Jack P. Lewis Makes Confession about Amos 6:1-5

Note: Portions of this article is in Filipino.

By Eusebio Tanicala

Brother Jack P. Lewis, a noted scholar in the Churches of Christ, deals with the question about instrumental music in worship in the March 2008 issue of TRUTH FOR TODAY (edited by Eddie Cloer, published in Searcy, Arkansas). He has many excellent articles on the question of instrumental music in the church worship. I personally recommend this issue as an excellent reference material.

On the use of Amos 6:1-5, he makes the following confession which is found on pages 3 & 4 and we quote a portion of it:

I started my local preaching career about sixty-six years ago, fully convinced that the introduction of instrumentally accompanied singing in Jewish worship was presumptuous on David’s part and that the prophet Amos condemned him for it. The text on which I based this thinking was Amos 6:1-5: “Woe to them . . . that chant to the sound of the viol, and invent to themselves instruments of music, like David” (KJV). The ancient rabbis said, however, that one should learn from all his teachers, and I have tried to make that a pattern of life.”

“A denominational preacher whom I met at Sam Houston State University (then College) informed me that the use of instrumental music was commanded by David and was commended to King Hezekiah. He supported his statement by using 2 Chron. 29:25: ‘And he [Hezekiah] set the Levites in the house of the LORD with cymbals, with psalteries, and with harps, according to the commandment of David, and of Gad the king’s seer, and Nathan the prophet: for so was the commandment of the LORD by His prophets (KJV; emphasis mine).

I had never considered that passage before. I will always be grateful that he shared his insights with me. However, when he insisted that singing was not a part of worship in the New Testament and that proponents of a cappella music are at fault for making it a part of worship, I differed, as I do now.

How to harmonize the spirit of these two passages, one in Amos and one in 2 Chronicles, perplexed me. As I studied the prophets more, I became conscious that proof-texting is not a proper way to settle the meaning of a passage of Scripture. The use we were making then of Amos 6:5 had done just that. The setting of the passage in Amos is not at all a worship context. The other actions mentioned there are not worship actions; they are recreational. Look at the list: These people were lying on beds of ivory, eating lambs from the flock and calves from the stall, singing idle songs, inventing instruments, and anointing themselves with finest oils. They were accused of being unconcerned about the ruin of the northern kingdom, which Amos was threatening. Their careless, idle lifestyle and lack of insight into real conditions was being denounced. This old proof passage should no longer be cited as a part of the argument about worship. It has no convincing power.” (End of quote)

Brother Jack P. Lewis is a scholar on the Old Testament. He says that Amos 6:5 “should no longer be cited as part of the argument about worship.” I ask my Filipino brethren to listen to a scholar who has taught in graduate school for many years, and who has participated in translating the Bible coming out with the New International Version. He says that using Amos 6:5 “has no convincing power.” Indeed, those who know the context of Amos and consistency as well as simple logic would only laugh at Churches of Christ preachers who use Amos 5:6 in arguing against the use of instruments of music.

Paulit-ulit ko nang sinasabi na ang unang kinondena ay pagawit. Bakit umaawit tayo? Bakit yaong ikalawa sa listahan lamang ang ilalabas na bawal? Bakit hindi mo babanggitin ang una at sumusunod pang mga bagay? Di ba kalukuhang sistema ng interpretasyon yan? Bakit sabihin mo na bawal ang instrumento pero hindi mo sasabihin na bawal ang matulog sa magandang kama, hindi bawal ang kumain ng karne ng karnero, karne ng baka, hindi bawal ang mga kanta ni Yoyog Villame, hindi bawal ang paggamit ng lotion?

Pakiusap ko sa mga ministro na gumagamit ng Amos 6:5 na makinig kayo sa mga eskolar na may Ph.D. mula sa magagaling na Universidad at gumagamit ng lohika. Huwag kayong makinig sa mga nagtapos sa mababang uring universidad at walang lohika sa interpretasyon. #

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