Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Published in Ancaster Bulletin...


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.