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What would Jesus hear?
During this time of year, overwhelmed with songs of celebration, decorations, and anticipation of Christmas, I reflect on how things were BEFORE Christmas became commercialized.
What kind of music would Jesus have heard during his short life here on Earth? If you didn’t know, Jesus was a Jewish Rabbi from the line of David and started learning scripture at a young age. Jewish Temple worship was full of music, both instrumental and vocal. Many references in the Old Testament clearly state a variety of string instruments such as the psaltery, lyre, and the harp, as well as wind instruments like the pipes, cornet, trumpet, and horn. These instruments were used for worship in the Temple with songs that we could still find today in the Book of Psalms, which was basically an early Jewish hymnal.
The harp was the instrument of choice of Biblical hero, David, author of many Psalms. It is documented that David “danced with all his strength” in front of the Ark of the Covenant. Years before the birth of Jesus, music was a prevalent force in middle-Eastern culture, so one can only assume that music evolved from that point (aside from the times that the Jewish people refused to play music because of the destruction of the Temple and the Diaspora).
Mark 14:26 states, “And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” So the New Testament undoubtedly documents that Jesus sang. What did His hymn sound like? Many scholars attest that early Christian chant (Gregorian chant) is directly influenced by Jewish Temple hymns. The same hymns that Jesus Christ probably sang before going up the mountain. Music is evolutionary, gradually developing from previous concepts, borrowing from other cultures, and changing to suit the needs of society and culture. I like to think that as a carpenter, Jesus may have made a few lutes or harps or maybe even felt the spirit enough to sing and dance like David.
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