All Glory Be to God on High

Representative Text

1 All glory be to God on high,
Who hath our race befriended!
To us no harm shall now come nigh,
The strife at last is ended.
God showeth His good will to men,
And peace shall reign on earth again;
O thank Him for His goodness!

2 We praise, we worship Thee, we trust,
And give Thee thanks forever,
O Father, that Thy rule is just
And wise, and changes never.
Thy boundless pow'r o'er all things reigns,
Done is whate'er Thy will ordains:
Well for us that Thou rulest.

3 O Jesus Christ, Thou only Son
Of God, Thy heav'nly Father,
Who didst for all our sins atone
And Thy lost sheep dost gather.
Thou Lamb of God, to Thee on high
From out our depths we sinners cry,
Have mercy on us, Jesus!

4 O Holy Ghost, Thou precious Gift,
Thou Comforter unfailing,
O'er Satan's snares our souls uplift
And let thy pow'r availing
Avert our woes and calm our dread.
For us the Saviour's blood was shed;
We trust in Thee to save us.

Source: Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary #35

Translator: Catherine Winkworth

Catherine Winkworth (b. Holborn, London, England, 1827; d. Monnetier, Savoy, France, 1878) is well known for her English translations of German hymns; her translations were polished and yet remained close to the original. Educated initially by her mother, she lived with relatives in Dresden, Germany, in 1845, where she acquired her knowledge of German and interest in German hymnody. After residing near Manchester until 1862, she moved to Clifton, near Bristol. A pioneer in promoting women's rights, Winkworth put much of her energy into the encouragement of higher education for women. She translated a large number of German hymn texts from hymnals owned by a friend, Baron Bunsen. Though often altered, these translations continue to be used i… Go to person page >

Author: Nicolaus Decius

Decius, Nicolaus (Nicolaus a Curia or von Hofe, otherwise Hovesch, seems to have been a native of Hof, in Upper Franconia, Bavaria, and to have been originally called Tech. He became a monk, and was in 1519 Probst of the cloister at Steterburg, near Wolfenbüttel. Becoming favourable to the opinions of Luther, he left Steterburg in July, 1522, and went to Brunswick, where he was appointed a master in the St. Katherine and Egidien School. In 1523 he was invited by the burgesses of Stettin to labour there as an Evangelical preacher along with Paulus von Rhode. He became preacher at the Church of St. Nicholas; was probably instituted by the Town Council in 1526, when von Rhode was instituted to St. Jacob's; and at the visitation in 1535 was re… Go to person page >

Text Information

First Line: All glory be to God on high, Who hath our race befriended
Title: All Glory Be to God on High
German Title: Allein Gott in der Höh sie Ehr
Author: Nicolaus Decius (1525)
Translator: Catherine Winkworth
Source: Latin: Gloria in excelsis Deo, 4th cent.
Language: English
Copyright: Public Domain


Scripture References:
st.1 = Luke 2:14
st.2 = John 1:29, Rom. 8:34, Heb. 7:25
st.3 = Col. 1:17

A translation of the fourth-century Latin text "Gloria in excelsis Deo," this song is a series of acclamations to God in a pattern that was common in doxologies used in the Greek liturgies of the early Christian church. Stanza I consists of an opening antiphon from Luke 2: 14 and an acclamation to God the Father. Stanzas 2 and 3 are both acclamations to God the Son. Stanza 2 contains echoes from both the Agnus Dei and the Kyrie (257 and 258). A modern ecumenical translation reads as follows:

Glory to God in the highest,
and peace to God's people on earth.
Lord God, heavenly King,
almighty God and Father,
we worship you, we give you thanks,
we praise you for your glory.

Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father,
Lord God, Lamb of God,
you take away the sin of the world:
have mercy on us;
you are seated at the right hand of the Father:
receive our prayer.

For you alone are the Holy One,
you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High,
Jesus Christ,
with the Holy Spirit,
in the glory of God the Father. Amen.
-English Language Consultation, from Praying Together,1988

In the Greek-speaking church the text of "Gloria in excelsis Deo" (or Gloria, as the Song is commonly known) at first included only the words of Luke 2: 14. The fifth-century "Liturgy of St. James," still used in some parts of the Orthodox Church today, preserves the Gloria in its short form, but the song is also used in various longer forms. One of the earliest long forms is recorded in the Greek Codex Alexandrinus, which dates from the late fifth century. The Gloria presumably entered the Roman church in the fourth century under the influence of Hilary, Bishop of Poitiers, France, and it was translated into Latin. It became a standard part of the Roman Mass from the sixth century onward and became known as the "Greater Doxology" (as compared with the "Lesser Doxology," or Gloria Patri, 635 and 636).

Very early in the Reformation, Nikolaus Decius (b. Hof, Franconia, Bavaria, c. 1485;d. Germany, after 1546) prepared a rhymed version of the Gloria, published in Low German in Joachim Shiter's Rostock Gesangbuch (1525) and in High German in Valentin Schumann's Geistliche Lieder (1539). Often used in the Lutheran tradition, Decius's text added an acclamation to the Holy Spirit in a fourth stanza, which, though not unwelcome, is not part of the original text as shown above. (The 1959 Psalter Hymnal also includes Decius's four stanzas at 319.)

