Origins of Gospel and Christian Music
Music has been part of life since early history.
Archaeological finds of musical instruments date back to thousands of years BC.
We read in the Bible that in Abraham’s time it was common practice to celebrate special events with songs accompanied by harps and timbrels.
Song and music was part of life in the Exodus. The Bible tells us that Israel marched to songs in the wilderness after fleeing Egypt.
When Israel’s King Saul was depressed he found comfort from David’s music. David enjoyed singing and dancing to the Lord by the sound of the trumpet.
In Jesus’ time we note that He sang Psalms and Hymns with His disciples, whenever they got together at their special Jewish memorial feasts.
The followers of Jesus were referred to as Christians after their persecution started and had to flee Jerusalem to the neighboring countries.
From here the Gospel was exported to the Gentiles, and with it also the songs such as Psalms and Hymns.
In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians he encourages them to communicate to one another in Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs.
Moses composed songs of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord.
King David wrote most of the Psalms which were prayed as well as sung in Bible times.
It has been recorded that King Solomon composed many songs, note “The Songs of Solomon”, a book in the Old Testament.
During the Middle Ages very little was recorded in terms of music and songs.
Then in the early 1500’s the Reformation took place in Germany and with it Christian Music took on a new meaning.
Martin Luther, a gifted musician, composed many Christian hymns which were sung by the congregations in the protestant churches.
In the catholic churches however, the priests were chanting the hymns mostly in Latin, which the uneducated congregation could not understand.
Luther’s influence in Christian music was very significant; He wrote hymns for the congregation to sing and understand. One of his best known hymns was A Mighty Fortress is Our God. This hymn is still sung in many churches around the world.
Luther’s influence on the Christian religion had a profound affect on church life. It resulted in a renewed message of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ alone.
England also had their Reformation which ended the Roman Catholic power over the church there, and finally a total break from Rome under Henry VIII.
England experienced a revival in the church in the latter part of the 1700’s through the Wesley brothers, John & Charles.
Charles’ gift of music resulted in more than 600 hymns, which brought a new sense of praise and worship into the church.
During this period we also recognize the classical composers of Christian Music such as Georg Friedrich Handel (Messiah) and
Johann Sebastian Bach (Passion according to St Matthew)
Just to name a couple.
Gospel Music in America
Christian music entered America in two ways.
It was introduced by the Spanish through Mexico into the southern parts of the United States.
British immigrants also introduced this music at the east coast and then gradually spreading to the west.
As the early immigrants were leaving England because of religious persecution, they found freedom in their new country.
The African American people influenced the style of worship music in the American south greatly, and a new sound filled the church auditoriums.
These new compositions identified with the Israelite slavery in Egypt.
In the early years the slaves were allowed to attend church with their masters, but were segregated from the whites.
As time went on the African American population in the south built their own churches and their worship songs developed into what is known as Southern Gospel.
With the Christian revival taking place right across the country from the late 1700’s right into the 1900’s many new stiles of Christian music was created.
The Pentecostal revival movement brought forth many gifted songwriters and musicians who used their talent solely for worshiping their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Today we Christians are blessed by the availability of the enormous variety of Gospel Music, the many worship songs and hymns produced by so many talented artists from all over the world.
References: New King James Bible, Vines Dictionary, World Book Encyclopaedia
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