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Philosophical Thought
Reference:

Modern Worship music and historical grounds for the use of instrumental music in Christian Worship

Belomytsev Arsenii

ORCID: 0000-0003-4222-5737

Head of the Department for the Prevention of Extremism on Religious Grounds of the Monitoring Department in the Field of Interethnic and Interfaith Relations, Federal Agency for Nationalities

119454, Russia, g. Moscow, pr. Vernadskogo, 76

abelomycev@mail.ru
Other publications by this author
 

 

DOI:

10.25136/2409-8728.2022.4.37800

Received:

05-04-2022


Published:

06-05-2022


Abstract: The subject of the study is the historical grounds for the use of instrumental music in Christian worship, acting as arguments in favor of the permissibility of the presence of modern worship music in liturgical practice, taking into account its inherent genre and style features. Modern worship music is performed as part of the divine service by the so-called "glorification group", whose composition is formed like a secular pop or rock band and in the vast majority of cases includes performers on electronic and percussion instruments. According to supporters of the inclusion of genetically secular music in the composition of worship, a number of testimonies (primarily sacred texts) indicate that there is no prohibition on the use of some special style of music, musical instruments, as well as dance movements within the framework of worship. The novelty of the research lies in a comprehensive analysis of the studies of musicologists and the evidence of sacred texts, which allowed us to substantiate the conclusion about the nature of the liturgical music of the temple and synagogue period. As a result of the study, the predominant role of monotony, improvisational and instrumental accompaniment in temple worship was established. At the same time, a gap in the continuity in the use of instrumental music between the temple worship and the liturgy of the early Christians was revealed – not a single confirmation of the use of instrumental music in the synagogue liturgical tradition was recorded. The provisions set out in the article are intended to lay the theoretical foundations for further study of the musical tradition of early Christianity as a necessary condition for understanding the diverse trends in modern liturgical music.


Keywords:

modern worship music, worship and glorification, temple worship, synagogue worship, instrumental music, one voice, improvisation, wars of worship, secular music, liturgical music

This article is automatically translated. You can find original text of the article here.

Modern worship music (also known as "music of worship and glorification", English "contemporary worship music", "praise and worship music") is a kind of genre of modern Christian music intended for performance at divine services. Modern worship music originated in the late 1970s among American evangelical Protestantism under the influence of the missionary activity of representatives of the Jesus Movement, who sought to express their attitude to God with the help of a modern musical language understandable to a wide range of believers.

Stylistically, modern worship music is similar to pop and rock music, but it necessarily includes a Christian text in content, carrying both a general Christian content and expressing the doctrinal attitudes of a particular community. The songs, usually called "songs of glorification" or "songs of worship", are performed at divine services by the so-called "group of glorification", whose composition is formed like a secular pop or rock band and in most cases includes performers on electric guitars, as well as keyboards and percussion instruments.

Simultaneously with the development of the genre of modern worship music, a modern liturgical style is being formed, within which modern worship music plays a key role. This style is formed in opposition to the established liturgical style, the foundations of which are reading the Holy Scriptures, pastoral preaching and singing traditional hymns.

At the same time, the use of new music at worship services contradicts the established tradition, causing a conflict, the intensity of which is determined by the phraseological combination of the "war of worship" ("worshipwars") [1].

The main attitudes of the supporters of modern worship music are to affirm the moral neutrality of music, the relevance of its use for missionary purposes, as well as its incomparably greater attractiveness for non-church people regarding traditional hymns and spiritual songs. Opponents of the use of modern music in worship most often declare the inadmissibility of using electronic and percussion musical instruments at worship services, "bearing the spirit of rebellion and immorality" and therefore incompatible with Christian values.

To substantiate their point of view, supporters of the inclusion of modern secular music in the basis of worship appeal to the text of Holy Scripture. In their opinion, a number of evidences indicate the absence of a ban on the use of some special style of music, musical instruments, as well as dance movements; at the same time, the authority of the Old Testament often acts as the central argument within the framework of the argument.

This article examines historical evidence that allows us to establish the role of instrumental music in temple and synagogue services, which later had a decisive influence on the formation of early Christian worship.

