[B-Greek] PSALLW (was RE: "The lexicon is wrong!")

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu
Tue Sep 25 10:18:08 EDT 2007

On Sep 25, 2007, at 9:03 AM, Perry Stepp wrote:

> An example that I have personally encountered has to do with the  
> meaning of
> My friends in the non-instrumental Churches of Christ have  
> consistently
> argued that, in the New Testament period, PSALLW referred to  
> unaccompanied
> (i.e., a capella) singing, and NOT singing accompanied by stringed
> instruments.
> My understanding is that the green BAGD (2nd edition) reflects this  
> view.
> I'm not sure about BDAG.
> (I, shamefaced, admit that I do not have the 2nd OR the 3rd  
> edition.  I've
> always been satisfied with old blue, and bothered my colleagues when I
> needed the newer editions.)

ψάλλω (YALLW) fut. ψαλῶ (YALW) (Aeschyl.+; ins, LXX;  
TestAbr A 20 p. 103, 26f [Stone p. 54]; TestJob 14:2, 4; Jos., Ant.  
11, 67; 12, 349; Just.; Mel., P. 80, 588; Did.) in our lit., in  
accordance w. OT usage, to sing songs of praise, with or without  
instrumental accompaniment, sing, sing praise w. dat. of the one for  
whom the praise is intended τῷ ὀνόματί σου ψαλῶ  
(TWi ONOMATI SOU YALW) Ro 15:9 (Ps 17:50). ψαλλῶ σοι (YALLW  
SOI) B 6:16 (Ps 107:4). τῷ κυρίῳ (TWi KURIWi) Eph 5:19: in  
this pass. a second dat. is added τῇ καρδίᾳ ὑμῶν  
(YALLW THi KARDIAi hUMWN) in or with your hearts; here YALLW is found  
with ᾄδω (AiDW) (as Ps 26:6; 32:3; 56:8), and the question arises  
whether a contrast betw. the two words is intended. The original mng.  
of YALLW was ‘pluck’, ‘play’ (a stringed instrument); this  
persisted at least to the time of Lucian (cp. Par. 17). In the LXX  
YALLW freq. means ‘sing’, whether to the accompaniment of an  
instrument (Ps 32:2, 97:5 al.) or not, as is usually the case (Ps  
7:18; 9:12; 107:4 al.). This focus on singing continued until YALLW  
in Mod. Gk. means ‘sing’ exclusively; cp. ψάλτης (YALTHS)  
=singer, chanter, w. no ref. to instrumental accompaniment. Although  
the NT does not voice opposition to instrumental music, in view of  
Christian resistance to mystery cults, as well as Pharisaic aversion  
to musical instruments in worship (s. EWerner, art. ‘Music’, IDB  
3, 466–69), it is likely that some such sense as make melody is best  
understood in this Eph pass. Those who favor ‘play’ (e.g. L-S-JM;  
ASouter, Pocket Lexicon, 1920; JMoffatt, transl. 1913) may be relying  
too much on the earliest mng. of ψάλλω (YALLW). ψ. τῷ  
πνεύματι (YALLW TWi PNEUMATI) and in contrast to that ψ.  
τῷ νοΐ (YALLW TWi NOI) sing praise in spiritual ecstasy and in  
full possession of one’s mental faculties 1 Cor 14:15. Abs. sing  
praise Js 5:13. WSmith, Musical Aspects of the NT, ’62; HSeidel, TRE  
XXIII 441–46.—DELG. M-M. EDNT. TW. Sv.

I hardly think that the BDAG makes a definitive case for one or the  
other, although it seems to favor the sense of unaccompanied singing.  
How one ultimately prefers to understand it may have something to do  
with one's assessment of the authorship and dating of Ephesians.

> Perry L. Stepp, Ph.D.
> Dean, Sack School of Bible & Ministry
> Associate Professor, Bible & Theology
> Kentucky Christian University
> "Every once in a while, you get shown the light
> In the strangest of places, if you look at it right."
>                         --Robert Hunter, "Scarlet Begonias"
> -----Original Message-----
> From: b-greek-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org
> [mailto:b-greek-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of Jonathan Robie
> Sent: Tuesday, September 25, 2007 8:37 AM
> To: B-Greek
> Subject: [B-Greek] "The lexicon is wrong!"
> I'm involved in a discussion that revolves around the meaning of a few
> Greek words, and some of the participants in the discussion (who
> actually don't speak Greek) are claiming that a particular word  
> doesn't
> mean what it says the lexicon says, but means something significantly
> different. I doubt that they are right, and none of is is a
> lexicographer, but this makes me wonder ...
> Can you think of examples where the meaning of a New Testament passage
> has changed in the eyes of mainstream scholarship because we came to
> realize that our earlier understanding of a Greek word was wrong? Are
> there recent examples, say, in the last 20-30 years? Are there major
> changes in the meaning of some words between BADG and BDAG?
> Jonathan
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Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Ret)

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