New Testament Hymns

The early church, even as its Scripture was being written, expaned the Hebrew Psalter to include their own faith-hymns. Some (like Luke’s Canticles) are squarely rooted in the Hebrew traditions though with a Christological application and others reflect the new situation of the people of God in the church as the story of Israel is extended through Jesus (many of the hymns Paul utilizes).

Whatever their origin, they reflect a usage in the church that gives evidence of deep theology in their praise of God and mutual edification.  This is a list for your own reference in the future. Remember, however, some are disputed (are they really hymns chanted by the early church?) but all of the below have their advocates and rationale. I don’t think it improbable that what the church sang helped shape what the church wrote because what they sang is what they professed in their assemblies.


A. Luke’s Canticles

1. Luke 1:46-55, Hymn to God in third person, “My soul glorifies.”
2. Luke 1:68-79, Hymn to God, “Praise be to the Lord.”
3. Luke 2:14, Hymn to God, “Glory to God.”
4. Luke 2:29-32, Hymn to God, “Sovereign Lord.”

B. Christological Hymns.

1. 1 Timothy 3:16
2. Philippians 2:6-11
3. Colossians 1:15-20
3. John 1:14-18
4. 1 Peter 1:18-21
5. 1 Peter 2:21-25
6. 1 Peter 3:18-21
7. Hebrews 1:3

C. Confessional Hymns

1. 1 Timothy 6:11-16
2. 2 Timothy 2:11-13

D. Sacramental Hymns

1. Ephesians 5:14
2. Titus 3:4-7

E. Meditative Hymns

1. Ephesians 1:3-14
2. Romans 8:31-39
3. 1 Corinthians 13

F. Hymns of the Apocalypse

1. 4:8, Hymn to God, “Holy, holy, holy.”
2. 4:11, Hymn to God, “You are worthy, our Lord and God.”
3. 5:9-10, Hymn to Christ, “You are worthy.”
4. 5:12, Hymn to Christ, “Worthy is the Lamb.”
5. 5:13, Hymn to God and Christ, “Praise.”
6. 7:10, Hymn to God and Christ, “Salvation belongs to…”
7. 7:12, Hymn to God, “Praise.”
8. 7:15-17, Hymn about God’s Promises.
9. 11:15, Hymn about God’s Victory.
10. 11:17-18, Hymn to God, “We give thanks.”
11. 12:10-12, Hymn about God’s Victory and Satan’s Woes.
12. 15:3-4, The Song of the Lamb to God, “Great.”
13. 16:5-7, Hymn to God, “Your are just.”
14. 18:2-3, Hymn about the fall of Babylon.
15. 18:4-8, Hymn of Invitation, “Come out of her, my people.”
16. 18:10,16-17,19-20,21-24, Hymns of Woe on Babylon.
17. 19:1-8, Hallelujah Hymns (5 of them).

*I put this list together many years ago. I do not have notes of how I did it or what resources I used.  If you discover this is too much like another list or see dependance, please let me know so I can give credit.

10 Responses to “New Testament Hymns”

  1.   Steven Hunter Says:

    Would you happen to have or know of a video that demonstrates the way they sang/chanted hymns in the first century?

  2.   Charles Stelding Says:

    If only the church sang/chanted these hymns today! The congregation would need patient and respectful guidance so that the average church-goer would be able to enjoy and sing these Biblical hymns. The NT hymns are so foreign to what many congregations sing today.

  3.   David Lawrence Says:

    Excellent. Thanks for posting, John Mark. Pardon me if I give my opinion that such is the kind of hymns we should be singing today, that reflect the glory, sovereignty, majesty, and grace of God in Christ. I am grateful to be attending a church that does sing this kind of hymns.

  4.   molly Says:

    Thank you thank you! I have been wanted to put a list like this together for myself lately, I will further explore this.

  5.   James L. McMillan Says:

    John Mark, Some scholars see early creedal statements in the hymns. (Kelly, J. N. D. Early Christian Creeds. New York: D. McKay Co, 1972, for example.) The Stone-Campbell movement is so anti-creedal. Is there a balance that might be sought in this area? An acknowledgement that creedal statements, like hymns, reflected what Christians professed in their assemblies?

    •   John Mark Hicks Says:

      You are quite correct, Jim. Some of these ‘hymns” may be early creedal statements (as 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 most likely is, among others). This list contains those sections which some regard as hymnal which may overlap with lists by others that they are creedal. They could be both as creedal forms could have been chanted, as some have been throughout history. I think creeds as professions or affirmations are quite appropriate. What the early pioneers dislikde was their use as tests of communion.

  6.   John Says:

    John Mark, would you consider adding some kind of reference reading app to your blog? It would be extremely helpful if I could just hover over those references and the text would pop up. Thanks.. . John

  7.   Rob Redden Says:

    John, I believe the source of most of these hymns and divisions are from Ralph Martin’s Carmen Christi, p. 19.

  8.   Starward Says:

    Thank you so very much for posting this list. After I became a Christian in 1994, I read—and now cannot say where—that the New Testament writings incorporated into their texts the liturgical utterances of the Early Church; because, of course, the Faith of the Church preceded the Writings of the Church. I often sought these, in order to organize my daily prayers around them, and I failed miserably on my own. Now in my old age, and as my health declines further than I would like, I have been led by God to your list, in order to help me organize joyful prayer in these last days of mine, and to prepare for my eventual departure. I thank you, from the depth of my soul, for preparing this list. Why I did not find it earlier I cannot say, except to have the Faith that God’s timing is not our timing, and God’s timing has the final Word on all issues.


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