicate instrumental music.


Anti-instrumentalists claim that psalmos and psallō came to mean a-cappella by New Testament times. How did they do so? First century Christians did not invent a special language of their own. They lived in the culture of the times and spoke the language in which they were brought up. I give here only a few of the many references that show the instrumental usage of the word. For more examples, see Documents On Instrumental Music by Tom Burgess, or Instrumental Music Is Scriptural by O. E. Payne.


Josephus: (A.D. 70)

So Samuel, when he had given him these admonitions, went away. But the Divine Power departed from Saul, and removed to David; who, upon this removal of the Divine Spirit to him, began to prophesy. But as for Saul, some strange and demoniacal disorders came upon him, and brought upon him such suffocations as were ready to choke him; for which the physicians could find no other remedy but this, That if any person could charm those passions by singing [exadein] and playing [psalein], upon the harp, they advised them to inquire of such a one, and observe when these demons came upon him and disturbed him, and to take care that such a person might stand over him, and play [psalein] upon the harp and recite hymns to him....skillful in playing [psalein] on the harp, and in singing [exadein] of hymns,...whensoever it was that it came upon him, and this by reciting of hymns, and playing [psalein] upon the harp... -Antiquities, Bk. 6, chap. 8, #2; Pages 185-186. (6.166 Whiston)


“And when the evil spirit again came upon him to trouble and confuse him, he called David to the chamber wherein he lay, and, holding his spear in his hand, bade him charm away the spell with his harp [psalmoi] and songs [humnois]. -Antiquities, Bk. 6, Chap. 9, #3 (6.213 Whiston)


Plutarch. (A.D. 85)

“They fined a lyre-player [psalter] who was living with them because he played [psallō] with his fingers” -233,F


“And so the lyre-player [psaltēs] not rudely nor inelegantly put the curb on Phillip when he tried to dispute with him about the way to strike [psalles] the lyre [psaltērion].

-Moralia, p. 67F.


Lucian. (A.D. 160) The Parasite, 17

“..for it is impossible to pipe [aulein] without a pipe [aulōn] or to strum [psallein] without a lyre [luras], or to ride [ippeuein] without a horse [ippou]...”


Athenaeus. (A.D. 230)

“Being very talented, he could play on the harp [epsallen] with the bare hand without a plectrum.” -The Deiphnosphists, IV. 183-184, Tr. by Gulick Bk. 4, Sec. 183 D.


“Aristoxenus says that the magadis and the pectis may be played without a plectrum, by simply plucking [psalmou] with the fingers....

Again, Phrynichus says in The Phoenician Women, ‘With plucking [psalmoisin] of the strings they sing [aeidontes] their lays in answering strains.”

-The Deiphnosphists, XIV. 635, Translated by Gulick, Vol. 6, p. 427.


This is conceded by Everett Ferguson, A CAPPELLA MUSIC..., p. 3.


The classical meaning of psallo continued into Hellenistic and post-New Testament times. The satirist Lucian of Samosata in the second century A.D. said ‘It is impossible to pipe [aulein] without a pipe or to strum [psallein] without a lyre or to ride without a horse’ (Parasite 17). Aristides, the second century orator, could say ‘as easy as plucking [psēleie] a lyre’s string’ (Orations 26 [14]. 31). The third (?) century treaties De musica by Aristides Quintilianus contains the statement, ‘If we wish to play [psallein], stretching the string in accord with the musical intervals which through the prescribed ratios will permit all the meters, some of our sounds will be found to have harmony and some to be discordant” (II.ii).


It is not sufficient to shrug these off as “classical.” The classical period ended around 300 B.C.. However, psallō was used to translate the Hebrew word, “nagan” ("play") into the Septuagint around 150 BC and this usage continued in the Greek language until at least around A.D. 500. While we can expect lingering classical features, that certainly does not mean that “psallō” necessarily came to mean a-capella music. Indeed, much of the Greek language continued the same. The burden of proof is upon those who maintain that in the Greek of New Testament times it had entirely lost its instrumentation.


It is highly unlikely that there were two totally contradictory meanings for psallō being used at the same time by people conversing in the same language about the same things.  Certainly Josephus cannot be regarded as a classical writer.


The fact is that in the preserved writings of New Testament times, and for long afterwards, psallō was repeatedly used of plucking strings.


c.       Even the ancient “Fathers,” for four hundred years after Christ, recognized that psalmos and psallō indicated a melody produced by plucking strings.


Early writers sometimes allegorized instruments to mean parts of the body, but that does not change the proper meaning which was plucking an instrument with the fingers.  Not only was their allegorical interpretation wrong but the very fact that they did so supports the ordinary instrumental usage.


Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 150) quoting Ps 33:2-3.

“Confess to the Lord on the harp, play [psalate] to Him on the psaltery [psaltēriō] of ten strings. Sing [asate] to Him a new song [asma].”

-Ante Nicene Fathers, Vol. 2, The Instructor [paedagogus], Book 2, Chapter 4. (quoting Psalms 33:2-3)


Hippolytus, Bishop of Rome (A.D. 170-236)

Exegetical Fragments from Commentaries on the Psalms.

#7. We think, then, that the “psalms” are those which are simply played to an instrument, without the accompaniment of the voice, and (which are composed) for the musical melody of the instrument; and that those are called “songs” which are rendered by the voice in concert with the music; and that they are called “psalms of song” when the voice takes the lead, while the appropriate sound is also made to accompany it, rendered harmoniously by the instruments; and “songs of psalmody,” when the instrument takes the lead, while the voice has the second place, and accompanies the music of the strings.

--Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 5 (Hendricksen Edition, printed by Christian Book Discount House).


Basil the Great (A.D. 364) makes a clear distinction between odes and psalms.

“For it is a song [odē] and not a psalm [psalmos], because it is rendered with musical expression by the voice alone.” -on Psalm 44

“A Psalm is a musical sound caused when the instrument is struck rhythmically according to the musical notes” on Psalms 29:1


Gregory of Nyassa. (A.D. 370),

“The psalm [psalmos] is the melody produced on the musical instrument. The song [ode] is the utterance of the melody through the mouth with words. Hymn [humnos] is the praise offered to God for the good things we possess. The psaltery [psalterion] is a musical instrument which emits the sound from the upper parts of the structure. The music made by the instrument is called Psalm [psalmos]” (Migne. I. p. 493)


Chrysostom. (A.D. 386) On Psalms 41.

“It is possible, even without the voice to psallein--the mind echoing (accompanying) within. For we play the lyre not to men, but to God, who is able to hear (our) hearts, and enter the secrets of our minds.”


Augustine. (A.D. 396)

“But those are called Psalms which are sung to the Psaltery


Cyril of Alexandria.(AD 425) -Lexicon

Psalmos, a musical utterance while the instrument is played rhythmically according to harmonic notes.”


Psallō, like many other words, did change in meaning. At first, it meant only to pluck with the fingers. Because this commonly produced a sound, in time it was also used of playing a melody. Because instrumental music commonly accompanied singing, it eventually came to refer to singing with musical accompaniment. Finally, it came to mean simply, to sing, with or without an instrument. At no time did the word exclusively mean, “sing a-cappella.”


While we can positively show that instrumentation in psallō continued long after the New Testament was written, let us grant the claim that by New Testament times it had come to mean simply sing, with or without an instrument. That by no means indicates in the New Testament psallō meant to sing without (a-cappella) as anti-instrumentalists insist. “With or without” does not mean that accompaniment with an instrument was precluded.


