This past Lord’s Day we sang a hymn a cappella called Of the Father’s Love Begotten. Besides being a particularly beautiful tune (in spite of my singing a cappella) and having glorious theology wonderfully phrased in english, it has an impressive history.

I’ve been reading ahead for next semester in some of the courses for which I am registered. One required text is Mark Noll’s Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity. Through the first quarter of the text, it is delightful – and I expect the rest to follow suit. Regardless, the third chapter is introduced with a poem written by Aurelius Clemens Prudentius of the same title as our hymn. Clearly the hymn’s forebear is this ancient poem. Compare the two, and consider that we’re singing the same praise that was lifted up 1600 yrs ago.

Prudentius’ version, as shown in Noll:

Of the Father’s love begotten
Ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha nd Omega,
He the source, the ending he,
Of the things that are, that have been,
And that future years shall see.
Evermore and evermore.

O that birth for ever blessed!
When the Virgin, full of grace,
By the Holy Ghost conceiving,
Bore the Saviour of our race;
And the Babe, the world’s Redeemer,
First revealed his sacred face,
Evermore and evermore.

O ye heights of heaven, adore him;
Angel hosts, his praises sing;
Powers, dominions bow before him,
And extol our God and King;
Let no tongue on earth be silent,
Every voice in concert ring,
Evermore and Evermore.

Modern Version:

Of the Father’s love begotten, ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega, He the source, the ending He,
Of the things that are, that have been,
And that future years shall see, evermore and evermore!

This is He Whom heav’n-taught singers sang of old with one accord;
Whom the Scriptures of the prophets promised in their faithful word;
Now He shines, the long expected,
Let creation praise its Lord, evermore and evermore!

O ye heights of heaven adore Him; angel hosts, His praises sing;
All dominions, bow before Him, and extol our God and King!
Let no tongue on earth be silent,
Every voice in concert ring, evermore and evermore!

Christ, to Thee with God the Father, and, O Holy Ghost, to Thee,
Hymn and chant with high thanksgiving, and unwearied praises be:
Honor, glory, and dominion,
And eternal victory, evermore and evermore!

The point for which Noll used this poem was illustrating the Christological view hammered out at the council of Chalcedon. I guess I don’t give my elders enough credit, as the sermon this week was on Colossians 2:9-10, and emphasised the (orthodox) Chalcedonian view of the hypostatic union! Go to the sermon for 12/17/2006 here. And you thought us Protestants paid no attention to church history… 

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