Were You There

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Tune: WERE YOU THERE
Scripture Songs
Published in 154 hymnals

Printable scores: PDF, Sibelius
Audio files: MIDI

Full Text

1 Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

2 Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?

3 Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?

4 Were you there when God raised him from the tomb?
Were you there when God raised him from the tomb?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when God raised him from the tomb?

Psalter Hymnal, (Gray)

Notes

Scripture References:
st. 1-2 = Matt. 27:55-56
st. 3 = Luke 23:55
st. 4 = Matt. 28:1-7

An African American spiritual that probably predates the Civil War, "Were You There" was first published in William Barton's Old Plantation Hymns (1899). The spiritual's earlier roots include a white spiritual known in Tennessee as "Have you heard how they crucified my Lord?" Additional stanzas are available from oral and written tradition:

Were you there when they pierced him in the side?
Were you there when the sun refused to shine?

Just as modern Jews identify with the Hebrew slaves in Egypt at their Passover Seder ("When I was in Egypt"), we are encouraged in this text to identify with the witnesses to Christ's death and resurrection. With distances of geography and time removed, we become part of that great body of people who come trembling to the cross of Christ for salvation. ('Tree" in stanza 2 refers, of course, to the cross, but it was undoubtedly significant to black slaves who witnessed lynchings.)

Liturgical Use:
Stanzas 1-3 on Good Friday; stanzas 1-4 during the Paschal Vigil or at Easter sunrise services.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Tune

WERE YOU THERE

The congregation could sing the entire spiritual, but the tune has a call-and-response structure; try singing unaccompanied with a soloist asking the initial questions in each stanza and the congregation joining in at "Oh, sometimes." The soloist could take significant liberty with the melody and rh…

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