In both Islam and Hebrew, the respective holy books have rules for pronunciation and recitation so that they can be sung.

Cantillation is the ritual chanting of readings from the Hebrew Bible in synagogue services. The chants are written and notated in accordance with the special signs or marks printed in the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible (or Tanakh) to complement the letters and vowel points.

These marks are known in English as accents, notes or trope symbols, and in Hebrew as טעמי המקרא taamei ha-mikra or just טעמים teamim. Some of these signs were also sometimes used in medieval manuscripts of the Mishnah. The musical motifs associated with the signs are known in Hebrew as niggun or neginot (not to be confused with Hasidic nigun) and in Yiddish as טראָפ trop: the word trope is sometimes used in English with the same meaning. Cantillation (Wikipedia)

Tajweed sometimes rendered as tajwid, refers to the rules governing pronunciation during recitation of the Quran. The term is derived from the triliteral root j-w-d meaning "to make well, make better, improve". Tajweed is a mustahab (preferred, but not an obligation) when reciting the Quran to the best of one's ability. Tajwid (Wikipedia)

Examples of cantillation:

Haftorah Audio - B'reisheet

Torah Lessons (2015)

Examples of tawjeed (al-Fatihah):

Al-Fatihah (TvQuran)

Has there been any attempt to do so with any Christian Bible?

2 Answers 2


There are indeed methods for singing / chanting the scriptures. Here is some explanation & teaching of the (Catholic) mechanics.

Some lovely Catholic examples:





Some lovely Orthodox examples:



Russian (Gospel at about 51:00)


  • Welcome to Christianity.SE. For a quick overview, please take the Site Tour. For more on what this site is all about, see: How we are different than other sites. Meanwhile, I hope you'll browse some of the other questions and answers on this site. Commented Mar 17, 2018 at 14:14

Is there an equivalent to cantillation or tajweed in Christianity?

To begin with let us start with the obvious.

The Jewish born Christian convert Ezekiel Margoliouth translated the New Testament to Hebrew in 1865 with cantillation marks added. It is the only completely cantillated translation of the New Testament. The translation was published by the London Jews' Society. Cantillation (Wikipedia)

The Catholic Church in the West has been using Gregorian Chant for centuries and still is. Early Gregorian Chant notation definitely resembles cantillation marks. Modern Gregorian Chant is chanted with the usage of neumes, which in turn were simply a system of cantillation marks.

A neume is the basic element of Western and Eastern systems of musical notation prior to the invention of five-line staff notation. The word entered the English language in the Middle English forms "newme", "nevme", "neme" in the 15th century.

The earliest neumes were inflective marks which indicated the general shape but not necessarily the exact notes or rhythms to be sung. Later developments included the use of heightened neumes which showed the relative pitches between neumes, and the creation of a four-line musical staff that identified particular pitches. Neumes do not generally indicate rhythm, but additional symbols were sometimes juxtaposed with neumes to indicate changes in articulation, duration, or tempo. Neumatic notation was later used in medieval music to indicate certain patterns of rhythm called rhythmic modes, and eventually evolved into modern musical notation. Neumatic notation remains standard in modern editions of plainchant.

Although chant was probably sung since the earliest days of the church, for centuries they were only transmitted orally.

The earliest known systems involving neumes are of Aramaic origin and were used to notate inflections in the quasi-emmelic (melodic) recitation of the Christian holy scriptures. As such they resemble functionally a similar system used for the notation of recitation of the Qur'an, the holy book of Islam. This early system was called ekphonetic notation, from the Greek ἐκφώνησις ekphonesis meaning quasi-melodic recitation of text.

Around the 9th century neumes began to become shorthand mnemonic aids for the proper melodic recitation of chant. A prevalent view is that neumatic notation was first developed in the Eastern Roman Empire. This seems plausible given the well-documented peak of musical composition and cultural activity in major cities of the empire (now regions of southern Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Israel) at that time. The corpus of extant Byzantine music in manuscript and printed form is far larger than that of the Gregorian chant, due in part to the fact that neumes fell into disuse in the west after the rise of modern staff notation and with it the new techniques of polyphonic music, while the Eastern tradition of Greek orthodox church music and the reformed neume notation remains alive until today.

