What is an hymn?

Discussion in 'Music Ministry' started by Aaron, Dec 6, 2007.

  1. Aaron

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    This was brought up in another thread, but I think it makes a good thread on its own.

    If one looks in practically any dictionary or encyclopedia, he is likely to find a terse definition on the order of "song of praise to a deity." Some say that an hymn is any religious song, and fewer say that the word "hymn" not only describes content, but form as well.

    I'm one of those few. The reasons:

    1)Practically every commentator agrees that psalms, hymns and spiritual songs were descriptive of styles.

    2)"Hymn" is a Greek word, and until late in their history it described a certain style of song. Paeans and dithyrambs were also songs of praise to deities, but they weren't hymns.

    3)The use of the term in Scripture is in context of solemnity.

    An hymn is praise to God in a style marked by gravity and sobriety. Nothing remotely boisterous or wildly exuberant can be classified as an hymn.
     
  2. Sopranette

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    I like the description you provided in the other thread, Aaron.

    "The decourum of a hymn is peace"

    There IS a decorum to a hymn, and it does not involve aggression of any kind, like that found in many forms of rock.

    love,

    sopranette
     
  3. Ulsterman

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    The opposite of an her!;)
     
  4. chuck2336

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    You Beat me to the punch!
     
  5. Bro. Curtis

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    << Psalm 150 >>
    King James Bible
    1 Praise ye the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power.

    2 Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness.
    3 Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp.
    4 Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs.
    5 Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals. 6 Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD.
     
  6. SBCPreacher

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    1. Who says?

    2. Why not?
     
  7. rbell

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    Well, you started off great! :laugh:
    The "context" you mentioned IMO refers to an earlier phrase in that passage...the "don't be drunk with wine, wherein is excess...but be filled with the Spirit." That's not a hill I would die on, but I think I'm right about that...we'll see in glory, huh?

    Furthermore, though...that makes the "psalms" and "spiritual songs" interesting fodder...if a hymn is marked by gravity, that doesn't necessarily mean the other two "genres" are...(see Psalm 150...sounds quite joyful to me!)...and thus we're back to square one.

    There is a reverence to worship:

    And, there is a joyfulness to worship:

    IMO, it is possible to over-focus on one to the detriment of another.
     
  8. Aaron

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    See the OP.
     
  9. tinytim

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    From Strongs... G5215
    ὕμνος
    humnos
    hoom'-nos
    Apparently from a simpler (obsolete) form of ὕδέω hudeō (to celebrate; probably akin to G103; compare G5567); a "hymn" or religious ode (one of the Psalms): - hymn.


    From Thayer...
    G5215
    ὕμνος
    humnos
    Thayer Definition:
    1) a song in the praise of gods, heroes, conquerors
    2) a sacred song, hymn
    Part of Speech: noun masculine
    A Related Word by Thayer’s/Strong’s Number: apparently from a simpler (obsolete) form of hudeo (to celebrate, probably akin to G103)
    Citing in TDNT: 8:489, 1225

    From Webster (1828)
    Hymn
    HYMN
    , n. hym. [L. hymnus; Eng. hum.]song or ode in honor of God, and among pagans, in honor of some deity. A hymn among christians is a short poem,composed for religious service, or a song of joy and praise to God. The word primarily expresses the tune,but it is used for the ode or poem.
    And when the had sung a hymn, they went out to the mount of Olives. Mat 26.
    HYMN, v.t. hym. To praise in song; to worship by singing hymns.
    1. To sing; to celebrate in song. They hymn their maker's praise.
    HYMN, v.i. hym. To sing in praise or adoration.

    From Smith...
    Hymn
    Hymn.
    A religious song or psalm. Eph_5:19; Col_3:16. Our Lord and his apostles sung a hymn after the last supper. In the jail at Philippi, Paul and Silas "sang hymns" (Authorized Version, "praises") unto God, and so loud was their song that their fellow prisoners heard them.

