Joint Liturgical Studies 22-23
The Music of Pre-Constantinian Christianity
For the student of liturgical music, the search for an adequate overview of Christian worship music in the first three centuries of the common era can be a daunting experience. There are many fine surveys of Church music, but few of them give much attention to the time before Constantine (d. 337). While there
are numerous particular studies on various musical texts, practices or personalities in the early Christian community, these seldom supply an adequate picture of the basic trends in early Christian worship or its music.
The reasons for this lacuna are multiple. The sources about worship in the first three centuries of the common era are quite fragmentary. There was little concern among the early believers to document their cultic or musical practices for latter generations. What sources we do have provide little specific information about music, or contain information that is often allegorical and difficult to interpret. More problematic than the sources is the very question about the nature of music within emerging Christianity.