Similarly, since bread was commonly leavened, God specified that in Passover it was to be unleavened (Lev. 10:12). Had He not, it could be either. Likewise, if psallō can be “with or without an instrument,” in the absence of additional restrictive language, it does not exclude accompaniment. The very nature of the word requires that in order for it to be exclusively vocal some command is necessary to restrict it to that use. The common use of the word to indicate music both by and with instruments is decisive evidence that use of the word alone cannot exclude instruments.


5.      The Septuagint (LXX), Greek Bible translated from Hebrew, used by early Christians, clearly indicates the readers would have understood “psallō” to include the idea of instrumental melody.


The Bible of New Testament times was commonly the Old Testament translated into Greek. Like Timothy (2Tim. 3:15), they were reared from childhood, being taught that David “played [psallō] a harp with his hand” (1Sam. 16:23; 18:10). No reader would think this meant, “sing a-cappella.” It is just as illogical that when they read the same word in James 5:13, “psallō when you are happy,” that they would have understood it to mean, “sing a-cappella?”


The Bible used by early Christians was the Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament (LXX = “70” because seventy men were alledged to have translated it 250-150 BC). That was likely the Bible Timothy knew “from a child” (2Tim 3:15). That was the Bible the Apostles read and quoted. It makes no sense that without any restrictive statement they would have understood the same word David said was playing with the hand, must be exclusively a-cappella.


That Bible used “psallō” to describe what was done by one who “psallowed” on a “psalterion” with the hand, producing a “psalm.” It even used combination words such as “psalm-singer” --one who sings psalms. As thoroughly immersed as they were in the LXX Greek Old Testament, it is unreasonable to think they would have understood “psallō” and “psalmos” to mean the music must be a-cappella.


It is simply not credible that, without clarification, the apostles would have used two contradictory definitions for psallō –one when they read their Septuagint Bibles, meaning to play an instrument, and the other when writing the New Testament scriptures, meaning to sing a-cappella—especially when quoting from the Old Testament (Rom 15:9). If God were opposed to instrumental music, one would at least expect either a clear qualifying definition of the word or a prohibition of its use, especially in the setting of the times when the Psalms were commonly sung with instruments, and they themselves call for the use of instruments.


a.      Importance of the Septuagint.


A. T. Robertson

In his Grammar Of The Greek New Testament In The Light Of Historical Research, p. 93, says it is pleasing to find Deissmann accenting “strongly the influence of the LXX on the N.T..” He quotes him: “A single hour lovingly devoted to the text of the Septuagint will further our exegetical knowledge of the Pauline Epistles more than a whole day spent over a commentary.”


Alexander Campbell

In his debate with Rice, in responding to the claim that by New Testament times “baptize” had come to include sprinkling, Campbell laid open the clear path concerning such claims. He pressed the evidence from the classics and the Septuagint. Rice appealed to historians, citing unusual uses of baptize by some writers and exceptional claims by some lexicographers. Consider the wisdom of Campbell as he destroyed Rice’s defense.


After citing many sources such as Josephus, Gregory, Clement etc., on p. 89 he said:


“It has been a question amongst theologians, whether the sacred use, that is, the Jewish and Christian, agrees with the classic use of this word; whether in one sentence the New Testament writers use baptizo, as do all other writers of that age... It would be indeed adopting a very dangerous principle and precedent, that this word means one thing out of the New Testament, and another in it...


“There are, too, writers in every age, who use terms in a sense very remote from the true. But whether the apostles were such men; or whether we, in a grave discussion like this, are to decide upon the meaning of a word by such corruptions, and licenses, or whether we shall accept the sense in which a word was used by those who lived contemporaneously with the apostles, will hardly admit of question, or of doubt.”

“I am one of those who admit, and can prove, the most exact agreement between the classic, the New Testament, and the Septuagint use of this word. These perfectly corroborate each other. All use the word as indicative of the same action, universally expressed by those classic writers adduced....”


Rice responded, (p. 94)

“One of the most serious errors of the gentleman, and of those who agree with him on this subject, is their undue reliance upon classic usage to determine the meaning of words found in the Scriptures. The pagan Greeks are certainly unsafe guides in the exposition of the language of the New Testament; so the best critics declare. And it is on this account, that we have Lexicons of the New Testament.”


Campbell responded, (p. 96)

“Our issue, says Mr. Rice, after all, depends upon the lexicographers. They are, no doubt, a proper court of appeal, but they are not the supreme court of appeal. They have themselves to appeal to the classics and approved writers for their authority. They are often wrong. Mr. Carson says they are all wrong in affirming that wash is a secondary meaning of baptizo. We all appeal from them to the classics. No learned man will ever rest his faith upon dictionaries. He will appeal from them, in very many cases, to their teachers, the classics.”


Thus today, just as Mr. Rice contended for baptizō, so anti-instrumentalists contend that in the New Testament psallō meant something entirely different than in the Septuagint and the classics, and they are just as wrong. They may be able to find instances where they only sang, but no first-century writer using it to mean a-cappella. However, not to be put off, they strain hard to be convincing. Even if such an exception could be found, that would not change the rule.


“Lyric,” is sometimes cited as an example of a word having completely lost instrumentation. However, “lyric” simply means, “lyre-like.”  It never meant to play a lyre.


They cite other words that have changed meaning. That does not prove that psallō changed to mean “a-cappella” in the New Testament. The burden of proof rests upon them. “Eat meat,” came to mean eating food in general, with or without animal flesh. “Break bread,” came to mean a meal in general, with or without bread. Indeed, when pressed by the one-cup brethren, do they not argue that the “cup” was the grape juice in the cup?  However, it would be nonsense to maintain that because of this the original items of meat, bread, and a cup must be excluded unless specified.  The proper meaning of these words allows them—just as “pluck” in psallō would permit instrumental music unless specifically excluded.


b.      Content of the Septuagint.


1)      Hebrew, “nagan” (#5059 “play”) translated as “psallō” and “psalmos.”


The Hebrew word, “nagan,” which never means singing, was translated by the Greek words, psallō and psalmos. If psallō came to mean to “sing without instrument,” why did not the New Testament writers update the translation of these passages using a different word, or even an explanation that would correct this usage when they quoted form it? (Rom 15:9)


-1Sam. 16:16. David was chosen to play a harp.

Rotherham. 1897: “a man skilled in playing [nagan] on the lyre


Greek LXX: “andra eidota psallein en kinura”


Brenton’s trans. of LXX: “and he shall play [psallō] on his harp.”


-1Sam. 16:16.

Rotherham. 1897 “then he shall play [nagan] with his hand


Greek LXX: “kai psalei en tē kinura autou

(Alexandrian Mss. “psallō”)


Brenton’s trans. of LXX: “and he shall play [psallō] on his harp


-1Sam. 16:17.

Rotherham. 1897 “a man that excelleth in playing [nagan]”


Greek LXX: “idete dē moi andra orthōs psallonta


Brenton’s trans. of LXX: “a skillful player” [psallō]


-1Sam. 16:18.

Rotherham. 1897 “skilled in playing [nagan]”


Greek LXX: “auton eidota psalmon” (Alexandrian Mss.)

(Vatican Mss. “psallō”)


Brenton’s trans. of LXX: “he understands playing [psalmos]”


-1Sam. 16:23.

Rotherham. 1897 “David take the lyre and play [nagan] with his hand


Greek LXX: “David tēn kinuran, kai epsallen en cheri autou


Brenton’s trans. of LXX:

David took his harp, and played [psallō] with his hand


-1Sam. 18:10.

