Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Just How Low Does the Love of God Reach?

In church on Sunday we sang a well-known hymn, but the words were slightly different from what I had learned. The original text goes like this:

The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen could ever tell
It goes beyond the highest star
And reaches to the lowest hell.

The version we sang (lyrics courtesy of iWorship, a company that produces song-lyric videos that can be played on a screen so that nobody needs a hymnal) went like this:

The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen could ever tell
It goes beyond the highest star
And reaches to the lowest hill.

Huh? The lowest hill? For one thing it doesn't even rhyme, and for another, isn't a hill, by definition, elevated? What on earth is "the lowest hill?"

This could be a typo, or it could be a certain squeamish sense that we shouldn't sing about h-e-double hockey sticks in church. Jesus had no such compunctions in the New Testament, and I for one need a love that reaches to the lowest hell. The lowest hill just doesn't cut it.

This song has a refrain that never fails to make me smile. I don't usually see it printed with a comma, so it reads like this:

O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints’ and angels’ song.

To me this means that the love will endure the song - that is, in spite of how out of tune, insincere, and generally unpleasant our song is, God's love will endure. That is certainly true, but I think what the author intended was:

It shall forever more endure,
The saints' and angels' song.

"The saints' and angels' song," in the second version, is an appositive, meaning that the love of God IS the saints' and angels' song. Also true, but I like the wrong version better.

Here's the whole song in the Cyberhymnal. (Warning - this link plays music!)


Anonymous said...

Leave it to an English teacher to notice that bit about the comma! :^) But thanks for a good reminder of how much God loves us.

Jessica Stock said...

You know I've noticed that missing comma before but never caught the way it completely changes the meaning! Yes, I like the wrong version better! And the one with h-e-double hockey sticks.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I'm with you. The wrong version does seem on the mark.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for using the word "appositive." I was trying to think of it the other day, in a totally different context, and could not pull it up. :-)

Ruth said...

And here I was thinking nobody was reading my blog any more...

Amy @ Experience Imagination said...

It's just hard to have good grammar these days. Then again, sometimes, it's really funny! Thanks for the grins.

John and Jodie Ackerman said...

I'm with ya too but I'm now so confused that I have no idea where the hell the hockey sticks are.


John and Jodie Ackerman said...

I just don't understand why my comments are being ignored.

Ruth said...

Give me a break, John! I've been home about five minutes and I'm publishing as fast as I can! :-)

"Ms. Cornelius" said...

That is really funny! You know, we certainly don't want to scare people i church by mentioning a nasty thing like hell, now, do we?