CEM on Psalms

Living Church of God Hymnal
The Hymnal of the Living Church of God Consists Mainly of Psalms and Biblical Passages Set to Music


In his commentary this week, CEM’s Ronald Dart wrote the following:

Working my way through Psalm 81 this morning, I came to “selah” for the umpteeth time and looked again at the Hebrew and the usage in the psalms. I am increasingly aware of the musical nature of the psalms, and at the same time noticing it in a parallel study in Ezekiel. I am coming to the conclusion that one of the reasons we have trouble with some passages is that we are interpreting them as prose when they are written to be sung…

This goes with another thing I am seeing: The change in perspective. When you start noticing that a few verses are sung in the first person about God, and the next verses are sung in the first person singular as from God, the psalm begins to take on a new shape. At first, I just assumed this was like the mixed metaphor, merely a reflection of Hebrew thought. But then it dawned on me that if this was in performance, it might be done by two singers or a singer and a chorus…

Now add the element of vocal interpretation. I had a high school speech teacher who, when interscholastic speech competition came along, entered me in, of all things, poetry reading. It turned out to be one of the best things any speech teacher ever did for me. It was there I learned how much meaning could be developed in reading text aloud. Pacing, volume, pausing, and other vocal effects could completely change the way the listener received the text. Every musical artist knows that even with a mechanical device like a piano, there can be enormous differences in interpretation of a piece of music.

This is a good reason for families and churches to have oral readings of scripture.

Most of the songs sang by early Christians were Psalms.

The Book of James teaches:

Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms (James 5:13).

The Apostle Paul noted:

Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm (1 Corinthians 14:26).

Post-biblical writers also suggest that this was the practice of those who professed Christ in the second century as well.

Two articles of possibly related interest may include:

Praises to Jesus Christ or Biblical Hymns: Which Should Christians Primarily Sing? This biblical article on music is in response to an advertisement critical of WCG’s 1974 The Bible Hymnal.  It also address early church practices here.
What is the Appropriate Form of Biblical Interpretation? Should the Bible be literally understood? What do the writings of the Bible, Origen, Herbert W. Armstrong, and Augustine show?

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