Rotherham. 1897 “David began playing [nagan] with his hand”


Greek LXX: “David epsalle tais chersin autou”(Alexandrine text)


Brenton’s trans. of LXX: “David began playing [psallō] with his hand


-1Sam. 19:9

Rotherham. 1897 “David played [nagan] with his hand


Greek LXX: “David epsalle tais chersin auto


Brenton’s trans. of LXX:

David was playing [psallō] on the harp with his hands


-2Kings 3:15

Rotherham. 1897 “bring me one that can touch the strings [zamar]


Jerusalem: “bring me someone who can play [nagan] the lyre


Greek LXX: “labe moi psallonta


Brenton’s trans. of LXX: “fetch me a harper [psallō]


-2Kings 3:15

Rotherham. 1897 “the player [nagan] touched the strings [nagan]”


Jerusalem: “the musician [nagan] played [nagan]”


Greek LXX: “epsallein ho psallō


Brenton’s trans. of LXX: “the harper [psallō] harped [psallō]


-Psalms 33:2-3

Rotherham. 1910:

2 Give thanks to Jehovah with the lyre, with a lute of ten strings make melody [zamar] to him:

3 Sing [shir] to him a song that is new, with skill sweep the strings [nagan] with sacred shout.”


Kenneth N. Taylor --living Psalms And Proverbs Jerusalem:

2 give thanks to Yahweh on the lyre, play [zamar] to him on the ten-stringed harp.”

3.Sing a new song in his honor, play [nagan] with all your skill


Greek LXX:

 2 Exomologeisthe tō Kuriō en kithara, en *psaltēriō dekachordō psalate autō.”

 3 Asate autō asma kainon, kalōs psalate en alalagmō

* Note: a psalterion is used to psallō!


Brenton’s translation of the LXX:

2 Praise the Lord on the harp; play [psallō] to him on a psaltery of ten strings.

3 sing to him a new song; play [psallō] skillfully with a loud noise.”


-Psalms 68:25

Rotherham. 1910: In front are the princes* behind are the harpers [nagan] * or “singers


Greek LXX: “prophthasan archontes echomenoi psallontōn


Brenton’s trans. of LXX:

 “The princes went first, next before the players on instruments[psallō]


2)      Hebrew, “zamar,” commonly used of singing with instrumental accompaniment, was translated by “psallō.”


There can be no doubt that the Hebrew verb, zamar and its noun form, zimrah, were used to describe instrumental music.


Zimrah is translated into Greek by “psalmos” (psalm)


-Amos 5:23. #2172 zimrah = psalmos



Take the noise of your songs [shiyr] away from me; I will not hear the melody [zimrah] of your stringed instruments.”


Greek LXX:

Metastēson ap’ emou ēchon odōn sou, psalmon organōn sou ouk akousomai


Brenton’s Translation of the LXX:

Remove from me the sound of thy songs [odē]

 I will not hear the music [psalmos] of thine instruments


-Ps. 98:5. #2172 zimrah = psalmos

Rotherham. 1910

4 Break forth and ring out your joy and make ye melody [zamar]

5 Make ye melody [zamar] to Jehovah with the lyre, With the lyre and the voice of psalmody [zimrah]


Greek LXX:

4 alalaxate tō theō pasa hē gē,asate kai agilliasthe kai psalate

5 psalate tō Kuriō en Kithara en kithara kai phonē psalmou


Brenton’s Translation of the LXX:

4 Shout to God, all the earth; Sing and exult, and sing psalms

5 sing [psallō] to the Lord with a harp, With a harp, and the voice of a psalm [psalmos].


-Ps. 81:2. #2172 zimrah = psalmos


Rotherham. 1910:

Ring out your joy unto God our strength, give a sacred shout to the God of Jacob: Raise ye a melody and hold forth the timbrel, the lyre so sweet with the lute:


Greek LXX:

Aqualliasthe tō theō tō boēthō hēmōn, alalaxate tō theō Iakōb. labete psalmon kai dote tumpanon, psaltērion tephon meta kigharas


Brenton’s Translation of the LXX:

Rejoice ye in God our helper; shout aloud to the God of Jacob. Take a psalm [psalmos], and produce the timbrel, the pleasant psaltery with the harp.


Zamar, the verb form, likewise indicates instrumental music.


Ferguson concedes this is true in several scriptures. p. 5


Psallō occurs most frequently in the Septuagint as a translation of zamar, a Hebrew word with a similar etymology and development to its Greek translation. It is defined as ‘make music in praise of God,’ and the lexicon cites many instances ‘of singing,’ in a few of which instrumental accompaniment is mentioned in the context (but not included in the word itself), and several instances ‘of playing musical instruments.’ In a few instances where psallō translates zamar, the mention of an instrument with the word shows that the idea is ‘to play’ (Ps. 33:2; 71:22; 98:5; 144:9; 147:7; 149:3). Each of these references is cited by Brown, Driver, and Briggs for ‘making melody on an instrument’ as a definition of zamar. The Greek construction in each instance is psallo followed by the preposition en (‘with’ or ‘on’) and the name of the instrument.”


-Psalms 33:2, 3.#2167 zamar = psallō

Rotherham. 1910:

2. Give thanks to Jehovah with the lyre, with a lute of ten strings make melody [zamar] to him:

3. Sing [shiyr] to him a song that is new, with skill sweep the strings [nagan] with sacred shout.



 2 Play [zamar] joyous melodies of praise upon the lyre and on the harp!

 3 Compose new songs of praise to Him, accompanied [nagan] skillfully on the harp; sing [shiyr] joyfully.

*Kenneth N. Taylor --Living Psalms And Proverbs


Jerusalem Bible:

2 give thanks to Yahweh on the lyre, play [zamar] to him on the ten-stringed harp.”

3. Sing a new song in his honor, play [nagan] with all your skill


Greek LXX:

2 Exomologeisthe tō Kuriō en kithara, en *psaltēriō dekachordō psalate autō

3 Asate autō asma kainon, kalōs psalate en alalagmō

* Note: a psalterion is used to psallō


Brenton’s Translation of the LXX:

2 Praise the Lord on the harp;

 play [psallō] to him on a psaltery of ten strings.

3 sing to him a new song;

 play [psallō] skillfully with a loud noise.


-Ps. 71:22 #2167 zamar = psallō

Rotherham. 1910

22 I also will thank thee by the aid of the lute...I will make melody [zamar] unto thee with a lyre My lips shall ring out their joy when I make melody [zamar] unto thee


Jerusalem Bible

22 I promise I will thank you on the lyre, ...I will play [zamar] the harp in your honor My lips shall sing for joy as I play [zamar] to you


Keil & Delitzsch:

22 I will also praise Thee upon the nabla, ...I will play [zamar] to Thee upon the cithern...


Greek LXX:

22 Kai gar egō exomologēsomai soi en skeuei psalmou tēn alēthein sou ho Theos, psalō soi en kithara Agalliasontai ta cheilē mou hotan psalō soi,


Brenton’s Translation of the LXX:

22 I will also therefore give thanks unto thee, O God ...on an instrument of psalmody: I will sing psalms [psallō] to thee on the harp. My lips shall rejoice when I sing [psallō] to thee


-Ps. 98:5 #2167 zamar = psallō

Rotherham. 1910

4 Break forth and ring out your joy and make ye melody [zamar]

5 Make ye melody [zamar] to Jehovah with the lyre, With the lyre and the voice of psalmody [zimrah]


Greek LXX:

4 alalaxate tō theō pasa hē gē, asate kai agilliasthe kai psalate

5 psalate tō Kuriō en Kithara en kithara kai phonē psalmou


Brenton’s Translation of the LXX:

4 Shout to God, all the earth; Sing and exult, and sing psalms

5 sing [psallō] to the Lord with a harp, With a harp, and the voice of a psalm [psalmos].


