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date: 22 January 2021

Biblical instrumentslocked

  • Joachim Braun


The various musical instruments mentioned in the Bible (Old and New Testaments). The nature and significance of the biblical instruments has been the subject of considerable discussion from the early Middle Ages onwards. The following article focusses on the meaning of the words as they appear in the original languages of the various biblical texts (Heb., Aramaic, Gk.), using archaeological evidence and other literary sources to establish as far as possible the identity of the individual terms; it also addresses the interpretation of other musical terminology in the Bible. (See also Jewish music, §II.)

References to particular biblical passages follow the Revised Standard Version and the abbreviation IAA is used for the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The controversy surrounding the identity and significance of the ‘biblical instruments’ derives from the complexity of the original source. Even the term itself is ambiguous, since it may denote the instruments of the period described by any given text of the Bible, those of the period and environment in which the written tradition originated, or those that have remained in the memory of society from a certain stage of the oral tradition. Furthermore, should a reference to an instrument be regarded as a theological symbol or a historical document? Must it be placed in the relevant context by archaeological finds before it may be regarded as concrete fact? It is possible to discuss the subject only if an interdisciplinary approach is adopted involving ‘new and processual archaeology’, recent studies of the Pentateuch, and modern archaeomusicology. Although the organological information provided by the biblical texts themselves is scanty, the social and symbolic context of the music can often be established quite precisely (see Kolari, ...

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Journal of the American Musicological Society
Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart
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