Temple liturgical music. The musical and singing element always accompanied the sacrifices in the temple worship of Ancient Israel and was considered as a special kind of votive sacrifice on a par with the material [2]. E. Ferguson's research asserts a close connection between music and the cult of sacrifices in temple worship [3].

The established musicological tradition in matters of the nature of ancient Jewish temple cult tunes relies on A. C. Idelson's fundamental research "Jewish music: Its Historical Development": we find references to this work in E. Ferguson, K. K. Rosenshild, R. Gruber [3, 4, 5]. In his work A. Ts . Idelson highlights such properties of ancient Jewish temple liturgical music as consistent monotony, improvisational performance of tunes, as well as the use of instrumental accompaniment [6].

R. I. Gruber [5, p. 85] and K. K. Rosenshild [4, p. 16] note the primacy of the psalm in the temple liturgical music of ancient Israel. In this study, we will use the term "psalm" as an established one, although it came into use only in the V century A.D. – before that, the ancient Jews had a different name – "tegilla". It was these chants that became known under the Greek name "psalm". In addition to this name, the term "psalmody" has been adopted in the musicological tradition, which denotes a kind of liturgical singing, a special type of chant recitation, which is characterized by a pathetically elevated intonation and the presence of melodic intro and conclusion. Next, we will use the term "psalmody" in this sense, applying it to both ancient Jewish and Christian music.

There is no reason to believe that polyphony was present in the musical design of the ancient Judean Temple. Thus, K. K. Rosenshild writes about music at the ancient Jewish divine service as follows: "According to the warehouse, the music was one-voice; the famous choirs, divided into semi-choruses (antiphonal singing), performed their melodies in unison" [4, p. 17]. A. Z. Idelson also claims that in the liturgical practice of ancient Israel, psalms were performed by a soloist (cantor) or a choir (community) in one voice [6]. V. P. Shestakov asserts that the music of early Christianity "represented unison singing" [7].

Confirmation of the one-voice we find in the second book of the Chronicles. Upon completion of the construction of the Temple by Solomon on the east side of the altar, the temple singers from the family of David "with cymbals and psalms and zithers stood on the east side of the altar, and with them one hundred and twenty priests who blew trumpets, and were as one, trumpeting and singing, uttering one voice to praise and praise the Lord" (2 Par. 5:12).

According to A. Z., the improvisational nature of the ancient Jewish liturgical melodies, as well as the presence of developed melismatic ornamentation, is connected. Idelson, with the oral transmission of tunes [6]. N. V. Lozovskaya considers improvisationality as the main principle of the narration of psalmody, "giving the composition of psalms flexibility and plasticity" [8]. The researcher notes that the psalmist could freely vary the established prayer texts, superimposing them on an improvisational musical canvas. Thanks to this, the lines of the sacred texts familiar to believers sounded different, filling the psalm with new content.

The use of instrumental accompaniment. In the temple service, psalms accompanied the sacrifices and were performed with instrumental accompaniment. This is evidenced by the tractate of the Mishnah Taanit: "Every week a certain change of cohens, Levites and just Jews came to the Temple. The Cohens performed sacrifices, the Levites accompanied it with music and singing, and just the Jews, representatives of this Ma'amad, stood in their place in the temple courtyard as proxies of the whole people and oversaw the performance of sacrifices" [9].

Further, in the treatise Taanit of the Babylonian Talmud, we find a story about a dispute between two Jewish teachers about which music was more important in temple worship: "This mentor (that is, Shmuel) thought: the whole essence of the song is in the mouth (the chant accompanying the sacrifice, maybe without musical accompaniment). And this mentor (that is, Rabbi Shimon ben-Elazar) thought: the whole essence of the song is in a musical instrument – that is, musical accompaniment is an indispensable condition for sacrificial rituals" [10].