-Ps. 144:9 #2167 zamar = psallō

Rotherham. 1910:

O God! a song [#7892 shir] that is new would I fain sing [#7891 shiyr] unto thee; with a lute of ten-strings would I fain play [zamar] unto thee


Jerusalem Bible:

God, I have made a new song for you to be played [zamar] on the ten-stringed lyre


Keil & Delitzsch.:

Eloihim, a new song will I sing unto Thee, Upon a ten stringed nabala will I play [zamar] unto thee.


Greek LXX:

Ho Theos, oden kainēn asomai soi, en psaltēriō dekaxordō psalō soi


Brenton’s Translation of the LXX:

O God, I will sing [adō] a new song [ode] to thee: I will play [psallō] to thee on a psaltery of ten strings.


-Ps. 149:3 #2167 zamar = psallō

Rotherham. 1910:

“with timbrel and lyre let them make melody [zamar]


Jerusalem Bible: playing [zamar] to him on strings and drums!


Keil & Delitzsch: with timbrel and cithera let them play to him


Greek LXX: en tumpanō kai psaltēriō psaltōsan


Brenton’s trans. of LXX:

let them sing praises [psallō] to him with timbrel and psaltery.


3)      Hebrew, [#7892] “shir” (singing) or “ranan” (hymning) was never translated into the LXX by “psallō.”


Some have claimed otherwise, citing Ps. 13:6.[5] However, they are misled by the fact that our present Hebrew manuscripts only have the clause with “shir” in it. The LXX had an additional clause, indicating its Hebrew source must have included a clause with zamar as we find these two words coupled together in many other passages.  


Ps. 13:6

Hebrew: (read right to left)

Aashiyraah [shir] La-Yahweh

(No second phrase)


Greek LXX:

Asō [adō] tō Kuriō tō euergetēsanti me,

 kai psalō [psallō] tō onomati kuriou tou hupsistou.


Brenton’s Translation of the LXX:

I will sing [adō] to the Lord...

and I will sing psalms [psallō]


Everette Ferguson, in his book, “A CAPPELLA MUSIC” (p.6) made this mistake.  Wayne Cobb pointed out the error and received the following response in a letter dated February 8, 1980:


“With reference to your questions, I shall attempt a reply. It is correct that there is nothing in the Hebrew to correspond to the statement using psallo in the Septuagint of Psalms 13:6 (Greek 12:6). When I cited that passage in my book as an instance of psallo translating shir, I was taking someone else's word without checking the Hebrew for myself (I should know better than to do that)."


A similar error was made by Kurfees’ in his book, Instrumental Music in the Worship, pages 91 and 92 concerning Ps. 68:25. Kufees quotes Dr. Clinton Lockhart of Christian University as writing:


“Shir everywhere means simply to sing, to chant. The noun from shir and shirah means a song, a hymn. The finite verb meaning simply to sing is nowhere, translated psallō, but the participle once (Psa. 68:25) is so translatedZamar, found only in the piel form, zimmer, means to touch the chords of an instrument, to play, to sing with an instrument, and, when done in honor of some person, to celebrate.”-Stark-Warlick Debate, p. 98.


The above statement and Kurfees’ re-affirmation on p.92 are incorrect.  The Hebrew, “shir” is in the LXX given as “arkontes” meaning “princess.”  The Greek participle, “psallontōn” is a translation of the Hebrew, “nagan.”


The King James, based on the Hebrew Masoretic text, translates

Psalm 68:25 The singers [Heb. shir] went before, the players on instruments [Heb. nagan] followed after; among them were the damsels playing with timbrels.


The Septuagint, translated by Brenton from the Greek:

Psalm 68:25 The princes [arkontes] went first, next before the players on instruments [psallontōn], in the midst of damsels playing on timbrels.


      This last line is also preserved in the Vulgate. (see, Studies in the Psalms by Rotherham, p. 124 footnote and translation, “let me sing to Jehovah....and let me harp to the name of the Lord most High”)


      John Peter Lang’s commentary, p.110 says, “[...The Septuagint has an additional clause, followed by the Vulgate and the English prayer book: ‘Yea, I will praise the name of the Lord Most High.’  It is not found in any Hebrew MSS.—C. A. H.]


      The International Critical Commentary on Ps. 13:6 says the line is omitted in the Hebrew.


Gleason L. Archer, cites other examples of dropping words or a line by a copyist of the Massoretic text occurring in 1Sam. 14:41 and another in Psalms 145. which are both preserved in the LXX.  --“Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties”, 1982, p.39-40


6.      God established the meaning of “psallō” as properly translating “zamar.”


We are on sound authority to understand it as God used it.


a.      In the Old Testament, David, by revelation, prophesied that under Christ the Gentiles would “zamar.” As we have shown above, Zamar included instrumental accompaniment.


Rom. 15:9, Paul quoted Psalms 18:49, using “ psallō” to translate “zamar.” He applied this to the Gentiles concerning the New Testament. Since “zamar” did not mean “sing a-cappella,” “Psallō” did not mean “sing a-cappella.”


-Ps. 18:49. #2167 zamar = psallō


Rotherham. 1910:

For this cause will I thank thee among the nations [#1471 goy]...and to thy name will I make melody [#2167 zamar].


Greek LXX translation of the Hebrew Old Testament:

dia touto exomologēsomai soi en ethnesi [#1484 ethnos—Gentiles], Kurie, kai tō onomati sou psalō.


Brenton’s Translation of the LXX:

Therefore will I confess to thee, O Lord, among the Gentiles [#1484 ethnos] and sing [#5569 psallō] to thy name.


-2Sam. 22:50. #2167 zamar = psallō


Rotherham. 1897:

...among the nations [#1471 goy], And to thy name will I touch the strings [#2167 zamar]


Greek LXX:

en tois ethnesi [nations], kai tō onomati sou psalō


Brenton’s Translation of the LXX:

...among the Gentiles, and sing praise [#5569 psallō] to your name.”


b.      By revelation, Paul authorized the Greek word, “psallō” as meaning the same as the Hebrew word, “zamar.”


Zamar commonly included instrumental melody. Since Paul was speaking by the Holy Spirit, it was God who established that psallō did not exclude instruments.


-Rom. 15:9. dia touto exomologēsomai soi en ethnesin kai tō onomati sou psalō


Consistent with Eph. 5:9 this can be rendered, “Therefore will I give praise unto thee among the Gentiles, [#1484 ethnos] and make melody [#5569 psallō] unto thy name.


In the passages where zamar is used it is abundantly clear that “psallō” does not mean “sing a-cappella.” As we have seen above, the Hebrew word, zamar, is used of playing musical instruments (Ps. 33:2; 71:22; 98:5; 144:9; 147:7; 149:3). Thus we have confirmed in the verb what we previously found in the noun. The Psalms were commonly instrumental and God made no indication they were to be a-cappella.


