Songwriting and Old Testament Illiteracy

It is well-nigh impossible to master the craft of writing a Christian song without studying the works of the great hymnwriters of the past—Watts, Newton, Wesley, Crosby, Bliss, and their peers. An essay I recently read, Wesley’s Hymns Reconsidered by Bernard Manning, had this thought-provoking passage:

One part of the attractiveness of the older hymn–writers is their frequent use of proper names. They inherited this habit from their predecessors, who had simply paraphrased Holy Scripture. Paraphrasers, it is clear, had no choice. They had to take the rough with the smooth. They had to boil down the weirdest geographical and personal names into rigid metre. Dexterity in the art, once acquired, persisted; and it was bequeathed to hymn-writers.

It is by no means only in his paraphrases that Wesley uses proper names. He knew what our psychologists are now giving one another Ph.D.s for discovering by research in dark rooms with coloured slips of paper. He knew that the use of a proper name with associations may start or clinch a train of thought more effectively than a flood of colourless words will start or clinch it. To you and to me, with our beggarly knowledge of Holy Scripture, this magic is less potent than it was to Wesley. What was once moving may seem to us only quaint. Even you and I, it is true, can pick up a reference to the Church as Sion or Jerusalem, a reference to death as Jordan, a reference to heaven as Canaan. But how much farther can we go? What does a modern congregation make of

None is like Jeshurun’s God?

We may not have got to the pass of the undergraduate who politely enquired, ‘Yes, but who was Jehovah?’ but, if we are honest, many of us might ask, ‘Who was Jeshurun?’ In the hymn beginning

O Great Mountain, who art thou,
Immense, immovable?

how many will catch the reference in the line

My Zerubbabel is near?

More easy are the allusions in the following:

In soft Laodicean ease
We sleep our useless lives away


Less grievous will the judgment–day
To Sodom and Gomorrah prove.

and (as we used to be allowed to sing in ‘O for a thousand tongues’)

Cast all your sins into the deep,
And wash the Aethiop white.

But this is more difficult:

Take when Thou wilt into Thy hands,
And as Thou wilt require;
Resume by the Chaldean bands,
Or the devouring fire.

This essay was delivered in 1939, more than seventy years ago, and it is safe to aver that the situation has not improved since.

One point worth noting, clearly evident from the citations and from similar but rare instances in Southern Gospel songwriting (such as the Lo Debar reference in Ricky Atkinson’s “Feasting at the Table of the King”), is that most of the obscure references and allusions are to the Old Testament. Many New Testament allusions, no matter how obscure, are familiar to church audiences today, but Old Testament references can be another story.

Should Southern Gospel songwriters—and more widely, any Christian songwriter of this generation—only use references that will be widely understood? Or should the songwriter attempt to do what the preacher sometimes does not, and use a song to build Biblical literacy?

Furthermore, while a singer/songwriter can explain a song before each performance, any song with lasting value will ultimately be sung by someone other than its writer. So writers cannot count on there always being someone to explain every reference. So should Old Testament references and allusions that may not be all that widely known only be used when there is sufficient space in the song to provide context?

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  1. In short, yes. (But I don’t have time to support my opinion right now.) I really enjoyed this post and the quote.

    Jeshurun went beyond me without looking it up. Zerubbabel I believe I got, although it didn’t jumpstart anything emotional 😀 and I ought to look it up too. (I’m not saying here who he was in case anyone else wants to test their memory.)

    • May I ask – To which of the three closing questions were you saying yes?

      • Sorrrry. I read too fast. I should have waited to comment.

        The second one, really. I think that building context is desirable, but I left out the “only” in reading your last question.

        If it’s an obscure reference and will obscure the meaning of the song to people that don’t know the reference, it’s probably not the best idea to use it (unless a “singer/songwriter” does it with the intent of explaining). But in many cases most people would catch the general meaning of the song, and the reference would be “the icing on the cake” for those who got it. (Like Lo Debar.) It might even encourage people who didn’t know to look it up!

      • I see – that makes sense!

  2. Daniel…this issue is close to my heart. And I have a great Scripture cite for your question, from the Apostle Paul, in Colossians 3:16: “…TEACHING and ADMONISHING one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs”. The songwriter will never replace the preacher, but we have a responsibility to write songs that will teach, edify, uplift, encourage, draw the lost to Christ, and glorify God…and hope that some folks who would never go to church will hear something in a song on the radio that will draw them in. And if there’s a term someone doesn’t understand, I like the idea others had to look it up. The Old Testament is FULL of great material for Gospel songs…all the way back to the Garden – where GRACE first came to the human race, praise God!! Yes, I’m passionate about this one. Blessings to all…Dianne.

