Robin Leaver on “The Eternal Song”

By | July 3, 2021

In 1984 the eminent scholar Robin Leaver, whose work has focused extensively on sacred music, published a monograph of the Passions of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750).1 On the first page of this monograph he provides succinct and profound insights into the Biblical theology of music. For your convenience, I provide them below with links so that you can easily study the Bible passages yourself. The links sometimes include more Bible verses than those referenced in order to provide context.

“The relationship between theology and music is at the foundation of Biblical theology.”

Robin Leaver

The relationship between theology and music is at the foundation of Biblical theology. At the beginning of time there was the song of creation, which “the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy” (Job 38:7), and at the end of time there is to be the song of the new creation, when the redeemed will sing “in a loud voice … ‘Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!'” (Revelation 5:12). When God speaks to the redeemed, it is with the sound of a trumpet. At Sinai it was heard when God revealed His law to the people of the old covenant (Exodus 19: 13, 16, 19), and at Patmos it is heard again when God reveals His purpose to the people of the new covenant (Revelation 1:10; Revelation 4:1). The original Israel took possession of its inheritance with the sound of the trumpet (Joshua 6), and the new Israel, the elect of God, will be called to its inheritance by a similar sound (Matthew 24:31). Therefore it is with the sound of the trumpet that men are called to repentance on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 25:9) and called to judgment on the day of resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:52, 1 Thessalonians 4:16). And under both covenants the worship of the people of God is expressed in musical form (e.g. Exodus 15; Psalm 33:3; Psalm 40:3; Psalm 96:1; Isaiah 42:10; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16; Revelation 14:3; etc.).2

Come, join the Eternal Song!

  1. Robin Leaver, J. S. Bach as Preacher: His Passions and Music in Worship (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1984).
  2. Ibid., 5.

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