Instrumental Music: Justin Martyr and the Instrument

Angel with harpJust a quick post to make the readers aware of a recent post by Danny Corbitt, author of Missing More Than Music: When Disputable Matters Eclipse Worship and Unity, dealing with the claim made by many, going back for centuries, that Justin Martyr condemned the use of instruments by the church.

Simply singing is not agreeable to children, but singing with the lifeless instruments and dancing and clapping; on which account the use of this kind of instrument and others agreeable to children is removed from the songs in the churches, and there is left remaining simply singing.

Corbitt concludes that for over 100 years, scholars have considered the manuscript from which this quotation is taken to be wrongly attributed to Justin. According to sources cited in the Catholic Encyclopedia, it appears likely the quotation actually was written by Diodorus of Tarsus in the 5th Century.

It is likely truly a statement made by an early Christian, but there is, of course, a huge difference between having been written in the Second Century by Justin and in the 5th Century.

It’s an interesting study by itself just to read through Danny’s footnotes to see the influence of this quotation based on the mistaken belief this is a Second Century quotation.


9 Responses

  1. Justin Martyr or Diodorus – I can’t say that it makes a difference to me. The quote seems to express a personal preference (one which also seems prejudicial against children) and unless we are willing to bestow upon either writer the mantle of inspired authorship equivalent to canonized scripture, then it is no more and no less than human preference and a teaching of man.

  2. More than a personal preference: an elitism bordering on snobbery from a leader in a religion whose Lord called us to be like little children.

  3. Jay

    Your open letter in “Profiles on Apostasy” is amusing.

    You have as much of a chance for a reply as Glen Beck’s chance that his Red Phone to the white house will ring and Obama will talk to him.

    Good luck.


  4. If Jesus opposed use of musical instruments by members of His kingdom, He forgot to say so. If apostles of Jesus opposed use of musical instruments by members of the earthly kingdom of Christ, they forgot to say so. If members of the church at some later date create an anti-instrument law, they forgot to get permission to do so. It matters not if it was the 2nd or the 5th century when someone foolishly opposed Christian use of musical instruments. They spoke out of turn. Jesus is Lord. The apostles of Jesus spoke for Him by His authority. We don’t. Church fathers in any century after the first cannot speak with God’s authority. Our goal should be to let the Bible speak in all matters of faith and practice. And nothing in the Old Testament reflects the teaching of the Lord Jesus as it applies to us who now love and serve Him.

  5. And nothing in the Old Testament reflects the teaching of the Lord Jesus as it applies to us who now love and serve Him.

    I’m sorry, Ray, but according to 2nd Timothy 3:16, that position cannot be scripturaly defended.

  6. Anyone who thinks the old covenant is only slightly modified by the new should read the book of Hebrews. As for scriptural teaching concerning things brought over into the new from the old, the conference reported on in Acts 15 concludes exactly what things are the same in both covenants, and that nothing else applies from the old. It’s a small list! As for exhortations for us to learn what is IN the old, no one should object to doing as we’re told. But we are never told to do particular things or refrain from doing particular things because the Mosaic law says so. Is that a scriptural defense?

  7. Ray,

    In all seriousness, read the Gospels or Paul and look for parallels back to the OT. Both Jesus and Paul routinely refer to the OT as supporting what they are teaching. Indeed, Paul wrote,

    (1 Tim 4:13) Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.

    (2 Tim 3:16) All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,

    In both passage, the primary reference of “Scripture” is to the OT.

    It’s not the OT remains “binding,” because we’ve been saved from law. Rather, it’s that Jesus fulfills the OT — and you can’t understand how it all fits together without the entirety of the narrative.

    I’ve found my studies deeply enriched by making a point to read the NT in light of the OT. Things make much, much better sense when you read it that way.

    Yes, Hebrews describes the new covenant as superior to the old. But he argues most of his case from the OLD! He can do it because God planted the seeds of the Old’s fulfillment in the Old.

  8. “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture”

    I’m not so sure that Paul doesn’t have at least one of the gospels, probably Luke, in mind here moreso than the OT. And it doesn’t look to me like Bro. Downen is saying that we should not read the OT but that it is not binding on the Christian. I’m as puzzled as anyone else what this has to do with the topic, but I certainly don’t think he is suggesting we should be Marcionites. If I could divine his point, however, I think he is objecting to using the Nadab and Abihu story to establish the regulative principle.

  9. I appreciate both Jay and Bob Salisar understanding my comment about Old Testament Christianity. It just isn’t there. It couldn’t be there. And Jay is 100% right that most New Testament teaching is with respect to the truth of the Old Testament writings. Paul was a Jew. His first attempts to win converts in each city were with his brother Jews, and he certainly never excluded Jews from the apostolic church. Of course not! But his message was not that Christians should follow Mosaic teachings. As Hebrews emphasizes, the teachings of Jesus are superior. Jesus also was a Jew. Every apostle was a Jew. All sought to remember God’s dealings with the Jewish nation, and then move on to the present which was God dealing with both Jews and non-Jews. What then should we declare to seekers? Why, it’s the gospel of Jesus that should be our message. What should be the chief aim in our study? Surely it’s to understand and share with others the message of the Messiah. So our message might well start with Old Testament truths. But it should never stop there but always move on to apostolic doctrine! And yes, the regulative principle is strictly Old Testament theology and has no part in Christian life.

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