    From Fausett:
    Hymns
    Hebrew tehillim; in direct praise to God (Act_16:25; Jam_5:13). Not restricted to church worship; but used to exhilarate Christians in social parties. "Psalms," mizmor, were accompanied with an instrument, carefully arranged. "Songs," Greek oodai, Hebrew shir, were joyous lyric pieces on sacred subjects; contrast the reveling, licentious songs of pagan feasts (Amo_8:10). The accompaniment is the "melody of the heart," not the lyre. Tertullian (Apology, 39) records that at the love feasts (agapae), after the water was furnished for the hands and the lights lit, according as any remembered Scripture or could compose (compare 1Co_14:26, "improvised psalms"), he was invited to sing praises to God for the general good. The heart is the seat of true psalmody, "singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord" (Col_3:16; Eph_5:19).
    Some generally accepted confession, in the form of a hymn, appears in
    1Ti_3:16; the short unconnected sentences, with words similarly arranged, almost in the same number of syllables, the clauses in parallelism (the principle of Hebrew versification) antithetically arranged, each two forming a pair which contrasts heaven and earth, the order reversed in each new pair, flesh and spirit, angels and Gentiles, world and glory; the first and the last clauses correspond, "manifested in the flesh . . . received up into glory." So Pliny, 1:10, ep. 97: "the Christians are wont on a fixed day, before dawn, to meet and sing a hymn in alternate responses to Christ as God." Christ and His disciples sang a hymn after the Passover and the Lord's supper (Mat_26:30; Mar_14:26). Probably it was the Great Hallel or paschal hymn, usually sung after the Passover by the Jews, namely, Psalm 113-118.


     
  10. tinytim

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    From Easton:
    Hymn
    Occurs only Eph_5:19 and Col_3:16. The verb to "sing an hymn" occurs Mat_26:30 and Mar_14:26. The same Greek word is rendered to "sing praises" Act_16:25 (R.V., "sing hymns") and Heb_2:12. The "hymn" which our Lord sang with his disciples at the last Supper is generally supposed to have been the latter part of the Hallel, comprehending Ps. 113-118. It was thus a name given to a number of psalms taken together and forming a devotional exercise.
    The noun hymn is used only with reference to the services of the Greeks, and was distinguished from the psalm. The Greek tunes required Greek hymns. Our information regarding the hymnology of the early Christians is very limited.

    From International Standard Bible Encyclopedia...
    Hymn
    him (ὕμνος, húmnos): In Col_3:16; Eph_5:19 Paul bids his readers sing "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs." Gregory of Nyssa (4th century) distinguishes these as follows: the Psalms were accompanied by instruments, the hymns were mainly vocal, and the song, ode, was a general term comprehending both. This distinction might suggest that the psalm belonged especially to the public worship of the church, while the hymn was the production, more or less spontaneous, of the individual member. The inference is, however, inconsistent with 1Co_14:26, and it is probable that in the apostolic age, at least, the terms were used indiscriminately. Of Christian psalms or hymns we have examples in the New Testament. Lk 1 and 2 contain such hymns in the songs of Mary, Zacharias and Simeon. The Apocalypse is studded with hymns or odes, many of them quite general in character, and probably borrowed or adapted from Jewish books of praise. In the Epistles of Paul, especially the later ones, fragments of hymns seem to be quoted. Lightfoot detects one in Eph_5:14, and others readily suggest themselves.
    It is probable that the hymn mentioned as having been sung by Jesus and the disciples after the Passover (
    Mat_26:30; Mar_14:26) was the second part of the Hallel, i.e. Psalms 115 through 118, and the hymns of Paul and Silas were most likely also taken from the Psalter. But the practice of interpolating and altering Jewish non-canonical books, like the Psalter of Solomon and the recently discovered Odes of Solomon, shows that the early Christians adopted for devotional purposes the rich store of sacred poetry possessed by their nation. For the music to which these psalms, etc., were sung, see MUSIC; SONG.


     
  11. tinytim

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    From commentaries on Eph 5:19...

