I’m not sure why the question popped into my head, but it did anyway. I wondered if Jesus ever sang.
He certainly knew the psalms, and, while they were written many years prior to his arrival, it’s not inconceivable that the melodies to some of them, anyway, were still being sung by Jesus’ time. Did he hum a psalm-tune as a teen-ager in Joseph’s carpenter shop? Were some of David’s compositions used in worship so that Jesus might have picked up on a few of them as he grew up?
Singing has been part of the biblical story from the earliest times. Exodus 15 contains what scholars believe is the oldest song in recorded biblical history, Moses’ victory song after the Israelites safely crossed the Red Sea and the Egyptian army was drowned: I will sing to the Lord, for an overflowing victory! Horse and rider he threw into the sea! So Jesus would have been included in a long line of musical history by the time of his arrival on earth.
I don’t mean to get snarky here, but do you suppose that, on those nights when Jesus and his twelve cohorts sat around a fire at night, they had a psalm-sing? Maybe someone played a lyre or harp as they sang, much as there are those who play guitar around a modern-day campfire (although, there again, I don’t ever remember hearing about any of the disciples having instrumental musical ability).
If Jesus did sing, I wonder for what part his voice was suited. Was Jesus a tenor? A baritone? A bass? Of course, that leads to the question of what parts the disciples might have sung. Were they a group like Little Anthony and the Imperials (“Jesus and the Dozen Disciples”) where Jesus sang lead and had a choir of 12 singers backing him up? OK, I’m getting a little silly.
But, seriously, I recall no reference in scripture that specifically mentions Jesus’ singing. I can’t think of an occasion or event that Jesus attended where singing would have been expected and in which he may have taken part (with the very slim, but still possible, exception of the wedding in Cana in John 2.1-12). Certainly Jesus’ followers sang. Matthew 26.30 mentions their singing specifically. Since Jesus was present for the occasion this may be the strongest evidence that he sang. It was the Last Supper, when Jesus explained the bread and wine as symbolic of his body and blood. Matthew says that when the meal was over, “they [at least the disciples, but why not Jesus?] sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives.” And Paul refers to singing (and praying) while he and Silas were in prison (Acts 16.25). So, singing was undoubtedly common among Jesus’ followers. But Jesus himself? I do wonder why no writer – gospel or otherwise – mentions it if, in fact, Jesus was given to breaking out in song.
One thing can almost definitely be assumed: when Jesus was dying on the cross and the words of Psalm 22 came from his lips, it was almost assuredly a recitation, not a musical solo. Psalms, being primarily poetry, lend themselves as much to reciting as they do to singing, and so Jesus’ using the words of Psalm 22 (which, by the way, wasn’t how they referred to it in 28 CE) as poetry would have been very familiar to those who could hear his voice.
Let me say that the idea of Jesus enjoying a good melody and singing as fervently as the most exuberant soloist in Christian music today appeals to me. If “music is the language of angels,” then certainly our Lord would have wanted in.