Reading the Papers

Connie W. Adams
Louisville, Kentucky

Psalmos, Psallo and the Crusader Challenge

I have before me now the May and July issues of a paper called The Crusader, published in St. Clair, Missouri by Vernon M. Newland. He is identified with the instrumental Churches of Christ, some of which are still known as Christian Churches, though they are not now affiliated with the Disciples of Christ. I had not seen this paper until recently and thus was unaware of a challenge they have been making. In both issues before me, they carry what they call "A First Sweeping Statement" and "A Second Sweeping Statement." Here they are:

A First Sweeping Statement

"On every item of significance and importance, bearing upon 'the instrument question,' ascertainable by scholarly research and investigation, our best minds on both sides are (and perhaps always have been) in virtually complete agreement."

A Second Sweeping Statement

"There is not a single issue, or Scripture, bearing importantly upon "the instrument question,' where, seemingly, interpretation must play an important part, of which our non-instrument brethren can say, 'Our general view, or interpretation, of this Scripture, (or these Scriptures) is upheld and sustained by the great majority of the world's renowned and leading commentators and exegetes, but you folk who use the instrument refuse to accept or agree , to such interpretation, thereby hindering efforts toward understanding and unity'."

The editor boasts that "Though months have passed since our first publication of these two 'sweeping statements,' not one has written to offer evidence of their being untrue.

As to his first statement, what difference does it make whether or not "our best minds" are agreed or disagreed on matters discernible by "Scholarly research and investigation"? We are willing to rest the case on the simple, reliable translations we have. 47 scholars worked on the King James Version, 101 on the American Standard Version and 58 on the New American Standard Bible, not to mention other translations. Though the word "psallo" occurs five times in the New Testament (Rom. 15:9; 1 Cor. 14:15 (twice); Eph. 5:19; James 5:13), these 206 scholars rendered "psallo" in the English "sing" four times and "make melody" once. Not once did these 206 scholars translate the word with "play" or "sing and play." I doubt that any of "our best minds" know any more about the Greek and how it should be translated than the combined knowledge of these translators.

Further, if playing an instrument inheres in the word "psallo" then it is not optional at all. If it is a part of the action described, then it is sinful to omit that which the word contains and everyone who worships without the instrument is in open violation of the word of God. Not only so, but the instruction to "psallo" is given to every Christian, and if the instrument inheres in the word, then every one is required to play for himself, if he is also required to sing for himself.

Concerning his second "sweeping statement," the weight of the translators is with us, not with him. I would rather have them than all the commentators and exegetes he can name. But while we are on the subject, he does not even have all the lexicographers with him.

Sophocles said of "psallo": "to chant, sing religious hymns" (Greek Lexicon of the Roman and Byzantine periods).

Thayer: "in the N.T. to sing a hymn, to celebrate the praises of God in song."

Vine: "in the N.T., to sin g a hymn, sing praise."

The verb "psallo" meant to pluck, touch or twang. It is used in Greek literature of plucking the harp, the bowstring, the carpenter's line, of touching the chords of a musical instrument and of touching the chords of the human heart in songs of praise to God. The object of the verb does not inhere in the word. If so, which object from these usages? The object of the touching or plucking must be indicated. It does not inhere in the word.

The word "psalmos" in the New Testament means an ode of praise. We are instructed to sing "psalmos." If an instrument inheres in the word in the New Testament, then are we to "sing the playing of an instrument"? Again, if the instrument inheres in the word, then it is sinful to omit the instrument.

Since editor Newland is so confident that he has the truth on this matter, I will tell him what we can do. I will meet him in two public discussions on the subject, one in Louisville and one in the place where he preaches and we can have an open and honorable discussion of the matter for any interested hearers. Or, if he wishes, we can arrange for a written discussion to be carried in this paper and in one of theirs of comparable circulation. Let him affirm that instrumental music in worship is authorized in the New Testament and I will deny it. Now editor, don't say anymore that your challenge has been ignored. We await your pleasure.

TRUTH MAGAZINE, XVI: 10, pp. 8-9
January 13, 1972