Were You There

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Tune: WERE YOU THERE
Scripture Songs
Published in 170 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), 1987

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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Baptist Hymnal 1991 #156
The Cyber Hymnal #7233
  • Adobe Acrobat image (PDF)
  • Noteworthy Composer score (NWC)
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Psalter Hymnal (Gray) #377
Worship and Rejoice #283

Instances

Instances (1 - 64 of 64)Text InfoTune InfoTextScoreFlexScoreAudioPage Scan
African American Heritage Hymnal #254TextPage Scan
Ambassador Hymnal: for Lutheran worship #83
Ancient and Modern: hymns and songs for refreshing worship #184Text
Baptist Hymnal 1991 #156TextScoreAudioPage Scan
Baptist Hymnal 2008 #254TextFlexScorePage Scan
Celebrating Grace Hymnal #192TextPage Scan
Chalice Hymnal #198Text
Christian Worship: a Lutheran hymnal #119TextPage Scan
Church Hymnal, Fifth Edition #246
Church Hymnary (4th ed.) #403TextPage Scan
Common Praise (1998) #192TextPage Scan
Common Praise: A new edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern #126
Complete Anglican Hymns Old and New #737
Complete Mission Praise #745
Evangelical Lutheran Worship #353Text
Gather (3rd ed.) #511Page Scan
Gather Comprehensive #416TextPage Scan
Gather Comprehensive, Second Edition #438Page Scan
Glory to God: the Presbyterian Hymnal #228Text InfoTextAudio
Hymnal 1982: according to the use of the Episcopal Church #172Text
Hymns Ancient & Modern, New Standard Edition #523
Hymns and Psalms: a Methodist and ecumenical hymn book #181
Hymns for a Pilgrim People: a congregational hymnal #184
Hymns of Promise: a large print songbook #170Page Scan
Hymns Old and New (Rev. and Enl.) #810
Hymns Old and New: New Anglican #540
Lead Me, Guide Me (2nd ed.) #301
Lift Every Voice and Sing II: an African American hymnal #37TextPage Scan
Lift Up Your Hearts: psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs #166TextFlexScoreAudioPage Scan
Lutheran Service Book #456TextPage Scan
Lutheran Worship #505TextPage Scan
Moravian Book of Worship #354Text
Oramos Cantando = We Pray In Song #428
Praise! Our Songs and Hymns #228Page Scan
Presbyterian Hymnal: hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs #102Text
Psalter Hymnal (Gray) #377Text InfoTune InfoTextScoreFlexScoreAudioPage Scan
Rejoice Hymns #324
Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal #158
Sing Joyfully #266TextPage Scan
Singing Our Faith: a hymnal for young Catholics #125TextPage Scan
Singing the Faith #285
Small Church Music #405Audio
Songs for Life #167TextPage Scan
The Celebration Hymnal: songs and hymns for worship #315TextPage Scan
The Christian Life Hymnal #161
The Covenant Hymnal: a worshipbook #240
The Cyber Hymnal #7233TextScoreAudio
The Hymnal for Worship and Celebration #181TextPage Scan
The New Century Hymnal #229Text
The New English Hymnal #93aTextPage Scan
The New English Hymnal #93bText
The New National Baptist Hymnal #485
The United Methodist Hymnal #288TextFlexScore
The United Methodist Hymnal Music Supplement II #195Text
The United Methodist Hymnal Music Supplement II #196
The Worshiping Church #218TextFlexScorePage Scan
This Far By Faith: an African American resource for worship #81Text
Together in Song: Australian hymn book II #345
Trinity Hymnal (Rev. ed.) #260TextFlexScorePage Scan
Voices United: The Hymn and Worship Book of The United Church of Canada #144Text
Worship (3rd ed.) #436Page Scan
Worship (4th ed.) #488
Worship and Rejoice #283TextScoreAudioPage Scan
Worship in Song: A Friends Hymnal #111TextAudio
Include 106 pre-1979 instances



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