The theological tradition attributes the authorship of most of the psalms to King David, who performed them, accompanying his recitation by playing a stringed plucked instrument. Thus, the singing of psalms accompanied by an instrument was fixed by the authority of the Old Testament – the biblical image of King David is inherently connected with music. Thus, David was chosen to play the harp in front of Saul – thanks to his playing, the evil spirit retreated from the king and reason returned to him (1 Sam. 16:14-23; 18:10; 19:9), he composed a lament for the death of Saul and Jonathan (2 Kings 1:17); the laudatory David's song to the Lord "when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul" (2 Kings 22:1-51). Further, a direct reference to the glorification of the Lord with the help of musical instruments is mentioned: "David and all the children of Israel played before the Lord on all kinds of musical instruments made of cypress wood, and on zithers, and on psalms, and on tympanums, and on sistrums, and on cymbals" (2 Kings 6:5). We find a description of the same event in 1 Par. 13:8: "David and all the Israelites played before God with all their might, with singing, on zithers and psalms, and tympanums, and cymbals and trumpets."

Other evidence from the Old Testament also suggests that singing and "rattling", i.e. vocal music (both solo and choral) and playing musical instruments were the main formative elements of the psalms as the main genre of liturgical music in the Jerusalem Temple: "Praise the Lord, proclaim His name; proclaim His works among the nations; sing to Him, rattle to Him" (1 Par.16:8-9). The Psalter repeatedly contains evidence of the existence of a singing tradition associated with instrumental accompaniment. Here are just a few of them:

"Praise the Lord on the harp, sing to Him on the ten-stringed psalter. Sing to Him a new song; sing to Him in harmony, with an exclamation" (Ps. 32:2-3);

"God ascended with shouts, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet. Sing to our God, sing; sing to our King, sing" (Ps. 46:6-7);

"Sing joyfully to God, our stronghold; shout to the God of Jacob! Take a psalm, give a tympanum, sweet-sounding harps with a psalter; blow a trumpet in the new moon" (Ps. 80:2-4);

"It is good to praise the Lord and sing to your name, Most High, to proclaim your mercy in the morning and your truth in the night. On a ten-stringed and psalter with a song on the harp" (Ps. 91:2-4);

 "Sing to the LORD with harps, with harps, and with the voice of psalmody; at the sound of trumpets and horns, rejoice before the King of the Lord" (Ps. 97:5-6);

 "Rise up, psalter and psaltery! I'll get up early. I will praise You, Lord... I will sing of You among the tribes" (Ps. 107:3-4);

"Sing a new song to the Lord, praise Him in the assembly of saints... Let them praise His name with faces, sing to Him on the tympanum and harp... Let there be praises to God in their mouths" (Ps. 149: 1, 3, 6).

"Praise Him with the sound of a trumpet, praise Him on the psalter and the harp. Praise Him with the tympanum and the faces, praise him on the strings and the organ. Praise Him on sonorous cymbals, praise Him on loud cymbals" (Ps. 150:3-5).

When handing over the kingdom to his son Solomon, David conducts a reform of the musical design of the divine service, increasing the number of temple musicians. The first book of the Chronicles (1 Par. 23:2-5) testifies that under David, out of 38 thousand Levites, 4 thousand were chosen musicians. In addition, David separates his three sons so that they "spend time on zithers, psalms and cymbals." Later, the sons of David themselves and their children "under the guidance of their father sang in the house of the Lord with cymbals, psalms and zithers... And the number of them and their brothers who were trained to sing before the Lord, all who knew this matter, was two hundred and eighty-eight" (1 Par. 25,1; 6-7). Thus, there are grounds to assert that in the X century BC professional musicians and singers participated in divine services.

In the First book of the Chronicles, there is evidence that David's professional musicians continued to serve in the temple of Solomon: "These are those whom David appointed as superiors over the singers in the house of the Lord, from the time the ark was placed in it. They served as singers before the tabernacle of the congregation until Solomon built the house of the Lord in Jerusalem. And they entered into their service according to their statutes" (1 Par. 6:31, 32). In the Third Book of Kings, it is stated that Solomon himself composed 1005 songs (3 Kings 4:32). K. K. Rosenshild notes the existence of various song genres in this period, among which the wedding ones stood out, "obviously forming the basis of the famous "Song of Solomon" [4, p. 17]. R. I. Gruber He believes that it was during the time of King Solomon that significant instrumental ensembles were formed: in particular, 120 priests with trumpets participated in the celebrations during the consecration of the Temple of Solomon [5, p. 255]. Josephus also testifies to the scale and scope of such cult celebrations in the first century AD. According to him – apparently, the historian greatly exaggerated – 200 thousand singers, 200 thousand trumpeters, 40 thousand harpists and 40 thousand performers on sistras took part in one such magnificent cult celebration [11].

