This book there is no part of the general field of Christian hymnology so baffling to the student or so full of difficulties as the one under consideration in this paper. Many accounts of the subject are in existence but are far from conclusive. This is due, first of all, to the unexpected scarcity of original sources. When one views the rise of Christianity from its inception to the period of the Council of Nicaea, 325, its numerical growth from a handful of original adherents to millions of followers at the time of the Edict of Milan, 313, its literary development from early scattered records to the works of the great Greek and Latin fathers, one cannot help inquiring, What has become of their hymns? Another puzzling aspect of the study is the complex historical background against which the progress of Christianity appears. The peace and constructive progress of the Augustan era, in which Christianity was founded, have often been cited as factors contributing to its evolution and spread. But this is not the whole story. The civilization of that day, especially in the eastern Mediterranean lands most concerned, was largely Hellenistic, of mingled Greek and oriental features which were necessarily wrought into the fabric of the new religion. An understanding of pre Augustan conditions, in which these diverse historical and literary trends were merged, is essential, for without it the subject is unintelligible.
By Ruth Ellis Messenger