    • I hoped you’d notice this post, since I knew you would have something valuable to contribute to the discussions. 🙂

      I could not agree more.

      • One that comes to mind is the old song which states, “I raise up my Ebenezer.” If someone does not do a study as to what that is, then it really has no meaning. It’s sad that our

      • Oops
        It’s sad that our culture and times have gotten to the point we are.

      • Well, I don’t think that one line you don’t understand in a song ruins it for you, if you understand the rest. If you understand and like the rest, hopefully you pull out your concordance!

      • Waz ‘at?

        “Is it a plane?” 🙂

      • You misunderstood. It didn’t “ruin” if for me at all. It is the fact that most people in the pews have no concept of the richness of many of our old hymns.

        As a pastor of over 30 years, the concordance is a handy tool, but I’ve committed much to memory.:)

  3. Somebody did ask lately, “Is this post relevant?” – but who would dare to gainsay this essayette brother Daniel?

    I would, in short rejoin; NO, YES, and a qualified NO.

    The context of the Wesleyan /Methodist era in Britain – and the New England Colonies appropriately enough through the poineering work of George Whitefield – in the mid 1700’s, would lend weight to my responses, I think.

    When the Wesleys broke away from the then heterodoxy of the Established Church in England, the scriptural literacy of the working man was possibly LESS than today. Extemporare preaching was illegal, as was preaching in the open air, so it is fairly safe to presume that the language and imagery [as quoted above] would have needed expounded in parallel sermon.

    Maybe Liner Notes on CD might be expanded to explain O.T literary analogy? :-)!

    BTW. I have seen the last quoted hymn written as; “Resume by the Sabean bands / Or the devouring fire” – which in the O.T. circumstance referred to is more chronologically correct!

    Nice post Daniel! Could be an enlightening discourse on the way….

    • I like those historical notes. I hadn’t thought about it from that perspective of the uneducated audiences those songs were originally intended for.

      “They say” that the Methodist revival was two-pronged – the messages and doctrine as preached by John Wesley, and the hymns of Charles Wesley bringing it home emotionally – but obviously teaching as well.

      • Correctly the “Methodist Revival” was THREE pronged – both Wesleys in the roles you mention Amy, but just as significantly Whitefield, who not only helped to beat out a chapter of Reformation Theology in a very robust relationship with John Wesley, but also was instrumental in spreading the same message in New England – forming the basis for much Revival work on your side of the Atlantic.

        The records indicate that Whitefield pioneered simultaneously in England / Scotland AND New England – he crossed the Atlantic 18 times in a quater century – possibly a record for a non-naval passenger, never mind a man of the cloth!

        When we consider the relatively obscure rhetoric of a classic sermon such as Jonathan Edwards, “Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God” – we come to appreciate the need for didactic hymnody at that time, and the value of wedding O.T. imagery to modern circumstance and relevance.

        We should be humbled by comparisons with such spiritual epochs, “There were giants in the land in those days…”

      • OK, I remembered something about putting Whitefield in there but couldn’t think how it went. I think it’s something like –

        Whitefield – Highly emotional sermons, strong rhetoric that affected the hearers
        Wesley (John, but to me he’s The Wesley) – Theology, forced to confirm to a high standard of “Biblicalness” and logic, strong leadership and vision
        Charles Wesley – The sweet psalmist of Methodism

        You’re knowledgeable enough that you probably are already aware that many of our divisions into Charles’ or John’s hymns are guesswork. Their early hymnals were joint productions, and we’ve just ascribed most of the translations to John and the originals to Charles. But that probably isn’t completely correct or reliable.

      • Do I sense a veiled compliment Amy? That’s nice sister!

        Personally I see the chain-of-influence as running from George W [not THAT one] to John W through to Charles W.

        Most historians would cede the primary catalyst influence to Whitefield, though the Methodist strain is predominantly known as “Wesleyan”. Be that as it may, I imagine Charles as the refiner of the hymnody rushed out by John in origin, so the final influence may be accredited to Charles, not the other way round.

        Partly speculative, as you say, but we could learn a lot from revisiting that reformative era.

