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Should we change hymn lyrics to reflect our theology?

Changing the lyrics of hymns we sing has a long, established precedent, and for good reason. If hymns are meant to be genuine expressions of corporate worship, then we should sing what we mean and mean what we sing. If a hymn is good, and yet there are one or two words or phrases we either cannot understand or cannot express, then it makes sense to change them.

Even hymn writer Isaac Watts expressed in the Preface to his Hymns and Spiritual Songs,

What is provided for public worship should give to sincere consciences as little vexation and disturbance as possible. . . . Where any unpleasing word is found, he that leads the worship may substitute a better; for (Blessed be God) we are not confined to the words of any Man in our public solemnities.1

Some changes are better than others, however. I won’t go into all the pros and cons of such practice in this essay; my aim is only to direct your attention to hymns in which this is commonly done today (both in print and “live”).

Assuming changing texts is acceptable, which of the following common reasons hymnal editors or individual churches change a text are valid? Which are not? Why? Are there any other valid reasons to change texts?

  1. Masculine reference to God (“Him,” “Father,” etc.).
  2. Masculine reference to people (“he,” “mankind,” etc.).
  3. Changing singular pronouns to plural (“I Sing the Mighty Power of God,” etc.).
  4. Removing demeaning terms (such as “worm” in “Alas, and Did My Savior Bleed”).
  5. Doctrinal heteroxy.
  6. Doctrinal idiosyncrasy.
  7. Unclear biblical allusions (such as “Ebenezer” in “Come, Thou Fount”).
  8. Difficult theological terms (“reconciliation,” “imputed,” “justified,” etc.).
  9. Archaic pronouns (“thee,” “thou,” etc.).
  10. Archaic terms (“welkin”, in “Hark the Herald Angels” (see below), etc.).
  11. Words with changed meaning (“bowels,” “awful,” “peculiar,” etc.).
  12. Awkward euphony (“Our God, our Help,” etc.).
  13. Syllabic stress (“Jesus, the name” in “O for A Thousand Tongues,” etc.).

Consider the following examples. Why were the changes made? Was the change valid? Was the change successful?

Alas, and Did My Savior Bleed by Isaac Watts

Original: Alteration:
For such a worm as I? For sinners such as I?
When God, the mighty Maker, died When Christ, the mighty Maker, died
[No chorus] At the cross, at the cross
Where I first saw the light,
And the burden of my heart rolled away,
It was there by faith I received my sight,
And now I am happy all the day!2

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross by Isaac Watts

Original: Alteration:
That were a [present/offering]3 That were an [offering/present]

 

And Can It Be by Charles Wesley

Original: Alteration:
Emptied Himself of all but love, Emptied [Humbled] Himself and came in love,

All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name by Edward Perronet

Original: Alteration:
Ye chosen seed of Israel’s race, Ye chosen seen of Adam’s [ev’ry] race,

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing by Charles Wesley

Original: Alteration:
Hark how all the welkin rings!
“Glory to the King of kings,
Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King;
Universal nature say:
“Christ the Lord is born today.”
With th’ angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”
Pleased as man with men to appear,
Jesus, our Immanuel here!
Pleased as man with men to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel.

O God, Our Help in Ages Past by Isaac Watts

Original: Alteration:
Our God, our help in ages past, O God, our help in ages past,

 

Jesus Shall Reign by Isaac Watts

Original: Alteration:
Does his successive journeys run;
His kingdom stretch from shore to shore,
Does its successive journeys run;4
His kingdom spread from shore to shore,
For him shall endless prayer be made,
And praises throng to crown his head;
To Him shall endless prayer be made,
And endless praises crown His head;
Peculiar honours to our King; Honor and glory to our King;

 

Amazing Grace by John Newton; st. 5, John P. Rees; consider the added stanza itself and the change within the stanza.

Original: Alteration:
When we’ve been there
ten thousand years,
When we’ve been there
ten million years,

 

Praise ye the Lord, the Almighty by Joachim Neander; tr. Catherine Winkworth

Original: Alteration:
Praise ye the Lord, the Almighty Praise to the Lord, the Almighty
Now to His temple draw near; Brothers and sisters draw near;
Hast thou not seen
How thy desires e’er have been
Granted in what He ordaineth?
Hast thou not seen
How all thy longings have been
Granted in what He ordaineth?

Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing by Robert Robinson

Original: Alteration:
Here I raise mine Ebenezer; Here I raise my sign of vict’ry;
Let thy goodness like a fetter
Bind my wand’ring heart to Thee.
Let thy grace, Lord, like a fetter
Bind my wand’ring heart to Thee.

Arise, My Soul, Arise by Charles Wesley

Original: Alteration:
His blood atoned for all our race
And sprinkles now the throne of grace.
His blood for sin did once atone ((another alternative I’ve heard is “His blood atoned for ev’ry race”))
And now it pleads before the throne.
My God is reconciled, I now am reconciled,

 

Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy by Joseph Hart

Original: Alteration:
I will arise and go to Jesus,
He will embrace me in His arms;
In the arms of my dear Savior,
O there are ten thousand charms.
I will arise and go to Jesus,
There I will find his mercy sure,
In the arms of my dear Savior,
I have need of nothing more.

How Sweet and Awful by Isaac Watts

Original: Alteration:
How sweet and awful is the place
With Christ within the doors,
How sweet and awesome is the place
With Christ within the doors,
‘Twas the same love that spread the feast
That sweetly forced us in,
‘Twas the same love that spread the feast
That sweetly drew us in,

Come, We That Love the Lord by Isaac Watts

Original: Alteration:
That never knew our God;
But fav’rites of the heav’nly King
Who never knew our God;
But children of the heav’nly King

 

Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus by Charles Wesley

Original: Alteration:
Dear desire of ev’ry nation, Desp’rate need of ev’ry nation,

My Jesus, I Love Thee by William R. Featherston

Original: Alteration:
In mansions of glory In dwellings of glory

This is the Day the Lord Has Made by Isaac Watts

Original: Alteration:
Salvation from thy throne. Salvation from Your throne.

What other hymn text alterations have you seen/heard?

Scott Aniol

About Scott Aniol

Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is on faculty at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He has written two books, dozens of articles, and speaks around the country in churches and conferences. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX where he resides with his wife and two children.



Endnotes:

  1. Watts, “The Preface,” in Bishop, ed. Isaac Watts’ Hymns and Spiritual Songs, liii. []
  2. Chorus added by Ralph E. Hudson. []
  3. The Psalms and Hymns of Isaac Watts has “present,” yet several hymnals also have “present,” but include a footnote indicating that the original was “offering.” []
  4. Ironic example of reason to change: in The Majesty Hymnal (Majesty Music, 1998), the editors capitalized “His.” []

43 Responses to Should we change hymn lyrics to reflect our theology?

  1. James Lowery says:

    My Jesus I Love Thee (Featherston):
    Orig (st. 4): I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow;
    Alt: And singing Thy praises before Thee I’ll bow; (Baptist Hymnal, 1991)

    One change I’d like to see:
    Make Me a Captive, Lord (George Matheson)
    Orig (st. 2): It has no spring of action sure, it varies with the wind.
    (Who uses a wind-up watch these days???)

  2. Leyi Ling says:

    Looking through these original and alteration, I think we should change hymn lyrics and the alterations that are listed above are better. Most of the alterations are easier to understand the real or (correct) meaning behind the text. Psychologically, I believe that the people who find someone else’s writing is incorrect, may have more reasons to change the text than the original writer’s reasons to keep text the same. Theologically, the alterations are more carefully worded and more scripture based, which make the lyric less arguable. That’s why I think they are better than originals.

  3. David Barnhart says:

    Without going into detail, I’d have to say that some of the alterations above are good changes, some are OK, and some are well…not successful (I won’t quite say “abomination”, but I was thinking it).

    I’m not philosophically opposed to changing lyrics where necessary, but I think it should be something done with care, and with as little change as is necessary to preserve not only the doctrine, but the original character of the hymn.

  4. Debbie Lamb says:

    I think it is acceptable to change lyrics to hymns when the words have changed meanings or have become archaic. This helps people understand what they are singing. It is not good to change lyrics just because a difficult theological term is used. Singing hymns is one way people learn to understand these difficult terms. I think the word ‘worm’ is much more descriptive and poetic than the word ‘sinner’ in Isaac Watts’ hymn ‘Alas and did my Savior bleed’. Sometimes when you change the lyrics for reasons other than theology you lose the poetry of the original. Any change to the lyrics of a hymn should be done prayerfully and thoughtfully.