    From Barnes...
    And hymns - It is not easy to determine precisely what is the difference in the meaning of the words used here, or to designate the kind of compositions which were used in the early churches. A "hymn" is properly a song or ode in honor of God. Among the pagan it was a song in honor of some deity. With us now it denotes a short poem, composed for religious service, and sung in praise to God. Such brief poems were common among the pagan, and it was natural that Christians should early introduce and adopt them. Whether any of them were composed by the apostles it is impossible now to determine, though the presumption is very strong that if they had been they would have been preserved with as much care as their epistles, or as the Psalms. One thing is proved clearly by this passage, that there were other compositions used in the praise of God than the Psalms of David; and if it was right then to make use of such compositions, it is now. They were not merely "Psalms" that were sung, but there were hymns and odes.

    From the Believer's Bible Commentary: 5:19 Now the apostle gives four results of being filled with the Spirit. First, Spirit-filled Christians speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. The divine infilling opens the mouth to talk about the things of the Lord, and enlarges the heart to share these things with others. While some see all three categories as parts of the Book of Psalms, we understand only psalms to mean the inspired writings of David, Asaph, and others. Hymns are noninspired songs which ascribe worship and praise directly to God. Spiritual songs are any other lyrical compositions dealing with spiritual themes, even though not addressed directly to God.
    A second evidence of the filling is inward joy and praise to God: singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord. The Spirit-filled life is a fountain, bubbling over with joy (
    Act_13:52). Zacharias is an illustration: when he was filled with the Holy Spirit, he sang with all his heart to the Lord (Luk_1:67-79).

    From Clarke:
    Hymns -
    Ὑμνοις· Extemporaneous effusions in praise of God, uttered under the influence of the Divine Spirit, or a sense of his especial goodness. See Act_16:25.

    From Wesley:
    Eph 5:19
    - Speaking to each other - By the Spirit. In the Psalms - Of David. And hymns - Of praise. And spiritual songs - On any divine subject. By there being no inspired songs, peculiarly adapted to the Christian dispensation, as there were to the Jewish, it is evident that the promise of the Holy Ghost to believers, in the last days, was by his larger effusion to supply the lack of it. Singing with your hearts - As well as your voice. To the Lord - Jesus, who searcheth the heart.

    From Treasury of Scriptural Knowledge:
    psalms: Psalms, ψαλμοι [Strong’s G5568], from ψαλλω [Strong’s G5567], to touch or play on a musical instrument, properly denotes such sacred songs or poems as are sung to stringed instruments, and may here refer to those of David; hymns, υμνοι [Strong’s G5215], from υδω, to sing, celebrate, praise, signifies songs in honour of God; and songs ωδαι [Strong’s G5603], from αειδω, to sing, denotes any regular poetic composition adapted to singing, and is here restricted to those which are spiritual. Psa_95:2, Psa_105:2; Mat_26:30
     
  12. tinytim

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    OK, now since I cut and pasted almost everything I have from e-sword on hymns... Here is my definition compiled from the above information...

    A Hymn is a song of praise sung to God from our heart....
     
  13. Aaron

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    Eph 5:19 is one context. The others are:

    Mat 26:30
    Mar 14:26
    Act 16:25
    Col 3:16
    Hbr 2:12
    (Where "hymn" is mentioned in the Gospels, the Paschal Hymns are in view [Ps. 113 - 118; 136])

    Jam 5:13 Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.

    Another clue to the differences in the styles.
     
    #13 Aaron, Dec 6, 2007
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 6, 2007
  14. annsni

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    Well, I don't think "hymn" is a greek word. I think the Greeks had their own word that we TRANSLATED as "hymn". ;)
     
  15. Aaron

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    As I said in the other thread, in Eph. 5:19 it's character is contrasted with the excess and riot of drunkenness.

    Which brings me to another point I wanted to make. Hymns were generally unaccompanied.
     
  16. Alcott

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    That would rule out "Onward, Christian Soldiers" ... 'marching as to war....'
     
  17. Joshua Rhodes

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    [sarcasm] You're mistaken. "Decorum" in this context does not mean "dignified propriety of behavior" it means "peaceful, without drums or guitars, and the way I (as a traditional-worship, Bible-believing Christian) like it." [/sarcasm]
     
  18. Sopranette

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    Boldness and courage are not aggressive.

    love,

    Sopranette
     
  19. Sopranette

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    no

    love,

    Sopranette
     
  20. rbell

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    How's that again? :confused:
     

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