The Best Lutheran Hymn: More Info and *All* the Verses
A bit more searching this morning revealed that in fact there are fourteen verses in "Salvation Unto Us Has Come." Edited versions are not bad, by any stretch, but it is great to have all fourteen verses. I checked the Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary, the ELS hymnal, and found that they include all fourteen verses, in an archaic translation, but they are all there and as I was all set to type them all in to a post, lo and behold, a kind reader sent me a link to the Bach Cantata web site that has the entire hymn, in both German and in an English translation that is a bit more readable, though not lyrical for a hymn, in other words, you can’t sing it, but it makes the literal German come a bit more clear. And, I believe some will find interesting the German text and the more literal English, which gives some different nuances to the hymn that we’ve not seen before. So, if you click through to the extended post you will find all fourteen verses in German and in more of a literal English translation. If some kind soul happens to have all fourteen verses as provided in Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary, I would certainly appreciate receiving them and will gladly post them. Following the hymn verses is commentary on the hymn and tune and a very brief biographical sketch of the hymn writer, Paul Speratus. I’m struck once again by the moving story of Paul Speratus’ life and work.
Es ist das Heil uns kommen her
Von Gnad’ und lauter Güte,
Die Werke helfen nimmermehr,
Sie mögen nicht behüten,
Der Glaub’ sieht Jesum Christum an
Der hat g’nug für uns all’ getan,
Er ist der Mittler worden.
Salvation has come to us
from grace and sheer kindness
Works never help,
they cannot protect us.
Faith looks towards Jesus Christ
who has done enough for all of us.
He has become our mediator
Was Gott im G’setz geboten hat,
Da man es nicht konnt’ halten,
Erhub sich Zorn und große Not
Vor Gott so mannigfalten;
Vom Fleisch wollt’ nicht heraus der Geist,
Vom G’setz erfordert allermeist,
Es war mit uns verloren.
Since we could not keep
what God had commanded in the law,
there arose wrath and great distress
in many ways before God;
the spirit was unwilling to get away from the flesh,
especially when the law demanded,
our situation was desperate.
Es war ein falscher Wahn dabei,
Gott hätt’ sein G’setz drum geben,
Als ob wir möchten selber frei
Nach seinem Willen leben;
So ist es nur ein Spiegel zart,
Der uns zeigt an die sünd’ge Art,
In unserm Fleisch verborgen.
It was a misleading delusion to think
that God had given his law
as if we ourselves could freely
live according to his will.
The law is in fact a subtle mirror
that reveals to us the sinful nature
hidden within our flesh
Nicht möglich war es, diese Art
Aus eignen Kräften laßen.
Wiewohl es oft versuchet ward,
Doch mehrt’ sich Sünd’ ohn Maßen;
Denn Gleisnerswerk Gott hoch verdammt,
Und je dem Fleisch der Sünde Schand’
Allzeit war angeboren.
It was not possible to escape from
this nature through our own strength.
Though attempts were often made,
sin increased without measure.
For God greatly condemns hypocrisy
and the shame of sin
was always innate in the flesh
Doch mußt’ das G’setz erfüllet sein,
Sonst wär’n wir all’ verdorben;
Darum schickt’ Gott sein’n Sohn herein,
Der selber Mensch ist worden;
Das ganz’ Gesetz hat er erfüllt,
Damit sein’s Vaters Zorn gestillt,
Der über uns ging alle.
Yet the law had to be fulfilled,
or else we were all ruined.
God therefore sent his Son to us,
who himself became man;
he fulfilled the whole law,
and so appeased his Father’s wrath
which hung over all of us
Und wenn es nun erfüllet ist
Durch den, der es konnt’ halten,
So lerne jetzt dein frommer Christ
Des Glaubens recht’ Gestalte.
Nicht mehr, denn: Lieber Herre mein,
Dein Tod wird mir das Leben sein,
Du hast für mich bezahlet!
And since the law has now been fulfilled
through him who was able to keep it,
each pious Christian should now understand
the right form of faith.
Nothing more than this:my dear Lord,
your death becomes my life,
you have paid the price for me.