After returning from the Babylonian captivity, the Israelites, having consecrated the restored Temple and walls, praised the Lord with songs of praise and thanksgiving (Neh. 12: 27-47).  The restoration of the Temple causes a new flowering of musical art. The book of Wisdom of Jesus, the son of Sirach, describes the actions of the singers during the solemn sacrifice in the time of the high priest Simon II: "Then the sons of Aaron shouted, blew with forged trumpets and issued a loud voice as a reminder before the Most High. Then all the people hurried together to fall on their faces to the ground to worship their Lord, the Almighty, the Most High God; and the songwriters praised Him with their voices; sweet singing was heard in the spacious temple, and the people prayed to the Lord Most High with prayer before the Merciful, until the glorification of the Lord was accomplished, and so they ended their service to Him" (Ser. 50, 1; 12; 16-21).

A separate place is given to music at the divine service under King Hezekiah. Hezekiah "set ... Levites in the house of the LORD with cymbals, psalms and zithers, according to the ordinance of David and Gad, the seer of the king, and Nathan the prophet, because this ordinance was from the Lord through his prophets. And the Levites with David's musical instruments and the priests with trumpets became. And Hezekiah commanded to offer a burnt offering on the altar. And while the burnt offering began, the singing to the Lord began, with the sound of trumpets and instruments of David, king of Israel. And the whole congregation prayed, and the singers sang, and the trumpets sounded, until the burnt offering was finished" (2 Par. 29:25-28). It should be noted that the burnt offering from beginning to end was accompanied by singing to the Lord to the accompaniment of trumpets.

The use of instrumental music in the Temple is supported by the words of E. Ferguson: "Instrumental music was actively used in the Temple, as it was associated with animal sacrifices" [3]. This statement is confirmed in Chis. 10:10: "And on the day of your joy, and on your feasts, and in your new moons, blow with trumpets at your burnt offerings and at your peace offerings, and it will be a reminder of you before your God. I am the Lord your God."

Rabbinic literature also confirms the use of tools in the Temple. Ferguson quotes an excerpt from chapter five of the treatise Sukkah:

"And the Levites without number with harps, lyres, cymbals and trumpets and other instruments were there, on the fifteen steps leading from the court of the Israelites to the court of women, according to the fifteen songs of the ascent in Psalms (119-133). It is on them (and not on the side of the altar where they played during the sacrifices) The Levites stood with their instruments and sang their songs."

These testimonies point to the integral role of instrumental accompaniment in ancient Jewish worship. The research of musicologists and the analysis of sacred texts allow us to consider the role of monotony, instrumental accompaniment and improvisational performance of tunes as determining within the framework of temple worship.

At the same time, it should be noted that the continuity of the musical liturgical tradition between the Temple and early Christian worship was mediated by the synagogue liturgical practice.

The synagogue originated in pre-Christian times as an alternative form of worship, independent of the Temple and sacrifices. By the first century, its organization and specific procedures were well developed. There were no sacrifices and complicated rituals in the synagogue, the service was rather spiritual and verbal in nature. Before the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in 70 AD, the synagogue served as an additional institution of the Jewish religion; after its destruction, it became the center of the religious life of Ancient Israel. Prayers have taken the place of sacrifices, and the musical arrangement is changing and adapting to new needs.

 There is no reason to believe that such properties of the musical design of the synagogue service as monotony and improvisation have been lost since the time of the Temple – this is evidenced by the above-mentioned study by A. Ts. Idelson. The researcher, having studied the synagogue tunes of Yemen and some areas of the former Babylonian Kingdom (whose Jewish communities have long split off from the bulk of the Jewish communities in Palestine and whose worship turned out to be "preserved"), came to the conclusion that the most characteristic properties of ancient Jewish synagogue music are consistent monotony, (as the researcher notes, vocal origin); the presence of typical melodic models and improvisation [6].

At the same time, the characteristic feature of Temple worship – the use of musical instruments – completely disappears in the synagogue. Music is now present mainly on Saturdays and holidays, therefore, musical instruments that required tuning (which was considered as work prohibited on the Sabbath) have no place left in synagogue worship. For many centuries, synagogue music remained entirely vocal, and the only instrument used for spiritual purposes was the shofar (ram's horn), which did not need tuning.

