Odes of Solomon Bill Swetmon Freed-Hardeman University

Kenneth Sublett, Piney.com, Hohenwald, Tennessee

Review of Bill Swetmon's lecture on psallo at Freed-Hardeman University's Preachers Forum quotes the Odes of Solomon. It is important to understand the role of history and especially the theological scholar's understanding of the Classical Greek and Hebrew world view. We will quote extensively from the Odes and link the reader to the entire book written about the first or second century.

The discussion of Musical Worship at Freed Hardeman University saw the pro-instrumental side advancing arguments from church history. Clement of Alexandria, Gregory of Nyssa and the odes were reviewed.

"INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC (Freed-Hardeman University, 1991) contains the speeches of a debate held at Freed Hardeman between four Church of Christ ministers, two of them affirming the scripturality of mechanical instrumental music and two of them opposing it. Larry James of East Richardson, Texas and Swetmon of Plano, Texas defended instrumental music, while David Lipe of Freed-Hardeman and Cecil May, Jr. of Magnolia Bible College, Kosciusko, Mississippi, spoke against it. James and Swetmon manifested a greater concept of the Gospel and its significance as compared to the "legalism" of Lipe and May."

This same site is now supplying Restoration History resources to church of Christ colleges. See our notes on the Racism in church history.

How one understands the Bible and church history depends to a great extend upon how one views writings which claim inspiration for themselves. The Post Modern view of interpreting the Bible is described by asking the question:

"Are you having difficulty discerning or receiving this "new revelation"? Then you have been interpreting your Bible in the "old way,"

comparing Scripture with Scripture, studying diligently to account for every jot and tittle and being careful to rightly divide the Word of truth.

If this describes you, then you belong to the "Old Generation"

which will not enter in to "possess the land" in the Latter Rain Revival.

You may even be a member of a denominational church, with its dogmatic confession of faith and statement of doctrine.

These legalistic forms will be relics of the past in the up and coming "Postdenominational Church." Paul Cain advises that you "dump all that carnal stuff" (doctrine) and listen to what the "spirit" is saying to the churches through the Latter Rain Prophets and Apostles, who are dispensing many "new, sacred truths." Click for More Latter Rain and New Wineskins

The arguments advanced by Swetmon seem convincing in an open forum which allows no research time. However, before using him as the authority we must understand that he strips out a "proof-text" from the ancient resources which has two major flaws:

First, the "proof-text" is taken out of context and puts falsehood in the mouth of dead men. Second, the writers cited by Swetmon actually repudiate literal instruments. They agree that the harp of many notes is the "harp" of God which is the human heart being "plucked" by the objective truth of God.

The Odes are the earliest known Christian book of hymns, psalms or odes. The Psalms may have been collected before 100 A.D. They were chanted a Capella in fulfillment of Paul's demand for "speaking to one another with the word of Christ." The odes, along with all favorable quotations about the harp or other instrument uses figurative speech to show that, in Christianity, God has given us the only instrument and the only songs which He will hear and honor.

Nevertheless, Swetmon, taking advantage of a "stealth attack" by misusing the history of music, poisoned the wells by claiming:

Bill Swetmon: Now brothers and sisters, if we are to have any insight as to how the early church viewed instrumental music, it would surely come from their hymnbooks. In the odes there are four references to the harp.

We have no clue that this is a song book. Like the Psalms of David, they were written by an individual and express his personal devotion.

There is no exception to the rule that the SONG BOOK of the early DISCIPLES (Christians) or Students was the Book of Psalms and other metrical history of the Jews.

The conclusion is pregnant: if the Odes actually defend instruments in the songs they sang then don't we have the authority to use instruments? No, because the Odes are not the Bible.

Secondly, if the Odes condemn or use instruments figuratively then we have proof in addition to the actual demands of Paul to use the "human voice" as one of the allowable "instruments" to accompany a psalmos. This means that the Odes of Solomon cannot be used to help exlpain the work of the Holy Spirit.

After quoting part of Ode 7 the writer declares"

Bill Swetmon: Now this is a description of the church coming before the Lord in assembled worship, and the statement in the ode is that they will come before the Lord in worship singing and "with the harp of many tones."

There is no such statement. Those who have prophetic songs are to announce the coming of the Lord rather than moving the worshiper into God's presence with music. The "SEERS" sing the songs as they are plucked by God in prophecy.

Bill Swetmon: One thing becomes very obvious in reading these Odes of Solomon from the late first century, and that is that the church did not have a negative attitude toward the instrument, but rather saw it as a means of giving God praise.

On the contrary, the church Fathers are universally opposed to instrumental music in worship. The Catholic Encyclopedia recognizes that instruments are not authorized in the New Testament and appeals to a return to A Cappella singing.

Bill Swetmon: Another piece of evidence comes from the writings of Clement of Alexandria around A.D. 150. "Even if you wish to sing and make melody to the accompaniment of the kithara or lyre, there is no blame."

If the Odes of Solomon can be salvaged for support of instruments then they fly in the face of the universal testimony of the church "Fathers" in identifying the spiritual instruments in a spiritual way, and condemning literal instruments as the "mind altering" weapons of the pagan religions.

