From Psalm 100 to Hymn: The Transition in the English Language from Psalm Translation to Hymn during the Protestant Reformation

By Stern, Max | The Hymn, Autumn 2012 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

From Psalm 100 to Hymn: The Transition in the English Language from Psalm Translation to Hymn during the Protestant Reformation


Stern, Max, The Hymn


Psalm 100

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.

Worship the Lord with gladness;

come into his presence with singing.

Know that the Lord is God.

It is he that made us, and we are his;

we are his people, and the sheep of his

pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,

and his courts with praise.

Give thanks to him, bless his name.

For the Lord is good;

his steadfast love endures for ever,

and his faithfulness to all generations.1

Psalm 100 is preeminent among the psalms of thanksgiving. All the peoples of the earth are to serve their heavenly maker and in that spirit of gladness regain their fellowship. The psalm teaches that divine service is to be performed joyously in the process of day-today living. According to tradition, Ps. 100 was sung while the thanksgiving offering was being sacrificed in the Temple.2 In the messianic era all sacrifices will cease except for the thanksgiving offering, as gratitude is an eternal obligation.3

The Protestant Reformation and Vernacular Translation

Reform was a flame that burst across Europe, but it did not begin all at once. Anticlericalism and frustration with the corruption of the church spread over Europe in waves over several centuries. The religious and political upheaval in western Europe during the sixteenth century which led to the Protestant Reformation was primarily an attempt to reform the doctrine and practice of the Roman Catholic Church. This movement was often linked to nationalistic aspirations in England, Germany, Switzerland, France, Bohemia, the Low Countries, Hungary, Scandinavia, and elsewhere.

Fundamental to the process was an educational attempt to involve all worshippers, not just priests, in the act of worship. To achieve this goal biblical translation was crucial.4 Psalmody joined to music played a key role in this struggle. It was necessary to recast psalms into more popular idioms to enable congregations to join in the singing. Adapting prose-like Latin psalms and free-flowing Gregorian psalmody into metrical hymn-like forms became an ecclesiastical and liturgical challenge for nearly three centuries.

The first handwritten English-language Bible manuscripts were produced in the 1300s by John Wycliffe, an Oxford professor and theologian, along with his disciples, the Lollards, a group of itinerant preachers who sought to base their beliefs solely on the Bible and simple worship. Religious reformer John Huss (Jean Hus), a Czech national hero, actively promoted Wycliffe's idea that people should be permitted to read the Bible in their own language. But, in consequence of opposing a church that threatened anyone in possession of a non-Latin Bible with execution, Hus was burned at the stake in 1415. Undeterred, others followed. Martin Luther nailed his "95 Theses" to the Wittenberg church door in 1517 and created an upheaval throughout the ecclesiastical world. He went on to publish a German translation of the Bible. From England William Tyndale, a reformer and linguist, fled to Luther's doorstep in Germany in order to translate and publish the first English edition of the New Testament. For his efforts Tyndale was burned at the stake in 1536. Such were some of the tribulations involved in the struggle to bring vernacular translations of the Bible into the modern world.

Anglican Chant

Psalmody as a form of congregational singing was developed fully in the English language. King Henry VIII renounced the papacy and established the Church of England with himself as head in 1534. The first English translation of the complete Bible was made from the Latin Vulgate by Bishop Miles Coverdale (1488-1569) and printed in 1535. Much of this translation is included in the "Great English Bible" funded by King Henry VIII in 1539. Coverdale took pains to respect the colorful character and expressive range of the original Hebrew psalms. A translation of Ps.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

From Psalm 100 to Hymn: The Transition in the English Language from Psalm Translation to Hymn during the Protestant Reformation
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?