        A lot of slippage from there to now!

      • Yes, I agree with everything you said, actually. However, Whitefield seems to have … moved into a parallel field so early in the history of the movement that I don’t think of him as much in connection with the movement.

        But of course the tremendous influence (catalyst was a good description) is obvious. He was, I believe, first to “get saved”; he nudged John into open-air preaching … He probably deserves more credit than he did. John was really the leader of the movement, though, and a more deciding influence in the final product. (In My Opinion)

      • Meanwhile, “all’s well that ends well” is a perfect case in point for the case I was making in my previous comment.

        Assertions by Nixon and other modern-day politicians withstanding, the ends do not justify the means. I am an opponent of moral relativism, and no, I do not use that phrase. 🙂

      • Amy – I hadn’t known that. Incredibly fascinating! I need to study their hymnwriting even more; this book was a start, enough to whet my interest. 🙂

      • Our movement is known as the “Wesleyan Holiness Association,” so in my late teens and early twenties I dug into the Wesleys pretty extensively. I actually have read all of Wesley’s four-volume journal, his 52 standard sermons, and many other assorted writings from that time. Also Charles Wesley’s journal from 1736-38. I have Whitefield’s from that time period sitting on my shelf, but haven’t used it. Also some assorted biographies. And Wesley’s Veterans, a series of mini-autobiographies written by the circuit riders of that time.

        I hope that doesn’t sound boastful – I’ve done so to the neglect of more “recent” history. It’s just the area that interests me. But it is neat to get you to say “I hadn’t known that” once in a while 😆 (I think I used to seriously have the goal of knowing everything, but when I got a little more mature I had to give up and specialize.)

      • I’ve known as long as I can remember that I was cut out to be a specialist!

        I’m just growing increasingly interested in expanding my specialties to include English-language Christian hymnody. I remember a few thousand songs off the top of my head, but I’m the first to say that I don’t know all of them, or everything about their writers! 🙂

  4. On a more contemporary level, I think the lesser known Cat’s Tribute song, “God Delivers Again” is a good modern example of O.T. history and analogy not only referred to but, to some degree, expounded in the verses.

    The opening lines,

    “Standing there at the Red Sea
    God’s people began to complain” –

    is an opener not only for a good lyric, but for 1,500 years of Jewish history!

    BTW. I don’t know any other Ronald Payne lyrics, but this is sound theology in well structured verse!

    • I like that song. A lot. 😀

      • Me too! The lyric really grabs you, it should be a radio single for the boys [only joking about the Dance Troupe], if not Song of the Year.

        The opening couplet of the second stanza,

        “we’ll never bow to your idols,
        The Hebrew Children exclaimed”

        is classic – first time I heard it, I thought it was still set in the Exodus saga, until I caught the next couplet – so perfectly is nigh on 1,000 years of national history book-ended in two stanzas!

        The historical pathos is all the more striking – the faith of Moses at the Exodus, linked with the faith of the princely trio in the Exile – set against the background of pure antagonism against Jehovah. So Pharoah and the Chaldean monarch are linked as examples of how “The Most High God rules in the kingdoms of men”.

        The grammatic license [to pull in another recent thread] employed to push the supplementary verb to the end of the query,

        “Did we not cast those three men
        into the furnace bound?
        I see four men, loose in the fire,
        Unhurt and they’re walking around!”

        is hardly likely to cloud the exhortative theology. Praise the Lord!

      • I guess I’m not seeing the grammatical license there. In full, the verse reads, “The king said, ‘Did we not cast three men into that furnace bound? But I see four men, loose in the fire, unhurt, and they’re walking around!” Seems grammatical to me.

        Anyway, completely agree it would make a terrific single! Be watching for my positive comments of it in the review (coming to a southerngospelblog near you some time around the twelve days of Christmas…)

      • “three men bound,..”
        or, “three bound men…”

        would be correct grammatic order 🙂 unless I am mistaken NSF, but as it stands not only does the rhyme scheme benefit, but “bound” and “walking around” are also a neat drammatic contrast!

        Much respect goes to quality song writing, & sound theological analogy – which epitomises what Daniel is after here – I think!

        If a Dougie fan asks, “What four men?” so much the better indeed!!

