By Mike Willis
(3) The Greek words. psallo and psalmos mean to sing with mechanical instruments of music. In recent years, those who believe that Bible authority must be provided for what one practices have resorted to this argument to prove that mechanical instruments in worship are authorized. The argument is difficult for the common man to evaluate because he has no knowledge of the Greek language and no ability to find out whether or not it is true. In my reply to this argument, I will try to present information easily discernible to the English reader without becoming bogged down in Greek lexicons.
(a) If the Greek words psallo and psalmos in Ephesians 5:19 mean “to sing with mechanical instruments of music,” then one must use mechanical instruments of music in his worship to be obedient to God. The Greek word baptizo (baptize) means “to immerse in water.” One cannot obey the command to be baptized without being immersed; sprinkling and pouring are substitutes for baptism. In a similar way, if psallo and psalmos mean “to sing with mechanical instruments of music, ” one has not obeyed the command unless he sings with mechanical instruments of music. In this case, those who do not use mechanical instruments of music would not be obeying the Lord. The use of mechanical instruments of music would not be optional, but required.
(b) If psallo means “sing with instrumental music,” the early church stood in violation of the will of God because they did not use mechanical instruments of music. The church did not begin to obey the Lord’s command until the latter part of the seventh century.
Translations of the Greek Psallo
|Translation||Year||Rom. 15:9||1 Cor. 14:15||Eph. 5:19||Jas. 5:13|
|1. German & English||1453||sing||sing||make melody||sing|
|2. Tyndale||1535||sing||sing||make melody||sing|
|3. Cramer||1540||sing||sing||make melody||sing|
|4. Geneva Bible||1560||sing||sing||make melody||sing|
|5. Rheims||1582||sing||sing||make melody||sing|
|6. Douay||1610||sing||sing||make melody||sing|
|7. King James||1611||sing||sing||make melody||sing|
|8. McKnight||1795||sing||sing||make melody||sing|
|9. Rhemish||1833||sing||sing||make melody||sing|
|10. Anderson||1864||sing||sing||make melody||sing|
|11. Bible Union||1865||sing||sing||make melody||sing|
|12. Ellicott||1866||sing||sing||make melody||sing|
|13. Tischendorf||1868||sing||sing||make melody||sing|
|14. Living Oracles||1873||sing||sing||make melody||sing|
|15. English Revised||1901||sing||sing||make melody||sing|
|16. American Revised||1901||sing||sing||make melody||sing|
|17. Revised Standard||1945||sing||sing||making melody||sing|
|18. Phillips||1945||sing||sing||making music||sing|
|19. New American Standard||1960||sing||sing||making melody||sing|
|20. New English||1961||sing||sing||make music||sing|
|21. Today’s English||1966||sing||sing||with praise||sing|
|22. New American||1970||sing||sing||sing praise||sing|
|23. New International||1973||sing||sing||make music||sing|
(c) None of the standard translations have correctly understood the meaning of this word. The chart on page 2 will demonstrate what the best Greek scholars through the centuries thought the Greek word psallo means:
The Greek scholars are consistent in translating the word “sing.” The only deviation from the normal is the translations “make melody” and “making music” in Ephesians 5:19 and there the instrument on which the music is to be made is specified as the human heart, not some mechanical instrument. Hence, the Greek words do not provide authority for mechanical instruments of music in worship. (For a more detailed study of this argument, read the Boswell-Hardeman Debate published by the Guardian of Truth Foundation in Bowling Green, Kentucky.)
(4) The piano is just an aid to our worship, like a pitch pipe, song book, and song leader. Is the piano and organ only an aid or are they additions? How does one distinguish aids from additions? One could argue that putting peanut butter on the unleavened bread in the Lord’s supper would improve its taste and make worship more palatable. Would this be an aid to worship? I think most of us would agree that it is not an aid; it is an addition-an unauthorized addition. But, how do we arrive at this conclusion?
An addition is a violation of specific authority because it introduces another item of the same class. For example, the Lord specified unleavened bread and fruit of the vine to be used on the Lord’s table. The use of another kind of food on the Lord’s table is an addition. In contrast, the use of one container or many for the fruit of the vine and the use of plates to pass the unleavened bread are simply aids; they aid in distributing the elements which the Lord authorized but do not introduce unauthorized items.
