Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Published in Ancaster Bulletin...

A WORD ON THE NEW HYMNS AND REVISED PSALMS


A few of you have asked whether we are not being inconsistent in that the revised Psalms have the old pronouns, "Thee", "Thou", etc., removed while we are introducing hymns that use the old pronouns (with the appropriate verb endings). That is a very worthy observation. What is going on?

The hymnal side of the songbook will always be somewhat eclectic since the songs come from many sources, places and eras. The older songs address God with "Thee" and many even address man with "thee." As much as possible, one tries to respect the style of the author and the integrity of the song. Its very eclecticism as evidenced by the different styles found in it demonstrates the (temporal) catholicity of the church. If the hymn is in the public domain, changes may be made, but one ought to be reticent about doing so. If it is copyrighted, no changes may be made, at least not without the permission of the copyright holder.

Many of the old hymns are so familiar that changing "Thee" to "You" would make the song virtually unsingable. Try singing: "How Great You Are" or "Great is Your Faithfulness." It wouldn't work.

The Psalms side of the songbook, on the other hand—based on God's own songbook that he gave to His church of all ages—should be redone every generation or two so that it continues to speak in fresh, current and vigorous language. It was contemporary when King David, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, first wrote it; the church should, as much as possible, always be singing from a contemporary version of it. Furthermore, if we want our children to love and understand the Psalms—which we most certainly do!—then we do well to give them a translation in a language they understand. We look forward and not back. That was the same argument for moving from the King James Version of the Bible (1611) to the Revised Standard Version (1952) and, eventually, the (1985) New International Version.

The 150 Psalms are a unit and there should be consistency within the unit. The hymns are an eclectic mix and inconsistency can be expected.

~rev.gvp

7 comments:

JVD said...

"Great is Your faithfulness" - that sounds odd to you? I've heard it that way before and actually liked it. Really, that is a matter of getting used to it, same as getting used to new words for the Psalm side of the Book of Praise.

And your argument about the children understanding the songs... so, that doesn't matter for the Hymns? Personally, I find that our Psalms are quite understandable the way they are written. Sure there are some oddities that can easily be changed. The changes to the Psalms, however, seem much more drastic than that. A lot of them are so very different that I don't even recognize them anymore. And, when I looked at the new version, I'm not sure that they all are closer to scripture than the old words. Is it just an opportunity being used because we can, or because we need to?

JVD said...

note: I'm not against these additions/changes, but do wonder at some of them

Agricola said...

The words are now closer to the text. E.g., the old (present BoP) version of Psalm 47 was so far removed from the Biblical text that it was an embarrassment. Same for Psalm 3. Our Synod said "improve the BoP" because it needs it. You are right that the changes or more than fixing up a few oddities. It's a revision.

Tyler said...

I haven't look at all the psalms but I am disapointed in the new versification of psalm 8 specailly vers 4...the new versification says "Yet You but little less than gods have made him" thats not at all what the bible says...the bible says "You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings" the heavenly beings being angels. He wasn't created lower then gods but angels...

Anonymous said...

you know what...i actually looked in the Hebrew for this verse...and it doesn't use the word angel...actually uses the word for God/gods...hmmm guess the new versification makes sense then

Agricola said...

The Hebrew word is ELOHIM which can be translated either as "God" or "gods." See also Psalms 138 and 82. The Septuagint translated it with "angels".

Agricola said...

Hebrews 2:7 follows the Septuagint rendering.