Objections to Psalmody pt 3 Psalmody is Typology?


Reality not Typology


I don’t want to sing about types; I want to sing about the realities. Dr. T. David Gordon says of exclusive Psalmody, “We may sing of Christ typologically through canonical psalms, but we may not sing of Christ expressly; even though Israel could sing expressly of deliverance from Babylon, and was not restricted to singing of it typologically through Exodus-psalms.”(23) It has already been shown, under the heading, “I Want to Sing About Jesus,” that believers do expressly sing of and to Christ using the Psalms. The matter of typology will be addressed shortly.

Dr. Coppes adds the following regarding exclusive Psalmody,

God limits us to returning to those types when we sing. We accuse them of this because the 150 Psalms were written to express and facilitate the idea of the Levitical / Mosaic theology and not to express the theology and ideas of fulfillment in Christ. They are part of the Levitical system. They stand in the same relationship to the new covenant as does the rest of that system … When some of those songs became officially the hymnbook of the Old Testament church, then they became the type.(24)

The Psalter itself is not a type. It does not fit the definition of a Biblical type. In his Biblical Hermeneutics, Milton Terry says, “There must be evidence that the type was designed and appointed by God to represent the thing typified.”(25) Scripture nowhere identifies the Psalter as a type. A Biblical type also prefigures prefigures something in the future; a Biblical type is prophetic.(26) What does the Psalter prefigure? In addition, Biblical types involve typical persons, typical institutions, typical offices, and typical events.(27) The Psalter fits none of these categories. The Psalter is not a type.

Granted, King David associated Psalmody with the typical institution of the ceremonial law (1 Chronicles 16). King Hezekiah also formalized Psalmody in temple worship (2 Chronicles 29:30). This association with the ceremonial law does not necessarily indicate that the Psalter is typological. After all, the Psalter, as we know it, did not come into being until post-exilic times, perhaps through the work of Ezra. “The LXX Psalter, dating probably from the early second century BCE, contains the 150 psalms of the Masoretic Text (MT), in the same sequence …”(28) Did the Psalter become a type sometime between the time of Ezra and the early second century B.C.? In his Preface to the Bay Psalm Book, Richard Mather speaks directly to this question:

What type can be imagined in making use of his [David’s] songs to praise the Lord? If they [David’s psalms] were typical because the ceremony of musical instruments were joined with them, then their prayers were also typical, because they had that ceremony of incense mixed with them: but we know that prayer then was a moral duty, notwithstanding the incense, and so singing those psalms [was a moral duty] notwithstanding their musical instruments. Besides, that which was typical (as that they were sung with musical instruments, by the twenty-four orders of Priests and Levites, 1 Chron. 25:9) must have the moral and spiritual accomplishment in the New Testament, in all the churches of the Saints … with hearts and lips, instead of musical instruments, to praise the Lord …(29)

Also recall Matthew Henry’s observation, “Singing of psalms is a gospel-ordinance. Christ’s removing the hymn [Psalms 113-118] from the close of the passover to the close of the Lord’s supper, plainly intimates that he intended that ordinance should continue in his church, that, as it had not its birth with the ceremonial law, so it should not die with it.”(30) Henry acknowledges that Psalmody did not come into existence with the Levitical system. It was added later. To insist that, “the 150 Psalms were written to express and facilitate the idea of the Levitical/Mosaic theology and not to express the theology and ideas of fulfillment in Christ,”(31) ignores the Psalter’s specific Messianic and eschatological character, as already discussed. The Psalter is not a type.

It is true that the Psalms use symbolism and typology to speak about the future. Undoubtedly, the Bible in general speaks to God’s people about their future in terms of their past or their present. Israel’s prophets used imagery from the past or present to discuss the future of God’s people. Prophetic portions of the The New Testament do the same.

Of all the various forms of prophetic thought, few are so common and so helpful in getting a handle on the meaning as a writer’s borrowing past events, persons, or expressions to depict the future. The reason for choosing to us what appears at first so strange is simple: no one has ever been in the future, so how can the writer adequately talk about or the reader understand what neither has ever experienced?(32)

The Biblical writers speak about the future using types and symbols, and they do so in the Psalms. New Testament songs use the same procedure. Revelation 5:9-10 is one such song. “And they sang a new song, saying …”

Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; For You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood Men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; And they will reign upon the earth.

This song is sung to “the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David” (Rev. 5:5). The apostle John is referring back to the messianic prophecies of Genesis 49:9 and Isaiah 11:1, respectively. The object of praise is also described as “a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth” (Rev. 5:6). This picture is thick with symbolism. The song itself speaks of a book or scroll. What is this book or scroll? It is symbolic. The Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, is spoken of as a sacrifice shedding its blood. This description is the characteristic New Testament symbolic representation of Christ. “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). The sacrificial lamb was a type of Christ. The saints in heaven appear to sing about Christ typologically. The song gives praise to the Lamb for taking “men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation” and making them into “a kingdom and priests.” These lines are a clear reference to Exodus 19:6. The Old Testament priests were types. This New Testament song of the consummation speaks of God’s people typologically. Revelation 15:3-4 presents another song. “And they sang the song of Moses, the bond-servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying … ”


A Great and marvelous are Your works,

B O Lord God, the Almighty;

A´ Righteous and true are Your ways,

B´ King of the nations!

C Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name?

D For You alone are holy;




The language in this song is straightforward, like many of the Psalms. This song also reads like a psalm. It has eight lines. As outlined, the first four lines are an alternating parallelism. The second four lines are also an alternating parallelism. The song’s very form and language recalls the Psalms and recommends the Psalms. The seventh line of this song is a quotation from Psalm 86:9. The words of the eighth line come from Psalm 98:2. Apparently the Psalms do “express the theology and ideas of fulfillment in Christ.” In addition, this song is both the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb, and is one song. “[T]he saints praise the Lamb’s victory as the typological fulfillment of that to which the Red Sea victory pointed …”(33)

Grasping Biblical typology assists in seeing the unity of Scripture, the unity of the gospel, and the unity of the covenant of grace. Far from being a hindrance to gospel singing, an appreciation of Biblical typology assists gospel praise. As just seen, the way the Bible speaks about the future is with the use of symbols and types. From this perspective, the use of types and symbols in Psalmody is natural and expected.

Used by permission from Dr. Dennis Prutow



Prutow, Dennis. Public Worship 101: An Introduction to the Biblical Theology of Worship, the Elements of Worship, Exclusive Psalmody, and A Cappella Psalmody. Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary Press. Kindle Edition.