      • and before you come back with a tongue in cheeky put-down;

        I know ERNIE sings the second stanza! LOL

      • “four men into that furnace bound” “four men bound into the furnace”

        Naaaah… I don’t call that grammatical license. Getting lost and forgetting you got a sentence to finish is one thing. This here is small potatoes as well as genuinely good poetry. 😉

      • Lets not go back to ICA et al.

        We on “Higher Ground” here!

      • I’ve never been able to get past the bad rhyme in the first verse. In fact, I hadn’t even really listened to the rest of the song! Embarrassing, I know, but every now and then any of us (any careful observer, which the active participants in this conversation are) can get distracted by the details.

      • Daniel, you being very nit-picky bro, don’t you think?

        Anyway, it works when sung – it is only a wee bit flaky on paper, AND, the theology IS good!

        …Not to mention the Hammond B3 in the studio cut, awesome!!

      • Now are you intentionally doing a parody of the ICA discussion, or are you serious? 🙂

        “complain” and “again” aren’t anywhere close to rhyming in my vernacular, though, come to think of it, I have heard one person say the latter word “uh-GAYYN,” so maybe it would work if that person sang the song.

      • Just went into I tunes for a wee listen [love that Hammond!], it sounds OK with a bass lead 🙂

        And, no bro, I wasn’t parodying anything else, or less. I seriously don’t think “complain” and “again” generate an aural stumbling block!

        “That’s a good song!”

        BTW, On “Life will be Sweeter” – am I the only guy in creation distracted in that song waitin’ for Roger to bang the piano? It is soo part of the song in my head!!

  5. The first thing that comes to my mind is “Come Thou Fount.”

    Here I raise my Ebenezer
    Hither by thy help I’ve come.

    Interesting that the only place where I’ve seen a significant variant on these lyrics is in this verse, and it’s replacing the Ebenezer line/thought with something more accessible:

    Hitherto thy love has blessed me
    Thou hast drawn me to this place.

    Regarding the overall question, I would say it’s fine as long as it’s not over-done. If it makes good poetry, and it doesn’t just sound like an awkward OT name/reference shoved in there to make the writer feel smart, go for it. As long as it’s not overdone, it’s fine.

    • Fun fact: that was not an original verse of the song.

    • The Ebenezer reference was there originally, right? I know the hymn has been altered quite a bit, and in fact there’s a better chance that renditions in any two separate hymnals will disagree rather than agree.

      • The thread got away from the substantive threefold motion postulated above by DJM, which is a bit of a pity….

        [though one anonymous initialist is the usual suspect hereabouts]

        The original post was rather excellent Daniel, I am surprised more SG bloggers didn’t respond. As Dianne concurred, it IS a very worthy point of debate.

        BTW: I would recommend some of the early Don Francisco lyrics as excellent contemporary examples of this genre.

        “Unashamed and naked, in a garden that had never seen the rain.
        Rulers of a kingdom full of joy, never marred by any pain.
        The morning all around them seems to celebrate the life they’ve just begun,
        And in the majesty of innocence the king and queen come walking in the sun.”

        [Actually the second stanza is even better :-)]

      • I remember that song!

        Though if the Garden of Eden count as an obscure OT reference, modern day Christendom is in even worse shape than I was expecting!

      • Maybe not bro,

        But, original sin, the fall of man, the loss of creational headship, the subtlety and deception of satan, and not least the desire of the Father for His children to be reconciled to Him, through the triumph of Calvary –

        never mind a Creator and a perfect Creation; these are all, in the main, tenuously held and timidly taught today!

        “The master of deception then begins with his dissection of the Word.
        And with all his craft and subtlety the serpent twists the simple truth they’d heard.
        And hanging in the balance is a world that has been placed at their command,
        And all their unborn children die, as both of them bow down to satan’s hand.”

        Brilliant what? A lyricist at his peak, and sung with powerful weight.
        [An don’t you dare tell me Daniel that “Word” & “heard” don’t rhyme!]

  6. OFF MESSAGE – Daniel, can the technology add an “auto-update” to the site?

    When I am on the computer, and minimizing SG Blog to do some work, I gotta hit “Refresh” continually to see any new comments.

    • WordPress has avoided that, because so many people around the country and world are on dial-up connections, and it could crash their connection – keep them from ever seeing the page if it starts reloading before it’s done.

      • Ahh! Enlightened, weee goooot sloooooow naarrroow band hereabouts, but we paying for 1st World “Broad Band”, and it capped too.