Refreshing the Waters

We apologize for the length of this rebuttal. However, it only takes a second to put a drop of poison into the spiritual well, but if you want to know the truth it will take a lot more effort to purify the "water" again with the antidote of truth. I don't know how to use tact in telling you the truth. I continually have to apologize for thinking with my mind!

If you believe this about Clement then you have missed out on any "pastor's" fundamental principles. Click for what Clement wrote. We quote just enough to dispute the charge which still lies there as a "proof" to be used against those refusing to go "Grand Ole Opry" in their worship . Clement says that::

"This is our thankful revelry. And even if you wish to sing and play to the harp or the lyre, there is no blame (Footnote: Here instrumental music is allowed, though he turns everything into a type.) Thou shalt imitate the righteous Hebrew king in his thanksiving to God. 'Rejoice in the Lord, ye righteous; praise is comely to the upright,' says the prophecy. 'Confess to the Lord on the harp; play to Him on the psaltery of ten strings. Sing to Him a new song.' (p. 249)

Clement of Alexandria then makes it clear that the literal methods which king David used in his private devotions can be imitated in our own partaking of food. Indeed, everything should be a song to God upon the instrument which God gave--the psaltery is the Word or Jesus--

"And does not the ten-stringed psaltery indicate the Word Jesus, who is manifested by the element of the decad? And as it is befitting,

before partaking of food, that we should bless the Creator of all;

so also drinking it is suitable to praise Him on partaking of His creatures. For the psalm is a melodious and sober blessing. The apostle calls the psalm 'a spiritual song."

Swetmon continues to use partial quotations to reach a wrong conclusion based on the Odes:

Bill Swetmon: "Based on these evidences, I propose to you that the use of instrumental music in worship is a matter of opinion and not a matter of faith."

If Swetmon had quoted these resources properly they would still not be Scripture. However, we still accept that faith comes by hearing and the command still omits instruments.

Because there is no New Testament evidence to support celebrative worship , it is tempting to seek a favorable view of music from other ancient literature. For instance, Swetmon attempts to show that the Odes teach a positive view of instruments in worship .

The pagans -- imitated by the Hebrews when they "fired" God and demanded a king like the nations so that they could worship like the nations -- believed that the harp, flute or the old wineskin of the witch of Endor was the "house" of the "gods." When the prophetesses (witch) plucked the strings or peeped or muttered into the wineskin,

the echo or the string sound was the prophetic voice of the "god" which lived inside of the musical instrument. See some evidence here.

The One True God: The writer of the Odes used a common method of writing under the name of his hero, Solomon. However, far from painting a favorable picture of early Christian music, the Odes support the view that the harp, like incense and the sacrifice, is spiritualized. The writer defends the Biblical demand that God reveals the Word through the prophets whom He plays like a musical instrument so that the word is faithfully delivered; then we repeat that message as it has been delivered to us. The Word or songs of God are competent within themselves to interpret themselves. Therefore, there is no room for a musical interpreter.

As we move far enough from the proof-text "trees" to see the entire contextual "forest," it is clear that the first reference to the harp does not concern public worship but says that God's Spirit "speaks in my members" to dispel error. If this is a literal instrument then the pagans and most Jews were correct that you could "awake harp and lyre" to come and teach you. Many contemporary musical groups actually believe that their words, singing and playing are inspired.

To refute the literal instrument, "Solomon" writes poetically that--

As the hand moves over the harp, and the strings speak,
so speaks in my members the Spirit of the Lord,
and I speak by His love. For it destroys what is foreign, and everything that is bitter. Odes, Ode 6:1-3

In this figurative image, the Harp-Player (God) is active and the harp is passive. The people who read this early sermon understood that when one plucked a certain string of a harp it vibrated to produce a certain note. If this was written after the time of Paul then it defends his absolute command:

Speaking (preaching) to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs , singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord (internal); Ephesians 5:19

Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Ephesians 5:20

The Greek or Septuagint version classify all of these as of the BOOK OF PSALMS. Early history held no exception. The early churches SPAKE the Psalms to learn them. Then, they could make melody in their hearts singing Psalms behind the plow or in the kitchen.

The "harps" could not, as did the Corinthians, invent their own songs or speeches without God's Spirit moving them. Paul called instruments "lifeless instruments" or "carnal weapons" which do not, as all idolaters believed, speak because the "god" inside has been aroused.

Other writers visualize the heart of the prophet or seer as the lyre or harp which is played by God--

"Jeremiah and the other prophets who lifted in ecstasy above the natural operations of their minds by the impulses of the Divine Spirit, uttered the things with which they were inspired,

the Spirit making use of them as a flute-player breathes into a flute." (Athenagoras, A plea for the Christians, Ante-Nicene, p. 133).

