The Rise of Exclusive Canonical Psalmody in Geneva
It is a claim beyond dispute that the Reformed church in Geneva during the 16th century sang only inspired canonical psalms. Support abounds for this assertion, but perhaps the easiest way to substantiate it is the contents of the 1562 Geneva Psalter. The 1562 Psalter was the finished form of the song book Calvin had been working to produce for at least 20 years. Previous editions contained various lyrical content, but by far and away these editions contained the Psalms to the virtual exclusion of anything else. By 1562 Pidoux is able to confirm that the final edition, which was printed and translated and distributed across Europe, contained only the 150 Psalms and the “Nunc Dimittis” and the Decalogue. In fact, so obvious is it that Calvin supported only the use of inspired psalmody in the worship of the church, evidenced in his signature work, the Geneva Psalter, that Benson (1909) can speak of a “peculiar” kind of worship song that was used in Geneva which called “The Calvinistic Psalm,” which he describes as “simply the Word of God, translated and versified in hymn-form, so as to be sung by the people.” With heavy weight scholars such as Pidoux and Benson lined up in support of the claim that in 16th century Geneva, the church, under oversight of Calvin, sang only inspired psalms, no further argumentation will be offered in defense of the position. Surely, if someone can offer credible support from credible scholars to refute the claim presented here then the position being promoted would have to be reassessed and altered. Since such evidence and scholarship is most certainly lacking, then the basic soundness and correctness of the claim can be now taken for granted and another line of thought can be pursued, namely, the rise and then the decline of inspired psalmody in the Reformed church of Geneva.