  5. Brandon H. says:

    If a change is made to the text of of a hymn, there needs to be a good enough reason to change it. If certain wording is theologically incorrect, that is a valid reason to change the text. Other changes such as the “thees and thous” and the singular pronouns to plural come down to a matter of preference. There is certainly value in keeping as close as possible to the way the writer wrote the text. Personally, I would keep the changes minimal. The biggest reason for change should be to correct doctrinal error.

  6. Janis Felts says:

    If we are going to sing a hymn, whether in a corporate or a personal setting, we definitely should sing in agreement with our understanding of God’s Word. I do not believe we should change the masculine reference to God, nor do I think it necessary to use more inclusive language for humans, i.e. “mankind” works for me, even though I am a female!

    As this topic pertains to difficult words, I would see these words as an opportunity for a teachable moment. I believe words of depth, for instance, “justified” and “reconciliation” represent important truths of Christ’s atonement that Believers should learn. I appreciate our worship leader taking the time to do this for our congregation.

  7. Ben says:

    Archaic pronouns and descriptions are the only thing that I would change in most hymns. This fits with the vernacular of this generation, while still allowing the original meaning to come through. The same can be said of words that have changed meaning or have awkward wording. If it is impossible to understand the meaning, how is it edifying to the congregation?

    The exception to this would be biblical accounts referenced. “Come Thou Fount” is a great opportunity to explain to the congregation exactly what is an “Ebenezer.” This can be a great encouragement for those interested to do in depth study of the passage referenced and, by changing it, that can be taken. However, if this language is used, the minister MUST explain. Accordingly, Debbie makes a great point about people learning theology and terms through hymns.

    Demeaning terms is a state of political correctness that I believe is unnecessary. As a sinner, I am a worm. But God took me out of that and made me His son through Christ. If pondered, “sinner” is just as demeaning as “worm” or “wretch.”

    The big issues to consider are the amender’s theology and convictions. If their convictions can be supported and are theologically sound, I can understand. If they are making changes for simple change sake, it is a disservice to the congregation as well as the heritage found in hymns.

  8. Keji L. says:

    I believe that most of these alteration above made changes from the original ones in a good way. After the alterations, these texts are more clear and understandable. As long as the changes are doctrinally and theologically correct, and they fit the context, poetic pattern and tune of the original hymn, it is acceptable to make a change. Any change we make should be done carefully through prayer and respect the originals.

  9. David Jacks says:

    Just last week found myself dropping out of congregational singing of “And Can It Be” for the exact phrase listed above … think the phrase “emptied himself of all but love” needs to be changed … I did not notice any other congregants dropping out on this phrase … wonder why?

  10. Scott Aniol Scott Aniol says:

    Ha, David! I noticed!

  11. Matt Phenix says:

    As we look at the history of hymnody, hymn texts have been changed, many times for the better. As someone listed above sometimes archaic language does need to be updated so that the mondern congregation knows what is being sung about. My problem is that when people change the text for reasons like masculinity. If you change it in the hymn because of issues with the use of the word he, are these same people having issues with Scripture itself? If that is the case these people have a little too much of a liberal mindset in the first place.

  12. Sarah Teichler says:

    I agree with Brandon that the most valid reason for changing hymn lyrics is theological fidelity. I also agree that words that have become archaic or have come to have different meanings or connotations (i.e. awful) benefit from a more modern substitution. However, changes often compromise other aspects of a hymn such as poetry, singability, or gravity of the statement. To rightly call oneself a “worm” is humbling and a true picture of our sinful state. “Thee” or “thou” sound much better when sung than you or your, and although we don’t use them anymore in speech, they are common enough that most everyone knows what the words mean.

