Should the Church Sing the Canticle?

Discussion in 'A capella Exclusive Psalmody' started by Ben Zartman, Oct 31, 2018.

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  1. Ben Zartman

    Ben Zartman Puritan Board Sophomore

    Should the Church include the Song of Solomon in worship, like we do the Psalms of David?
    A quick search here brought up no answers, but I have wondered for a while what my EP friends (not one myself. EP, that is; I hope I am a friend sometimes) think. It seems that all the reasons applied to the EP position could apply to it as well:
    It is called the "Song of Songs;" as if it were the supreme among all songs.
    It concerns the Church and her Bridegroom
    It is inspired

    But I have not heard of it being sung in EP congregations.
    Thoughts, reasons?
  2. Jake

    Jake Puritan Board Junior

    There is a time that the Free Church of Scotland, while being mostly EP, also had instances of paraphrases of other parts of Scripture used in some of her congregations. You can see for example the Scottish Psalter and Paraphrases, which includes passages from various non-Psalter portions of the Bible. It includes some songs and some prose texts as well:

    That said, it doesn't seem to include any of the Song of Songs.

    There are copious examples of the Song of Songs being put to meter, but I haven't heard of them being used in public worship before:
  3. Joshua

    Joshua Administrator Staff Member

    Nope. No command so to do. No example of such being sung. Etc.
  4. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Junior

    In Soviet Russia, songs command you.

    But of course, you're quite right.
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  5. Ben Zartman

    Ben Zartman Puritan Board Sophomore

    Good points. It seems a bit of an anomaly in the Scripture, though, to have an inspired song that is above all other songs that may not be sung by one of the singers in the song.
    Any commentary recommendations that would address this?
  6. Ben Zartman

    Ben Zartman Puritan Board Sophomore

    Jake, thanks for those links. That old English is pretty fun to read.
  7. Joshua

    Joshua Administrator Staff Member

    Seriously, now. What silly Sally said the song may not be sang by someone, sometime, somewhere?
  8. lynnie

    lynnie Puritan Board Senior

    Whatever you think about Sunday worship, the simple fact is that bible memory work is much easier when sung. I wish the entire scripture was set to good music to sing all week long. I would have much more memorized if that were the case.
  9. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Puritan Board Doctor

    In the Pentecostal Church I was raised in we sang this chorus:

    "He brought me to his banqueting table, his banner over me is love" repeat x3 then finish "His banner, over me, is love."

    So some sing at least one verse (Song 2:4).

    Of course, the context of that verse was never explained to us children. It was just used as an expression of God's love and provision.
  10. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Junior

    We also have other inspired songs in Scripture, like Deborah's (or David's psalm that he wrote, which is then modified for worship when included in the book of Psalms). The question is whether these songs have any indication that they are to be included in worship. There is no indication that Deborah's song or the Song of Songs is to be included in worship, and there is every indication otherwise (when Hezekiah restored the worship, they sang the words of David and Asaph, not the Song of Songs). That seals the case.

    However, if one wishes to understand why this might be the case, here are some possibilities.

    1) The content that Song of Songs treats is indeed found in the Psalms: Psalm 45, a golden psalm. The thing that makes the Song of Songs the Song above all other songs is the good matter that it indites (of Christ and his church), and we find that matter in the psalms, especially in Psalm 45. Edit: In light of the way songs are changed so that the matter of them is included in worship (and so included in the psalms), jumping off this point about the matter of the Song being in the psalms, it is possible that the Song of Songs is either an elaboration of the material in the psalms (esp. psalm 45) or the matter is modified to be included in the psalms (esp. psalm 45). Perhaps the goal was to eliminate or (add) the intimate language so as to have a more universal language in worship song (universalizing or wording is used in the change of other songs that are put in the psalter). This then argues all the more strongly the Song is not to be used anymore than David's rendition of Psalm 18 before its inclusion in the psalter.

    2) The inspired songs that we are to sing are those that Christ sings in the midst of the assembly (Heb. 2:12). There is no indication that Christ sings anything other than the psalms, as the fulfillment of David who wrote them (or at least, the Davidic annointed quality carries over into the psalms that he didn't write).

    3) Maybe it's different in Hebrew, but the Song of Songs in English does not appear to be presented as a song intended to be sung (someone can confirm; I don't have time)...or at least does not appear to be worship song. The psalms have the instructions to the chief musician (among other things, such as their temple context) and so are treated as songs to be sung and as worship song, not merely Scripture to be read (other songs like Deborah's are treated as embedded in the narrative, rather than a song to be sung itself).

