christian music c 100 600 ce
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Christian Music c. 100 – 600 CE

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Christian Music c. 100 – 600 CE. Notated Song-Text. Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 1786 Christian Hymn, c. 275 – 350 CE. Artifact. Transcription. Date. Reverse = scratch papyrus of corn accounts (200 – 250 CE) Hymn = 275 – 325 CE. Text. Text. Music. Two distinct hands: Words in uncial Greek

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notated song text

Notated Song-Text

Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 1786

Christian Hymn, c. 275 – 350 CE

  • Reverse = scratch papyrus of corn accounts (200 – 250 CE)
  • Hymn = 275 – 325 CE
  • Two distinct hands:

Words in uncial Greek

Music in cursive Greek

  • G mode (natural F)
  • N.B. Rising pitch when Holy Spirit is mentioned
  • N.B. Could “Amens” be congregational?
  • N.B. Solo / Choir / Assembly
  • Anonymous
  • Text: generally anapestic; c. 16 syllables per line = not sophisticated
  • Music:
    • Originally a pagan tune to which the text-writer added the lyric?
    • Poet wrote the words then asked a musical friend to add melody?
    • Stenographer wrote down hymn text, then asked musician to add notes from sung example
context use
  • Personal devotions by an individual (however N.B. “we sing”)
  • Eucharist (but what element?)
  • Agape (as distinct rite in 4th C CE?)
  • Liturgy of the Hours (like Psalm 148 / Canticle of the Three Young Men?)
  • Home / informal circle of friends (N.B. “giver of all that is good”)
bibliographical recommendation
Bibliographical Recommendation
  • Tripp, David H., and Peter Wheeler. “The Oldest Christian Hymn with Music: Its Use as a Seminary Project in Liturgical Studies.” The Hymn 48/2 (April 1997) 20-24.
  • [An earlier form of this article was published in German in Jahrbuch für Liturgie unde Hymnologie 32 (1989) 94-104].
acts of john 94 97 c 130 ce
Acts of John 94-97 [c. 130 CE]
  • Before his arrest by the lawless Jews, who are given their laws by the lawless serpent, he [Jesus] gathered us all together and said:
  • “Before I am given over to them, let us sing a hymn to the Father, and thus go to meet what lies ahead.”
  • So he bade us form a circle, as it were, holding each other’s hands, and taking his place in the middle, he said: “Answer Amen to me.”
Then he began to hymn and to say: “Glory be to thee, Father.”
  • And we, forming a circle, responded “Amen” to him.
  • “Glory be to thee, Word,
  • Glory be to thee, Grace.” “Amen.”
  • “Glory be to thee, Spirit,
  • Glory be to thee, Holy One,
  • Glory be to thy Glory.” “Amen.”
  • “We praise you, O Father;
  • We give thanks to you, O Light,
  • In which the darkness does not dwell.” “Amen.”
“Now whereas we give thanks, I say:
  • I would be saved, and I would save.” “Amen.”
  • “I would be loosed, and I would loose.” “Amen.”
  • “I would be wounded, and I would wound.” “Amen.”
  • “I would be born, and I would bear.” “Amen.”
  • “I would eat, and I would be eaten.” “Amen.”
  • “I would hear, and I would be heard.” “Amen.”
  • “I would be thought, being wholly Thought.” “Amen.”
  • “I would wash, and I would be washed.” “Amen.”
  • “Grace dances. I would play the aulos: Dance, all of you.” “Amen.”
  • “I wish to mourn: Beat your breasts, all of you.” “Amen.”
“The one octad sings with us.” “Amen.”
  • “The twelfth number sings with us.” “Amen.”
  • “To the universe belongs the dancer.” “Amen.”
  • “Who dances not knows not what happens.” “Amen.”
  • “I would flee, and I would stay.” “Amen.”
  • “I would adorn, and I would be adorned.” “Amen.”
  • “I would unite, and I would be united.” “Amen.”
  • “A house I have not, and I have houses.” “Amen.”
  • “A place I have not, and I have places.” “Amen.”
  • “A temple I have not, and I have temples.” “Amen.”
  • “A lamp am I to you who behold me.” “Amen.”