OBJECTION: That was the Old Testament definition.


a.       Paul’s quotation of the Old Testament passage, using psallō for zamar, shows the two words mean the same. Whatever the word meant in the original language must be its equivalent meaning in its translation into the New Testament.

b.      God Himself indicated the Old Testament was a basis of our learning. (Rom. 15:4; 2Tim. 3:16-17)


7.      Etymological factors indicate that “psalmos” and “psallō” carried the idea of a melody by plucking strings with the fingers, and therefore could not have meant “sing a-cappella.”


This form of argument was employed by Alexander Campbell, in his debate with Rice concerning baptism, showing that baptizo meant dip, not sprinkle or pour.


“We sometimes say, that words generally have both a proper and a figurative sense. I presume we may go farther and affirm, that every word in current use has a strictly proper and figurative acceptation. Now, in the derivation direct, (for there is a direct and an indirect derivation,) the proper and natural or original meaning of the term is uniformly transmitted. Let us, for example, take the Saxon word dip through all its flexions and derivations. Its flexions are, dip, dips, dippeth, dipped, dipping. From these are derived but a few words, such as the nouns, dipping, dipper, dip-chick, dipping-needle. Now in all the flexions and derivations of this word, is not the root [dip] always found in sense as well as in form? Wherever the radical syllable is found, the radical idea is in it. So of the word sprinkle: its flexions are, sprinkle, sprinkleth, sprinkling, sprinkled; and its derivatives are the nouns sprinkling and sprinkler. Does not the idea represented in the radical word [sprinkle] descend through the whole family?... (p.56)

“Ancient Greek grammarians sometimes arranged their verbs in the form of trees, making the origin of the family the root; the next in importance the trunk; the next the larger branches, and so on to the topmost twig. What would you think, Mr. President, of the sanity or veracity of the backwoodsman, who would affirm that he found in a state of nature, a tree whose root was oak, whose stem was cherry, whose boughs were pear, and whose leaves were chestnut? If these grammarians and philologists have been happy in their analogies drawn from the root and branches of trees, to illustrate the derivation of words, how singularly fantastic the genius that creates a philological tree, whose root is bapto, whose stem is cheo, whose branches are rantizo, and whose fruit is katharizo! Or, if not too ludicrous and preposterous for English ears, whose root is dip, whose trunk is pour, whose branches are sprinkle, and whose fruit is purification!” (p.57-58)


This illustration could not better fit “psallō.”

The root is psao – “pluck” (with the fingers).


From that comes the verb:

-psallō (verb) “to pluck” (a line, bow string etc.) This use is not found in the Bible.


-psallō (verb) used with various inflections, indicates various usages.

-A harper or minstrel: one who plays a stringed instrument.

2Kings 3:15 But now bring me a minstrel [psallō]. And it came to pass, when the minstrel [psallō] played [psallō], that the hand of Jehovah came upon him.

Ps. 68:25The princes went before, the players on instruments [psallō] followed…


-Play music --plucking a musical instrument with the fingers.

1Sam. 16:16-18. “David played [psallō] with his hand” (2K. 3:15)

Ps. 33:2. “sing [psallō] unto him with the psaltery [psaltērion] of ten strings

Eph. 5:19. “singing and making melody [psallō]


-Sing with an instrument

Ps. 33:2. Praise the LORD with harp: sing [psallō] unto him with the psaltery [psaltērion] of ten strings

Ps. 98:5 Sing praises [psallō] to the LORD with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody [psalmos] -RSV

Ps. 147:7. sing praise [psallō] upon the harp unto our God:

Ps. 144:9. upon a psaltery [psaltērion] and an instrument of ten strings will I sing praises [psallō] unto thee.

Ps. 149:3 let them sing praises [psallō] unto him with the timbrel and harp.

Ps. 71:22 I will also praise thee with the psaltery [psalmos], even thy truth, O my God: unto thee will I sing [psallō] with the harp, O thou Holy One of Israel.


-psalmos (Noun)

Amos 5:23. “melody of thy viols

Ps. 98:5. “With the harp and the sound of melody


Book of “psalms,” (intended to be sung with instrumental accompaniment as shown in the headings and oft mentioned instruments –Ps 150 etc.).

Lk. 20:42. “The Book of Psalms


-psaltos = songs

Ps. 119:54. “Thy statutes have been my songs


-psaltērion = “psaltery,” a stringed instrument played with the hand.

Ps. 144:9. Upon a psaltery and an instrument of ten strings will I sing praises [psallō] unto thee.

Ps. 33:2. Praise the LORD with harp: sing [psallō] unto him with the psaltery of ten strings


-psaltōdein = “psalm-singing” (note: psalt + ōdein). 2Chron. 5:13

Here we have psalmos and ōdē joined together in one. If psallō meant to sing there would have been no need to add ōdein to it.


-psaltōdos = “psalm-singer” 1Ch. 6:33; 13:8; 15:16, 27; 2Chron. 5:13; 29:28.

Again, if psallō meant to sing there would have been no need to add ōdos to it.


Even non-musical words with “psaō” in them have the idea of touching or rubbing with the hand or fingers.


-psēlaphaō = “handle”

1Jn. 1:1. “That which our hands handled

Lk. 24:39. “handle me and see

Ac. 17:27. “might feel after

Heb. 12:18. “that might be touched:


-psēphizō = “Count” [as one would with fingers]

Lk. 14:28. “count the cost

Rev. 13:18. “count the number of the beast


-psōmizō = “Feed” [as one would with the fingers]

Rom. 12:20. “If thy enemy hunger, feed him”

1Co. 13:3. “though I give all my goods to feed the poor


-psōmion = “Sop

Jn. 13:26, 26, 27, 30. (dipped the sop with his hand)


-psōchō = “rubbing

Luke 6:1. “plucked the ears, and did eat, rubbing them in their hands


On the other hand, right alongside zamar and psallō we have words that fully represents “sing” in both the Septuagint Old Testament and in the New Testament.


Adō and psallō are often coupled in the Old Testament, just as in Eph. 5:19.





1Chron. 16:9.

sing to him,

play to him

Jerusalem Bible

Ps. 21:13


harp thy power

Rotherham. 1910

Ps. 27:6.


play the harp

Keil & Delitzsch

Ps. 57:7



Rotherham. 1910

Ps. 68:32




Ps. 101:1


touch the strings

Rotherham. 1897

Ps. 104:33




Ps. 105:2

sing unto him

harp unto him

Keil & Delitzsch

Ps. 144:9


Make music

(Rotherham. 1897)

Eph 5:19


making melody

Authorized Version


Anti-instrumentalists attempt to make this appear to be the use of two synonymous words, placed together for rhetorical impact. However, it is much more likely that each carries its own distinct meaning. It would be perfectly proper to consistently render all of these, “singing and making melody,” as in Eph 5:19.  Indeed, it is quite clear that in Eph 5:19, pairing “adō” with “psallō,” reflects the same usage as the Septuagint in several passages of the Old Testament cited above.