        Can’t listen to SG Streamed Radio Stations any more! At least we got Daniel’s Den, a very fine Blog :-)! Truly appreciate it too!

  7. what a great post Daniel! I’m gonna check with some wise men, wise women, scholars and a prophet who lives in a cave just outside of town on this topic and I will reply later. 🙂

    • 😆

      Speaking of that prophet, if you live anywhere the midwest/East/mid-south in the US, take the prophet an extra blanket when you consult him. He probably needs it, with these temperatures.

  8. Yes that is very true. We actually did that with a church ministry a couple years ago, what a great ministry. Sad to see so many without a place to live, we have a lot to be thankful for.

  9. Yes Wesley wrote a few. As well as Luther. 🙂

    • I was referring to a weekly commitment (to accompany sermons).

  10. I appreciate this blog, Daniel, thanks for maintaining it!

    Some of the best advice I was ever given by an award-winning songwriter is to write songs that relate to the most number of people possible. If you can do that, you’ve hit a home run.

    If I write a song with the theme of “get back to doing it God’s way”, and use the story of God’s displeasure when David transported the Ark on a cart versus the proper way (Levite shoulders), I bet hardly anyone will make the connection.

    The lyrics of a song like that would edify so few people making it hardly worth the songwriter’s time. So simpler is better, and songwriters would serve listeners much better by leaving the obscure allusion out of their music.

    • No problem!

      By the way: I believe there have been several noted songwriters who wrote a song each week. John Newton may have been one of them – to accompany his sermon. Not sure about the Wesleys or others.

  11. I wouldn’t say I’m the only songwriter to write a new song every week, I’m very confident that there are many songwriters that dwarf this production. (I usually crank out 3 or 4 per week).

    For all the looking I’ve done, I haven’t found anyone who has morphed the idea of writing a new song every week with posting it as fresh blog content. That’s the uniqueness I was trying to secure to myself. Vanity of vanities all is vanity. Haha!

    • Very obscure O.T. quote bro! Good insertion!!

      [some may even think it Shakespeare]

    • Adam – Now that does sound more unique! You’re at least the first in Southern Gospel

      • Daniel,

        For 1/2 a second bro, I thought you were attributing the “vanity of vanities…” quote to Adam, as in Eden – not as in Tigges!!

        I thought you were pulling a seriously long chain!!
        🙂 🙂 🙂

        Actually, TEST CASE:

        WHO SAID?
        WHICH O.T BOOK?

        [comments below refer]

      • “Not Shakespeare; Adam”

        You know bros, and sisters, much of the humor / humour on this blog site comes for cross-posting [as Amy knows],

        The above is a classic. It puts a very big grin on my face. 🙂 Blessings to all!

      • To answer your question, I do know – Solomon said it in Ecclesiastes.

      • Tsk Dan!

        I knew you knew.

        It would be nice to see an honest straw poll among commentors/readers as to how many DIDN’T know?

        I did have to take a peak in the concordance to refresh me on the proper meaning of “Jeshurun”, in the headline essay – so admitting ignorance is not a problem,if we take the opportunity to increase our biblical knowledge.

        [I could see the likes of Michael Booth handling some explanatory biblical asides very smoothly!]

      • I didn’t know Jeshurun off the top of my head, either.

        Hmm. Come up with ten really good examples, say half obscure references from well-known hymns or SG songs and half from lesser known songs, and email them to me, and I’ll post it. 🙂

      • Without looking any further than your comment, it’s the book of Ecclesiastes, and presumably Solomon (although in the current state of conspiracy theories we’re in, it may have been Shakespeare. I could see Shakespeare writing the Song of Solomon. That may explain my mom’s dilemma. Oops, back to topic.)

      • Ha Amy, soo irreverant – but I do know what you mean, don’t know your Mum’s problem though 🙂 maybe we shouldn’t speculate?

      • I didn’t want to be irreverent. But my mom seriously doesn’t believe that Canticles was supposed to be in the Bible. (Adam Clarke, a Methodist Bible commentator from the 1800s, also believed that, so she’s not entirely without excuse.)

  12. Oh I see. (Filling in more space)

    • Ira Sankey would often write hymns for D.L. Moody’s services take “The Ninety and Nine” that one was a poem, that Sankey tried to have Moody read, but he didn’t ever take time. The next Sunday morning Moody’s sermon was on “The Good Shepherd” and Sankey didn’t have a song. So he pulled out the poem from his pocket and struck the key of Ab on the organ, and the music has never been changed since.