  13. ai-chin says:

    I agree and at the same time don’t agree with the idea of changing the text in hymn.
    I agree is that since hymn is to worship God, to educate, evangelize, and minister to congregations, then hymn should be made intelligible to congregations. Congregations should not need to spend time to think about the meaning of a hymn while worship. Congregations should be able to understand immediately when they sing the hymn. For example, the hymn below “For such a worm as I?” is a figurative word. Congregations will take a second to think about the meaning. On the other hand, “For sinners such as I?” is way easier to understand. In this case, changing of text should be acceptable. However, if discussing about copy right, then we should respect the author or publisher and not to change the text.

  14. Jiazi Gao says:

    I think changing certain texts in a hymn is acceptable. The concept ‘what we sing is what we believe’ is very important. If in a hymn occurs some words that are theologically incorrect, then it is necessary to make a change. According to the lists above, I think some of the alterations that are not necessary to be made. Because some alternations that are based on today’s culture and language, such as the matter of sexist language, which is nothing to do with theology doctrines. Therefore, I also agree that the changes need to be minimal , and thoughtful.

  15. Aeil Park says:

    When I was looking up the example, I thought that it is good to change it. It was much easier to understand and my mind is much closer to the words in the hymn. If it is better to change the text in hymn so that people can understand the meaning of a hymn easily, I think it is a acceptable to change lyrics to hymn. The purpose of the hymn is spiritual expression of our affections through the music with the words. The expression of our affections shouldn’t be difficult it should be easy to understand.

  16. Christopher Vlasek says:

    As we sing, especially in congregational worship where there may be someone participating that may not be very strong in his or her theology knowledge, we must always sing about doctrinal truth. Using a poetic device may be great in many circumstances it may not always be appropriate to use specific words. In the case of “Amazing Grace”, the text says “The Lord has promised good to me…” Did He? The Lord promised grace but not necessarily good. This particularly text can be confusing to someone not theologically strong as they may believe that since The Lord has promised good to me then nothing bad should ever happen. Therefore changing specific words in a hymn text with careful scholar consideration is necessary to explain the theological truth.

  17. John Gray says:

    I believe that there are some hymns that need changes in the lyrics. This being said, there are reasons and proper ways to change them. The main reason I believe text should be changed is the situation of bad theology or doctrine. I also think that archaic text can be changed (or the music pastor should teach the congregation what the hymn is saying). This being said, there are many reasons I believe that text should not be changed. Masculine references are not a reason, neither is the removing of demeaning words (such as worm). I also do not think hymns should be changed because they are to bloody or warring. Most of all (as a biblical conservative) it bothers me when hymns are liberalized (such as in the case of “In Christ Alone”).

    We must also be careful with the way we change the lyrics of hymns. A music pastor should have discretion, in his local body, on the text being used. I am opposed to changing text in a hymnal that the writer of the hymn has copyrights to, without their permission. Of the changes in the listed hymns, most I believe are not necessary. The largest exception is some of the archaic language changes.

  18. Mana Amy Hiroshima says:

    It was interesting to see those changed texts in hymns. I agree with the valid reasons of changing texts. Especially the #3 and #4. For number #3, in the case of singing as a congregational song, we sometimes need to change “I” to “We.” If the meaning of the song did not change, a flexibility can be showed up in changing texts.

    To answer the question which was written in the very bottom of the article, “What other hymn text alternations have you seen/heard?” I am not sure that I can answer to this question in the case of Japanese or not, but about 15 to 10 years ago, there was a huge revision of Japanese Baptist traditional hymn book. It was a case of #9 and #10, archaic pronouns and terms. Japanese Baptist Convention changed the lyrics from the traditional Japanese words to the regular Japanese words which we are now using generally. It was kind of like a translation from King James to New International Version. It helped younger generations to understand the lyrics better, but they lost its elegance. Each of these plans has its merits and demerits.

  19. Sarah Teichler says:

    David, I think your comment highlights the heavy responsibility of the music minister to choose music carefully, thoughtfully, and wisely. Your average congregant (I include myself in that category) does not catch such subtle theological implications as they pass quickly by. Like a sheep, I trust that what my minister brings before the congregation is doctrinally sound. Additionally, I think most people would not dare to stop singing in the middle of a song even if they did catch a questionable line. I, personally, would feel rude and disrespectful, and I scold my children when they refuse to sing something. The minister says, “Sing,” and I sing – and in goes the doctrine into my vault, for good or for ill. And so, the vital role of the minister of music cannot be taken lightly.