Educated in a Latin school in Hof and at the University of Leipzig, Germany, Decius became a monk and served as head of the Benedictine Monastery at Steterburg. In 1523 he studied theology at the University of Wittenburg under Martin Luther. At Luther's recommendation he became a pastor in Stettin in 1524 and moved to Mühlhausen in 1534, where he was influenced by Dutch Calvinist refugees. He also served as church musician and preacher at the Königsberg court of Duke Albrecht of Prussia. Decius is credited with German hymnic versifications of "ordinary" parts of the Mass-the Kyrie (258), Gloria, Credo (520), Sanctus (626), and Agnus Dei (257), which he originally prepared to fit their corresponding chant tunes.

Ulrich Zwingli also made use of the Gloria, having worshipers recite it antiphonally between Scripture lessons. Thomas Cranmer introduced it into Anglican worship by including it in The Book of Common Prayer (1549).

The English translation in the Psalter Hymnal is primarily by Francis Bland Tucker (b. Norfolk, VA, 1895; d. Savannah, GA, 1984), prepared in 1977 for publication in the American Protestant Episcopal Hymnal 1982 (1985). Bert Polman (PHH 37) altered the text slightly to bring it even closer to the Latin original.

An Episcopal priest, Tucker has been called "the dean of American hymn writers." He was educated at the University of Virginia and Virginia Theological Seminary. During World War I he served as an operating room assistant at Verdun. Ordained in 1920, Tucker had two long pastorates: St. John's Church in Georgetown, Washington, D.C. (1925-1945), and Christ Church in Savannah, Georgia (1945-1967), where, earlier, John Wesley had briefly served. Tucker was active in the Civil Rights Movement and in various civic organizations. He served on the committee for the Episcopal Hymnal 1940, which published six of his hymn texts and translations, and on the committee for the Hymnal 1982. In 1980 he was honored as a Fellow of the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada.

Liturgical Use:
Sung daily during Morning Prayer in the Eastern Church, at the beginning of worship in every Roman Catholic Mass, and in many historic Protestant liturgies; for the opening of worship; also suitable as a doxology.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook
Allein Gott in der Höh sey Ehr. A rendering in 4 stanzas of 7 lines, by Nicolaus Decius. First appeared in Low German as "Alleine God jn der höge sy ëre," in the Rostock Gesang-Buch, 1525 [Rostock University Library]. Wackernagel, iii. pp. 565-67, quotes it from the Rostock Gesang-Buch, 1526, and, in High Germany, from V. Schumann's Gesang-Buch, Leipzig, 1539. The well-known melody set to it in 1539 (Hymns Ancient & Modern, No. 104) is also ascribed to Decius, probably partly adapted from the Latin plainsong. Text and melody speedily became favourites in Germany; were used on high festivals, at Holy Communion, &c.; and to this day are everywhere in use. Lauxmann, in Koch, viii. 104-111, relates many edifying incidents regarding them. In the Unverfälschter Liedersegen, 1851, No. 185. The translations in common use through the German are:—
1. To God on high all glory be. In full, as No. 226, in the Appendix of 1743 to the Moravian Hymn Book, 1742, and repeated, altered, in later editions (1886, No. 191). Stanzas i., iii., iv. nearly from the text of 1826, were included as No. 216 in Dr. Pagenstecher's Collection, 1864.
2. To God on high he thanks and praise, Who deigns, &c. Of stanza 1, by W. Ball, as part of his translation of the German book of words of Mendelssohn's St. Paul, 1846. Included in the Leeds Hymn Book 1853, No. 225; New Congregational Hymn Book, 1859; Horder's Congregational Hymns, 1884; and others.
3. All glory be to God on high, And. A good and full translation signed A. G. in the Dalston Hospital Hymn Book, 1848, No. 39.
4. All glory he to God on high, Who. A full and good translation, as No. 1, in Miss Winkworth's Chorale Book for England, 1863. Repeated in the Temple Hymn Book, 1867, and in America in the Pennsylvania Lutheran Church Book, 1868, Ohio Lutheran Hymnal, 1880, and the New York Evangelical Hymnal 1880.
5. To God on high be thanks and praise, For. In full, by R. C. Singleton, as No. 268, in the Anglican Hymn Book, 1868 (1871, No. 311). Repeated in J. L. Porter's Collection, 1876, and in Stryker & Main's Church Praise Book, New York, 1882.
6. To God alone on high be praise. By J. D. Burns, in his Remains, 1869, p. 238. This is No. 66 in Dale's English Hymn Book, 1874.
7. To God alone the song we raise. In full, by T. E. Brown, as No. 45, in the Clifton College Hymn Book, 1872.
8. Alone to God on high be praise. A translation of stanza i. as stanza i. of No. 95 in the Swedenborgian Collection, 1880.
Translations not in common use:— (I) “To God the hyghest be glory alwaye," by Bishop Coverdale, 1539 (Remains 1846, p. 564). (2) "Onlie to God on heich be gloir," in the Gude and Godlie Ballates (ed. 1568, folio 28, 1868, p. 47). (3) “To our Almighty Maker, God” by J. C. Jacobi, 1722, p. 26 (1743, p. 59, reading “gracious God”). (4) “To God alone in the highest heaven," by Miss Fry, 1845, p. 41. (5) "To God on high we'll praises sing," signed "P.J." in the Sunday Magazine, 1874, p. 384. [Rev. James Mearns, M.A.]

--John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)



The tune name ALLEIN GOTT derives from the opening words of Decius's rhymed text in High German. The tune was first published in Schumann's Geistliche Lieder. Decius adapted the tune from a tenth-century Easter chant for the Gloria text, beginning at the part accompanying the words "et in terra pax.…

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