In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Music

  • Introduction
  • Introductory Works
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Sources
  • Musical Instruments and Archaeology in the Ancient Near East
  • Musicians and the Ancient Near East
  • Greeks
  • Romans
  • Other Miscellaneous Texts Connected to Roman Period
  • Discography

Biblical Studies Music
Theodore W. Burgh
  • LAST REVIEWED: 24 April 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 15 January 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393361-0191


Music in Antiquity was ubiquitous. It was a part of daily life. People made this unique art form a part of ceremonies, religious rituals and liturgies, and various forms of entertainment. Men and women sang and performed with instruments such as lyres, harps, pipes, and drums. It was an artistic expression in which one could perform alone or with large masses. This article explores what various sources reveal regarding music and musical instruments of peoples and cultures of the ancient Near East and surrounding areas. The materials include Introductory Works, General Overviews, and Reference Sources for musical activity among most of the known ancient cultures in the region.

Introductory Works

These sources provide an introduction to music and musical instruments of the ancient Near East. Most of the data come from texts and available artifacts. Jones 1986 provides technical perspectives on instruments in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament through a discussion of the Hebrew terminology. Jones 1987 is the second part of Jones 1986. While Stainer 1970 is an older source, Braun 1997 and Jones 1992 are excellent more contemporary introductions to music and musical instruments of ancient Israel and the Near East.

  • Braun, Joachim. “Musical Instruments.” In The Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Near East. 4th ed. Edited by Eric M. Myers, 70–79. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

    NNNGives a brief treatment of chordophones, aerophones, membranophones, and idiophones of the ancient Near Eastern cultures. Spans the prehistoric period through the Greco-Roman era.

  • Jones, Ivor H. “Musical Instruments in the Bible.” The Bible Translator 37 (1986): 101–116.

    NNNA continuation of the previous work. It includes discussion of the use of musical instruments in the ancient Near East and the Greco-Roman world.

  • Jones, Ivor H. “Musical Instruments in the Bible.” The Bible Translator 38 (1987): 129–143.

    NNNA continuation of the previous work.

  • Jones, Ivor H. “Music and Musical Instruments.” In The Anchor Bible Dictionary. Vol. 4, K–N. 4th ed. Edited by David N. Freeman, 934–939. New York: Doubleday, 1992.

    NNNAn introduction to the use of music and musical instruments in the ancient Near East. The article gives a brief discussion of the general characteristics and uses of instruments and musical activity described in the Bible.

  • Stainer, John. The Music of the Bible: With Some Account of the Development of Modern Musical Instruments from Ancient Types. New York: Da Capo, 1970.

    NNNEarly source that examines initial data providing information regarding music and the world of the Bible. Revised edition with additional illustrations and supplementary notes by Francis W. Galpin. Reprint of original 1914 edition.

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