Christian Community Chapel


How Great Thou Art

The Story of the Hymn

In 1885 a Swedish pastor, the Reverend Carl Boberg, was visiting a beautiful estate in the southeast coast of  Sweden.  While he was out walking one day there was a sudden and very violent thunderstorm with brilliant streaks of lightening and booming claps of thunder.  The storm swiftly ended, the sky cleared and the sun shone brilliantly.  The birds started singing again and the day became a calm and peaceful one.  The Reverend was so moved by what he had just experienced that he knelt on his knees and gave thanks to God.  Shortly afterwards he wrote his feelings of what he had seen that afternoon in a nine stanza poem beginning with the Swedish words ‘O Store Gud, nar jag den varld beskader.

In 1886 the poem was first published in a Swedish paper.  Carl Boberg was an editor of the periodical Sanningsvittnet as well as being a well known evangelical preacher so he had his poem published in several periodicals.  Several years later in the Province of Varmland where he was attending a meeting he heard the church congregation sing his poem set to the tune of an old Swedish folk melody.

In 1907 a German  pastor Manfred von Glehn who lived in Estonia translated it from Swedish into German.  He gave it the title ‘Wie Gross Bist Du’. 

In 1912 the German version of Carl Boberg’s poem was translated into Russian by a Russia pastor, the Reverend Ivan Prokhanoff so it could be sung by his congregations.

 In 1925 the American Reverend E. Gustav Johnson living America in translated the Swedish version into an English version and named it O Mighty God, When I Behold the Wonder.  It was first published in the United States at that time. That music of Carl Boberg’s lovely poem is still found in some hymnals today although the English text is very different from the original Swedish text.

In 1933 English missionaries, the Reverend S.K. Hine and his wife heard the Russian translation while they were working in the Ukraine.  While they were travelling in the Carpathian Mountains and saw the beautiful scenery around them they wrote three new verses in English to replace the original Swedish words.  In 1939 when war started the missionaries had to leave Eastern Europe and return to England where they wrote the last verse after the war.

In 1949 the hymn was published in a Russian gospel magazine and copies of it were requested by missionaries all over the world. 

In 1954 an American Publishing firm obtained publishing rights for the words that the Reverend S.K. Hine had written and it’s popularity spread. 

In 1955 Bev Shea sung it at a Billy Graham crusade in Toronto Canada and it has been used in the Reverend Graham’s crusades since.

This popular hymn with it’s uplifting music has become a favorite of congregations around the world.

Watch the Video and listen to the hymn


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