Other writers agree by saying:,

"For neither by nature nor by human conception is it possible for men to know things so great and divine, but by the gift which then descended from above upon the holy men, who had no need of rhetorical art, nor of uttering anything in a contentious or quarrelsome manner,

but to present themselves pure to the energy of the Divine Spirit,
in order that the
divine plectrum itself, descending from heaven, and
using righteous men as an instrument like a harp or lyre,

might reveal to us the knowledge of things divine and heavenly." (Justin's Horatory Address to the Greeks, Chapt. VIII).

"What then does this instrument -- the Word of God, the Lord, the New Song -- desire?

To open the eyes of the blind, and un stop the ears of the deaf and to lead the lame or the erring to righteousness, to exhibit God to the foolish, to put a stop to corruption, to conquer death, to reconcile disobedient children to their father. The instrument of God loves mankind." (Tertullian, Exhortation to the Heathen, Ante-Nicene, II, p. 172).

It is significant that the Greek word PSALLO is reall a warfare word. It speaks of twanging the bow string or a harp string with the FINGERS and never with a plectrum.

The Testimony of the Dead Sea Scrolls
The Thanksgiving Hymns (1QH), Hymn 1 reads in part:
It is Thou who hast created breath for the tongue
and Thou knowest its words;
Thou didst establish the fruit of the lips
before ever they were.
Thou dost set words to measure
and the flow of breath from the lips to metre.
Thou bringest forth aounds
according to their mysteries,
and the flow of breath from the lips
according to its reckoning,
that they may tell of Thy glory
and recount Thy wonders
in all Thy works of truth.

Hymn 9, interprets Psalm 41 which was the prophecy that Judas would not triumph over Jesus where triumph meant "musical rejoicing" (Numbers 10:7):

All who have eaten by bread
have lifted their heel against me,
and all those joined to my Council
have mocked me with wicked lips...

They have overtaken me in a narrow pass without escape

And there is no rest for me in my trial.
They sound my censure upon a harp
and their murmuring and storming upon a zither." Ps.41:11
However, in hymn 11, Jesus triumphs in the Spirit
They enter my heart and reach into my bones to...
and to meditate in sorrowful meditation.
I will groan with the zither of lamentation
in all grief-stricken mourning and bitter complaint
until iniquity and wickedness are consumed
and the disease-bringing scourge is no more.
Then will I play on the zither of deliverance
and the harp of joy,
on the tabors of prayer and the pipe of praise
without end

The Community Rule (1QS) reads in part:

And at the beginning of their weeks
for the season of Jubilee.
All my life the engraved Precept shall be on my tongue
as the fruit of praise
and the portion of my lips.

I will sing with knowledge and all my music

shall be for the glory of God.
(My) lyre (and) my harp shall sound
for His holy order
and I will tune the pipe of my lips
to His right measure.

"Such allegorizing passages contain the nucleuses of the later substance, and perhaps the presage of the future trends of Christian music.

The first three centuries of the church witnessed many controversies; some of them concerned themselves directly with music. The most important of these issues were:

(a) organized versus spontaneous praying and singing;

(b) scriptural versus extrascriptural poems;

(c) fusion with Hellenistic music;

(d) vocal versus instrumental music;

(e) the rise of monasticism and its influence upon ecclesiastical chant." (Interpreter's Dict of the Bible, Music, p. 467).

The pagans thought of their flute as the house where the gods or demons lived. When you "breathed" your own spirit into one end of the flute, the god spoke from within and gave an inspired, musical message. To show contrast, God's Spirit or the Spirit of Christ breathes into the prophet and the words which went into the prophet came out as the inspired, inbreathed Word of God.

These writers understood that if the prophet, represented by the instrument, responded to God"s "playing," his own tongue became the "notes" to speak the very words of the Spirit. While the prophet never loses his own identity, he has no choice but to faithfully speak God's message:

For thus it was from the beginning and will be to the end, that nothing should be His adversary, and nothing should stand up against Him. Odes of Solomon, Ode 6:4

Paul used the image of music to show that the "source" was the Words of Christ, the "process" was "speaking to one another" with these sources, and the "result" would be "singing and making melody in the heart." This inner "string strumming" is directed vertically to God as the result of speaking the Word horizontally. When the church becomes confused and sings or speaks out of its own "spirit" it is compared to a harp which "speaks with a forked tongue."

To the Corinthians, Paul drew a direct parallel between the revealed Word which he had been commissioned to take to them, and how they as a group were to honor God by honoring Christ Who refused to speak that which God had not given to Him. To the Colossians Paul drew a parallel between what he did to preach and what the church must do to imitate:

Pauls Commission

Colossian's Commission

Ephesian's Commission

And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. Col.1:18


And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God. Col.2:19

When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. Col.3:4

From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. Eph 4:16
For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; Col 1:19

Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Col.1:12

IF ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Col 3:1

Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. Col 3:2

for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said:

Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word (Logos) of God; Col 1:25

And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: Col 3:10

"Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you." Eph 5:14
Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generation,

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body (church)

Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise, Eph 5:15
but is now disclosed to the saints. Col 1: 26

Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free:

Wherefore be ye not unwise, but

To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles Col 1:27

but Christ is all, and in all. Col 3:11

understanding what the will of the Lord is. Eph 5:17

To present to you the word of God in its fullness (Pleroo) Col 1:25

Let the word of Christ dwell (plousios)

be filled (pleroo) with the Spirit Eph 5:18

We proclaim him,

admonishing and teaching
with all wisdom,

as you

teach and admonish
one another
with all wisdom, and



to yourselves

so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. Col 1: 28

as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs

in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,

Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace
with gratitude [Grace] in your hearts (proof of unity)
Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt (prudence), that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man. Col.4:6
singing and making melody in your heart
Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. Ep.4:29

of God in truth: Col 1:6

to God. Col 3:16

to the Lord; Eph 5:19

To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me. Col 1:29

giving thanks to God the Father through him. Col 3:17

Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Eph 5:20

The writers beg us to understand that God did not just supply outlines to feed a teaching process but He wanted His exact knowledge delivered to the whole world as both sermon and song--

The Lord has multiplied the knowledge of Himself, and is zealous that these things should be known,

which by His grace have been given to us.

And the praise of His name He gave us: our spirits praise His holy Spirit. odes, Ode 6:5-6

Charlesworth understands this to be spirit-to-Spirit worship which Jesus commanded as worship in spirit and in truth:

He gave us praise for his name
and our Spirits praise his Holy Spirit.

The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. John 4:19

Our fathers worshipped in this mountain (A PLACE); and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the PLACE where men ought to worship. John 4:20

Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain (A PLACE), nor yet at Jerusalem (A PLACE), worship the Father. John 4:21

Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship; for salvation is of the Jews. John 4:22

The Elders of Israel demanded a King like the nations. God knew that it was so that they could worship like the nations;

Like the nations the LORD destroyed before you, so you will be destroyed for not obeying the LORD your God. De.8:20

You say, "We want to be like the nations, like the peoples of the world, who serve wood and stone." But what you have in mind will never happen. Eze.20:32

This pagan worship was only in the TEMPLE STATE with the King's Shrine in Jerusalem. This was the ONLY PLACE which God permitted this KING LED system because the kings were chosen to carry out the punishment from the musical idolatry at Mount sinai.

The "common" population's ASSEMBLY was the place for reading the Word of God and for Prayer. The TRUE WORSHIPERS could worship God IN SPIRIT by giving heed to Him through His Word already. However, by destroying the CIVIL SHRINES everyone would be able to worship IN THEIR OWN spirit without opposition from the Temple:

But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit (A PLACE) and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. John 4:23

God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit (A PLACE) and in truth. John 4:24

Paul understood this and defined a new PLACE for converted Jews to worship:

For we are the circumcision,
which worship God in the spirit,
and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and
have no confidence in the flesh. Ph.3:3

Not only did Solomon define how God breathes His Word into the prophets as surely as a musician forces notes out of the harp, he used the same image to show that this knowledge would flow out from Jerusalem into the whole world. The product of God's revelation was not celebrative music but was "water" or knowledge--

Shifting from "music" to "water" Solomon defined how God breathes His Word into the prophets as surely as a spring forces out water. This water or knowledge would flow from Jerusalem out into the whole world.

For there went forth a stream and became a river great and broad; for it flooded and broke up everything and it brought (water) to the Temple; odes, Ode 6:7-8

Jesus warned that the Pharisaical clergy had "taken away the key to knowledge" and, therefore, they would be swept away when truth became available to all people. In the same way, Solomon was aware of the men who wanted to restrict the Word so that they could keep their place. However, truth swept them away:

the restrainers of the children of men were not able to restrain it, nor the arts of those whose business it is to restrain water. odes, Ode 6:9

Paul warned the Corinthians that they had ten thousand guardians or "restrainers" who were causing their worship to "do more harm than good." However, they had only one "father" or truth teacher. From chapters twelve through fourteen it is apparent that Corinth practiced the "art" of music and speech in tongues and thereby restrained Christ's doctrinal message (14:6). Right in the middle of this he gave us chapter 13 which identifies music as a communication tool as "noise" and "clang" for trying to get a message from the angles.

Other writers of this period believed that Satan gave the knowledge of music and other arts to lead the faithful people off God's holy mountain and down into the dark valley where knowledge and prayer were replaced with celebrative worship. In their view, music became the restraining tool which deprived people of truth.

True knowledge is defined as a "song" or "light" or "water" which gives life to all living things. Therefore, when Messiah came, He delivered knowledge which flowed into all the world--

For it spread over the face of the whole earth, and filled everything: and all the thirsty upon earth were given to drink of it; and thirst was relieved and quenched: for from the Most High the draught was given. odes, Ode 6:10-11

The knowledge which God wanted to spread out to relieve the hunger and thirst was entrusted to certain apostles and prophets who had God's Spirit to guard it as God's "song."