      As for the O.T.references take the song “Sweet Hour of Prayer” and the lines:

      “Till, from Mount Pisgah’s lofty height,
      I view my home and take my flight:”

      Most people know what that refers to but not everyone, its just another one of those I personally LOVE O.T. references in songs and “God Delivers Again” is a really good song Daniel, you should give it a chance. Of course not to be secular but; the song “Coal Miners Daughter” now if you want to hear some off-rhyming try that take the words “tired” and “hard”…wow its a good song, but grammatically it can be torture. I am from Southwestern VA where accents are very heavy, and where we(as a region) have very interesting diction/enunciation. I personally try to refrain from it as much as possible.

      • Wow topic bouncing much…I apologize haha!!! I was trying to address all the posts I saw. I agree with pretty much everything everyone has said. (=

      • Shane, I like your enthusiasm bro!

        Serious note:

        I think almost ALL the commentors on this post are way over-presuming on the general O.T. Bible knowledge of the average church / gospel concert audience – unless the US is greatly blessed, above all the nations?

        We are speaking of “pew” awareness, not “pulpit” knowledge – and to be fair most here would tend to be in the clued up sector [or they probably wouldn’t be here :-)].

        Maybe we can test that –

        “‘Til from Mount Pisgah’s lofty height,
        I view my home and take my flight.”

        WHICH HOME?

        [clue: not an airport]


        [without looking up concordance/O.T.]

      • I know who! But then, I’m biased and have an advantage, since I was homeschooled and grew up knowing . . . and it’s kept at the forefront of my mind due to living in an area with a mountain named after Pisgah.

      • Where at – across the Jordan from Jericho, I assume
        Who – Moses
        Which home – our heavenly home is what you mean?
        Flight where – to Heaven

      • Shane – on that Mount Pisgah reference – I don’t know how common knowledge of that one is, but it’s one of my favorite non-obvious OT references in any song!

        In fact, it’s part of the reason I was so excited to move to the Asheville, NC area. There are two main mountains here that everyone knows – Mount Mitchell and Mount Pisgah. The latter is indeed named after the Biblical exemplar.

        …yet, on arriving here, I found that many area Christians do not know the story. For goodness’ sakes!

      • Which rather proves my point Daniel!

        In relation to the quoted essay in the entry post, I would have thought “Pisgah” was an easier guess than most.

        To bring us back to your original queries:

        I DO think that good gospel songs/hymns should be used to build scriptural, O.T. literacy, even if a little side comment in concert or linked sermon is needed to enlighten.

        We are getting so deeply morassed in superficial pseudo-christian expression, which could often in another genre pass as anonymous love songs, that a re-statement of historical Biblical truth would be of benefit in SGM

        Perhaps we can reverse the trend of the 18th and 19th century hymnologists:

        Rather than writing hymns to fit sermons, we should advocate sermons to expound the newly expressed theology in song?

        [A message on the “Five Mountain Experiences of Moses” would follow nicely from the “Pisgah” couplet! 🙂

      • Comment of the week!

        Great thoughts. I couldn’t agree more!

      • Hey, that’s neat! Much appreciated bro Daniel J. Mount…

        [pun lurking in there somewhere??]

        Are we two alone; should not Moses have an Aaron alongside his Hur?

      • Even if she doesn’t have time to read all the comments, I’m sure Dianne Wilkinson could match and, if she was so minded, blow us away. (Fact is, in that threesome of Bible students, with how many years she’s spent studying the Word, you and I would be Aaron and Hur!)

      • Well I suggested DJ and DM as supporters of the central stalwart, which – in context – if you want to suggest as Dianne W, is OK with me!

        I don’t claim to write ANY hymnology ny the way!!

        Now we need a Joshua to take the fight against a dusty dogged Amalek.

      • Ah!

      • Quite so, bro. [WP filler :-)]

      • My dad had a couple of Amish guys working for him in Missouri once. They drove by a hill (presumably a large one) named Mt. Pisgah, and Daddy jokingly warned “Mose” not to get too close. He didn’t get it at all!

      • Ouch!

        But I know that social Christianity, people who attend church but aren’t at all serious about the faith, is regrettably present in Amish churches as in most/all others.