      Rotherham puts his finger squarely on the problem:

It is just at this point that a defect becomes observable in the Revised Version of the Psalms. The difference between shir and zimmer is not clearly and consistently maintained. The two words occur concurrently, as synonyms, in the following, places:—21:13, 27:6, 57:7, 68:4, 68:30, 101:1, 104:33, 105:2, 108:1, 144 :9. The attempt was made by the Revisers, in nine out of these ten instances, to mark the difference between shir and zimmer by translating the former “sing” and the latter “sing praises”; but the attempt must be pronounced feeble in the extreme, inasmuch as ‘singing’ (alone, for shir) in all cases is nothing else than singing PRAISE. So that, just where it would appear that some addition or some advance ought to be made no addition or advance is made; and the “yea” which the Revisers have thrown in only reveals how feeble the discrimination was felt to be.  In one case, the first named above, (21:13), the Revisers’ hearts failed them altogether, and as they could not say, “So will we sing and sing praise thy power,” they dropped the word “sing” altogether out of their rendering of zimmer, and coined a special rendering, to which they have not adhered in any of the nine passages of the like kind which follow. This text should have been rendered: “So will we sing and harp thy power. And, though the urgency for a clearer distinction is not so keenly felt in all the examples given above, it may safely be affirmed, that in all of them the discrimination should have been maintained

It is interesting to note the effect of this same discrimina­tion when carried forward into the new Testament—as it clearly ought to be on the strength of the Septuagint, which is therein quoted and in which the Hebrew distinction between shir and zimmer faithfully reappears in their representatives aido and psallo. That effect will be, on the one hand, to make us content with the generic force of psallo in Rom. 15:9, 1 Cor. 14:15 and Jas. 5:13: whereas, on the other hand, it will compel the affirmation that, according to the established law governing the use ef synonyms, the companion nouns—”psalms,” “hymns,” and spiritual songs”—in Eph. 5:18 should be properly distinguished from each other; as in verse 19, also, the companion participles “singing,” and “playing” should in like manner each receive its restricted or specific sense. [6]


May we not fairly apply the principle of Alexander Campbell and conclude that with such a clear concept of rubbing or touching with the fingers or hand, both in its development and in other words with the same root, the idea of plucking could not have been entirely lost, much less, be considered as sinful?


To paraphrase Campbell’s argument:

“Are we to believe that this word, whose root is psaō, whose trunk is psallō, whose limb is psaltērion, whose branches are psalmos, produces fruit called “adō”? Or, if you will, whose root is pluck, whose trunk is to make music by plucking, whose limb is an instrument that is plucked, whose branches are a melody made by plucking and musical pieces intended to be plucked, must have fruit that is exclusively a-cappella???”


8.      The omission of Psallō where instruments would be unlikely is consistent with it describing instrumental music.


a.      All of the New Testament occasions where psallō appears could have had musical instruments.

-1Cor. 14:15. It is quite possible to sing understandably with an instrument. (cf. verses 7-8 where it cites the harp, used to make melody by plucking its strings.)

-Eph. 5:19. We can, and do, speak to people with instrumental accompaniment.

-Rom. 15:9. Instruments could be, and are used, in singing among the nations.

-James 5:13. An instrument can be used in singing Psalms when one is happy.


b.      Psallō was not used where instruments would not likely have been used.

Where instrumental music was unlikely, other words were used.


“A” and “humneō,” although sometimes used with instruments, did not imply plucking strings, and were used in places where instruments would not be used.


-Acts 16:25. Humneō was used to describe Paul and Silas singing in prison.



Just as baptize does not indicate whether it is with water, so psallō does not indicate a musical instrument.



The root idea in psallō is to pluck, especially with the fingers, and in the Septuagint and common use in New Testament times this included plucking of strings of a musical instrument. Since singing a-cappella has no action of plucking whatever, it is highly unlikely it meant a-cappella.


To make baptize parallel to this we would have to deny immersion in its action.




A. Psalm 57:9


We have seen that Paul (Rom. 15:9) cited David’s statement that they would “sing praises” [zamar] “among the nations” (Psalms 18:49) as a prophecy concerning the Gentiles.


Likewise, Hebrews 2:12 quotes Ps. 22:22, “In the midst of the congregation will I sing thy praise” is cited as a prophecy concerning the church.


Ps. 57:9 is a similar prophecy.


Rotherham. 1910:

“I would fain sing [shir] and would play! [zamar] Oh awake my glory! oh awake lute and lyre! I would fain waken the dawn! I will thank thee among the peoples [#5971 am]” Sovereign Lord, I will celebrate thee in psalm* [zamar] among the races of men [#3816 leom]

(* Rotherham’s footnote: “Or: ‘make melody’ unto thee”)


This passage is so similar to the others prophesying of the New testament that it would be most risky to deny that it was speaking of instrumental use in the New Testament.


B. Psalms 45:6-8


      This passage is Messianic, verses 6-7 cited in Hebrews 1:8-9.


Psalm 45:6-8   6 Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of uprightness is the scepter of Thy kingdom.  7 Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated wickedness; Therefore God, Thy God, has anointed Thee With the oil of joy above Thy fellows.  8 All Thy garments are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia; Out of ivory palaces stringed instruments [#4482 men] have made Thee glad. –NAS, --similarly, ASV, RSV, DBY, ESV, JPS, NAB, NAU, NIB, NIV, NJB, NLT, NRS, TNK, YLT.


In Ps. 150:4, even the King James version translates the same word “stringed instruments.”


Compare the following messianic passages


Rom. 15:9

I will give praise unto thee among the Gentiles,

and sing (psallo) unto thy name

Ps. 18:49

I will give thanks unto thee, O Jehovah, among the nations,

and will sing praises (zamar/psallo) unto thy name.

(Note: It speaks of "the anointed one"—Christ)

2Sam. 22:50

I will give thanks unto thee, O Jehovah, among the nations,

and will sing praises (zamar/psallo) unto thy name.

Ps. 57:9

I will give thanks unto thee, O Lord, among the peoples:

and will sing praises (zamar/psallo) unto thee among the nations

("Awake psaltery and harp")

Ps. 108:1-3

I will give thanks unto thee, O Jehovah, among the peoples;

and will sing praises (zamar/psallo) unto thee among the nations.

("Awake psaltery and harp")



Heb. 2:12 

I will declare thy name unto my brethren,

in the midst of the assembly will I sing praise (humneo) unto thee.

Ps. 22:22

I will declare thy name unto my brethren:

In the midst of the assembly will I praise (halal/humneo) thee.




God’s overwhelming approval of instrumental music in worship activities in the Old Testament and total lack of anything against it in the new, casts serious doubt on any claim that He considers it evil—especially in view of our being told to speak to each other in psalms.  The Psalms urge the use of instrumental music.


The Old Testament scriptures were provided as a basis of understanding the New.


The New Testament tells us we are to teach and admonish each other in psalms

-1Cor. 10:6. “these things were our examples...”

-1Cor. 10:11. “these things happened unto them by way of example; and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages are come.”

-Rom. 15:4. “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that through patience and through comfort of the scriptures we might have hope.”

-Rom. 4:23-24. It was written for our sake that Abraham’s faith was reckoned for righteousness.

-1Cor. 9:9. It was “for our sake” that it said not to muzzle the ox treading out the corn. (cf. 1Tim. 5:18)

-2Tim. 3:1-17. The Scriptures (which Timothy had known from a babe) were able to make him “wise unto salvation.” They were profitable “for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness: that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work.”

-Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16. We are told to speak, teach and admonish each other in Psalms.


Example: We may learn the nature of the Lord’s Supper by what was revealed in the Old Testament.  The Old Testament established that “bread” (Acts 2:42; 20:7; 1Cor 10:16-17; 11:23, 26-28) was made of wheat flour (Ex. 29:2), unleavened. (Deut 16:16)  The Old Testament reveals that the “fruit of the vine” was grapes (Jer. 8:13 etc. -- also in Revelation 14:18).