Blessed then are the ministers of that draught who are entrusted with the that water of His: They have assuaged the dry lips, and the will that had fainted they have raised up" odes, Ode 6:12-13

The gospel was originally "entrusted" to the apostles and prophets (1 Tim. 1:11), it was then entrusted to evangelists like Timothy (1 Tim. 6:20), and in the permanent sense it is now entrusted to everyone with the elders (Titus 1:7) being primary pastor-teachers. The gospel could only be guarded by the help of the Holy Spirit (2 Tim. 1:14) Who insists that God "plays" the "harp" and we repeat the note which He has plucked.

Rather than being evidence for collective worship with music, the "songs" are delivered by selected men whom God has chosen; they give information rather than entertainment:

And the Most High shall be known in His Saints, to announce to those that have songs of the coming of the Lord;

that they may go forth to meet Him, and may sing to Him with joy and with the harp of many tones. Ode 7:18-19

Charlesworth, James H., The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. Volume 2, 1983 does not find a literal harp:

Someone who tell prophecies will go before the Lord and know him. odes, 7:18.

They will praise the Lord because they both love each other. odes, 7:19.

In Romans 15:9 Jesus "sings to the Gentiles" through evangelists such as Paul. And to the corinthians Paul gave permission to sing "spiritual" songs if a second inspired prophet could verify what he sang. In the first verses this meant "using one mouth" to speak the revealed Words of Christ.

It should first be noted that "those that have songs of the coming of the Lord" are the ones who are entrusted with the message and they may go forth to meet Him. The act is "singing" with a "harp" which has unlimited tones as opposed to the literal harp which used the same notes to speak different messages.

The writer says that those with songs were "the seers" or those with a prophetic message. They do not "play" the harps but they are the harps upon which God plays to teach His Word.

All of the references to "harps" are written in the language of a parable: the harp of many tones is the harp which God gave us so that we can "make melody in the heart" or pluck the heart strings:

There are four references to "harps." In all of these, the harp is God's harp playing the seers or prophets through the Holy Spirit:

Ode 6:1 As the hand moves over the harp, and the strings speak,
Ode 6:2 So speaks in my members the Spirit of the Lord,
and I speak by His love.

Ode 14:7 Teach me the Psalms of thy truth, that I may bring forth fruit in thee:

A new psalm with song in gladness of heart,
the fruit of the lips with the well-tuned instrument of the tongue,
the first fruits of the lips from a pious and righteous heart.
Psalms of Solomon, 15:3
Ode 14:8 And open to me the harp of thy Holy Spirit,
that with all its notes I may praise thee, O Lord.
Charlesworth translates
Teach me to sing of truth,
that i may engender fruit in you.
Open the harp of your holy spirit
so I may praise you, Lord, with all its notes.

This cannot be used in the ASSEMBLY as modern singing because it was a synagogue: a school of the Bible

I create the fruit of the lips; Peace, peace to him that is far off, and to him that is near, saith the Lord; and I will heal him. Isaiah 57:19

By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually,
that is, the fruit of our lips,
giving thanks to his name. Hebrews 13:15
Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs , singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord (internal); Ephesians 5:19
Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Ephesians 5:20
Ode 26:3 For His harp is in my hands, and the Odes of His rest shall not be silent.

Ode 26:4 I will cry unto him from my whole heart: I will praise and exalt Him with all my members.

Again we quote: "... Jeremiah, and the other prophets, who, lifted in ecstasy above the natural operations of their minds by the impulses of the Divine Spirit, uttered the things with which they were inspired, the Spirit making use of them as a flute-player breathes into a flute." (Writings of Athenagoras, IX).

Again, look at the parallel: The image of the harp in another writing attributed to Solomon is spiritual and not literal. He wrote that after Messiah brought good tidings the people had a "new psalm" to sing rather than the old ones. The instrument of praise was now the tongue as it poured forth the "fruit of the lips" in telling the good news--

A new psalm with song in gladness of heart,
the fruit of the lips with the well-tuned instrument of the tongue,
the first fruits of the lips from a pious and righteous heart.
Psalms of Solomon, 15:3

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise--the fruit of lips that confess his name. Heb 13:15

This is supported by Clement of Alexandria who accepts music only after defining the tongue as the "psaltery of the Lord" and the "mouth struck by the Spirit" as the "lyre."

The new message destroyed ignorance and the ritualistic forms of worship. This "singing" is a direct result of the arrival of God's knowledge. The people do not, in the words of Amos, "sing idle songs and improvize upon the harp like David" but they use the God-given "harp" to sing exactly those songs which He has given. The old Psalms which usually prayed for God's vengeance to the tune of the harp are now replaced with truth because Messiah has arrived:

For ignorance hath been destroyed, because the knowledge of the Lord hath arrived. They who make songs shall sing the grace of the Lord Most High; and they shall bring their songs, and their hearts shall be like the day: and like the excellent beauty of the Lord their pleasant song. odes, Ode 7:23-25

This does not describe celebrative singing of sentimental poetry but speaking God's Word to reveal His grace. Using the same imagry, Paul describes his own work in which Christ commissioned him to preach the gospel to the Gentiles as singing:

so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy, as it is written: "Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing hymns to your name. Rom 15:9

However, in 1 Cor. 14:6 Paul restricted "singing" or speaking to "revelation, knowledge, prophecy, or doctrinal teaching." And in Romans,