  13. I like the Gaither song from Exodus 10:26 ‘Not a hoof shall be left behind’ I would love to hear the new sounds that the hot groups of today could put on this little tune. Also on this topic I was lying in bed last night thinking about this (SAD I KNOW) 🙂 some advice to all writers if you’re gonna pull a thought from the O.T. I would think it would be easier to use a variety of versions as well, such as the NIV or even The Message.

    • AAAARGH! SOP bro, you gonna expound the theology of Wesley by the rap-chat of the Message?

      Interesting point though, in all seriousness. Where in Bible version do we go to make the obscure hynmody intelligible to the uninitiated?

      I guess explaining Wesley’s hymnody form the good KJV, is to many still, “looking through a glass darkly”!

      BTW: I would recommend the NASB or the ESV above those you mention, for clarity of language coupled with good textual accuracy.

  14. LOL I agree 100% D-Mac The KJV is the way to go I actually got a little rebuke in my heart for encouraging people to use another version other then KJV, but that being said I just think it would be hard to write a song about Isaiah 11:8 hard to add “cockatrice” in a song today, as well as Numbers 23:22 “Unicorn” probably would raise some eyebrows in a majority of churches.

    By the way I still believe the KJV is the greatest translation ever, It cracks me up when I visit a Church that quotes the “Lords Prayer” in KJV but then the Rev. gets up and preaches from some un-known translation and bashes KJV somebody just needs to make the KJV cool again, it’s all about being cool! Maybe GaGa, or Bono??? 🙁

    • Hmmmmm. “greatest translation”, hard to defend that traditional position SOP bro.

      The KJV was a massive step forward in comprehensible “language of the people” translation, in it’s day, and continued to be revised until the 1750’s – which is the version we know, not “1611”.

      In historical textual significance it probably ranks behind Tyndale’s – of which over 90% of the N.T. parallels.

      BUT, having said that, to explain the background of Wesleyan hymnody etc, the KJV is an excellent source text. Thereafter moving into modern versions the path is a bit “rough and steep”!

  15. exactly D-Mac but the KJV is still the “greatest translation” that we have today from the original transcripts. also it was translated by men who were under the authority of King James. so there would seem to be a lot of pressure to get it right! Many go as far to say that the men who translated it we’re inspired by the “Holy Spirit” just the same as the accredited authors themselves. I better quit, this blog is about SGM don’t want to get side tracked. What’s some good songs taken from the O.T. in SGM from the last 10 years?

    • I am a big proponent of the traditional text, on which the KJV, Geneva, Webster, and NKJV are based. It’s far more reliable, based on a much broader spectrum of the evidence, and (unlike the modern/critical text) is actually internally coherent.

      A couple of years ago, I actually took every single textual variation in Matthew or Mark, I forget which, significant enough to be listed in the NA27 (Nestle-Aland 27th Edition) textual apparatus. Then I took the twelve manuscripts (out of thousands) closest to the modern text, the twelve that the modern text would find most reliable.

      The thing is, they all give traditional readings here and there, semi-randomly, suggesting that the modern text is a corruption from the traditional text rather than the other way around. In fact, these traditional readings are sprinkled throughout the modern text’s best witnesses, that in two-thirds of these variants, even if you were only looking at the modern text’s twelve most reliable witnesses, in every instance of a variance, at least one of the twelve gives the traditional reading.

      But that’s not all. Just taking the modern text’s twelve strongest witnesses alone, the traditional reading would still be in the majority two-thirds of the time, and (just from these twelve) another 10%-15% are a tie.

      So the modern text is such an incoherent and unsupportable position that, even taking only its twelve strongest witnesses, the reading selected by the NA27 editors is in the majority only 15%-20% of the time.

      I kid you not.

      (None of you knew that I cared this much about that issue, did you? Well, now the cat is out of the bag, I guess!)

      • Preach it Bro Daniel!

        The rehabilitation of the “Majority Text” due to the now quite well accepted down-grading of the NA apparatus by non-biased linguistic critics, is an unfortunate truth for the proponents of the many and varied “modern translations”.

        Their “house on the sand” textual basis does not a good foundation make even for a 21st Century version!

        It is very well worthwhile reading the PREFACE of Bibles appearing new on the bookshelves today. A mention of “TR” or “Majority” in the foreword [even if political correctness demands a parallel nod to “NA27”] usually indicates that, if the manuscripts are divergent, the TR has been followed. “NA27” without reference to any other manuscript stream is a good warning light to go by!