The same is true of New Testament teaching on immorality.  In 1Cor. 5, Paul condemns incest but, except for a man having his father’s wife, does not define it.  We must go back to Leviticus 18:6-17. 


Likewise, God told us to speak to each other in “Psalms.”  So, what are “Psalms?  Where do we find them?  How are they performed?  The Book of Psalms provides that information.


God indicated dissatisfaction with circumcision, sacrifices, the feast days, new moons, and Sabbaths, yet even they are not sinful. They are simply no longer binding.  However, He never condemned instrumental music, except when misused. Instead, He commanded and rewarded its use. Surely in the absence of any indication of displeasure, something so overwhelmingly approved could not be expected to be sinful. 


The fact that God omitted a specific command to use instrumental music in the New Testament does not make it sinful.  It just no longer specifically calls for its use.




Miriam, the prophetess, used it to praise God before the Law was given (Ex. 15:20). Before the Law was given it was used with no negative indication.


Exodus 15:20-21  20 And Miriam the prophetess, Aaron's sister, took the timbrel in her hand, and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dancing.  21 And Miriam answered them, "Sing to the LORD, for He is highly exalted; The horse and his rider He has hurled into the sea."


It was established for a testimony in Joseph before the Law was given.


Psalm 81:1-5  For the choir director; on the Gittith. A Psalm of Asaph. Sing for joy to God our strength; Shout joyfully to the God of Jacob.  2 Raise a song, strike the timbrel, The sweet sounding lyre with the harp.  3 Blow the trumpet at the new moon, At the full moon, on our feast day.  4 For it is a statute for Israel, An ordinance of the God of Jacob.  5 He established it for a testimony in Joseph, When he went throughout the land of Egypt. I heard a language that I did not know:



1.      Trumpets were commanded to be blown over the sacrifices (Num. 10:2, 10).


Numbers 10:2-3, 10  2 "Make yourself two trumpets of silver, of hammered work you shall make them; and you shall use them for summoning the congregation and for having the camps set out.  3 "And when both are blown, all the congregation shall gather themselves to you at the doorway of the tent of meeting.

10 "Also in the day of your gladness and in your appointed feasts, and on the first days of your months, you shall blow the trumpets over your burnt offerings, and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings; and they shall be as a reminder of you before your God. I am the LORD your God."


2.      Samuel told Saul to participate in prophesying with instruments (1Sam. 10:5-7).


1 Samuel 10:5-6   5 "Afterward you will come to the hill of God where the Philistine garrison is; and it shall be as soon as you have come there to the city, that you will meet a group of prophets coming down from the high place with harp, tambourine, flute, and a lyre before them, and they will be prophesying6 "Then the Spirit of the LORD will come upon you mightily, and you shall prophesy with them and be changed into another man.


3.      Evil spirits departed when David played (1Sam. 16:14-23).


1 Samuel 16:23    23 And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.


4.      David opened dark sayings upon the harp (Ps. 49:4).


Psalm 49:4   4 I will incline mine ear to a parable: I will open my dark saying upon the harp.


5.      David (himself a prophet, Ac. 2:29-30) set aside 4,000 Levites to praise God with instruments. (1Chron. 23:5).


1 Chronicles 23:5   5 Moreover four thousand were porters; and four thousand praised the LORD with the instruments which I made, said David, to praise therewith.


6.      The commandment was of Jehovah (2Chron. 29:25-28).


OBJECTION: Adam Clark says this statement is different in the Syriac and Arabic. It indicated it was “as from the mouth of the prophets.”

ANSWER: Adam Clark has no support in this claim in the Hebrew or the Greek, nor by the mass of commentators. Even if from the mouth of the prophets, it would still be from the Lord. The bitter bias of Clark’s Calvinism may be seen in the following statements:


“I believe `that David was not authorized by the Lord to introduce that multitude of musical instruments into the Divine worship; and I am satisfied that his conduct in this respect is most solemnly reprehended by this prophet; and I further believe that the use of such instruments of music, in the Christian Church, is without the sanction and against the will of God; that they are subversive of the spirit of true devotion, and that they are sinful. If there was a wo to them who invented instruments of music, as did David under the law, is there no wo, no curse to them who invent them, and introduce them into the worship of God in the Christian Church? I am an old man, and an old minister; and I here declare that I never knew them productive of any good in the worship of God; and have had reason to believe that they were productive of much evil. Music, as a science, I esteem and admire: but instruments of music in the house of God I abominate and abhor.” (Comments on Amos 6:5)


His opinion here is no more authoritative than when, concerning Gen. 1:16, he speaks of the sun and moon being habitable globes with rivers and seas[7] or elsewhere where he maintains that baptism does not mean to immerse [Mat 3:6].


Amos 6:5 is speaking of Israel (the ten northern tribes) who had set up an idolatrous counter-religious system to discourage the people from going to Jerusalem to worship in the temple. It is condemning their setting up altars with sacrifices and instruments like those of David, combining these in idolatrous worship and other sinful practices. (1Kings 12:26-33; Amos 5:26)  It does not condemn David for using instruments. 


This type of reasoning would rule out laying on couches, eating lamb or veal, singing idle songs to the harp or drinking wine from bowls (Amos 6:4-6).


7.      When the temple was dedicated they played and sang, and Jehovah filled His house with glory (2Chron. 5:12-14).


8.      The Levites prophesied with instruments (1Chron. 25:1-7; 15:16-19, 20, 24, 27, 28; 16:5-9, 41, 42).


9.      Elisha prophesied while accompanied with instruments (2Kings 3:15).


10.  Jehoshaphat brought the people to Jerusalem with instruments unto the house of Jehovah and the Lord gave rest (2Chron. 20:28-30).


11.  Under Ezra, at the laying of the foundation of the second temple, Zerubbabel and Jeshua oversaw the dedication with the priests using musical instruments and singing (Ezra 3:8-11).


12.  Under Nehemiah the wall of Jerusalem was dedicated with instrumen­tal music and singing (Neh. 12:27, 28).


13.  In the Psalms, God repeatedly encouraged instrumental music.

a.       God said, “It is good” (Ps. 92:1-3)

b.      He called it, “comely” (Ps. 33:1-3)

c.       He exhorted that it be done (Ps. 43:4; 47:5-7; 49:4; 57:7-9; 68:25; 71:22, 23; 81:1-3; 98:4-6; 108:1-3; 144:9; 147:7; 149:3; 150)




As we have seen above, God told Christians to speak to each other with Psalms. Psalms encouraged singing with musical instruments. It is often argued that musical instruments were part of the Law and therefore done away with it—thus we can no longer use them.


However, the fact that instruments were used under the Law did not make it sinful to use them after the Law passed away.  The fact that God omitted a specific command to use instrumental music in the New Testament does not make it sinful.  It just no longer specifically calls for its use.  Unless used for justification (Gal. 5:4), or bound upon people (Col. 2:16-17), the law was not sin.


1.      The law is not sin (Rom. 7:7, 12)

Romans 7:7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.

7:12   12 So that the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and righteous, and good.


2.      Regardless of any question about keeping the Law, Paul said to speak and teach in psalms (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). In light of their dominant instrumental theme, their encouragement of instrumental music, and the fact that no prohibition against instruments is indicated, it is clear that instrumental accompaniment was not sinful.



“The Psalms have objectionable things in them.”


We know what is objectionable because of New Testament teaching. The New Testament nowhere indicates instrumental music is objectionable. Instead, we are told to speak to each other in psalms, which encouraged its use.