  • “A mirror am I to you who perceive me.” “Amen.”
  • “A door am I to you who knock upon me.” “Amen.”
… “Again with me say:
  • Glory be to you, Father;
  • Glory to you, Word;
  • Glory to you, Holy Spirit.” “Amen.”
  • …After dancing thus with us, my beloved, the Lord went out, and we, confused and asleep, fled one way and the other.
acts of thomas 27 3 rd c ce
Acts of Thomas 27 [3rd C CE]
  • And the apostle rose up and sealed them. But the Lord was revealed to them by a voice, saying: "Peace be with you [John 20:19, 21, 26], brothers!" But they only heard his voice, but his form they did not see; for they had not yet received the additional sealing of the seal. And the apostle took the oil and pouring it on their heads anointed and chrismed them, and began to say:
Come, holy Name of Christ that is above every name [Phil 2:9];
  • Come, Power of the Most High and perfect Compassion;
  • Come, highest Gift;
  • Come, compassionate Mother;
  • Come, Fellowship of the male;
  • Come, you [fem.] who reveal the hidden mysteries;
  • Come, Mother of the seven houses, that you rest may be in the eighth house;
  • Come, Elder of the five members: understanding, thought, prudence, consideration, reasoning:
  • Communicate with these young men!
Come, Holy Spirit and purify their loins and their heart and give them the added seal in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
acts of thomas 49 50 3 rd c ce
Acts of Thomas 49-50 [3rd C CE]
  • And the apostle directed his servant/deacon that he should set a table nearby; they placed themselves upon a bench that they had come upon there and he put the bread of blessing on a linen tablecloth. And standing beside [it], the apostle said: "Jesus, you who have commanded us that we should become participants [or: that you have deigned us [worthy] to become participants] in the eucharist of your body and blood, behold, we dare to come to your holy eucharist and to invoke your holy name: Come, communicate with us".
50. [Greek] And he began to say:
  • "Come, perfect Compassion;
  • Come, fellowship of the male;
  • Come, you who know the hidden things of the Chosen Ones;
  • Come, you who have a part in all the combats of the noble Athlete;
  • Come, Silence, that reveals the great deeds of the whole greatness;
  • Come, you who reveal hidden things and make the ineffable manifest;
  • Holy Dove that bears the twin young;
  • Come, hidden Mother;
Come, you who are revealed in your deeds and provide joy and rest for all who are joined with you;
  • Come and partake with us in this eucharist which we celebrate in your name and in the love-feast in which we are gathered together at your call".
  • And when he had said this, he marked the cross upon the bread and broke it and began to distribute it. And first he gave to the woman, saying: "Let this be to you for the forgiveness of sins and eternal transgressions!" And after her he gave also to all the others who had received the seal.
rainer papyrus 542 3 rd c ce
Rainer Papyrus 542 [3rd C CE]
  • Born at Bethlehem,
  • Raised at Nazareth,
  • He taught in Galilee.
  • We saw a sign in the sky
  • When the star appeared
  • And the shepherds were amazed
  • Who were scattered in the fields.
They fell upon their knees, saying:
  • “Glory to the Father, Alleluia!
  • Glory to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, Alleluia!
  • Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!”
papyrus bodmer xii 3 rd c ce
Papyrus Bodmer XII [3rd C CE]
  • Sing a hymn to the Father, you holy ones,
  • Sing to the Mother, O virgins,
  • Let us sing a hymn and exalt, O holy ones.
  • Be glorified, male and female betrothed,
  • Because you have encountered your betrothed, Christ.
Aeterne rerum conditor,
  • Noctem diemque qui regis,
  • Et temporum das tempora,
  • Ut alleves fastidium,
  • Eternal creator of things
  • You who rule night and day
  • And you who give times of times
  • So that you might alleviate boredom,
