Within the Judaic culture some melodies that have been preserved go back to 500 B.C. In the Bible, the Psalms and Song of Solomon were originally sung. Have you ever wondered how those songs sounded? A November 4 article by Patheos reported the discovery of the oldest complete surviving song discovered to date. It was inscribed on a marble memorial pilla known as a stele. The marble column-shaped stele is thought to be a grave marker which was found in Tralleis, near Ephesus. It has been dated to the 1st or 2nd century AD and the time of the earliest Christian communities.
"Encourage each other with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your hearts to the Lord" (Ephesians 5:19 ERV).
Words to the oldest complete song
While the lyrics to this song are not Christian, the stele offers lyrics in Greek along with an ancient notation of how the music would sound. This offers modern music scholars an opportunity to play the song today.
Ὅσον ζῇς φαίνου
Hoson zēs phainou
While you live, shine
μηδὲν ὅλως σὺ λυποῦ
mēden holōs sy lypou
have no grief at all
πρὸς ὀλίγον ἐστὶ τὸ ζῆν
pros oligon esti to zēn
life exists only for a short while
τὸ τέλος ὁ xρόνος ἀπαιτεῖ.
to telos ho chronos apaitei.
and time demands its toll. - via the history blog
Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs
In the fifth chapter of the book of Ephesians we are told to speak to one another with songs, hymns and spiritual songs. Fragments of ancient music dating back to the eighteenth century B.C. have survived. Most of the ancient songs were recorded on cuneiform tablets but the above song is the only complete song known to have survived with both lyrics and the melody engraved in ancient musical notation. While the lyrics are not Christian, the ancient notations found on the stele offer us a glimpse of what those songs mentioned in the book of Ephesians may have sounded like.