Slavic neume notations ("Znamenny Chant") are on the whole even more difficult to decipher and transcribe than Byzantine or Gregorian neume notations. - Neume (Wikipedia)

Early musical Gregorian Notation closely resembles cantillation marks.


Occasionally and with a little luck one can still obtain books with Gregorian Chant with both the modern neume notations and its' ancient notation marks. Musica Sacra has a few examples of this on pages 22, 68,72, 74,76, 78 and so on.

The notation of Jewish cantillation and the "neumes" or signs of early Gregorian chant before the adoption of staff notation are similar to the Jewish ones as they emerged as visual "graphs" from hand gestures that give those who live within the oral musical tradition an understanding of varied musical phrases, as opposed to individual notes. This system is still in use in Jewish synagogues around the world. Finally, Werner provides the readers charts of almost identical pieces of Gregorian chant with synagogue melodies.

Curiously, once Christianity had distanced itself from its Hebraic origins in the fourth and fifth centuries, there emerged written accounts of senior Christian authorities like St. Augustine warning of deviation from the old tradition of singing in the Church -- implying an adherence to the musical traditions that came from Jerusalem. Despite the regional evolution of different kinds of church music, some early church fathers declared later musical innovations to be heresy. - What Did Jesus Sing?

In the Gregorian cantillation the singing quality results in a tendency toward a melodic elevation of the accented syllable; in elaborated musical compositions the accented words end up even taking the shape of the melodic curve of a perfect arc. This is the phenomenon of the accentus (from ad cantum: “for the chant”); the accent, “the soul of the word and the germ of musicality,” that orders all musical invention. Because there is a veritable dynamic in the Latin word, the word itself is a melodic movement. The accented (or tonic) syllable lifts itself upward, while, correlatively, the final syllable rests on an architectural note. The other syllables are carried along in this movement: pre-tonic syllables in preparation of the high point and post-tonic syllables in transition toward the final, all in the unity of only one rhythm, that of the word. - Gregorian Chant

Gregorian Chant rules have been adapted in many localities for singing the Sacred Scriptures in English.

Cantillation, in music, intoned liturgical recitation of scriptural texts, guided by signs originally devised as textual accents, punctuations, and indications of emphasis. Such signs, termed ecphonetic signs, appear in manuscripts of the 7th–9th century, both Jewish and Christian (Syrian, Byzantine, Armenian, Coptic). Although first intended to clarify the reading of the texts, they were apparently adopted as mnemonic devices to help the singer recall various melodic formulas. Their musical interpretation is thus dependent on a knowledge of the oral tradition through which the melodic formulas are transmitted. Today cantillation refers exclusively to the Jewish service. Cantillation

Whether or not one can find a Christian Bible of both Old and New Testaments with either cantillation or tajweed notations is somewhat dubious, there are many traditions that sing with styles similar to both Jewish or Muslim traditions.

Middle East Churches very much resemble these styles of chant.

Syrian chant, generic term for the vocal music of the various Syrian Christian churches, including Eastern Orthodox churches such as the Jacobites and Nestorians, and the Eastern churches in union with Rome—e.g., the Maronites (mostly in Lebanon) and the Chaldeans, who are dissidents from the Nestorians. To these should be added some branches of nearly all of these groupings in the province of Malabār, India.

Although the responsorial chanting (alternation between a soloist and a choir) found in Eastern and Western liturgies may have originated in Hebrew temple ritual, it is considered probable that antiphonal singing (alternation between two choirs) is of Syrian origin, and Syrian sources are among the earliest to document its existence. - Syrian Chant

Here are some YouTube examples offered for one's perusal:

Passio Domini Nostri Iesu Christi secundum Ioannem - Vatican Basilica

Maronite Catholic Mass: In the Maronite Church the Consecration is sung in Aramaic, the everyday language of our Lord, the Blessed Mother, and the Apostles. It is the closest we come to the Lord's actual words at the Last Supper.

Chant Maronites

Shlomlech Ave Maria Hail Mary in Aramaic

Abwoon D'Bashmaya The Lord's Prayer in Aramaic

Pacattu Kurbana : Syro-Malabar Qurbana [Holy Mass] in Malayalam


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