The Oldest Christian Hymn with Music

There may be older Christian hymns, but the oldest hymn accompanied with musical notation is surely the fragmentary one found at Oxyrhynchus:

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The Ancient Peoples blog provided a transcription and translation of the text:

[?πρ]υτανηω σιγατω μηδ᾽ αστρα φαεσφορα λ[ειπ]ε
[σ]θον[.].λει[…]ρ[…]ποταμων ροθιων πασαι υμνουν των δ᾽ ημων
[π]ατερα Χ᾽ υιον Χ᾽ αγιον πνευμα πασαι δυναμεις επιφοωνουντον αμην αμην κρατος αινος
[…]δ[ωτ]η[ρι] μονω παντων αγαθον αμην αμην

These lyrics have been translated as:

… Let it be silent
Let the Luminous stars not shine,
Let the winds (?) and all the noisy rivers die down;
And as we hymn the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,
Let all the powers add “Amen Amen”
Empire, praise always, and glory to God,
The sole giver of good things, Amen Amen.

See the booklet that comes with the CD with a recording of the hymn, Musique de la Grece Antique (Ancient Greek Music), for more information.

  • Dave Lincicum

    Thanks for calling attention to this beautiful hymn. Charles Cosgrove has also made a book-length study of it (which I’d like to read but it’s too expensive!): http://www.amazon.com/Ancient-Christian-Hymn-Musical-Notation/dp/3161509234

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      That definitely looks like one to interlibrary loan rather than buy! :-)


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