Hymnsing Day 4 – How Great Thou Art


The story behind the popular English version of this classic hymn is both complicated and amazing. The first two verses were just a part of a poem (O Store Gud) written in Swedish by  Carl Boberg in 1886. These verses were later combined with a traditional Swedish folk melody. Next O Store Gud was translated into German and then Russian where it became popular in protestant hymnals in the early twentieth century. This may seem surprising to those of us raised on this hymn assuming it to have been written in English. (Some people assume Elvis Presley to be the author). In fact the first English translation done by E Gustav Johnson survives to this day titled “Great God” in the Covenant Hymnal with all nine verses of Boberg’s original poem!

Our familiar version was translated by English missionary Stuart Hine who heard it in its Swedish version while travelling in the Ukraine. He used the Swedish melody, translated the first two verses then added verses three and four completing our now familiar four stanzas. To me the inspiration of this hymn now translated into most of the languages in the world is nothing short of miraculous and a testimony to God’s greatness just as the chorus says. I pray you will  be blessed to know a small bit of the story and to share again the music and words with your family.

Author: pastorpete51

My wife and I serve as members of a worship team at a multicultural church. Our members are from Brazil, Nepal and the U.S.. Because of the many languages and cultures in our local body we face unique challenges, such as how many songs will we do in English today? What new songs can we use in either language that are simple enough for the people to sing. The songs, the devotions and insights here are a small portion of some of the ways God is leading us as we push towards the goal. I pray that these will be both a blessing and an encouragement for those of you who may pass by Praise 2 Worship.

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