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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 '20 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 '20 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 '20 at 16:05
  • 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 '20 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 '20 at 16:13

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