HERE are some of the most beautiful songs of peace and joy that the world possesses. Yet their origin, the date of their writing, and the exact meaning of many of the verses remain one of the great literary mysteries.
They have come down to us in a single and very ancient document in Syriac language. Evidently that document is a translation from the original Greek. Critical debate has raged around these Odes; one of the most plausible explanations is that they are songs of newly baptized Christians of the First Century.
They are strangely lacking in historical allusions. Their radiance is no reflection of other days. They do not borrow from either the Old Testament or the Gospels. The inspiration of these verses is first-hand. They remind you of Aristides' remark, "A new people with whom something Divine is mingled." Here is vigor and insight to which we can find parallels only in the most exalted parts of the Scriptures.
For these dazzling mystery odes, we owe our translation to J. Rendel Harris, MA., Hon. Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge. He says about them: "There does not seem to be anything about which everyone seem agreed unless it be that the Odes are of singular beauty and high spiritual value."