        The “English Standard Version” of 2001, stands out in this regard, above even the NKJV.

        A wee bit “off-post” but for hymnodic references in context, I still feel the KJV is a necessary source text.

      • Yes, the KJV is necessary for a full appreciation of the grand truths of English-language hymnody.

        The ESV that’s promoted in the States, by Crossway, is actually based on the NA27/critical text. I’ve heard enough good about it that I would check it out if it wasn’t a critical text version.

      • Have a good comparitive analysis Daniel, and check the preface – there is a degree of “PC” in the reference to ’27.

        The preface is carefully worded, and in quite a few “land-mine” verses, it is quite clear the TR stream has precedence. Not quite up to the NASB standard, but by a long shot the most recommendable of modern English Versions – about 1000% better than Petersen!

    • SOP, I would support your stance, though I would quibble with a few elements of your argument :-)!

      In fact the “pressure” from the state, ecclesiastical as well as monarchical, did in some cases work the opposite way.

      But as you say, this is a SG blog, not a Bible History one – unless Daniel, since his confession, gets a “Bible History Blog” up and running.

      I would go there for sure!

      • I’m thinking “book,” not “blog,” here. 🙂

  16. Ok here we go just a little more! hehehehe 🙂 before the Geneva we have Greek to Latin which was the Vulgate this was used for about 1,000 years. Then came John Wycliff he and friends prepared a English Bible for the “common folk” then 100 years later printing was invented.Then there was a man named William Tynedale who prepared an English Bible which actually cost him his life. Then we have 86 years of rapid production after 1525 First Coverdate’s, Matthews, Taverner’s, The Great Bible, then Geneva, the Bishop’s Bible, the Rheims-Douay, and finally the King James in 1611 which had revisions in 1615, 1629, 1638 corrections in errors in type, spelling, and translation were addressed. then again in 1653, 1701, 1762, and 1769 by Dr. Blayney of Oxford in 1769 which is the standard form which we have today. I’m boring myself sorry!

    • Oh, of course I knew that the “1611 KJV” we use today is really a 1769 KJV. I even have a 1611 KJV (reprint) in my personal collection.

      (And yes, I could have told you the year off the top of my head!)

  17. We sound like we lost the plot here, BUT;

    I would argue a causal link between much of CCM lyrics and the popular paraphrase “Bibles” of the 20th Century.

    I don’t know if SGM is the KJV of gospel music? But, there is no doubt that the history of hymnody, rich in O.T. analogy, can only be properly studied, understood and absorbed within a working knowledge of the parallel history of the KJV.

  18. Daniel I wasn’t trying to up you, I was just giving a little detail thats all. Let us come to the conclusion of this matter, what matters most is if we OBEY the WORD OF GOD thats what it really boils down to.

  19. 147 comments in 2 days?

    This has to be some kind of a record here, especially for something other than a huge news story.

    • I was going to say something similar, but refrained, lest it turned out to be two years? 🙂 :-)!!

      • I know when the news is “thin” Daniel, you like to stir the pot with a good debating line [then shut the shop for half a day to heat the sauce], but this was a GOOD opener!

        Plenty more could yet be said…

      • Also “Gold City Revolving Line-Up Rolls Again” is sadly not even big news!

        The glory days there seem long gone, maybe the nostalgia trip at the NQC was a bad omen!

      • David – I’ve only closed comments two times that I can think of. 🙂

      • Well bro I don’t remember the first, but the most recent capping of your well gave rise to blow-outs on every/avery SG Blog in cyberspace, with more links than Scottish golf! 🙂

        Good result!!

      • The first was before your time, but if you look around for long enough, you would find it. 🙂

      • The resident grammarian is going to comment on my mangled metaphors!!!

      • You canceled them on a day in early January two years ago, as I remember (and I agreed with you). Was that the only time?

      • Nope. 🙂 I figured there probably was a time or two I was forgetting. The time I was thinking of was the post I did on Obama’s inauguration day.

        I just didn’t have the time or energy to get dragged into a knock-down-drag-out political debate. I’m probably the most conservative person in any of the discussions here, but at the same time I wanted to address the historic nature of the fact that our country could go from segregation to a black man in the office in less than a lifetime.

      • Yeah, that’s what I was referring to. Maybe there weren’t any other times.

      • Oh, OK. 🙂