Oxyrhynchus hymn

See Oxyrhynchus hymn

Oxyrhynchus was among Egypt's most prominent cities under its Hellenistic and Roman rulers. It was a prosperous regional capital, third city of Egypt, and home town of Athenaeus. Today its name is el-Bahnasa. The town lies roughly 300 km south of the coastal metropolis of Alexandria, or 160 km south-west of Cairo (ancient Memphis). It is situated on the Bahr Yusuf, the branch of the Nile that terminates in Lake Moeris and the Fayum oasis. Oxyrhynchus, or Oxyrhynchon polis, means ‘City of the Sharp-nosed Fish’. 

We know more about Oxyrhynchus as a functioning town, and about its people as living individuals, than we do about many more glamorous ruins because of the town dumps.  These remained intact right up to the late nineteenth century, as they were not considered likely sites for treasure-hunters.  They have yielded the largest collection of ancient papyrus ever discovered. Among these papyrus fragments is the earliest known Christian hymn, dating from the second or third century AD.  Here are the words of the hymn in the original Greek, together with the English translation:

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

...Let it be silent,
Let the Luminous stars not shine,
Let the winds and all the noisy rivers died down;
And as we hymn the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,
Amen Let all the powers add "Amen Amen"
praise always, and glory to God,
Amen Amen The sole giver of good things, Amen Amen.

Listen to a version of this hymn:

Oxyrhynchus hymn

© 2001 by Smith Creek Music

Site last updated: January 17, 2009