Oxyrhynchus Hymn

12 10 2009

Several blogs of late, Mark Goodacre among others, have called attention to the YouTube musical version of the earliest Christian hymn.

“The Oxyrhynchus Hymn (P. Oxy. XV 1786) is the earliest known manuscript of a Christian hymn – dating from the 3rd century AD – to contain both lyrics and musical notation. It is now kept at the Papyrology Rooms of the Sackler Library, Oxford. The text, in Greek, poetically invokes silence so that the Holy Trinity may be praised.”

While considering early hymns, I would recommend one of my favorite books on hymns in the New Testament:  Robert J. Karris, A Symphony of New Testament Hymns (Collegeville, MN:  Liturgical Press, 1998).




4 responses

13 10 2009
Cody Crigger

Is there an english translation of this text available?

In Christ,

Cody Crigger

13 10 2009
David May


There is an English translation of the text; it is listed below.

.. 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.

Translation by M. L. West, Ancient Greek Music. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992.

19 10 2009
Ron Stair

I heard cymbals clanging. Did the original manuscript have notations for musical instruments to be played (such as the cymbals)?

20 10 2009
David May


The musical notation, as I understand it, is only vocal. So the instrumental heard in the video would be an an addition.

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