    4) Just because it is not worship song (even assuming it is a song itself rather than wisdom put into song form) does not mean it cannot be sung. It just cannot be sung as an act of specific worship to God.
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2018
  11. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

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  12. Ben Zartman

    Ben Zartman Puritan Board Sophomore

    No doubt even the song of Lamech may be sung by someone sometime (a tragic opera perhaps waiting to be written? Cain et Lamechus, after the fashion of Moyses Deus Pharaonis or Samson et Dalila)....but I digress. I can't personally understand why one of the voices in the Canticle being the Church, it would be forbidden the Church to sing that song during the time of her assembly, when she is most visible on the Bridegroom's holy day.
    Please don't think I'm arguing against EP: I'm only seeking to understand it better.
  13. Ben Zartman

    Ben Zartman Puritan Board Sophomore

    But doesn't Christ sing this directly with and to the assembly? It's like a duet. And Christ is also the fulfilment of Solomon--he's the better than Solomon.
  14. Ben Zartman

    Ben Zartman Puritan Board Sophomore

    I've always appreciated the irony in that chorus, since according to the dispensational theology of every place I've heard it sung, the Canticle ISN'T about Christ and the Church. :)
  15. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Junior


    It seems strange to me that it has not been sung. Dordt's DPW (69) says:

    "In the Churches only the 150 Psalms of David, the Ten Commandments, the Lord's Prayer, the Twelve Articles of Faith, the Song of Mary, that of Zacharias, and that of Simon shall be sung. It is left to the individual Churches whether or not to use the hymn "Oh God! who art our Father." All other hymns are to be excluded from the Churches, and in those places where some have already been introduced they are to be removed by the most suitable means."

    I'm not sure how they came up with what scriptures were appropriate for public worship and which were not, but Song of Solomon didn't make the cut apparently.

    (BTW, I'm not EP.) :)
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  16. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    Either God has given his church a regulatory command on what to sing, or he hasn’t. If we “can” sing from the Song of Solomon when we gather then yes, we could also sing Lamech’s song, or any other portion of Scripture that someone decided is song-like.
    But the Psalms are unique among the songs in the Bible. The Hebrew name for the collection is Tehillim, the “book of praises.” Christ says in Psalm 22:25, “My praise (tehilla) shall be of thee in the great congregation...” The Psalms are the praises we’re given to sing together with him when we gather.

    Why such resistance to the idea that these are the words God has so graciously given to his people for their edification? It’s so thrilling to me that we sing these words of Christ with him in the great congregation. They are powerful to shape our minds and hearts into thinking and being more like him.
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  17. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Junior

    This is a fair question. However, now we are getting into the interpretation of the Song itself (for a full answer), and I may end up having to type many words to answer. Perhaps I can find a way to be more to the point and save myself that typing, but for now, I do not have the time. Unless someone else gets to this, I'll try to remember to reply later.

    However, I would note that this question is more about finding reasons why God might not have included this song in the Psalter. The EP rationale has simply been given already: it was never intended as a worship song, as noted, for example by the details of Hezekiah's reform. Even if we could not find a reason why God might not have included the song, that does not give a reason for it to be included in the worship of the church. Not anymore than (on an EP understanding of the NT data) if we cannot find a reason why God did not give us more inspired songs for worship in the NT does that mean we are to compose them.

    I should also take this moment to clarify: EPers express the arguments for their views in different ways. For the purpose of this question, some will argue that we are to sing all the inspired songs that God has given but that the only inspired songs that are intended as songs (instead of a record of a song; or a record of a prophetic oracle delivered as a song; or a piece of wisdom literature put in the form of a song) are the Psalms. Others will say there are other inspired songs that are intended as songs in the Bible, but there is no indication that they are intended to be used in worship. Some will hold this latter position (that we are to sing all inspired songs intended for use in NT worship) but agree with the former in that they would say that it just so happens there are no other inspired songs given as songs. (That there are no other inspired songs intended as songs seems to be the position of Matthew Winzer, and I tend to agree with that position myself.)
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2018
  18. Ben Zartman

    Ben Zartman Puritan Board Sophomore

    Jeri, I'm not resisting Psalm-singing: I think that non-EP congregations still do well to include the Psalms, and would do better to lean more heavily on them than the ones in my experience seem to do. I'm just puzzled why the Song of Songs, which is Solomon's (not was, but is, as though it remains the song of the Bridegroom and the bride), isn't sung as well. It's a nuance that still escapes me.
  19. Joshua

    Joshua Administrator Staff Member

    The reason is because it has not been commanded, authorized, to sing in the worship of the church. What is to be done in the worship service is not merely about the theological propriety of the content, but whether the Lord has ordered it in the worship service.
  20. Joshua

    Joshua Administrator Staff Member

    I apologize, because, at the moment I cannot remember which sermon it is, but if you look at the section with regard to exclusive psalmody on the following page, one of the sermons has some dealing with the subject matter of inspired songs that are not psalms and why we do not sing them in the worship service.
  21. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    I think it’s because of God’s purpose in shaping the church in a unique way by the corporate use of the Psalms. They are the war songs of the church militant. Other songs in Scripture are, of course, everything that Scripture is, but won’t accomplish what the Psalms are to accomplish when sung corporately.
  22. Ben Zartman

    Ben Zartman Puritan Board Sophomore

    Thanks, Jeri and Joshua, for your thoughtful replies, and for the link. I will inquire further into this as time allows.
  23. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior

    I can't immagine how we would go about singing it if we tried. There are so many parts, and such an integrity about it, that it's almost more like a musical play than a song. I don't mean to say that it's intended for theatre or that it is meant to be acted out--I just mean that it doesn't seem at all suited to congregational singing.
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