Sounds of the Levitical Choir in Ignatius of Antioch’s Epistles to the Ephesians

I am preparing some notes on a future writing project and came across this.

In Ignatius’ Letter to the Ephesians (chapter 4), he commends a certain amount of unity so that “man by man” the Church will become a choir. This was to create a unity of sound so that the Father would hear and accept the works as befitting the Son.

Guess what:

The Mishnah (Ar. 2:6) states that, in Jerusalem’s Second Temple, “There were never fewer than twelve Levites standing on the platform [as a choir] but there was no limit on the maximum number of singers.” The singing of the Levitical choir was a constant accessory to the sacrificial ritual.

Ignatius compares the connection between the presbytery to the bishop as the strings are connected in a harp.

Guess what:

The Levitical choir also included singers and musicians who played on trumpets, harps, lyres, and cymbals. They sang the festive Hallel songs of thanksgiving. Everyone who had entered with their Passover offering, also joined in and sang along. When we finished the Hallel, we would start all over again!

In chapter 9, Ignatius calls Christians “God-bearers, Christ-bearers, Temple-bearers.” Of course, just before this, he calls the Christians “stones of the Temple.”

Thus far, there is the well-known passage in Barnabas, a lot in 1 Clement, something in Mathetes, and now at least something in Ignatius.

I’m going to go ahead and file this under Publications with the hopes that before too long, I get a contract from the publisher I’ve sent it too.

Joel L. Watts
Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

4 thoughts on “Sounds of the Levitical Choir in Ignatius of Antioch’s Epistles to the Ephesians

  1. Don’t get too carried away in making it a Disney cartoon. The music drowns out the bellowing of the animals as their throat is slit. And the blood and guts of a slaughter house, as the blood is drained and used as a offering. Not to mention the wonderful smell of guts, blood, and bile in the summer heat. Remember, the OT God loved the smell. Like loving the smell of napalm in the morning, along with Wagner music and choppers in-coming.

  2. Sorry for looking at only a small piece of the pie. However, I find my small piece of pie distasteful. To analyze the entire pie hurts my head…it’s an OT thing with me.

    1. I guess, but i wasn’t talking about the OT – just the immediate time preceding the destruction of the 2nd temple and how we find something of a restructuring as a community in later Christian writings.

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