Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs

Those Christians who do not sing psalms only in the worship of God often point out the verse, Eph 5:19 (emphasis added):

Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;

A quick glance at Ephesians 5:19 would seem to commend the practice of singing man-made hymns. However, it is wise to be careful with God’s Word, and to let Scripture interpret Scripture. When we look at the book of psalms, we find that there are categories of psalms:

  • psalms
  • hymns
  • spiritual songs

I came across the following interesting information on psalms, hymns and spiritual songs as I was using the study tools provided by the Blue Letter Bible.

Divers names are given to the psalms. ( 1.) Some bear the Hebrew designation _shir_ ( Gr. ode, a song). Thirteen have this title. It means the flow of speech, as it were, in a straight line or in a regular strain. This title includes secular as well as sacred song.

( 2.) Fifty-eight psalms bear the designation ( Heb.) _mitsmor_ ( Gr. psalmos, a psalm), a lyric ode, or a song set to music; a sacred song accompanied with a musical instrument.

( 3.) ( Psa 145), and many others, have the designation ( Heb.) _tehillah_ ( Gr. hymnos, a hymn), meaning a song of praise; a song the prominent thought of which is the praise of God.

This is taken from

Easton’s Bible Dictionary, the Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition, by Matthew George Easton M.A., D.D. (1823-1894), published three years after Easton’s death in 1897 by Thomas Nelson. Because of its age, it is now a public domain resource. Despite its name, many of the entries in Easton’s are encyclopedic in nature, though there are short, dictionary-like entries. It contains nearly 4,000 entries.

Easton’s Bible Dictionary contains an extensive set of entries used in the Bible, from a 19th century Christian viewpoint. Some of the entries in it are now out-of-date, many are only short dictionary entries, but much remains that is useful source material.

The information on Easton’s Bible Dictionary is taken from its entry on Wikipedia.

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