Daran ich keinen Zweifel trag’,
Dein Wort kann nicht betrügen.
Nun sagst du, daß kein Mensch verzag’,
Das wirst du nimmer lügen:
Wer glaubt an mich und wird getauft,
Demselben ist der Himm’l erkauft,
Daß er nicht wird verloren.
In this matter I have no doubt,
your word cannot deceive.
Now you say that nobody should despair,
you will never lie about this:
anyone who believes in me and is baptized
has heaven bought for him,
so that he will not be lost.
Es ist gerecht vor Gott allein,
der diesen Glauben fasset;
der Glaub gibt von sich aus den Schein,
so er die Werk nicht lasset;
mit Gott der Glaub ist wohl daran,
dem Nächsten wird die Lieb Guts tun,
bist du aus Gott geboren.
Before God only that person is just
who grasps this faith,;
faíth shines out,
when it does not neglect works;
for God faith is very much a matter
of loving to do good to your neighbour,
if you are born from God.
Es wird die Sünd’ durchs G’setz erkannt
Und schlägt das G’wissen nieder,
Das Evangelium kommt zuhand
Und stärkt den Sünder wieder
Und spricht: Nur kreuch zum Kreuz herzu,
Im G’setz ist weder Rast noch Ruh’
Mit allen seinen Werken!
Sin is known through the law
and strikes down our conscience.
The gospel comes to our aid
And strengthens the sinner again
And tells us nly creep close to the cross,
In the law is neither rest nor peace
With all its works.
Die Werk’, die kommen g’wisslich her
Aus einem rechten Glauben;
Denn das nicht rechter Glaube wär’,
Wollt’st ihn der Werk’ berauben.
Doch macht allein der Glaub’ gerecht,
Die Werke sind des Nächsten Knecht’.
Dabei wir’n Glauben merken.
Works surely come from a true faith.
For if faith were not true,
you would be willing to deprive it of works.
But faith alone makes just ,
Works are service to our neighbour,
By which we perceive faith.
Die Hoffnung wart’ der rechten Zeit,
was Gottes Wort zusage;
wann das geschehen soll zur Freud,
setzt Gott kein gwisse Tage.
Er weiß wohl, wanns am besten ist,
und braucht an uns kein arge List;
des solln wir ihm vertrauen.
Hope waits for the right time
which God’s word has promised,
but as to when things will turn out joyfully,
God sets no certain day.
He knows well when it is best
and uses no cunning deceit against us,
and so we should trust him.
Ob sichs anließ, als wollt er nicht,
laß dich es nicht erschrecken,
denn wo er ist am besten mit,
da will ers nicht entdecken.
Sein Wort laß dir gewisser sein,
und ob dein Fleisch spräch lauter Nein,
so laß doch dir nicht grauen.
Although it seems that he is unwilling,
do not be dismayed,
for when he is most present with us,
then he does not want to reveal that fact.
Regard his word as certain for you,
and even if the flesh can only say no,
you should not be appalled
Sei Lob und Ehr’ mit hohem Preis
Um dieser Gutheit willen
Gott Vater, Sohn, Heiligen Geist!
Der woll’ mit Gnad’ erfüllen,
Was er in uns ang’fangen hat
Zu Ehren seiner Majestät,
Daß heilig werd’ sein Name.
May there be glory and honour with great praise
on account of this kindness
to God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
May He be willing in his mercy to fulfil
what He has begun in us
for the glory of His majesty,
so that His name may become holy.
sein Reich zukomm; sein Will auf Erd
gscheh wie im Himmelsthrone;
das täglich Brot noch heut uns werd;
woll unsrer Schuld verschonen,
als wir auch unsern Schuldnern tun;
laß uns nicht in Versuchung stehn;
lös unsvom Übel. Amen.
may His kingdom come; may his will be done on earth
as in the throne of heaven;
may there be daily bread for us today;
forgive our wrongs,
as we do likewise to those who wrong us;
do not leave us where we are tempted;
free us from evil. Amen.
