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In Ephesians 5:19, Christians are told to speak "to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord" (NKJV). Does the phrase "making melody" (5567, psallo ψάλλω) include singing with musical accompaniment? Or does the fact that Christians are to make melody "in your hearts" mean the heart is the instrument in this verse? Thanks!

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The word ψάλλω (psallo) occurs only five times in the NT (Rom 15:9, 1 Cor 14:15, Eph 5:19, James 5:13) and always means "sing" as with the human voice.

However, it is well known that the verb ψάλλω originally meant to "pluck" or "play an instrument" (see BDAG and Thayer). Thus, BDAG defines ψάλλω in the NT as:

"sing songs of praise, with or without instrumental accompaniment".

Thus, the occurrences of ψάλλω in the NT neither necessarily include nor exclude the use of musical instruments.

I note that in Rev 5:8, 14:2, 18:22, the righteous sing praises accompanied by "harps", the Greek word for which is κιθάρα (kithara) from which comes our English word, "guitar".

The phrase in Eph 5:19 about "in your hearts" begins with the dative article, τῇ (tē); thus the phrase could be rendered, "from your hearts" (eg, NIV, HCSB), or, "in your hearts" (eg, NLT, BSB), or, "with your hearts" (CSB, CEV, NASB), etc. [My personal preference would be "with" or "from" without entirely excluding "in" either.]

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  • Thanks for the answer! Would you say that in the pro- and anti-instrumental music debate, this verse doesn't help either side?
    – The Editor
    Jun 23, 2020 at 14:19
  • Correct - it can be with or without instrumental accompaniment. If you seek some Bible precedent, then look at the King David's 288 piece orchestra consisting of strings, percussion and brass, etc
    – Dottard
    Jun 23, 2020 at 20:15
  • Not sure if this is off topic, but since King David's precedent is in the Old Testament, not the New, this in and of itself wouldn't authorize the use of instrumental accompaniment in the New Testament. Otherwise, there'd be precedent for animal sacrifices as well. If Ephesians 5:19 doesn't discuss instrumental music--or at least doesn't help either side of the debate--does this mean the New Testament doesn't directly permit instrumental music? If so, the discssion would then center on whether the silence of the Scriptures is permissive or prohibitive.
    – The Editor
    Jun 27, 2020 at 16:05
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    Musical instruments are neither mandated nor prohibited. Exactly the same is true under the Levitical system. David, Solomon, Nehemiah and others chose to use them. Now let us be very clear, there is a great many things that are done that are neither mandated nor prohibited such as church buildings, ordination of church officers, driving cars to church, etc, etc. None of these are wrong. The traditional approach is to say if it is not mandated nor prohibited, then it is a matter of cultural and social choice.
    – Dottard
    Jun 27, 2020 at 21:34
  • Thanks for the reply! The Bible neither mandates nor prohibits musical instruments, but does Ephesians 5:19 permit them through its wording? This is my main question. If not, then the verse neither mandates, prohibits, nor even permits instrumental music in worship, meaning the verse is completely silent on the topic.
    – The Editor
    Jun 29, 2020 at 16:13
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I am going to approach Ephesians 5:19 with sentence structure, from the KJV, and not any other version.

Ephesians 5:19

Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;

Actually, I'm going to expand this, due to the semi-colon.

18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; 19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; 20 Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; 21 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.

Ah, yes, the complete sentence.

Notice first, that the KJV in verse 19 states, "Speaking to yourselves", rather than "speak to one another".

Then look up the Strong's Concordance as it applies to the KJV for the word "yourselves" in Ephesians 5:19.

Yourselves is a pronoun, but it is singular in this case, not plural. The "s" at the end of "yourselves" is indicating that the audience is more than one person, of course, but it is discussing a single persons action, not a group action.

In other words, if the audience was only one person, it would state "speak to yourself"

There are other Greek words for the plural use of "yourselves" *(G240), such as:

John 6:43

Jesus G2424 therefore G3767 answered G611 and G2532 said G2036 unto them, G846 Murmur G1111 not G3361 among G3326 yourselves. G240

and

John 16:19

Now G3767 Jesus G2424 knew G1097 that G3754 they were desirous G2309 to ask G2065 him, G846 and G2532 said G2036 unto them, G846 Do ye enquire G2212 among G3326 yourselves G240 of G4012 that G5127 G3754 I said, G2036 A little while, G3397 and G2532 ye shall G2334 ➔ not G3756 see G2334 me: G3165 and G2532 again, G3825 a little while, G3397 and G2532 ye shall see G3700 me? G3165

But Ephesians 5:19 "yourselves" is:

Ephesians 5:19

Speaking G2980 to yourselves G1438 in psalms G5568 and G2532 hymns G5215 and G2532 spiritual G4152 songs, G5603 singing G103 and G2532 making melody G5567 in G1722 your G5216 heart G2588 to the Lord; G2962

G1438

ἑαυτοῦ heautoû, heh-ow-too'; from a reflexive pronoun otherwise obsolete and the genitive case (dative case or accusative case) of G846; him- (her-, it-, them-, also (in conjunction with the personal pronoun of the other persons) my-, thy-, our-, your-) self (selves), etc.

G846

αὐτός autós, ow-tos'; from the particle αὖ aû (perhaps akin to the base of G109 through the idea of a baffling wind) (backward); the reflexive pronoun self, used (alone or in the comparative G1438) of the third person , and (with the proper personal pronoun) of the other persons:—her, it(-self), one, the other, (mine) own, said, (self-), the) same, ((him-, my-, thy- )self, (your-)selves, she, that, their(-s), them(-selves), there(-at, - by, -in, -into, -of, -on, -with), they, (these) things, this (man), those, together, very, which. Compare G848.

G848

αὑτοῦ hautoû, how-too'; contracted for G1438; self (in some oblique case or reflexively, relation):—her (own), (of) him(-self), his (own), of it, thee, their (own), them(-selves), they.

Next:

Notice, if you will, the sentence structure of:

"singing and making melody in your heart".

Notice, if you will, where the comma is not. There is not a comma after the word "singing", or should I really say, there is not a comma before the word "and".

That is important because this shows that the singing is "in your heart" as well as melody.

If it were dealing with only melody in the heart, then there would be a comma before the word "and". So, both singing and melody are in the heart, meaning that not a word is vocally spoken.

The conclusion is, when taking into account the whole sentence beginning with verse 18, and ending with verse 21, this is not, I repeat not discussing Sunday Morning Worship Service at Church at all.

This is discussing what to do outside of the church. Again, there are two checks and balances to go from here. The first is the singular "yourselves", and the other is that both singing and melody are in the heart, where there are no vocal cords used to sing.

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