Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Earliest Christian Hymnbook

One could say, of course, that, indirectly, many of the psalms are about David, since so many of them are by David and in them he talks about himself. self. In this regard, we should notice the way in which the early church viewed the Psalter.  In his work On the Flesh of Christ, the church father Tertullian had this to say about the psalms of David: “He sings to us about Christ, and through him Christ sings about himself.”  Tertullian’s statement is firmly rooted in what the risen Jesus himself said (Luke 24:44).  Hengel points out that the most important titles given to Jesus in the New Testament “were already given or prefigured in the hymnbook of Israel.”*  He cites “Son (of God)” (Ps. 2:7), “firstborn” (Ps. 89:27), “Lord” (Ps. 110:1), and even “God” (Ps. 45:6), to which we may add “Messiah” or “Christ” (Ps. 2:2) and “Son of Man” (Ps. 8:4), although the primary Old Testament source for the Son of Man is Daniel 7:13-14.

In short, the New Testament does not contain a songbook, but that is because from a Christian perspective they already had one: the book of Psalms.  For the early Christians, the Psalms were about their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Any songs or hymns or psalms that the early Christians might have composed about Christ or to Christ merely supplemented the inspired hymnbook of Israel, now appropriated by the church as its own collection of hymns about Christ.  Then, as now, Jesus Christ was the center of the religious music of the church—yet in a way that never detracted from the glory of God or compromised biblical monotheism.

Robert Bowman; J. Ed Komoszewski,
Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ

*  Martin Hengel, Studies in Early Christology, 290.

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