3.      Paul circumcised Timothy as prescribed by the Law (Acts 16:3).


4.      Paul conducted himself, “as under the Law to those under the Law” (1Cor. 9:20).


5.      Observing days and meat distinctions, prescribed by the Law, was not sinful (Rom. 14:1-8).


6.      James spoke positively concerning “many thousands” of Christians who were zealous for the law (Ac. 21:20).


7.      To show the Jews that he was keeping the Law, when Paul went to Jeru­salem to worship (Ac. 24:11), James and the elders encouraged him to take four men that had a vow on them and purify himself with them and be at charges for them, that they might shave their heads (Acts 21:23-24 cf. 18:18). Paul purified himself and went into the temple until the offering was offered for every one of them (Ac. 21:17-27; 24:18). The purification rites are found in Numbers 6:9-12. This was as late as A.D. 60, some 30 years after the Spirit was given on Pentecost.


If Paul and “many thousands” of other Christians could worship in the temple services where instrumental music was being used with appro­val of the other apostles, what is all this about singing with instruments being an endorsement of a sinful practice? Anti-instrumentalists should follow the “approved apostolic example” that they demand.


OBJECTION: “Paul disobeyed God in going to Jerusalem and keeping the Law” (Ac. 21:4).


It does not say that Paul sinned in going to Jerusalem.  Luke says that they said to Paul through the Spirit that he should not set foot in Jerusalem. It appears that Paul understood it as a warning of what was to come rather than a prohibition. Paul was too dedicated (Ac. 23:1; 24:16) to have refused to obey God and he was in a better position to evaluate this than modern critics 2000 years later. Barnes cites Grotius as rendering it, “That he should not go unless he was willing to be bound.”


Paul was not prohibited to go to Jerusalem.  He had purposed in spirit to go to Jerusalem, knowing that afterwards he would see Rome (Ac. 19:21). At Miletus, he said to the Ephesian elders that he was going “bound in the spirit” unto Jerusalem, not knowing what should befall him there, except that the Holy Spirit testified in every city, saying that bonds and afflic­tions were ahead (Ac. 20:22-24). At Caesarea, the prophet, Agabus, warned that the Holy Spirit said that at Jerusalem he would be bound (Ac. 21:11). As a result, his friends besought that he not go to Jerusalem. Paul answered, “What do you, weeping and breaking my heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jeru­salem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” It then says that “when he would not be persuaded, they ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done.”


This was God’s plan. In Ac. 23:11 the Lord stood by Paul and said, “Be of good cheer: for as you have testified concerning me at Jerusalem, so must you bear witness also at Rome.” This does not appear as a rebuff of Paul for disobedience.


In any case, that would not prove that his worship in the temple and keeping the law was sinful.


The claim that Paul sinned in keeping the Law is an indictment of him being sinful not only on this occasion but also on others and makes his example and teachings, at least in part, in question. Paul circumcised Timothy Ac. 16:3. Paul said he kept the law (1Cor. 9:20) and the Law was not sin (Rom. 7:7).


The claim that keeping the law was sinful makes not only Paul a sinner but also, James, the elders at Jerusalem, and “many thousands” of Christians (21:18, 20).


Here we have an “approved precedent” of not only Paul, but of the apostle, James. 


OBJECTION: “If we can obey the Law then why not offer sacrifices and incense?”


The law prescribed the temple as the only place to sacrifice and the Levitical priests as the only ones to offer sacrifices (Num. 1:51-53; 3:5-10; 18:1-7). Since we have neither today, to do so would be violation of the law, not keeping it.


Furthermore, the word of God clearly declared an end to sacrifices (Heb. 10:5-6). It says nothing about ending instrumental music, which was used both within and outside the temple.


      Likewise, the temple incense was to be exclusively offered by the priests for that purpose.  Those who offered it otherwise were to be put to death. (Num. 16:35, 40) 


      However, it may be that there would be no sin in using incense for a different purpose not intended as worship of God, —to simply sweeten the air—as one might burn oil in a lamp (cf. Ex. 27:20) to give light to a room.  


OBJECTION: “Repealing the Law repealed instrumental music.”


Repeal of the law only removed it as binding. We are no longer required to obey it. However, that did not make the Law sin (Rom. 7:7).


The example of Paul (Ac. 21) shows they could obey the law even after it was repealed..


We were told to speak to each other “in Psalms.” Thus we are authorized to do what was intended by “psalms.”




Unlike modern anti-instrumentalists, the apostles were not averse to worshipping where instrumental music was used.


A.     Luke 24:53. After the resurrection they continued in the temple, “blessing God.”


B.     Acts 2:1-11. The temple was probably the place where the apostles were when the Holy Spirit came upon them on Pentecost. (cf. Acts 2:46-47)


C.     Acts 2:46-47. After they were baptized they continued in the temple, “praising God” (cf. 5:42).


D.     Acts 3:1, 8. Peter and John went to the temple at the hour of prayer.


E.      Acts 22:17. Paul, three years after his conversion, went by revelation to Jerusalem and after seeing Peter and James, prayed in the temple and received a vision (cf. Gal. 1:18).


F.      Ac. 21:26; 24:11, 18  Paul took four others into the temple and purified himself, waiting while the offering was made for every one of them. Laws of vows and purification are in Numbers  6.  Compare Paul’s “vow” (Acts 18:18).


OBJECTION:  How do we know that instrumental Music was used in the Temple at this time?

ANSWER:  As we have shown above, God commanded it when Solomon built the temple and when the temple was rebuilt after the return from Babylon it was in use.  According to Jerome, the temple had an organ that could be heard from Jerusalem to the Mount of Olives. [8]




-Rev. 5:8-9. In heaven, before the throne of God, the four living creatures and twenty-four elders were pictured with harps and the prayers of the saints, singing a new song to the lamb.


-Rev. 14:1-3. John heard from heaven a great sound of harpers harping with harps: and they sang a new song before the throne (cf. Rev. 7:4).


-Rev. 15:2-4. Those who came off victorious from the beast had harps of God and sang the song of Moses concerning all nations coming to worship.


Anti-instrumentalists object that this is in heaven, not on earth. However, much of Revelation’s symbols are heavenly pictures of events that take place upon earth (see Revelation 17). From the Historicist view of Revelation, the 144,000 represent people who become Christians, probably during the time of Constantine.


If playing an instrument were sinful, surely God would not have pictured heavenly praise as playing and singing with harps. That would be as inappropriate as picturing heavenly worship as being like 144,000 homosexuals singing before the throne of .God. Why would a sinful act be used to picture holy praise?


If God were opposed to instrumental music, it makes no sense that He would have four living creatures, twenty-four elders, and 144,00 singing with harps around His throne.

[1] Bible Encyclopedia by A. R. Fausset, 1910

[2]  Rubel Shelly, “Sing His Praise...” 1987, 20th Century Christian, Nashville, Tenn. ISBN 0-89098-080-2

[3]  James McKinnon, “Music in Early Christian Literature,” p.15

[4] 3rd edition, University of Chicago, 2000, ISBN 0226039331

[5] Everett Ferguson, A-Cappella Music, (revised edition) p.6,

[6] “Studies In The Psalms” Joseph Bryant Rotherham, College Press, Joplin Missouri, 1970. p.28

[7] Clark’s Commentary, on Genesis 1:16 Vol. 1, p. 36 (see also Sage Digital Library, 25-26)

[8] McClintock & Strong, p. 753, 3.