Praeco diei jam sonat,
  • Noctis profundae pervigil,
  • Nocturna lux viantibus,
  • A nocte noctem segregans.
  • Now the herald of day sounds
  • The one keeping watch through dark night
  • Night light for those traveling
  • Cutting off night from night.
Hoc excitatus Lucifer,
  • Solvit polum caligine,
  • Hoc omnis errorum chorus,
  • Viam nocendi deserit.
  • Here the Light-bearer having awoken
  • Washes the sky with fog.
  • Here all the choir of those wandering
  • Forsakes the road of injury.
Hoc nauta vires colligit,
  • Pontique mitescunt freta,
  • Hoc ipsa petra Ecclesiae
  • Canente, culpam diluit.
  • Here the sailor regains his strength,
  • And the disturbances of the sea are calmed.
  • Here the Rock of the Church himself
  • By singing washed away his fault.
Surgamus ergo strenue,
  • Gallus jacentes excitat, Et somnolentos increpat,
  • Gallus negantes arguit.
  • Let us therefore arise vigorously,
  • The rooster awakens those lying down,
  • And stirs up the sleepy.
  • The rooster convicts those denying.
Gallo canente, spes redit,
  • Aegris salus refunditur,
  • Mucro latronis conditur,
  • Lapsis fides revertitur.
  • At the rooster’s singing, hope returns,
  • Health returns to the feeble,
  • The sword of the thief is put away,
  • [And] faith returns to the fallen-away.
Jesu, labantes respice,
  • Et nos videndo corrige;
  • Si respicis, lapsus cadunt,
  • Fletuque culpa solvitur.
  • Jesus, look upon those ready to fall,
  • And set us right by [your] seeing [us];
  • If you glance [upon us], the fallen sink,
  • But fault is washed away by weeping.
Tu lux refulge sensibus,
  • Mentisque somnum discute:
  • Te nostra vox primum sonet,
  • Et vota solvamus tibi.
  • You, light, fill [our] senses, and
  • Disperse the sleepiness of our mind.
  • First of all let our voice sound
  • And let our vows be paid to you.
Deus creator omnium,
  • Polique rector, vestiens
  • Diem decoro lumine,
  • Noctem soporis gratia.
  • God, creator of all things,
  • And ruler of the sky, clothing
  • Day with appropriate light,
  • Night with the grace of slumber.
Artus solutos ut quies
  • Reddat laboris usui,
  • Mentesque fessas allevet,
  • Luctusque solvat anxios.
  • Limbs [are] unbound so that quiet
  • May give back the use of labor,
  • And may alleviate wearied minds,
  • And may release anxious grief.
Grates peracto jam die,
  • Et noctis exortu preces,
  • Votis, reos ut adjuves,
  • Hymnum canentes solvimus.
  • Now day having transpired
  • And the threshold of night arrived,
  • In vows, we sinners present grateful prayers
  • Singing a hymn that you might assist us.
Te cordis ima concinant,
  • Te vox canora concrepet,
  • Te diligat castus amor,
  • Te mens adoret sobria.
  • The deepest parts of the heart sing you,
  • The melodious voice sounds you,
  • Chaste love singles you out,
  • The sober mind adores you.
Ut cum profunda clauserit
  • Diem caligo noctium,
  • Fides tenebras nesciat,
  • Et nox fide reluceat.
  • So that when the deep has closed
  • Day with the mist of night,
  • Faith may not know any shadows
  • And night itself might be relit by faith.
Dormire mentem ne sinas,
  • Dormire culpa noverit,
  • Custos fides refrigerans,
  • Somni vaporem temperet.
  • Do not allow the mind to sleep,
  • Let sin become familiar with sleeping,
  • Let guardian faith, making cool,
  • Temper the vapor of sleep.
Exuta sensu lubrico,
  • Te cordis alta somnient;
  • Nec hostis invidi dolo
  • Pavor quietos suscitet.
  • With slippery sense undressed
  • May the heights of the heart dream of you
  • Lest at the deceit of the hateful enemy
  • Panic might stir up the sleeping.
Christum rogemus et Patrem,
  • Christi Patrisque Spiritum,
  • Unum potens per omnia
  • Fove precantes Trinitas.
  • Let us ask Christ and the Father,
  • The Spirit of Christ and of the Father,
  • One powerful through all things:
  • Favor those praying, O Trinity.