For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. Rom 15:4

Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: Rom 15: 5

That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Rom 15: 6

Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us, to the glory of God. Rom 15: 7

Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers Rom 15: 8

so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy, as it is written: "Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing hymns to your name." -- Rom 15:9

As "Solomon" continued in the twelfth Ode he showed what happens when the well-tuned instrument of the tongue begins to play--

He hath filled me with words of truth;
that I may speak the same; odes, Ode 12:1

In a primary sense, only the seers who had been filled with the direct Word of God were able to speak the same. Therefore, Ephesians 5:18 demands that before we "sing" we must be "filled with the Spirit." The Colossians 3:16 parallel says that being filled with the Spirit is to "let the words of Christ dwell in us richly" before we teach.

Solomon knew that as the notes flow from the plucked string, the truth flows from the mouth of the prophet being strummed by God--

and like the flow of waters flows truth from my mouth, and my lips show forth His fruit. odes, Ode 12:2

He continued the theme of "water" flowing from the mouth with the lips performing the task of the harp. This is consistent with Moses who "recited" the song which God gave Him (Deut. 31:30) so that the elders could learn it and repeat it to their people:

And He has caused His knowledge to abound in me, because the mouth of the Lord is the true Word, and the door of His light; Ode 12:3

No "water" or "light" has any value unless it flows from the Lord's mouth as the only "door" through which truth comes. Solomon further condemns any attempt to compose our own message or enhance it with music to "make it easier to understand." He does this by saying that God was competent to speak to us:

and the Most High hath given it to His words,
which are the interpreters of His own beauty,
and the repeaters of His praise,
and confessors of His counsel,
and the heralds of his thoughts,
and the chasteners of His servants." odes, Ode 12: 4

This gives the revealed Word all of the tasks needed to teach how to have a relationship with God. Therefore, the church was cleansed of "interpreters" of the Word because as "restrainers" of the water which flowed freely out of Jerusalem they "took away the key to knowledge (Luke 11:52)."

"Captain Edward Johnson, in about 1631, wrote on what became Harvard University. The learned, reverend, and judicious Mr. Henry Dunster had received a patron for establishing a college. And he notes:

"And as in all the other passages of this history the Wonder-working Providence of Sion's Saviour hath appeared, so especially in this work, the Fountains of learning being in a great measure stopped in our native Country at this time, so that the sweet waters of Shilo's streams must ordinarily pass into the Churches through the stinking channel of prelatical pride, beside all the filth that the fountains themselves were daily encumbered withal, insomuch that the Lord turned aside often from them, and refused the breathing of his blessed Spirit among them, which caused Satan (in these latter days of his transformation into an Angel of light) to make it a means to persuade people from the use of learning althgether, that so in the next generation they might be destitute of such helps as the Lord hath been pleased hitherto to make use of, as chief means for the conversion of his people and building them up in the most holy faith, as also for breaking down the Kingdom of Antichrist."

Solomon repeated the message of John that once we have the Word "we do not need anyone to teach us" (1 John 2:27). He further shows how the Word makes Paul's demand for a "one another" ministry possible--

And by it (the Word) the worlds talk to one another; and in the Word there were those who were silent; and from it came love and concord; and they spake one to the other whatever was theirs; and they were penetrated by the Word; and they knew Him who made them, because they were in concord; for the mouth of the Most High spake to them; and His explanation ran by means of it; for the dwelling place of the Word is man: and its truth is love." odes, Ode 12:8-11

Romans 14 has to do with the Dionysiacs who were wine drinkers, meat eaters and used musical "worship" which was always sexual. The Orphic worship or THRESKIA was a milder form but is the SOURCE of modern worship which involves ANY rituals believed to have magical power. They, too, were musical. Therefore, Paul defined the synagogue of Christ as the only way to have unity in diversity:

They were not to PLEASURE one another because Christ would never do it. That meant to raise the pleasure levels by creating mental excitement. They were to glorify God ONLY by speaking "that which is written" using one MIND and one MOUTH.

Ps. 32:2,3: "Give praise to the Lord on the harp, sing to Him with the psaltery, the instrument of ten strings. Sing to Him a new canticle." But the Church does not make use of musical instruments such as harps and psalteries, in the divine praises, for fear of seeming to imitate the Jews. Therefore in like manner neither should song be used in the divine praises.

Thomas Aquinas: Reply to Objection 4. As the Philosopher says (Politics viii, 6), "Teaching should not be accompanied with a flute or any artificial instrument such as the harp or anything else of this kind: but only with such things as make good hearers."

For such like musical instruments move the soul to pleasure rather than create a good disposition within it.

On the Old Testament instruments of this description were employed, both because the people were more coarse and carnal--so that they needed to be aroused by such instruments as also by earthly promises--

and because these material instruments were figures of something else.

