Because I like to beat dead horses, I will continue the theme of the past few days with a few thoughts from the church fathers on dancing. This will hopefully illustrate at very least just how much baggage many today bring to the text when discussing these matters. I do not intend to prove my point with this post per se. Rather, these remarks below begin to give us some perspective. It should also show what bygone eras have thought of things with which we ourselves wrestle. The references at the end of the first several selections give you where you can find it in the Ante-Nicene Fathers.*

Justin Martyr

And your public assemblies I have come to hate. For there are excessive banquetings, and subtle flutes which provoke to lustful movements, and useless and luxurious anointings, and crowning with garlands. 1.272

Clement of Alexandria

'Praise with the timbrel and the dance.' This refers to the church meditating on the resurrection of the dead in the resounding skin. 2.248.

Nay, in laying aside the artificial mask of solemnity, they are proved to be what they secretly were. After having paid reverence to the discourse about God, they leave within [the church] what they have heard. And outside they foolishly amuse themselves with impious playing, and amatory quavering, occupied with flute-playing, and dancing, and intoxication, and all kinds of trash. They who sing thus, and sing in response, are those who before hymned immortality,—found at last wicked and wickedly singing this most pernicious palinode, “Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.” 2.290.

A night spent over drink invites drunkenness, rouses lust, and is audacious in deeds of shame. For if people occupy their time with pipes, and psalteries, and choirs, and dances, and Egyptian clapping of hands, and such disorderly frivolities, they become quite immodest and intractable, beat on cymbals and drums, and make a noise on instruments of delusion; for plainly such a banquet, as seems to me, is a theatre of drunkenness. 2.248.

Origen

We turn women away from an immoral life . . . and from all mad desires after theaters and dancing. 4.486.

Cyprian (or Novatian)

The fact that David led the dances in the presence of God is no sanction for faithful Christians to occupy seats in the public theater. For David did not twist his limbs about in obscene movements. He did not depict in his dancing the story of Grecian lust. 5.576.

Arnobius

Another crowd of souls is led in their wantonness to abandon themselves to clumsy motions, to dance and sing, and form rings of dancers. Finally, raising their hanches and hips, they float along with a tremulous motion of the lions. 6.450.

Ambrose

For what modesty can there be where there is dancing and noise and clapping of hands? . . . But she who is modest, she who is chaste, let her teach her daughter religion, not dancing. Selected works and letters.

Augustine

The drunken man doth not offend himself, but he offendeth the sober man. Show me a man who is at last happy in God, liveth gravely, sigheth for that everlasting peace which God hath promised him; and see that when he hath seen a man dancing to an instrument, he is more grieved for his madness, than for a man who is in a frenzy from a fever. If then we know their evils, considering that we also have been freed from those very evils, let us grieve for them; and if we grieve for them, let us pray for them; and that we may be heard, let us fast for them. Exposition of the Psalms.

John Calvin (thrown in for good measure)

By the term dancing, he does not mean any wanton or profane leaping, but a sober and holy exhibition of joy like that which sacred Scripture mentions when David conveyed the ark of the covenant to its place. Commentary on Psalm 30.

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*Several of these quotations were found using David W. Bercot, A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1998), s.v. "Dancing," "Entertainment," and "Music, Musical Instruments."

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