As a source material to prove his case that psallo in New Testament times could include or imply the use of musical instruments, some go to Clement of Alexandria as a supposed source material for support of musical instruments in the early church. Clement, early 3rd century A.D., in his treatise appeals for heathens to leave their pagan reveling and idolatrous worship. Below I offer two sections from that treatise and it will be clear that Clement DOES NOT encourage the heathen to use the lyre and harp in Christian song.
First quote speaks of lyre as a metaphor as he speaks of mountains and trees and the daughters of God, these maidens “strike the lyre”.
Clement: “I would invite him to the sobriety of salvation; for the Lord welcomes a sinner’s repentance, and not his death. Come, O madman, not leaning on the thyrsus, not crowned with ivy; throw away the mitre, throw away the fawn-skin; come to thy senses. I will show thee the Word, and the mysteries of the Word, expounding them after thine own fashion. This is the mountain beloved of God, not the subject of tragedies like Cithæron, but consecrated to dramas of the truth,—a mount of sobriety, shaded with forests of purity; and there revel on it not the Mænades, the sisters of Semele, who was struck by the thunderbolt, practising in their initiatory rites unholy division of flesh, but the daughters of God, the fair lambs, who celebrate the holy rites of the Word, raising a sober choral dance. The righteous are the chorus; the music is a hymn of the King of the universe. The maidens strike the lyre, the angels praise, the prophets speak; the sound of music issues forth, they run and pursue the jubilant band; those that are called make haste, eagerly desiring to receive the Father.” A man who tried to convince this author that the early church used instruments of music uses this reference as a positive reference from Clement to play the lyre with their choral dancing. But this is metaphor, for consider the second quote.
Clement in the same treatise: “And He who is of David, and yet before him, the Word of God, despising the lyre and harp, which are but lifeless instruments, and having tuned by the Holy Spirit the universe, and especially man,—who, composed of body and soul, is a universe in miniature,—makes melody to God on this instrument of many tones; and to this instrument—I mean man—he sings accordant: “For thou art my harp, and pipe, and temple.”—a harp for harmony—a pipe by reason of the Spirit—a temple by reason of the word; so that the first may sound, the second breathe, the third contain the Lord.”
“The Word of God” despises the lyre and harp! Clement is clearly NOT speaking of the pure and spiritual worship of the church having musical instruments. The instrument he says, “for thou are my harp, and pipe, and temple”. The maidens, daughters of God, are singing and they are the lyre and harp: “for thou are my harp”. That seals the deal. This metaphorical language is intended to contrast with the reveling music of the heathen. Do not twist Clement to be supporting what he was not.
This reference is now exposed. Clement does not support the position that the early church used and sanctioned the use of musical instruments.
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