  20. Megan M. says:

    I think that depending on the hymn, and depending on what you’re substituting the old lyrics with, changing the lyrics can be a good or bad thing. A good reason for changing lyrics is definitely if they aren’t theologically sound. An example I saw in the text above was of Arise, My Soul, Arise by Charles Wesley. I thought it was odd that he says “My God is reconciled.” It sounds as if Wesley is saying that God was the one needing to be reconciled instead of mankind. In that case, it makes sense that someone would change it to “I now am reconciled.”

    On the other hand, I don’t think we should change the lyrics because they seem “sexist” (in the case of Dyke’s “Joyful, Joyful, We adore Thee”) or too graphic, such as changing “worm” to “sinner” in “Alas, and Did My Savior Bleed.”

  21. Seung Joon Shin says:

    What we sing is considered as what we agree to believe because hymn reflects a singer’s confession. If some hymn lyrics disturb the confession for some reason, the lyrics could be changed carefully. In my opinion, when we try to change the lyrics, there are some significant issues to consider. First, the change should be theologically correct and sound. Second, the lyrics should be replaced by proper words or expressions for contemporary people to understand well. Most of all, replaced words should remain the original meanings and nuances after the change. While we could change incorrect words to appropriate ones, we always should be careful of not losing their original deeper meanings.

  22. Kyu Lee says:

    When composers/writers write a Hymn, they think for themselves first and
    others second because it came from their personal expressions to God. Then listeners response in many different ways after they listen to that hymn. But listeners should be able to know the writer’s intentions.

    As we are living in the 21st century, the expressions of languages are different
    than the expressions from 1600s. Such as pronouns and Archaic terms and etc. It could be change and develop in advanced terms.

    First, I believe that we,christians and ministers, all need to understand the intentions of the writer and their background(cultures, pronouns and terms, etc.). Second, ask him/herself can this hymn text would fit into our congregation?Is there any unclear biblical allusions or difficult theological terms? Third, if there are some changes made then, we have to understand and explain to our congregation why? If the doctrinally and theologically correct, then I don’t see much problem in the church. Those things can be flexible and usable in the church.

  23. Leyi Ling says:

    I believe everything that is created by men is limited, which means it wouldn’t be perfect. If things are imperfect, then some good change will make the thing better. Back to hymns, good changes would help a hymn last longer and be sung by more people. I think what kind of change should a text make and how to make the text express the meaning or theological thoughts better are the key points that need to be discussed. I think changing some texts to reflect our theology will not change the purpose of the author composing that hymn. The main goal is all for the glory of God.

  24. Ben Little says:

    I like what Sarah had to say about the unspoken, sometimes uncomprehend, trust that a congregation has in the minister of music. This power is so often not considered by the minister today as music is selected by style preference. Sure, there are a lot of responsibilities that come along with music ministry, but these should not distract from thoughtful and prayerful consideration of aesthetic truth.

  25. Debbie Lamb says:

    I appreciate what Sarah said about the pronouns ‘thee and thou’. Yes, they are archaic, but are easily understood by today’s average church member. They seem more poetic than ‘you and your’ because we do not use them everyday and that causes us to pause and think a little as we sing them. Sometimes people will argue that using these archaic pronouns will be a turn-off to the younger generation – and it may be true on one level – but how else will they learn to appreciate the poetic words of a hymn if we never use them?

  26. Scott Aniol Scott Aniol says:

    This might interest you all. It is an article about the “Emptied himself of all but love” phrase in “And Can It Be”: http://baptistbulletin.org/?p=788

  27. Kirk says:

    When it comes to Charles Wesley’s Hymn I simply do not sing it even if it is a rendition of it. Pleased to know that one of our elders did the same.

  28. Brandon H. says:

    In light of the article just posted, it is an interesting questions of whether we should sing “potentially confusing lyrics”. To be honest, one reason I have chosen to not sing hymns at times in the past is because I honestly did not understand it. When I sing a hymn, I often do not grasp the major truths presented because of the confusing words and language that is not commonly used today. So in that case, is it better to sing songs that i know people will understand or am I just ignorant in not understanding the lyrics? Also to go off of what Ben was saying, there is a huge responsibility of the music minster to understand the hymns he chooses and present them in a clear way.

