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Abecedarian Hymns or Psalms

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

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psalms, the verses of which commence with the consecutive letters of the alphabet. (See ACROSTIC). In imitation of the 119th Psalm. it was customary in the early Church to compose psalms of this kind, each part having its proper letter at the head of it: the singing of the verses was commenced by the precentor, and the people joined him in the close. Occasionally they sang alternate verses.. This mode of conducting the psalmody was sometimes called singing acrostics and acroteleutics, and is the apparent origin of the Gloria Patri repeated at the end of each psalm in modern liturgical services. (See CHORUS). Some of the psalms of David are abecedarian, and others so constructed as to be adapted to the alternate song of two divisions of precentors in the Temple. (See PSALMS). The priests continued their services during the night, and were required occasionally to utter a cry to intimate that they were awake to duty. Psalms 134:1-3 appears to be of this order. The first watch address the second, reminding them of duty. "Behold: bless ye the Lord, all ye servants of the Lord, which by night stand in the house of the Lord. Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless the Lord." The second respond, "The Lord that made heaven and earth bless thee out of Zion." This custom was probably introduced into the Christian church from the Hebrew service, and was intended to aid the memory. Hymns, composed in this manner, embodying orthodox sentiments, were learned by the people, to guard them against the errors of the Donatists (Bingham, Orig. Eccl. 14:1, 12). (See HYMN); (See PSALTER).

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Abecedarian Hymns or Psalms'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature.​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​a/abecedarian-hymns-or-psalms.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.