Magnificat

MAGNIFICAT (măg-nĭf'ĭ-kăt). The song of praise by Mary recorded in Luke.1.46-Luke.1.55. This name comes from its first word in the Vulgate version, Magnificat mea anima (“My soul doth magnify”). Mary spoke this song in response to the assurance from Elizabeth that God would surely fulfill the words of the angel Gabriel that she would be the woman chosen to bring the Son of God into the world. The song resembles closely the poetry of the OT; its similarity to Hannah’s prayer in 1Sam.2.1-1Sam.2.10 is very striking. There can be no doubt that Mary said these words; all the Greek manuscripts ascribe it to her, but three Latin manuscripts read Elizabeth instead of Mary in verse 46.


The song of praise sung by Mary (Luke 1:46- 55) when she visited Elizabeth to tell her about the forthcoming birth of Jesus. The name is derived from the first word of the hymn in the Latin version. There are considerable similarities between the Magnificat and the Song of Hannah (1 Sam. 2:1-10) and there is no doubt that the memory of this formed the background. The situation of Elizabeth makes a closer parallel in some ways to that of Hannah, and there is some slight MS evidence for ascribing the hymn to Elizabeth. It has been suggested that the original text may have included no name and that scribes have inserted one or the other. The hymn is one of praise for the gracious action of God on behalf of His people and in particular of the singer herself. It is fully appropriate to the occasion and shows no sign of having Christian theology read back into it. It has been used as an evening canticle in the worship of the Western Church since at least the time of Benedict.


MAGNIFICAT, the title of an ancient liturgical hymn drawn from the Vul. VS of Mary’s psalm of praise (Luke 1:46-55). The Vul. states, “Magnificat anima mea Dominum,” “My soul magnifies the Lord.” The passage is similar to the prayer or song of Hannah (1 Sam 2:1-10), and contains allusions to it. It is one of the three psalms in Heb. poetic style with parallelistic construction in this narrative of the birth of our Lord. In v. 46 which states, Lat. Vul. VS, “Et ait Maria,” “Thus said Mary,” certain Old Lat. MSS read, “Et ait Elisabet,” “Thus said Elizabeth.” They are namely the codices Vercellensis (4th cent.); Veronensis (4th & 5th cent.) and Rehdigerianus (7th cent.) and their reading is supported by a few Lat. patristic citations. Over against this are the mass of early Gr. papyri, uncials and even the Syr. MSS. Westcott and Hort considered this one of their “noteworthy rejected readings.” It was apparently a liturgical gloss later infixed into the text at some point in the early medieval period. The text makes a most fitting ending to the expectations of the OT covenant which looked forward to the consummation of the promised blessing to Abraham in the servant, Messiah of the Lord. The utter humility of the means by which God is pleased to bring this grace to His people is glorified as a sing. instance of His sovereign power. The psalm also initiates the age of the Messianic fulfillment as few texts in Scripture.

The various critical objections to the traditional origin of the piece, that it was the praise uttered by the Virgin Mary, are not worthy of serious discussion. The text in its medieval guise as “The Canticle of the Blessed Virgin” has had wide acceptance in all branches of Christendom. Since the codification of the worship service by Pope Gregory the Great (590-604) and the official acceptance of the rule of St. Benedict (480-543) the Magnificat has been sung at the vesper or evening prayers. However in the reformation and evangelical churches it has been paraphrased and sung as a congregational hymn. Some of the greatest works of Christian art have been produced around the Magnificat themes. Artists, poets and musicians have celebrated its theme of joy at the salvation now graciously offered mankind through the gift of His Messiah.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

mag-nif’-i-kat: The name given to the hymn of Mary in Lu 1:46-55, commencing "My soul doth magnify the Lord." Three old Latin manuscripts substitute the name "Elisabeth" for "Mary" in 1:46, but against this is the authority of all Greek manuscripts and other Latin versions. The hymn, modeled in part on that of Hannah in 1Sa 2:1 ff, is peculiarly suitable to the circumstances of Mary, and plainly could not have been composed after the actual appearance and resurrection of Christ. Its early date is thus manifest.