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The Bible and Music

(1 review)

James F. McGrath, Indianapolis, IN

Copyright Year: 2023

ISBN 13: 9781956390155

Publisher: PALNI

Language: English

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Reviewed by Adrian Guiu, instructor, City Colleges of Chicago on 3/8/23

The author seems to have a very general knowledge of the subject; although he is a scholar of religion, it seems he is not a scholar of music; his approach to music is rather general and amateurish. He seems to rely on secondary sources a lot: the... read more

Table of Contents

  • Publisher's Note
  • Preface
  • Introduction
  • I. History
    • 1. Ancient Music behind and in the Bible
    • 2. Chanting in Synagogues
    • 3. Chanting in Churches
    • 4. The Protestant Reformatiion and Metrical Psalms
    • 5. Spirituals
    • 6. Contemporary Christian Music
  • II. Texts
    • 7. Creation
    • 8. Psalms
    • 9. Isaac and Family
    • 10. Exodus
    • 11. King David (and His Famlily, Friends, and Enemies)
    • 12. Elijah
    • 13. Romance in the Bible? Ruth and Boaz, Samson and Delilah
    • 14. Songs of Songs
    • 15. Esther
    • 16. Salome
    • 17. The Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis
    • 18. Our Father
    • 19. Revelation
    • 20. Alleluias and Allusions
    • 21. Biblical Music without Words
    • 22. Bringing Texts Together
  • III. People and Genres
    • 23. Hildegard of Bingen
    • 24. Salamone
    • 25. Johann Sebastian Bach
    • 26. Passions: Bach and Beyond
    • 27. The Bible as Musical, Oratorio, and Opera
    • 28. Handel's Messiah
    • 29. Lilii Boulanger
    • 30. Arnold Schoenberg
    • 31. John Rutter
    • 32. Christmas Carols
    • 33. Arvo Part
    • 34. Andrea Clearfield
    • 35. Roxanna Panufnik
  • Conclusion
  • Appendix 1: Paths through This Book
  • Appendix 2: Making Music with Apps, Websites, and Software
  • Appendix 3: For Further Listening
  • General Bibliography
  • Media Bibliography
  • Contributors

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About the Book

The Bible and Music by Dr. James F. McGrath provides an introduction and overview of the various ways that music and the Bible have been and continue to be connected. Part 1 focuses on history, presenting what we know about how music in the Ancient Near East sounded, how markings in the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible have been interpreted as musical symbols, how chanting of biblical texts has featured liturgically in synagogues and churches, the impact of the Protestant Reformation, and musical developments in North America as enslaved Africans encountered biblical texts and stories. Part 2 focuses on specific texts in Jewish and Christian scripture and looks at how they have been interpreted through the process of setting them to music, including the soundtracks of cinematic depictions of biblical narrative and allusions to the Bible in popular music. Part 3 focuses on composers from the Middle Ages all the way down to the present day. Throughout the book, musical examples are not merely mentioned but embedded so that reading and listening may be seamlessly combined. The book does not presume prior knowledge of either music or the Bible, and additional links within the text provide definitions and further explanations for those who need or desire them.

About the Contributors


Dr. James F. McGrath is the Clarence L. Goodwin Chair in New Testament Language and Literature at Butler University in Indianapolis. A specialist in New Testament and early Christianity, he has also worked extensively on the intersection of religion and popular culture and the reception of the Bible in both music and film.

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