All Glory Be to God on High

Scripture References

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

The best-loved expressions of praise for God’s care-taking work of his children comes from the familiar words of Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 1, Question and Answer 1: “My only comfort in life and death [is] that I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil...Because I belong to him, Christ by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes we wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.”

This great truth is explained more completely by Belgic Confession, Article 20. God has given his Son to die for us “…by a most perfect love, and raising him to life for our justification, in order that by him, we might have immortality and eternal life.” And in Article 21, “…He endured all this for the forgiveness of our sins.” For this redemptive work we give praise and adoration.

Tune Information

F Major or modal


Hymn Story/Background

A translation of the fourth-century Latin text "Gloria in excelsis Deo," this song is a series of acclamations to God in a pattern that was common in doxologies used in the Greek liturgies of the early Christian church. Stanza I consists of an opening antiphon from Luke 2: 14 and an acclamation to God the Father. Stanzas 2 and 3 are both acclamations to God the Son. Stanza 2 contains echoes from both the Agnus Dei and the Kyrie. A modern ecumenical translation reads as follows:
Glory to God in the highest,
and peace to God's people on earth.
Lord God, heavenly King,
almighty God and Father,
               we worship you, we give you thanks,
               we praise you for your glory.
Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father,
Lord God, Lamb of God,
you take away the sin of the world:
               have mercy on us;
you are seated at the right hand of the Father:
               receive our prayer.
For you alone are the Holy One,
you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High,
Jesus Christ,
with the Holy Spirit,
in the glory of God the Father. Amen.
— Praying Together, 1988

In the Greek-speaking church the text of "Gloria in excelsis Deo" (or Gloria, as the Song is commonly known) at first included only the words of Luke 2:14. The fifth-century "Liturgy of St. James," still used in some parts of the Orthodox Church today, preserves the Gloria in its short form, but the song is also used in various longer forms. One of the earliest long forms is recorded in the Greek Codex Alexandrinus, which dates from the late fifth century. The Gloria presumably entered the Roman church in the fourth century under the influence of Hilary, Bishop of Poitiers, France, and it was translated into Latin. It became a standard part of the Roman Mass from the sixth century onward and became known as the "Greater Doxology" (as compared with the "Lesser Doxology," or Gloria Patri).
Very early in the Reformation, Nikolaus Decius prepared a rhymed version of the Gloria, published in Low German in Joachim Shiter's Rostock Gesangbuch (1525) and in High German in Valentin Schumann's Geistliche Lieder (1539). Often used in the Lutheran tradition, Decius's text added an acclamation to the Holy Spirit in a fourth stanza, which, though not unwelcome, is not part of the original text as shown above.  
Ulrich Zwingli also made use of the Gloria, having worshipers recite it antiphonally between Scripture lessons. Thomas Cranmer introduced it into Anglican worship by including it in The Book of Common Prayer (1549).
The English translation is primarily by Francis Bland Tucker, prepared in 1977 for publication in the American Protestant Episcopal Hymnal 1982 (1985).
The Latin hymn “Gloria in excelsis Deo” became part of the fixed texts of the medieval Roman Catholic mass, which Luther wanted translated into German. A student of Luther, Nikolaus Decius made such a translation and fashioned it with a tune adapted from a tenth century Easter chant for the “Gloria.”
The tune name ALLEIN GOTT IN DER HÖH’ SEI HER derives from the opening words of Decius's rhymed text in High German. The tune was first published in Schumann's Geistliche Lieder. Decius adapted the tune from a tenth-century Easter chant for the Gloria text, beginning at the part accompanying the words "et in terra pax…" ("and on earth, peace…"). Because the Gloria became part of the ordinary (the unvarying parts) of the Roman Catholic Mass, there are many choral settings of the Latin text. Anglican composers have set the English text in their "great services," while Lutheran composers have written various chorale preludes on ALLEIN GOIT for organ. Bach used the hymn in cantatas 85, 104, 112, and 128 and composed about ten preludes on the tune. Typical of many Lutheran chorales, ALLEIN GOIT is in bar form (AAB).
— Bert Polman

Composer Information

An Episcopal priest, Francis Bland Tucker (b. Norfolk, VA, 1895; d. Savannah, GA, 1984) has been called "the dean of American hymn writers." He was educated at the University of Virginia and Virginia Theological Seminary. During World War I he served as an operating room assistant at Verdun. Ordained in 1920, Tucker had two long pastorates: St. John's Church in Georgetown, Washington, D.C. (1925-1945), and Christ Church in Savannah, Georgia (1945-1967), where, earlier, John Wesley had briefly served. Tucker was active in the Civil Rights Movement and in various civic organizations. He served on the committee for the Episcopal Hymnal 1940, which published six of his hymn texts and translations, and on the committee for the Hymnal 1982. In 1980, he was honored as a Fellow of the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada.
— Bert Polman

Author and Composer Information

Educated in a Latin school in Hof and at the University of Leipzig, Germany, Nikolaus Decius (b. Hof, Franconia, Bavaria, c. 1485; d. Germany, after 1546) became a monk and served as head of the Benedictine Monastery at Steterburg. In 1523 he studied theology at the University of Wittenburg under Martin Luther. At Luther's recommendation he became a pastor in Stettin in 1524 and moved to Mühlhausen in 1534, where he was influenced by Dutch Calvinist refugees. He also served as church musician and preacher at the Königsberg court of Duke Albrecht of Prussia. Decius is credited with German hymnic versifications of "ordinary" parts of the Mass-the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei, which he originally prepared to fit their corresponding chant tunes.
— Bert Polman
Hymnary.org does not have a score for this hymn.