The writer understood the universal truth that God is able to say what He wants to say in the word-pictures which He used. These images can be understood by anyone who "loves the truth." Therefore, he continued--

Behold the Lord is our mirror; open the eyes and see them in Him: and learn the manner of your face: and tell forth praise to His spirit: and wipe off the filth from your face: and love His holiness, and clothe yourselves therewith. odes, Ode13:1-2

Paul knew that in the beginning they saw God's truth "dimly as in a mirror" but when God finished the revelation process they saw "face to face." By looking into God's Word we can open our eyes and understand Him as well as our own "face." The result will be repentance, being clothed with righteousness, and "telling forth praise to His Spirit." This writer agrees with Paul's message that we "speak to one another" with Biblical truth even as we "sing and make melody unto the Lord."

The "seers" or apostle-prophets were the first "harps" whom God "played" to reveal His Word. However, in time the revealed Word becomes the sword or harp which God plays. Solomon's prayer that God "teach him the psalms" is parallel with his statement: "open the harp of thy Holy Spirit." The result of opening the Word--the harp or sword of the Spirit--would be that with those "very notes" he could praise God.

Teach me the Psalms of thy truth,
that I may bring forth fruit in thee: And
open to me the harp of thy Holy Spirit,
that with all its notes I may praise thee, O Lord." odes, Ode 14:7-8

To bring forth fruit is to praise the Lord with the "notes" which the Spirit has already provided. The written word of God's truth makes up the "notes" so that God can "play" us as we repeat them. Therefore, he leaves no reason to believe that the "harp of the Holy Spirit" is the harp made by the hands of man. This image is enforced when we understand that we "open" the Word to "teach" the psalms of God's truth but the imagry is lost if we attempt to "open" a literal harp.

Paul equated the Words of Christ and the Spirit in the Ephesian 5:19 - Colossians 3:16 parallel. Then he insisted that we (understood) take the word of God which is the sword of the spirit. That is, the word is the Word of Christ made into a weapon but we must faithfully take it up and swing it:

(You) Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17

Because it was believed that music was an essential part of the rituals of Israel, it is not surprising that Christian scholars identifed the "first Christian heresy" as selecting men to perform the songs. However, Solomon condemned this when he wrote that he was the priest of the Lord and then told us how the Christian priest "offers sacrifice."

I am a priest of the Lord, and to Him
I do priestly service: and
to Him I offer the sacrifice of His thought.
For His thought is not like the thought of the world
nor the thought of the flesh,
nor like them that serve carnally.
The sacrifice of the Lord is righteousness,
and the purity of heart and lips." odes, Ode 20:1-3

The way one does priestly service and "plays the notes" of the Holy Spirit is to offer back to God the very words which He has provided for this priestly service. Therefore, Paul demanded of the elder that--

He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. Titus 1:9

Why is it so important to offer back God's own psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs? It is because our thoughts are not God's thoughts and we do not remotely know what pleases Him unless He tells us through His Word.

The Hebrew epistle supports the view of the true Christian sacrifice of praise when he urged:

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise--the fruit of lips that confess his name. Heb 13:15

Solomon continued the figurative images when he said that God has given us the only "light" by which we may see, the only "water" which will satisfy our thirst, and the only "clothing" which will hide our sins.

Thou didst set me a lamp at my right hand and at my left: and in me there shall be nothing that is not bright: and I was clothed with the covering of thy Spirit, and thou didst remove from me my raiment of skin. odes, Ode 25:7-8

In 14:8 Solomon used the phrase harp of thy Holy Spirit and here he uses the phrase covering of thy Spirit. Just as we do not invent clerical robes and call them a spiritual covering, we do not invent musical instruments and call them instruments of the Holy Spirit.

The harp is the Word of God "played" by the the believer and the clothing is the righteousness of God. To wear God's covering of the Spirit it is necessary to "circumcise the heart" by removing the old, filthy rags of self righteousness just as we begin singing a new set of psalms (Psalm 15:3).

As we develop a right relationship with God we becomes "mighty in the truth" and righteousness:

And I became mighty in the truth, and holy by thy righteousness; and all my adversaries were afraid of me odes, Ode 25:10

When one moves into this relationship, the praise (God's Word) will pour forth as the only legitimate praise and one will "speak His Holy song." This is not singing one's own self-composition but speaking exactly what God has given to us. Therefore, Solomon wrote--

I poured out praise to the Lord, for I am His: and I will speak His Holy song, for my heart is with Him.

For His harp is in my hands, and the Odes of His rest shall not be silent.

I will cry unto him from my whole heart: I will praise and exalt Him with all my members." odes, Ode 26:1-4

The "harp" is not my harp but God's harp by which one "sings" the "notes" of the Holy Spirit exactly as the Harp-player wants the notes sung.

In Ode 31 the image is of the abyss dissolved and error going astray. As a result, it is said of the Lord--

"He opened His mouth and spake grace and joy: and He spake a new song of praise to His name: and He lifted up His voice to the Most High, and offered to Him the sons that were with Him" Ode 31:3-4

In Ode 32 he speaks of Light from the Lord and says: "And words from the Truth, who was self-originate." The writer then makes a bold statement: "I run no risk of making any mistakes."

