The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Notes on
Vom Himmel kam der Engel Schaar

Words: Martin Luther, Geistlicite Lieder (Wittenberg, 1543)

Based on Luke 2:10-11 and Matt. 2:6
Scriptural Basis for Vom Himmel Kam Der Engel Schar

Vom Himmel Kam Der Engel Schar. M. Luther. [Christmas.] This is founded on St. Luke ii. 10, 11, and St. Matt, ii. 6; and was apparently written in 1543, and meant for use when his other Christmas hymn ("Vom Himmel hoch o Engel kommt" with 15 stanzas) was thought to be too long. It was first published in the Geistlicite Lieder, Wittenberg, 1543, in 6 stanzas of 4 lines, and thence in Wachernagel, iii. p. 28. Also in Schirck's ed. of Luther's Geistliche Lieder, 1854, p. 15, and in the Unverfälschter Liedersegen 8.9 1851. Translated as:—

1. From Yon Ethereal Heavens. This is a paraphrase, in 54 lines, by Miss H. J. Fry, in her Hymns of the Reformation , 1845, p. 20. From this a cento in 5 stanzas of S.M., recast and beginning, "Let All Our Hearts Rejoice," is No. 5 in William Meynell Whittemore's Supplement to All Hymn Books, 1860.

2. To shepherds as they watched by night. In full, by Richard Massie in his Martin Luther's Spiritual Songs, 1854, p. 7. Included in the Ohio Lutheran Hymnal, 1880, and by Dr. Bacon in his Hymns of Martin Luther, 1884, p. 66.

Other translations are:—

(l) "A Band of Angels From the Sky," as No. 145 in pt. i. of the Moravian Hymn Book, 1754.

(2) "Sing! Sing! Ye Ransomed Mortals, Sing." By Sir John Bowring in his Hymns, 1825, No. 81.

(3) "The humble shepherds, tending." By J. Anderson, 1846, p. 1 (1847, p. 31).

(4) "From Heaven There Came An Angel Throng." By Dr. J. Hunt, 1853, p. 33.

(5) "From Heaven Angel Hosts Did Fly." By Miss Manington, A Wreath of Carols from the Fatherland, 1864, pp. 32-3.

(6) "The Angels Came Down In Their Cohorts So Bright." By S. Garratt in his Hymns & Translations, 1867, p. 37.

(7) "From Heaven The Angel-troop Came Near." By Dr. G. Macdonald in the Sunday Magazine, January 1, 1867, p. 256; altered in his Exotic, From Heaven The Angel-Troop Come Near, 1876, p. 48. [Rev. James Mearns, M.A.]

-- John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)

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