Moreover, according to E. Ferguson, the rabbis made certain attempts to eliminate instrumental music not only from synagogue worship, but also from everyday life. According to them, the refusal to play instruments will express grief for the destroyed Second Temple. E. Ferguson notes that some rabbis wanted to ban not only instrumental music, but also singing, but the Talmud says that "only musical instruments are prohibited" on holidays and the Sabbath [3].

Historically, worship in the synagogue was associated with prayer and reading the Scriptures and excluded sacrifices; psalm singing was added to the synagogue service as a supplement. After the destruction of the Second Temple, the musical design of the synagogue service changes and adapts to new needs, inheriting such properties of temple cult music as monotony and improvisation. The main difference is the lack of instruments – we do not find any evidence of the use of instrumental music in synagogue worship. The shofar (ram's horn) was not used in liturgical practice: it served to summon believers and in this sense can hardly be considered as a musical instrument. In fact, the lack of instruments in synagogue worship remained true until relatively recently (at the beginning of the XIX century, an organ appeared in reform synagogues).

Thus, the materials reviewed confirm the position of supporters of modern worship music regarding the unconditional use of instrumental music in the Old Testament period – as well as the absence of any restrictive provisions regarding the style of music performed. There is no contradiction in the characteristic improvisationality, which has become a genetic source of the practice of "superimposing" texts of spiritual content on a musical basis that is different in style and genre.

At the same time, the interruption of the tradition of using musical instruments in the synagogue period casts doubt on the direct musical continuity between the Old Testament and New Testament services, requiring a detailed consideration of the liturgy of the early Christians. Taking into account the context of the problems of modern worship music, including the development of the grounds for the inclusion of secular cultural forms in the space of the sacred, the study of the features of the musical liturgical tradition of the early Christian Church opens up the prospect of further research.

 

 

 

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First Peer Review

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The subject of the study has not been explicitly formulated by the author. The author examines in the article "historical evidence that allows us to establish the role of instrumental music in temple and synagogue worship, which later had a decisive influence on the formation of early Christian worship." The research methodology is also not described. The author relies on previously written scientific works, in particular, on A. Idelson's book Jewish Music in its Historical Development, published in 1929. But it is not clear what new and original the author himself brings to the available literature, so the scientific novelty of the article is not obvious. The relevance of the topic, apparently, should be determined by the disputes surrounding the very possibility (permissibility) of using musical accompaniment (especially in various modern styles, such as rock music) in the process of worship. But, as can be understood from the article, this controversy in the West has been going on for several decades, and it is not clear what is the relevance of addressing this topic right now. At the same time, the author does not specify who exactly is involved in these disputes, he simply writes impersonally: "To substantiate their point of view, supporters of the inclusion of modern secular music in the basis of worship appeal to the text of Holy Scripture." But who are these supporters? How do they appeal? Are there any publications on this topic, or is the author retelling the contents of some private conversations? Are there such supporters in the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, or are we talking only about some Protestant denominations? These questions remain unanswered. The style, structure and content of the article meet the requirements for scientific texts. The author's style is clear, his thoughts are expressed clearly and competently. The bibliography contains 11 items of literature, mostly old (1929, 1937, 1941, 1975, 1978 years). Based on the bibliography, it can be concluded that no one is dealing with these issues today, which, in turn, calls into question the relevance of the article. In addition, the links are incorrectly designed. The specific pages referred to by the author should be indicated in square brackets in the text of the article after the ordinal number of the source, while in the article the pages are indicated in the bibliographic list. It is required to bring the reference device into a generally accepted form. In addition, when the author refers to the book Idelsohn A. Z. Jewish music: Its Historical Development. New York: Dover Publications, 1992, available in the Google Books service, it is necessary to indicate the page numbers with the corresponding citations or data. The author does not do this, which is a serious drawback of the reference apparatus of the article. There is no appeal to opponents in the article. There is no historiographical section in the article that would allow the reader to understand what has been written on the topic of the article so far, what are the achievements and further prospects for research in this area. Conclusions, the interest of the readership: The topic of the article itself looks quite interesting for a fairly wide range of people. But the problem of this article lies primarily in the fact that its scientific novelty is not clear. It seems that the author has created just an abstract on the above topic, while the scientific article should be a reflection of independent research. The research component is completely not represented here. Therefore, in this form, the article is not recommended for publication. If the author wants to refine it, then it is necessary to thoroughly consider what exactly and how he is researching, what new knowledge is born as a result of this research, and then clearly state this new knowledge in the article.

