The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

O Come, All You Faithful

Hymn on the Prose for Christmas Day

For Christmas and Epiphany

Words: "Adeste Fideles," Verses 1-4, John Francis Wade (c. 1711-1786), circa 1743 / 4
 Verses 5-7: Abbé Étienne Jean François Borderies (1764-1832), 1822
Verse 8: Anonymous (19th Century)
Also known as the Portuguese Hymn

Adaptation by Dr. Steve H. Hakes © 2016; Used with permission.
O Come, All Ye Faithful
Other Translations: Adeste, Fideles Translations

Music: "Adeste Fideles," John Francis Wade (c. 1711-1786), circa 1743 (or 1744).
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF / XML
Meter: Irregular
Attribution of composition to John Reading is incorrect.

Source: Dr. Steve H. Hakes, O Come, All Ye Faithful
@ Lyricology Hub: Christian Songs for Life

See: Notes on Adeste Fideles.

1. O come all you faithful, joyful and triumphant
O come now remember humble Bethlehem
Come and behold Christ, born the king of angels.

O Come, let us adore him,
O Come, let us adore him,
O Come, let us adore him,
Christ the lord

2. God from God and, light from light
but was incarnated to face the gloom
Truly himself God, he was not created.

O Come, let us adore him,
O Come, let us adore him,
O Come, let us adore him,
Christ the lord

3. Sang choirs of angels, sang in celebration
sang all the citizens of heaven above
glory to God, in the highest.

O Come, let us adore him,
O Come, let us adore him,
O Come, let us adore him,
Christ the lord

4. Happy we praise him, born a new age dawning
Jesus, to him be sovereign glory given
Word of the father, he's the Second Adam.

O Come, let us adore him,
O Come, let us adore him,
O Come, let us adore him,
Christ the lord

(venite adoremus Dominum!)

Notes by Dr. Hakes:

O Come, All Ye Faithful 1

John Wade, a 32 year-old Roman Catholic Lancastrian, probably wrote the first four stanzas (1740-4), Abbé Étienne Jean François Borderies (1822) added three more, and someone added an eighth sometime before 1886. Wade was a fervent Roman Catholic, who moved from Lancaster to escape religious persecution, when commitment to Rome was still feared to endanger English monarchy. In Continental Europe, he acted as a scribe and taught church music. Over a millennium earlier, it is said that Pope Gregory the Great had seen some angel-faced English slave children. Told that they were Angles/English, he responded, "Non Angli sed Angeli" (not Angles, but Angels). This encounter inspired his Romanisation of Angland/England, which he begun through monks in 597. They were led by Augustine [of Canterbury], later to become the first archbishop of Canterbury. Augustine's mission was to suffer the setback of repaganisation. After King Henry 8, when Rome thought Anglicanism pagan, there is some reason to think that Wade's song, its Latin title Adeste Fideles, at least doubled as a coded signal for re-Romanisation of the English Angles. Truth be told, there were true Christians in Rome and in Canterbury, and both sides shed blood for religious freedom.

Fideles could have meant faithful Roman Catholic Jacobites. Bethlehem might have been a code for Britain. Angeli had long had the word-play with angli (English). In effect, faithful Romanists should rally behind Bonnie Prince Charlie, born to be the king of Angles, and the exiled return to Britain. However, whatever code, if any, is written into a song, its face value can often conceal a hidden value. Simon & Garfunkel's Bridge Over Trouble Water, probably referred to Peggy Harper, Simon's wife, having discovered her first silver hair (or had "sail on, silver girl," a drug connection?), but how many have enjoyed the silver sail, riding the wind of hope through the storm of life? Likewise, whatever Anglicans might think about re-Romanisation, they are happy to sing of the faithful arriving in Bethlehem to join the angeli. Let us not be too quick to assume hidden meanings. Even Freud, though hating his father and lusting for his mother—yet wishing to think he was normal by abnormalising all others—acknowledged that a banana can be simply a banana. And to accuse the Roman Bath attendant of arson, simply because, when a user had complained hours earlier about it being too cold, he had replied that it would soon be "hot enough," was taking an unintended truth too far (see C S Lewis' Reflections on the Psalms: Second Meanings). Besides, while Wade might have doodled sketches of the prince alongside the lyrics, would he have called any mortal Jesus, or attributed incarnate birth to another? A later Roman Catholic, J R R Tolkien, cautioned that applicability need not mean intentionality.

Translating into English has been done many times. Rev. Frederick Oakeley, who later switched from Canterbury to Rome, translated Wade, and William T Brooke, who moved from the Baptist movement to Canterbury, translated Abbé Borderies and the untraced stanza, sandwiching them within Adeste Fideles. For simplicity, I have discounted the additions by Abbé Etienne Jean Francois Borderies. They invite us to prioritise meeting Jesus, in line with the shepherds, to tell Jesus the saviour (in his infancy!) of our love, and to muse over the incarnation. I have also discounted the untraced addition which contrasts the magi's gift to our hearts' gift. While I look to retain Wade's Nicene terms, his use of begotten I discount. Let's briefly look at this.

Talk about God's son being begotten can mislead. Theologians speak rather of God's son per se being eternally generated, and Jesus as born within time. In short, Jesus is the permanent time (temporal) mode of the uncreated second person of the eternal tripersonal society. Yep, that came from me. Was begotten brought in as a reaction to some early controversies? Against Anus, orthodoxy said that God's son was more like what one births, rather than what they make. Against Valentinus, that only one was birthed/emanated (within eternity), not multitudes. When asked to produce the definitive Latin Bible translation, perhaps Jerome felt he should introduce the stronger idea of 'only begotten' into the text, which many translations have kept. As Philip Comfort put it, "only begotten' probably originated from Jerome's Latin translation [the Vulgate] when Jerome changed unicus (unique) to unigenitus (only begotten). Prior to Jerome's translation, the old Latin Codex Vercellenis (AD 365) had translated monogenous, as unicus" (Complete Guide To Bible Versions, 1991:128). Sure, we may ask whether Vulgate corrected Vercellenis, but in Hebrews 11:171 only begotten/born, or one and only, does not fit, since Abraham had had another son, Ishmael: special/unique/beloved son was meant. For John 1:18,2 something like the one-of-a-kind [son], himself God, for the matrix of deity and humanity, is perhaps the better translation. My college's notes BS01 (John's Gospel) cover this more. See Mallon de Theological College.


1.  Return

Editor's Footnotes and Notes:

1. Hebrews 11:17. Compare the King James Version (KJV):

By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,

with the New International Version - UK (NIVUK):

By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son,

Emphasis added. Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Return

2. John 1:18. Compare the King James Version (KJV)

No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.

with the New International Version - UK (NIVUK)

No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in the closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

Emphasis added. Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.  Return

This carol is the result of work by Dr. Steve H. Hakes, who created the website Lyricology in order to help authors improve their songs. He writes:

Lyricology is dedicated to the proposition that not all songs are created equal, that the most important songs are Christian songs, and that Christian songs that do not perform well, let down the faith they claim to serve. Christian songs that perform well, lift hearts & minds in joy. The site encourages the bad to become good, the good to become better, the better to become best, and the best to be loved.

Print Page Return Home Page Close Window

If you would like to help support Hymns and Carols of Christmas, please click on the button below and make a donation.