Monday, April 18, 2011

Exclusive Psalmody, Ipsissima Verba and singing the name of Jesus

Lane Keister has rounded up his discussion on the subject of worship here, after interacting with Dr. R Scott Clark on this topic. In the comment section of his concluding post, a link was placed to an article on whether Exclusive Psalmody allows for singing the name of Jesus. Not surprisingly, the answer given by the author was yes. However, is that really the case?

The main thrust of this article is that the title "Messiah/ Anointed" (which is translated as Christ in Greek) is fond in the Psalms. Also, the cognate word for "salvation" is the meaning of the name Jesus — Yeshuah. For example, in Ps. 3:8 (Ps. 3:9 in the LXX and the MT), the cognate noun הַיְשׁוּעָ֑ה (hayeshu'ah) is used to denote salvation. Therefore, the author of this article contends that we can indeed sing of Jesus Christ in the Psalms.

The argument looks good on the surface, until we realize that no Jew living before the time of Christ, even King David while he was on earth, while singing the Psalms are going to think of Jesus Christ. In fact, when Jesus did come on to the scene of history, the majority of Jews rejected him. Reading the Psalms according to its historical context therefore does not give us the name or person of Jesus Christ, just a promise of a Messiah who saves.

Biblical revelation is organic and progressive in nature. No saved Jew before Jesus (not Abraham, not Moses, and not David, Daniel, or Isaiah) could have known that the second person of the Trinity would come down from heaven, incarnate himself as a human baby, grow up as an ordinary human being, and die on a Roman cross by the shameful death of crucifixion. Would they recognize Jesus as the promised Messiah if they see him? Were they looking forward to the coming of Jesus Christ? Of course. After all, "Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad" (Jn. 8: 56). Yet,

"Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories" (1 Peter 1:10-11).

The patriarchs and prophets knew only in part, not the full revelation which we now have in the completed revelation of Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:1-2, Col. 1:19).

It is in this light that the article fails if one wishes to defend some form of Exclusive Psalmody. Since the historical context does not allow for seeing Christ in the Psalms, reading the title of Christ and the name of Jesus in the Psalms is an interpretation of the Psalms not a mere ipssisima verba (the very words) of the Psalms. Now, do the Psalms speak of Christ? Of course they do. They speak of Christ however not according to the historical context it was written, but by looking at them in the redemptive canonical context of Scripture and its redemptive history. To say that the Psalms speak of Christ in this manner is to concede that interpretation and therefore some paraphrase of the Psalms is required in order for the full truth of God's word (in this case the name of Jesus Christ) to be expressed and sung.

Ironically, this reasoning by the Exclusive Psalmodists makes the point that interpretation and paraphrasing/ systematizing of biblical truths for singing is acceptable for public worship. The Scripture-only position, being open to singing all of Scripture, is not susceptible to this particular line of argument. Since interpretation and paraphrasing is acceptable for songs for public worship, the Exclusive Psalmodists through this argument has already contradicted and conceded their position on the topic, and therefore we should reject Exclusive Psalmody as being contrary to the spirit of the Scriptures.


Anonymous said...

David was receiving Jesus / Jeshua, loud and clear. Strange, how life is.

Daniel C said...


and we know that apart from the New Testament how? And did David received Jesus as "Jesus" or did he receive Him proleptically as the anticipated Messiah?