A Word in Edgewise

The first generation of Christ followers gathered regularly in house
churches for instruction, encouragement and worship. A central part of
these gatherings was the chanting and singing of hymns. Explicit
reference to the use of hymns in the Christian church is found in Paul’s
admonition to sing psalms (psalmoi), hymns (humnoi) and
spirituals songs (ōdē) with gratitudeto God (Col 3:16; cf. Eph
5:19-20). These three terms likely refer to the practice of using the
biblical Psalter along with distinctly Christian compositions. The
worship of God with hymns had its immediate background in Jewish synagogue
practices. Psalms, particularly messianic psalms, were used by early
believers to express uniquely Christian perspectives on God’s recent actions in
the world. Likewise, Eph 1:3-14 is constructed on a Jewish hymn-pattern known
as the berakah (“blessed is . . . “). While the pattern is clearly
Jewish, the author used…

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