The gospel of Christ has been spreading across the globe for roughly 2000 years, and the sea of worship songs one can find on the internet is a testament to that. Old and new, Christian music is not so much a genre as it is a lifestyle, an entire thing of its own revealing a kingdom`s adoration for its Creator God. This other world has its own genres: praise, worship, praise AND worship, Christian rock, Christian rap, soaking music and many more that serve as a mirror parallel to the secular world, one reflecting the history of God`s people and our mission to shine His light in a fallen world. This history stretches back all the way to the day of the resurrection of Jesus, but one can only imagine what the first church`s hymns to the risen Lord were like. There is, however, a manuscript that preserves the oldest surviving Christian worship song. It is called the Oxyrhynchus hymn.
Dating to the end of the 3rd century AD, it was found on papyrus 1786 of the Oxyrhynchus papyri in 1918. Written in Greek, the song is special in that it is the earliest manuscript to contain both worship lyrics and musical notes. The theme is not centered around a particular bible passage but is instead intended to invoke silent reverence and contemplation of the trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Here is an excerpt:
1…together all the eminent ones of God…
2…night) nor day (?) Let it/them be silent. Let the luminous stars not (…)
4. Father and Son and Holy Spirit, let all the powers answer, “Amen, amen, Strength, praise…
It`s not much, but one can still feel the reverence and awe the early church had for the almighty, one that sometimes is absent in today`s music. Check the links below for more information and keep on digging!