  29. Megan M says:

    I also looked at the article that was just posted, and even if Wesley may have meant the line “emptied Himself of all but love” to be something other than we understand it today, Wesley isn’t here to explain what he really meant. Even when the writer of a hymn may mean one thing, the people singing it may interpret it in a completely different way. I agree with Brandon when he says that the music minister needs to be able to understand the hymn he chooses and present them clearly. Otherwise, the congregation will interpret the hymns in their own way, and may leave the worship service with ideas that aren’t Biblically or theologically correct.

  30. Matt Phenix says:

    As Brandon said and Megan continues, the music minister needs to be able to understand the meaning of the hymn, and not just the meaning but also the theology. This is a good case for why music ministers need to be educated not only in music but also in theology. To truly be able to serve the church well, we need more than just someone who can play a guitar and sing pretty. We need educated people leading worship, so that they can adequately explain something in a hymn if needed.

  31. ai-chin 爱晶 says:

    Sarah T. you mention about “Thee” and “Thou” v.s. “you” and “your”, this leads me to think that “Thee” and “Thou” express the Majesty of God better than “you” and “your”. English is my second language, my first access to or understanding of “Thee” and “Thou” is only for God alone and not for human. Only later, I learned “Thee” and “Thou” are old English. It is not only for God. However, my point is that we should not change the names of God in hymns. Just like Dr. Aniol’s example in class, “The Lord is my Shepherd” and “The Lord is my cattle-driver”. When we change the name of God, we decrease the Majesty meaning of God.

  32. Aeil Park says:

    I agree that we should not change the names of God in hymns. If we change the word, there will be a lot of problems. It is really dangerous to change the words in hymns, because the meaning of the word will be totally chaged. I was interested about “Aesthetic” when we talked about this in class. Hymns must be true. Aesthetic form presents facts in a way that express reality. If so we should carefully use the Aesthetic form in hymns.

  33. Seung Joon Shin says:

    I have a same experience that Brandon have. When I was sung a gospel few years ago, there was a verse, “Jesus has been still suffering.” I thought He was not suffering anymore. I could not fully understand what it meant and could not sang the verse. Some churches changed the part as a more acceptable verse like, “Thinking of the love You have in me.”

  34. Keji L. says:

    I agree with that when composers or writers write a hymn, they are mostly sharing what they believe and reflecting on what they experienced. Every man has limitation, so there is no perfect hymns. People later on can make some good corrections and changes to make the hymn texts more accurite and understandable.

  35. John Gray says:

    I agree fully with what many have said about the huge responsibility of the music pastor. If the position of music pastor is that of an elder or pastor, then we carry a task of shepherding the flock. we must strive to be Biblically, doctrinally, and theologically sound. Thus we are not only responsible for the excellence of the music. The music we choose should reflect biblical truths accurately for the glory of God. We should strive to love God and love people, and we should be men of the Word. All this should be done for the glory of God. Though we are not perfect, may we be used a vessels to carry forth the word of God (in every way possible including music).

  36. James Lowery says:

    Another hymn which has undergone extensive changes . . . for the better: THE SOLID ROCK. Because of the number of changes, here’s the entire hymn:
    Our hope is built on nothing less
    Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
    We dare not trust the sweetest frame,
    But lean, O Jesus, on Thy name.
    On Christ the solid Rock we stand,
    All other ground is sinking sand.

    When darkness hides Thy lovely face
    We rest on Thy unchanging grace.
    In every high and stormy gale,
    Our anchor holds within the veil.

    Thine oath, Thy covenant and blood
    Support us in the sinking flood.
    When every earthly prop gives way
    Thou then art all my Hope and Stay.

    When the last awful trump shall sound
    Oh! may we then in Thee be found.
    Dressed in Thy righteousness alone,
    Faultless to stand before the throne.

    From http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/HWDU1858/358. While the hymn was first published in 1836, this page, from an 1858 hymnal, is the earliest on the Hymnary site. These words are confirmed in at least one other early hymnal (1859). An 1861 hymnal is the earliest one I can find which changes the plural voice to singular, and objectifies the subjective pronouns. Most of the other major changes seems to have been made by 1864.

