A Survey and Concise View of Exclusive Psalmody

In the Old Testament the singing of praise is commanded with an explicit delineation of content: “the words of David, and of Asaph the seer” (2 Chronicles 29:30)

The Book of Psalms or Sefer Tehillim is properly the ‘Scrolls of Praise’ which contain Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs.

The Greek Septuagint as well as other translations of the book of Psalms contain the various titles in the inscriptions of each Psalm. One is a Psalm, One is a Song, One is a Hymn, another is a Psalm and Hymn and yet another a Hymn and Song.

When we get to Paul’s words in Ephesians and Colossians, the terms have already been well known on what they refer to which was the Sefer Tehillim and was part of a Triadic Expression.

A Triadic Expression was very common in Hebrew culture and is compared to our exclamation mark.

But there are two kinds of Triadic Expressions.. One that defines the emphasizes in exact detail such as the holiness of God, “Holy, Holy, Holy” but there is also a Triadic Expression that is an emphasis with slight different nuances.. In this kind the three-fold expression is more than emphasis. The Bible contains many examples of these triadic expression. For example: Exodus 34:7—“iniquity and transgression and sin”; Deuteronomy 5:31 and 6:1—“commandments and statutes and judgments”; Matthew 22:37—“with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (cf. Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27); Acts 2:22—“miracles and wonders and signs”..

“Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs” is Triadic Expression of the second form. All three refer to the same thing, the book of Psalms but there are slight nuances within each category that are found in the Psalter, different Psalms are called by the slight different category, One a Psalm, One a Song, One a Hymn, one a Hymn and a Song”…

The same applies the Commandments, Statues and Judgments.. They are all part of the one law but they give slight nuances within the One law of God with different emphasis. These categories are the direct reason why the Reformers divided the law into the three categories.

The commandments, statues, and judgments are similar, but they do add a unique content to the overall concept of the emphasis.


Psalm 76 of the Greek Old Testament, “εἰς τὸ τέλος ἐν ὕμνοις ψαλμὸς τῷ ασαφ ᾠδὴ πρὸς τὸν ἀσσύριον.” Notice, ὕμνοις (humnois), ψαλμὸς (psalmos), ᾠδὴ (ode). Compare to Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16.

Doctor Scott Clark of Westminster Theological Seminary West said,

“The first-century (apostolic) church used the LXX more than any other form (translation) of the Old Testament. .. At the top of the Psalms in the LXX were titles or superscriptions. Those superscriptions described each Psalm, they categorized the psalms in 4 classes or groups: ψαλμος [Psalms], συνεσις; [understanding], υμνος [Hymns], ωδη [Ode/Song]. .. Paul invokes them in Colossians 3:16. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom (σοφίᾳ), singing psalms (ψαλμοις) and hymns (υμνοις) and spiritual songs (ωδαις πνευματικαις), with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” .. If Paul was invoking familiar categories that pre-existed the NT church by 250-300 years then we must account for that in our interpretation and application of these two passages.” – Dr. Scott Clark


The Puritans Preface to the Psalms of David in Metre said,

“where the matter and words are of immediately Divine inspiration; and to us David’s Psalms seem plainly intended by those terms of Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual Songs, which the Apostle useth, Ephes. 5.19, Col. 3.16.“


Which contained the followed Puritans who has their name ascribed to the authoring of the Psalms of David in Metre, “Thomas Manton, D.D., Henry Langley, D.D., John Owen, D.D., William Jenkyn., James Innes., Thomas Watson., Thomas Lye., Matthew Poole., John Milward., John Chester., George Cokayn., Matthew Meade., Robert Francklin., Thomas Dooelittle., Thomas Vincent., Nathanael Vincent., John Ryther., William Tomson., Nicolas Blakie., Charles Morton., Edmund Calamy., William Carslake., James Janeway., John Hickes., John Baker., Richard Mayo.”


Here are some of the closest historical quotes nearest to Paul on the issue other then the Septuagint,

Josephus (37 – 100) called the Psalms “Hymns”, “And now David being freed from wars and dangers, and enjoying for the future a profound peace, composed songs and hymns to God of several sorts of metre; some of those which he made were trimeters, and some were pentameters. He also made instruments of music, and taught the Levites to sing hymns to God, both on that called the sabbath day, and on other festivals. ” -Josephus: The Complete Works


Philo ( 20 BC – 50 AD), a first century Jewish philosopher, always uses the word “hymn” when referring to the Psalms of the Old Testament.

Tertullian (160 – 225) on the Letter of Pliny (61 – 112) and the singing of Psalms to Christ,

David ille apud nos canit Christum, per quern, se cecinit ipse Christus,” which maybe freely rendered thus: That David, of whom I have been speaking, sings among us Christ, by whom Christ himself has sung (or celebrated) himself. Found in Tertullian’s treatise, De Carne Christi


Eusebius (c. 260–c. 340), bishop of Caesarea said, “The command to sing Psalms in the name of the Lord was obeyed by everyone in every place”


Council of Laodicea (360), it was decreed that no psalms composed by uninspired men should be used in the Church service. The compositions thus excluded are styled in the language of the Council, “psalmoi idiotikoi,” which means psalms not pertaining to the canon of Scripture, or at least not the direct product of supernatural inspiration.


and in 563 Council of Laodicea was reaffirmed in Braga,


Ut extra psalmos vel canoni-carum Scripturarum Novi et Vctcris Tcstamenti nihil podice compositum in ecdesia psallatur.” first Council of Braga, held A. D. 563, no poetic composition be sung in the Church except the Psalms of the sacred canon..

The Dutch Reformed Churches followed the pattern of the Early Church and reaffirmed the sole singing of Psalms.

The Psalms of David, in the edition of Petrus Dathenus, shall be sung in the Christian meetings of the Netherlands Churches (as has been done until now), abandoning the hymns which are not found in Holy Scripture. –National Synod of Dort, 1578, Art. 76.

Only the Psalms of David shall be sung in the church, omitting the hymns which one cannot find in Holy Scripture. –National Synod of Middelburg, 1581, Art. 51.

The Psalms of David shall be sung in the churches, omitting the hymns which one does not find in Holy Scripture. –National Synod of Gravenhage, 1586, Art. 62.


The Presbyterian Churches of England and Scotland followed suit,

Westminster Confession 21:5: “The reading of the Scriptures with godly fear; the sound preaching, and conscionable hearing of the word, in obedience unto God, with understanding, faith, and reverence; singing of psalms with grace in the heart [Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:19; James 5:13]; as also the due administration and worthy receiving of the sacraments instituted by Christ; are all parts of the ordinary religious worship of God: besides religious oaths and vows, solemn fastings, and thanksgivings upon special occasions, which are, in their several times and seasons, to be used in a holy and religious manner.”

Westminster Directory for Public Worship of God: “Of Singing of Psalms. It is the duty of Christians to praise God publickly, by singing of psalms together in the congregation, and also privately in the family. In singing of psalms, the voice is to be tenably and gravely ordered; but the chief care must be to sing with understanding, and with grace in the heart, making melody unto the Lord [Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:19]. That the whole congregation may join herein, every one that can read is to have a psalm book; and all others, not disabled by age or otherwise, are to be exhorted to learn to read. But for the present, where many in the congregation cannot read, it is convenient that the minister, or some other fit person appointed by him and the other ruling officers, do read the psalm, line by line, before the singing thereof.”


One Response to “A Survey and Concise View of Exclusive Psalmody”

  1. A Survey and Concise View of Exclusive Psalmody | Exclusive Psalmody Says:

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