Salvation Unto Us Has Come is the most famous hymn of Paul Speratus and also one of the oldest and best known of Lutheran hymns. It was probably written in the fall of 1523 and then included in the first Lutheran hymnal, the so-called Achtliederbuch, entitled Entlich christlich lider, 1524. It came with this description at the top of the hymn, “A hymn of Law and Faith, powerfully furnished with God’s Word” and was fourteen stanzas. It has been called “the true confessional hymn of the Reformation” and the “poetical counterpart of Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans.” Miles Coverdale translated it for his “Goostly Psalmes and Spiritualle Songes,” c. 1539. The translation found in hymnals today is a composite translation. The tune “Es ist das Heil,” wedded to this text, appeared in the Etlich christlich lider,” 1524. While some authorities think the tune was originally used with a German folk-song, others maintain that it was a church-tune, because of the note attacked to the tune in the Erfurt Enchiridion, 1524, which state that it was used with an Easter hymn. Speratus had been driven out of Moravia and was a guest in Luther’s home at the time this hymn was composed and no doubt collaborated with Luther on this hymn, who in turn endorsed it for inclusion in the 1524 hymnal.
W. G. Polack, The Handbook to the Lutheran Hymnal (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, Third revised edition, 1958), p. 270-271.
Paul Speratus’ preliminary studies were carried on at a German university. But his great desire for knowledge drew him on to Paris and Italy, where he studied philosophy and law. He received his doctor’s degree in both these branches of learning. Later he went to Vienna, where he gained the doctor’s degree in theology. About the year 1506 he began his activity as a pastor in the bishopric of Augsburg. He remained a Catholic priest for over ten years. In 1517 he even wrote a poem in honor of Martin Luther’s famous opponent, Johann Eck. But very soon Martin Luther’s writings and the reform movement in Wittenberg began to bear influence upon him. At first, however, he hoped, like Martin Luther, that a reform could be carried through within the Church, so that celibacy and monastic vows among the clergy might be abolished. With courage and hope he took up the reform measures, when he became dean of Würtzburg, where both the bishop and several other leading men agreed with him. Speratus even went so far as to marry. This was several years previous to Martin Luther’s marriage. But the district was placed under a new archbishop, who was a very strict Catholic. When he learned that Speratus had broken the law of celibacy, he deposed him from office in 1520. Speratus and his wife then left for Salzburg, where the archbishop was friendly to the Reformers. He was again given the office of dean and at once resumed his efforts at reform work. But Speratus was undaunted and outspoken, and when he reprimanded his bishop for penuriousness he had to give up his position. On the way to a new field of labor in Hungary he appeared in Vienna and agitated against monastic vows and celibacy. He gained many followers. But he was excommunicated and accused of heresy. His life was now in danger, hence he left Vienna secretly and set out for Wittenberg. He journeyed through the town of Iglau in Moravia, and there he found both the officials and the people very favorable towards the reform movement. He was elected their pastor and preached with great fervor concerning the grace of God in Christ. He gained an extensive following. But a complaint had been sent to the king, and Speratus was soon cast into prison. For the second time he was face to face with death. But these trials only had a ripening influence upon him. Until this time he had been undaunted and daring; from now on a quiet resignation settled upon his mind and actions. From his prison chamber he sent many fervent letters to his dear congregation in Iglau Here he also wrote his famous hymn “Es ist das Heil uns kommen her” using a chorale melody from the 15th century. His imprisonment did not last so very long, however. The young emperor took another view of the matter and ordered the bishop to release him on condition that he should leave Moravia. Then he went at once to Wittenberg, 1523. Speratus was heartily received by Martin Luther and his friends. It was just at the time when Martin Luther was laboring to furnish the people with hymns in their mother tongue. In one of the very first hymn collections, the so-called Achtliederbuch, three of the hymns of Speratus were included, together with four by Martin Luther and one hymn by an unknown writer. Speratus assisted Martin Luther in many ways. Martin Luther held him in high esteem because of his piety and great learning. When Duke Albrecht of Brandenburg sought Luther’s advice concerning the introduction of the Reformation in his state, Martin Luther recommended Speratus for this work. The duke acted accordingly. Speratus became the first palace chaplain of Königsberg, 1524, and from 1530 bishop of Marienwerder, Pomerania.