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The history of Christian hymns: The Doxology

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Music has had a phenomenal impact on people down through the centuries, especially Christian music.

There just seems to be something about music (and lyrics) that touches an inner place in the hearts (and minds) of people; that nothing else can reach.

The most enduring songs ever written were Christian hymns. They date back to before the 3rd Century; the earliest one found to date. Third century BC started on the first day of 300 BC and ended the last day of 201 BC. It is considered part of the Classical era, epoch, or historical period.

However, songs of praise were played long before then. David played the harp and wrote many of the Psalms in the Old Testament.

According to those who research such things – the first documented hymn is referred to as the “Oxyrhynchus hymn.”

“ -ytaneo sigato,med' astra phasesphora lampesthon
potamon rhothion pasai hymnounton d'hemon patera k'hyion k'hagion pneuma pasai dynameis epiphounounton Amen Amenkratos, ainos aei kai doxa theoi doteri monoi panton agathon. Amen, Amen”

Translation:

“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”

My personal translation as this spoke to my heart: “I could see the leader, priest, preacher, or psalmist standing before a group of people saying, “Be quiet, listen. Let the stars even cease to shine – let the winds and the noisy rivers be still, as we sing a hymn to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. People all over the world, praise and glorify God always – God who is the only giver of good things. Amen. “

Isn’t God great? To think He preserved these words so long ago on a tiny sliver of papyrus; and yet today they are still the most prolific words sung in churches all across America.

It is estimated that it was written in the 3rd Century AD. It was found in 1786, written on papyrus in Greek. It was the oldest hymn ever found that contained both the words and the music.

There was a lot of uncertainty among Christians during the 3rd Century since everything around them seemed to be falling apart.

A short overview of the turmoil of that time can be read here.

But because of their tenacity and endurance, we not only continue to have the Word of God – but also beautiful centuries-old hymns that minister to the heart of those who will hear. “Let him who has ears to hear – hear!” Matthew 11:15

Any regular Christian church attendee knows by heart the Doxology – which seems to be a similar song as the one above.

“Praise God from Whom all blessings flow
Praise Him all creatures here below
Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
Amen”

This song known as the Doxology was written by Englishman named Thomas Ken. He lived between 1637 and 1711. He was an ordained Anglican priest. He was briefly the Chaplin to Princess Mary. This song was written about the time the first Europeans came to settle in colonies in America.

When he was chaplain of Westminster, he wrote three stanzas to help young boys keep up with their daily devotions. One to be sung in the morning, one before going to bed and the third in case they had trouble sleeping. The Doxology is actually a refrain (chorus) at the end of a very long song called: “Awake My Soul and With the Sun.”

He published many poems, along with a Manual for Prayers. He is considered the first Christian hymnist. For more information about Thomas Ken, you may want to follow this link.

There is another site which also contains the photo above that further expounds on the life of this gifted Christian man. Can you imagine songs that are so popular today lasting for centuries?

Catch this version of the Doxology on YouTube and sing along with the video. Close your eyes and listen and it will bless you even more.

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