How do we remember and reflect on the Hebrew Scripture that, as the apostle Paul says, ‘was written for our learning’? This is such an important aspect of our growth into the fullness of our humanity. An easy way to recall the books in the Scripture is to divide them into the three sections that are traditional within Judaism, Torah, the instruction, the Prophets, and the Writings.
Three is an easy number to remember. Equally easy is seven. The three divide into seven sections as follows
- Torah (the 5 books of Moses)
- The Former Prophets (4 books, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings)
- The Latter Prophets
- The Major Prophets (3 books)
- The Twelve (counted as 1 book)
- The Books of Truth (3 books with slightly different music)
- The Five Scrolls (5 books, The Song, Ruth, Lamentations, Qohelet, and Esther)
- The Remaining Writings (3 books Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, Chronicles)
These 24 books expand to the traditional 39 of the Protestant canon by subdivision.
The series, The Hebrew Bible and its Music, is organized around this seven-fold subdivision.
Muttering and singing
Reading need not be silent in the head. Each of these books allows itself to be sung, or muttered. With sound, the ear is engaged, and with music the whole of the body. The signs for the music are embedded in the text. Hearing the signs in their tonal form is a revealing of the Word like no other.
Let us take just one example, the first verse of the middle book of the books of Moses, the opening of Leviticus 1.
Perhaps you don’t read Hebrew. Sing it and you soon will. But in any case, here is English.
And he called to Moses, //
and Yahweh spoke to him from the tent of engagement, saying,
This section of the reading is known as vayiqra, va-yi-qra. And he called. It takes its name from the first word of the section. With the music in front of you, it is impossible to translate it as And Yahweh called. It is impossible because the subject of the verb, the divine name, Y-H-W-H is not in that part of the verse that leads up to the mid-verse cadence.
Mutter it like this, And he called to Moses (pause – what do you hear as you reflect on these words alone?)
Then read out loud, And Yahweh spoke to him from the tent of engagement, saying,
There is of course more to come.
In each of the volumes, there is music interspersed for your reflection. It is a resting point in itself for your reading, like an illustration in an illustrated Bible. But the music has been integral to the Bible for over 1000 years and probably longer, but no one can say how much longer. Once you have begun to read with the music – noting which verses do not begin on the tonic note, and are therefore connected to what has come before, and observing the pauses, you will never return to reading without this memory. The ear is engaged, and the eye balanced by the ear. So you will learn both to see and to hear.
Using the music resources
The music for all 39 books of the Old Testament is available to assist anyone reading these Hebrew Scriptures.
To have put all the music into the text of the translation for every verse would make the volumes huge. So we have included all the music in three different forms in a directory. From this resource directory you can open three different file types:
- PDF, portable document format. These files give you a musical score for each of the 929 chapters of the Bible.
- XML, Music extended markup language. These files, for composers and arrangers, can be read by a music program.
- MID, a raw and rigid way of hearing the notes. Since these machine produced noises lack the suppleness of the human voice, one should take them with a grain of salt (or a spoonful of sugar).
These files are all made freely available for download and study and arrangement.
For an introduction to the music according to this interpretation of the accents in the text, please see, The Song in the Night (Energion 2013).
Additional video introductions to the music are available as well as some performances by searching for “The Music of the Bible Revealed”. We hope these resources will be used to teach more and more people how to work with the music.