"And I ran no risk, because I walked with Him; and I did not make an error in anything

because I obeyed the Truth. For Error flees away from it, and meets it not: but the Truth proceeds in the right path, and odes, Ode 38:7-8

But how can the preacher, singer, or "laity" be so bold today? We can be so bold only when our practice is "speaking His Word" and "obeying the truth." God calls us to no higher responsibility.

The Biblical Solomon did not take any chances because when he "saw dimly as in a mirror" he asked for wisdom and understood that God would make it clear to him. This new Solomon agrees that the greatest task is to keep away from those things which seem to be "sweetness" because they appeal to our human senses--

whatever I did not know, it made clear to me, all the poisons of error, and the plagues of death which they think to be sweetness: odes, Ode 38:8

Solomon along with Noah are uniquely called "preachers." He sought every avenue of knowledge through study and "research." However, when he had tested human wisdom he called people back to the Word of God.

Solomon used the image of Enoch and other apocalyptic writers to show that in order to deceive the faithful, Satan was forced to "turn himself into another man" through apparitions or other means of deceit. He looks, for all the world, just like the faithful, sweet angels. However, he uses error to cause the people to come down from God's Holy Mountain and violate His commands:

And I saw the destroyer of destruction, when the bride who is corrupted is adorned: and the bridegroom who corrupts and is corrupted. And I asked the Truth, 'Who are these?'; and He said to me, 'This is the deceiver and the error; odes, Ode 38:9-10

They do not look like Satan but they look like the most faithful teacher in the best church even as they lead people astray and corrupt God's Word and way.

and they are alike in the beloved and in his bride: and they lead astray and corrupt the whole world: odes, Ode 38:11

As Satan invited the Sethites to come down from the mountain to have a banquet, he gave them wine, music, and sex to "take away the key to knowledge." Only by removing the intelligence of the people by substituting for God's Word could he make the people believe that they had joined a faithful church.

and they invite many to the banquet, and

give them to drink of the wine of their intoxication,

and remove their wisdom and knowledge, and so they make them without intelligence" odes, Ode 38:12-13

It is not possible to think when full of wine, nor is it possible to think rationally when loud music is taking place.

Therefore, God often "sang" His song of judgment against such people. His "vineyard" was the people of Israel. However, the "fired" Him and demanded the right to wroship like the nations. As a result, God through Isaiah associates the "vineyard, new wine, music and loss of the knowledge of God."

Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them Isaiah 5:11

And the harp, and the viol, the tabret, and pipe, and wine, are in their feasts: but they regard not the work of the Lord, neither consider the operation of his hands. Isaiah 5:12

Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge: and their honourable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst. Isaiah 5:13

This also happened at the foot of Sinai: those who had worshiped according to what they had learned in Egypt rejected God and His law and gave the bull credit for saving them. They engaged in the same celebrative form of worship begun in Babylon, practiced in Egypt, honed to perfection in Canaan, and brought into the very Temple.

Using the image of Paul to the Ephesians and Colossians, the writer is so filled with the "water" or truth of God that it poured forth without effort:

As the fountain gushes forth its waters, so my heart gushes out the praise of the Lord and my lips utter praise to Him, and my tongues His psalms odes, Ode 40:5

God plays the seers as the musician plays the harp, and the heart gushes out praise as the fountain gushes forth waters.

As always, the source of the praise is God's psalms and the method or instrument is the tongue and lips. The motive for such singing and praise is to "collect the truth of His faith."

All the Lord's children will praise Him, and will collect the truth of His faith. And His children shall be known to Him. Therefore we will sing in His love. odes, Ode 41:1-3

Early antiphonal or responsorial singing was not to "sing idle songs" but it was a way to progressively learn the "Truth of His faith" as passages were read and repeated to the point that the entire group or class could speak (sing) the passage in unison. Paul said that by speaking the words of Christ it was possible to "teach" and "admonish." Singing was not to charismatically excite people into believing that singing their own idle songs made God feel good just because it made them feel good. The odes is probably an early song book which illustrates the early mode of teaching and learning.

These writers want to show that those who honor God by honoring His Word do not celebrate their own senses. Rather, they allow themselves to be God's "harp" to be played in order to deliver His Word. However ineffective we may think God is in delivering His Word, with the need for "guardians" or "restrainers," if the "water" is allowed to gush forth, God will give the increase. The Odels of Solomon, like most early commentary, shows the value of learning and meditating upon certain truths until they become part of ones nature.

The Odes refute instruments in worship consistent with the Bible and all writings of that period. Perhaps a preachers forum would work better if hand outs were demanded of any quote from the Bible or secular writers.

Unfortunately, Freed-Hardeman has not corrected this apparent defeat for the non-instrumental music worship.

Kenneth Sublett Comments Welcome

The Total odes of Solomon

Bill Swetmon on Josephus and Psallo at Freed-Hardeman University
Bill Swetmon on Gregory of Nyssa on Psallo at Freed-Hardeman University
Bill Swetmon on Clement's "permission" at Freed-Hardeman University
Clement on Clement's Non-permission

Musical Worship Index Two

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