In like manner, a pitch pipe, song book, shaped notes, and a leader all assist us in doing what God authorized-to sing. The introduction of another kind of music, like the introduction of another kind of food on the Lord’s table, is not an aid; it is an addition — an addition unauthorized in God’s word.
(5) Revelation 14:2 describes singing with a harp in praise to God. The book of Revelation mentions many things in heaven which are not to be practiced in the worship of the New Testament church, such as incense with prayers (Rev. 8:4) and an altar (Rev. 6:9). The figurative language of the book of Revelation draws from the symbolism of the Old Testament to convey its message. Its symbolic language is not to be understood literally or to describe what items are to be used in the worship of the New Testament church.
(6) Many members of the church of Christ sing at home with a piano. We can do many things at our homes which we would not make a part of the worship of the church. We watch TV, play baseball, listen to records, cook, sleep and many other things at our homes which have no place in the worship of the church. Many Christians who are talented in music play secular music in their homes. Such is not inconsistent.
However, some see nothing wrong with singing spiritual songs with an instrument at home but oppose the same practice at the church building. Some of us are very inconsistent in our application of the word of God. In the worship of God in song, one should not use mechanical instruments of music, whether done in one’s home or the church building. Yet, a member’s inconsistency does not provide authority for something otherwise not authorized. If every member of the church of Christ is inconsistent in his application of God’s word, that does not prove that mechanical instruments of music in worship are approved of God.
(7) I have the talent to play the piano and I want to use my talent to praise God. I suppose that the man who has a talent to grill hamburgers, play baseball, auctioneer, lift weights, perform magical tricks, tell jokes, and other things should also be given an opportunity to display his talents in the worship services. If not, why not?
These are the most frequently heard arguments to defend the use the mechanical instruments of music in the worship of the saints. None of them, when examined carefully, provide authority for the church to use mechanical instruments of music in its singing services. The arguments that have never been made in the defense of mechanical instruments of music in worship are these:
The Lord commanded us to use mechanical instruments of music in worship. The Lord recorded an example of an early church using mechanical instruments of music in its worship. This Scripture necessarily infers that the early church used mechanical instruments of music in its worship.
These arguments have never and will never be made in the defense of mechanical instruments of music in worship because there is no book, chapter, and verse in the New Testament which authorizes its use!
There is one argument which has been made in defense of mechanical instruments of music in worship which is unanswerable. That argument is: “We like it; we want it; and we are determined to have it.” When man has set his stubborn will against God’s word, all of the arguments in the world will not and cannot change his mind.
Abuses Related to Instrumental Music in Worship
The introduction of mechanical instruments of music in worship has not been without its problems. Some of the problems are small and others are large. The problems begin with the petty feuding regarding who gets to play the piano and/or organ. Feelings are hurt and ill will exists between those in the local church with the ability to play the instrument.
Another problem comes in the second and third generation. Soon the younger people begin to see that there is no difference in using a guitar, cymbals, and drum than any other instrument of music. So the younger generation moves toward a full-scale band. As their taste for music differs from the older generation, the flavor of the music begins to change from traditional hymns to contemporary gospel, southern gospel, bluegrass gospel, or even rock gospel. There is no logical place to stop. Those who only wanted a piano or organ are now finding themselves uncomfortable with rock gospel singing groups.
The same instruments which are used to “aid” the singing are soon used to “set the mood” for offering the invitation, prayer, and the observance of the Lord’s supper. Soon the worship becomes centered around the use of mechanical instruments of music.
As churches have moved further and further away from demanding book, chapter, and verse for what is practiced in religion, the worship changes from the praise and adoration of God to what is most palatable and pleasing to man. What worship is offered to God is offered according to what man thinks will please God rather than according to what God has revealed will please Him. Worship devised by men is substituted for divinely revealed worship.
We encourage you to go back to the simple worship which God has revealed in the Bible that man should bring to God. We oppose the departure from this worship in any form, whether it be by using incense, burning candles, praying to Mary, or using mechanical instruments of music. Will you join hands with us in calling on men and women to go back to the Bible and offer to God the worship which He has revealed that we should offer?
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 20, pp. 610, 631-632
October 17, 1985