Why "Biblical Bards?"

Consider the term, "Biblical Bards."
To some it seems an oxymoron, like "your friendly hangman."
To others it is a bizzare juxtaposition, like "linoleum newspapers."

But to us, it is a focused phrase.

The term "Biblical Bards" inspires us to create a website, an organization, a fellowship.


Let us consider the two words, "Biblical" and "Bard."

The less common term is "Bard."
And the term "bard" perhaps invokes a range of reactions:

"Doesn't that have to do with Shakespeare?"
"Dont they work at Ren fairs and stuff?"
"Technically, isn't that a ....?"

Over time, meanings of words drift, so for purposes of this study we will look at what the words meant in previous centuries.

It was written (in the 1820's) that a "bard" was:

 1.  A poet and a singer among the ancient Celts; one whose occupation was to compose and sing verses, in honor of the heroic achievements of princes
   and brave men.  The bards used an instrument of music like a lyre or guitar, and not only praised the brave but reproached the cowardly.
 2.  In modern usage, a poet.
    Click here for the full definition in our Biblical Bards Glossary

So, we see "bard" is a Celtic (French, Scottish, Irish, Welsh) term.  The craft of the Bard involves praise, satire, philosophy, and music.
(Note also that in those days, "philosophy" meant "an explanation of the reasons of things; or an investigation of the causes of all phenomena both of mind and of matter.")

Bards would learn about and see the big picture and many of the details.  They would communicate this information (and perhaps even some skills)
to individuals and families.

This indicates an approach to culture.  The Bard, in practicing his or her trade, uses music and oral communication to praise worthy achievements,
criticize those who should be held up to contempt, and explain everything of importance.

In such a cultural approach the Bard plays many roles at the same time:
prophetic commentator, entertainer, educator, sounding board, editor, and more.

This is certainly not a "shut up and sing" scenario.  Neither is it a case of "listen to me because I am talented."

Bards, who have something to say, should say things which are substantive.  This is a grave responsibility, and a challenge to a culture as well as
to the bard.  How does the bard get equipped, and who provides the people and resources for that equipping?

A glance at the word "Minstrel" brings out other nuances of the ministry of the bard in history.

  [Spanish, ministril, a minstrel, and a tipstaff,  or petty officer of justice;... ]
   A singer and musical performer on instruments. Minstrels were formerly poets as well as musicians, and held in high regard by our rude
  Click here for the full definition in our Biblical Bards Glossary

Here we see a notion that the ministry of music and teaching is woven with concerns of justice and the law.


In summary, the Celtic term "Bard" pointed to a group of people who provided:
- Music
- Education
- Information about Law and Justice
- History
- Practical Science (healing arts and astronomy, for example)
- Current Events
- Worldview Training
- Insight into the Wisdom of the Culture
- and more...

But such an approach is not unique to Celtic Culture.
Let us examine another culture:


A bit of reflection reveals that the Bible itself is largely a bardic work and reflects the strong imprint of the Bardic approach.  Everything listed above in "what is a Celtic Bard" applies also to the key individuals who are found in the "Old Testament."  Let us look first at "the bardic books and approaches
of the Scripture" then, at a few of the Bards: Moses, Deborah, and David.


The "book of Psalms" is entirely a bardic work, in all senses of the word "bard" as defined above.  The heroic achievements heralded are generally those of Yahweh: the cowardly ones reproached are the wicked.  Everything is meant to be sung.

The "Song of Solomon" and "Lamentations" are also Bardic works which were originally sung.

Parts of the Torah, or Pentatuch (first five books of the Bible) are Songs.  In the book of Judges, one of the most notable chapters is the "song of Deborah" discussed below.

Most other books of the Scriptures contain bardic segments.

The Psalms are the most bardic section, and it is worth noting that Jesu / Yeshua, in the "New Testament Scriptures," quotes more from  the Psalms than any other section of "Old Testament Scripture."


We should note that the word "bard" does not generally (at least to my knowledge) find its way into Bible translations.  Yet many folks in the Scriptures do those things a bard does.  So, what are the "bards" called in the Scriptures?

Various terms are used.  We will briefly list most of them.  More detail can be found in our "Glossary."

The Hebrew names for bards, translated into english:
"school of the prophets,"
"sons of the prophets," prophets, seer, judges, (brehons in irish) levites, singers, priests, elders.  Every single songwriter from Moses and Miriam through David was called a prophet or prophetess, for example.

Sometimes two or more people worked together to accomplish a "bardic task."

One example of "team music making and prophesying"  is found in I Samuel 10:5-6:
After that thou shalt come to the hill of Elohim, where is the garrison of the Philistines: and it shall come to pass, when thou art come thither to the city, that thou shalt meet a company of prophets coming down from the high place with a psaltery, and a tabret, and a pipe, and a harp, before them; and they shall prophesy: And the Spirit of Yahweh will come upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy with them, and shalt be turned into another man.

Note the Minstrel and Prophet / seer work together here:
 II Kings 3:14 - 16 And Elisha said, As Yahweh of hosts liveth, before  whom I stand, surely, were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat  the king of Judah, I would not look toward thee, nor see thee.  But now bring me a minstrel.  And it came to pass, when the minstrel played, that the hand of Yahweh came upon him.


individuals who are bards include most notably:
 - Moses (judge, author of the Song of Moses: taught through song, prophet)
 - Deborah (judge, singer and songwriter, prophetess)
 - David (Psalmist of Israel, prophet, judge, singer, songwriter, musician)

The "Song of Deborah " (in Chapter five of the book of Judges) is a bardic work "dense" with the tools and materials of a bard.  The brave are praised, the actions of Yahweh are magnified most of all, mockery showers down on the wicked, the cowardly, and the indifferent.  There is enough blood, gore, and earthy entertainment in verse to make any bard glad to re-tell the tale!  There is history, social commentary, a bit of weather and astronomy, and so forth.

One could look further at other bards, and other books such as Proverbs, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Job, many of the historical books (which contain songs and song fragments) and most of the prophetic books.

Indeed, it can be said that those interested in the world of the Scriptures should be very interested in learning about bardic things.  Take out all the folks that sang, healed and taught, and what is left of the Scriptures?

In II Kings 20:7, the prophet Isaiah uses the application of a poultice in the healing of king Hezekiah.

Finally, note the definition (cited earlier) of minstrel as officer of justice:
many of the prophecies in Scripture are presented not as "predictions" but as lawsuits brought by Yahweh, or decisions which are decreed in such disputes.
The bard / prophet truly is functioning as a "petty officer of justice" in the great court of Yahweh.


We can say that Bards were a central part of the culture of the Scriptures.

Further, large parts of the Scriptures are bardic works, or descriptions of the actions of the bards of those eras.

To read the Scriptures we need to understand the tribal, agrarian world it portrays.  And a big part of that world is the role and activity of the bard.

If we want to be "doers of the word" and follow Scriptural patterns, can we do that without restoring the ministry of "Biblical Bards?"

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