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The list of publisher reviewers can be found here.

Religiosity in the realities of the modern digital world is filled with new interpretations regarding values, traditions and ways of their implementation in the everyday life of a person living in the 21st century. This is due to the need for a philosophical understanding of the features of the use of modern worship music in Christian worship from the point of view of the intellectual trends of postmodernism. The purpose of the work is to reveal the features of modern worship music and to characterize the historical foundations of the use of instrumental music in Christian worship. The subject of the study is instrumental music in temple and synagogue worship, which later had a decisive influence on the formation of early Christian worship. Research methods: meta-analysis as integration, generalization from the standpoint of an interdisciplinary approach of the results of their own analysis of religious texts, as well as a number of domestic and foreign studies in the field of philosophy, history, cultural studies, theology on the studied issues. The scientific novelty consists in substantiating the fact that there are no restrictive provisions regarding the style of music performed at worship services and over the centuries the practice of "superimposing" texts of spiritual content on a musical basis of different styles and genres has been formed. The article consists of an introduction, the main part, a conclusion and a list of references, including 11 sources, 2 of them in English. The main part of the work is represented by 2 headings logically related to each other: "Temple liturgical music", "The use of instrumental accompaniment". In the introduction, the author explains that modern worship music is "a kind of genre of modern Christian music intended for performance at worship services." It originated in the late 1970s in the midst of American Evangelical Protestantism. According to the creators, modern worship music is designed to "express one's attitude to God with the help of a modern musical language understandable to a wide range of believers." Stylistically, it is "similar to pop and rock music, but it necessarily includes a Christian text in content, carrying both a general Christian content and expressing the doctrinal attitudes of a particular community." It should be noted that, as the author points out, simultaneously with the development of the genre of modern worship music, a modern liturgical style is being formed, which is in opposition to the established style of worship based on reading the Holy Scriptures, pastoral preaching and singing traditional hymns. This causes a conflict between adherents of the new and classical style of worship, conventionally called the "War of Worship." According to proponents of the modern liturgical style, where the "new" worship music plays a key role, music is endowed with moral neutrality. And its use in modern interpretation has a much greater appeal for non-church people relative to traditional chants. Opponents of this approach argue their position that it is unacceptable to use electronic and percussion musical instruments at worship services, as this is immoral and incompatible with Christian values. In the first section "Temple liturgical music", when considering its features, the author, based on the results of authoritative scientific research, pays special attention to the improvisationality of ancient Jewish liturgical melodies, which is explained by the oral transmission of melodies. Thus, "the psalmist could freely vary the established prayer texts, superimposing them on an improvisational musical canvas." And the new sound filled them with new content. In the second section, "The use of instrumental accompaniment", the author, referring to the treatise of the Mishnah Taanit, proceeds from the fact that in temple worship psalms accompanied sacrifices and were performed with instrumental accompaniment. Developing this position, the author reasonably refers to the Taanite of the Babylonian Talmud, the testimonies of the Old Testament and other sources important in the context of the issues under consideration. As a result, the author argues for the confirmation of the position of supporters of modern worship music regarding the use of instrumental music in the Old Testament period and the absence of any restrictive provisions regarding the style of music performed. Moreover, he focuses on the presence of a characteristic improvisationality, which acted as a genetic source of the practice of "superimposing" texts of spiritual content on a musical basis that is different in style and genre." In conclusion, the author outlines the prospect of further research into the peculiarities of the musical liturgical tradition of the early Christian Church. So, the article has a logical structure, it is written in a competent scientific language. The material is presented clearly and consistently. The conclusions are justified and may be of interest to representatives of the philosophical community, as well as to theologians, political scientists, psychologists, cultural scientists, sociologists, and specialists in the field of interdisciplinary research.