New Website Article (Psalm 98)

“Joy to the World the Lord Has Come! Let Earth Receive Her King!”

(Psalm 98) Introduction

Did you know that “Joy to the World” was not originally written as a Christmas carol?  It had nothing to do with Christmas. It wasn’t even written to be a song. Isaac Watts was one of the great hymn writers in church history, and I guess nothing shows that better than the fact that he wrote one of his most famous hymns by accident.

In 1719, Watts published a book of poems in which each poem was based on a psalm. But rather than just translate the original Old Testament texts, he adjusted them to refer more explicitly to the work of the Messiah Jesus as it had been revealed in the New Testament.

One of those poems was an adaptation of Psalm 98. Watts interpreted this psalm as a celebration of Jesus’s role as King of both His Body the faithful Church and of the whole world. More than a century later, the second half of this poem was slightly adapted and set to music to give us what has become one of the most famous of all Christmas carols. The carol is usually sung to an 1848 arrangement by the American composer Lowell Mason.

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