PSALLO: WORD MEANINGS CHANGE. It’s called ‘etymology’, the study of how word meanings change over time. “Bad” is good, “gay” means homosexual, and “psallo” became to mean sing. Stick with me on this.
Think of the word “lyric”. Lyrics are the words of a song. Do you know what the word derived from? Etymologically, it evolved from the stringed instrument called the Lyre”. And now lyric has nothing to do with plucking a stringed instrument.
Kittle’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament studies Greek words. Typically, there will be given four different periods of Greek usage. The first meaning will the meaning in ancient “Classical” Greek as in the time of Alexander, Plato, Aristotle. The second meaning in Kittle’s dictionary will give the meaning in the Greek Old Testament (see Image 1 below), called the Septuagint (often identified only as LXX). The same word will have a new definition because it has changed etymologically. The third Kittle definition (see image 2 below) will be the New Testament “Koine” Greek meaning. And the fourth section of Kittle defintion will give extra-biblical usage outside of the New Testament.
Here’s the point. The Kittle dictionary, as well as other reliable sources, show that Greek word gives the meaning of Psallo in OT usage (LXX) “to play a stringed instrument”. Kittle then gives the New Testament definition for the word: ” singing and making melody” and Kittle adds this delicious bit of information on the word that “psallontes does not denote literally playing on a stringed instrument”. By the New Testament period, etymologically, no musical instrument is denoted in the word when used in Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16. Kittles isn’t the only authority that points this out.
The psalm become vocal music only. The first century Christian who read Paul’s words to sing Psalms got only the picture of singing and to metaphorically make music in the heart.