  37. Mana Amy Hiroshima says:

    I believe that hymns are made not by a power of mankind, but by the power of God. We never know backgrounds, faiths, believes, and thoughts when composers got sacred ideas of hymns, but for sure there was God’s power on hymns. So when we sing not from our minds, but from the bottom of our hearts, He would make the hymns consecrated. Words are pretty important to tell the story and belief of God, also help us to understand better. But when we entrust everything to God, He would take care of it no matter how hard we try to think of the words of hymns.

  38. Jiazi Gao says:

    I also agree that the big responsibility for music ministers and worship leaders carefully choosing the hymns. To have the knowledge of composer’s background and knowing the text doctrinally correct is necessary and important. However just like other people says, the imperfect the works. If based on the rule of respect the original, and changing certain text in a good way and for a better understanding, then it should be acceptable. And music minsters choosing the hymn or changing the text should with the purpose of giving the right doctrinal guidance.

  39. Janis Felts says:

    Another reason that I, as a congregant, have changed words in a hymn is so that I can be honest with God. He knows the intents of my heart, my thoughts, my motives, etc. In fact, He knows them even better than I do. However, I must be realistic and transparent. An example would be the phrase from a contemporary song, “In all I do, I honor You.” Ideally, that is my prayer. But realistically and sadly, I know I do not honor the Lord in everything I do. So, as the congregation sings, I would change that phrase to be more of a prayer, “In all I do, may I honor You.” Obviously, I have sacrificed the metrical pattern of that phrase, but I’d rather do that than sing something that is not true.

  40. Kyu Lee says:

    Revive the traditions and Renewing our minds!

    Like Roman 12:2, we constantly have to renew our mind who we are in Christ Jesus and discern the times that we are living in. We have to teach our next generations why it is important to learn the old hymns and know what their faith.

    God wanted Israel to remember who God was and is and will be faithful to his people through the O.T. When we think of the word “Transform”, doesn’t mean we create something new. It reminds what God did through the Israel from the OT and NT.

  41. Christopher Vlasek says:

    Singing can be a very personal thing and changing the text by paraphrasing or even a single word can have an impact on the entire meaning of the song. We must be very careful not to let emotion and individual experiences affect what words we choose. The text we as arrangers or worship leaders choose must be biblical and have a true purpose for a congregational impact that is clearly stated to make theological sense.

  42. Phil Pockras says:

    Hymns are only the devotional thoughts and poetic creations of humans. Godly people, most of them, but imperfectly sanctified (1John 1.8) and of incomplete knowledge (1Corinthians 13.12). Of course it’s OK to change them! However, it seems to me that honesty and clarity dictate that the citation for the lyrics give both the author’s name and the date of writing, if known, and then the name of the reviser and the date of the revision. One should not have in a hymnbook a citation of, say, Isaac Watts only, when there are words there that he never wrote and perhaps never would have.

    If your big concern is doctrinal purity, and that should always be a primary concern, let me submit what might seem a bizarre cure. Use the hymnbook that God has given us. It’s right in the middle of your Bible. It’s the Book of Psalms. They were meant to be sung. They are singable as-is (look up and listen to Anglican Chant) or in other different styles. Christian people have been doing this since, well, they were given by God. They are the inerrant Word of God, so there can be no doctrinal error in them. They praise God perfectly. And, since they are from the Spirit of the Creator, they perfectly suit all His creatures’ hearts and situations. Further, lest anyone say that they want to sing about Jesus, remember what He said in Luke 24.44, that the Psalms *do* speak of Him. Sometimes it takes a little prayerful meditation to see that in some Psalms. Sometimes it’s so obvious that only a fanatic infidel can invent reasons to avoid seeing Him.

    Some groups of Christians, even yet, sing lots of Psalms in worship. Some even sing *only* Psalms. However you interpret Ephesians 5.19 and Colossians 3.16, it’s evident that the people of God should continue to sing at least some of their praise in Psalms.

    If you’d like to hear Psalms sung in several different ways, I’d suggest you check out http://www.exclusivepsalmsradio.com. Lots of examples in different formats there.

  43. Highly descriptive article, I enbjoyed that a lot. Will there be a part 2?

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