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How Great Thou Art

Scripture References

Further Reflections on Scripture References

Hine's text vividly combines a sense of awe of nature and of its Creator (see also Ps. 8) with the New Testament gospel of Christ's atoning death and glorious return.
 
Bert Polman, Psalter Hymnal Handbook

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

Name
HOW GREAT THOU ART
Key
B♭ Major
Meter
11.10.11.10 refrain 10.8.10.8

Recordings

Hymn Story/Background

This text has an international history. Its first source is a Swedish text by Carl G. Boberg ("O store Gud"–"O great God"), who wrote its nine stanzas one summer evening in 1885 after he had admired the beauty of nature and the sound of church bells. Boberg published the text in Mönsterås Tidningen (1886). Several years later, after hearing his text sung to a Swedish folk tune, Boberg published text and tune in Sanningsvittnet (April 16, 1891), the weekly journal he edited.
 
Manfred von Glehn, an Estonian, prepared a German translation of the text in 1907, which became the basis for a Russian translation by Ivan S. Prokhanoff in 1912. The Russian translation first appeared in the booklet Kimvali ("Cymbals") and then in the larger volume The Songs of a Christian, published in 1922 with support from Prokhanoffs friends in the American Bible Society (reprinted in 1927). Several English translations also appeared in the early twentieth century, but these had limited exposure.
 
The Russian text came to the attention of Stuart Wesley Keene Hine (b. London, England, 1899; d. Somerset, England, 1989) when he and his wife were missionaries in the Ukraine; they often sang it together as a duet. Hine prepared the English translation from the Russian: stanzas 1 and 2, while he and his wife worked amidst the impressive scenery of the Carpathian Mountains; stanza 3, while they were involved with village evangelism; and stanza 4 in 1948, while they ministered to displaced persons in England. The complete English text and its Swedish tune were published in 1949 in the Russian missions magazine Grace and Peace. Because much of Boberg's original text was lost in the multiple translations, the English text in modern hymnals is usually credited to Hine. The hymn gained great popularity after George Beverly Shea began singing it in the Billy Graham Crusades, beginning with the Toronto Crusade of 1955.
 
Hine's text vividly combines a sense of awe of nature and of its Creator (see also Psalm 8) with the New Testament gospel of Christ's atoning death and glorious return.
 
Originally in triple meter, the Swedish tune O STORE GUD, now known as HOW GREAT THOU ART, is in bar form (AAB). The first section has a very limited range of four notes; the more meditative stanzas give way to a dramatic refrain with an expanded range. Sing in parts and observe some rhythmic freedom in the last line of the refrain, preferably only after stanza 4.
— Bert Polman

Author and Composer Information

Stuart Wesley Keene Hine (b. London, England, 1899; d. Somerset, England, 1989) served in the British Army in France during World War I and then entered the Methodist ministry. Starting in 1923 he was a missionary in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Russia. In 1939 he returned to England and ministered to displaced persons who had come from eastern European countries. From 1950-1959 he continued weekly meetings with various Slav immigrants in Earls Court. Hine wrote evangelistic tracts as well as a number of popular hymns, of which "How Great Thou Art" is best known, and the book Not You, But God: A Testimony to God's Faithfulness (1982).
— Bert Polman
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