Three books in talk about American apathy in the face of the Holocaust.

May 12, 1945. Russian troops smash their way into Berlin, capital of Hitler’s annihilated Third Reich, hoping to capture der Führer himself, the one-time paperhanger who has plunged the world into a blood bath of violence, horror, and cruelty. But he and his mistress have committed suicide and been cremated by fanatical followers. The Nazi nightmare is over.

Forty years later, the Holocaust seems like a terrifying dream, a Kafka-like melodrama that could not have occurred—though in soul-freezing fact it did.

What was the reaction of the civilized, nominally Christianized world with its humanitarian and religious ideals to Hitler’s massive policy of genocide? In particular, what was the U.S. reaction? At first, incredulity: Oh, maybe certain restrictions are being imposed on ethnic groups, primarily the Jews. But don’t forget that most Communists are Jews, and Hitler is simply fighting the Bolshevik menace.

As the facts became known, however, the general reaction was initial shock, temporary concern, and then apathy. Anyone inclined to doubt the widespread indifference of most Americans should examine three impressive and well-documented books: Arthur D. Morse, While Six Million Died: A Chronicle of American Apathy (Overlook Press, 1985 reprint of 1966 edition); Robert W. Ross, So It Was True: The American Protestant Press and the Nazi Persecution of the Jews (Univ. of Minn. Press, 1980); and most recently, David S. Wyman, The Abandonment of the Jews: America and the Holocaust, 1941–1945 (Pantheon Books, 1984).


These authors rehearse in detail our shameful failure as a nation to play our self-defined role of global good Samaritan. They tell how we, like unprotesting bystanders, averted our eyes from whatever may have been happening across the Atlantic.

Unquestionably in our republic, with its supposedly unprejudiced freedom and justice for all, there flowed an ugly undercurrent of anti-Semitism. Some Americans applauded the Nazi pogrom. When the Christian Century spoke out against the persecution of the Jews, Richard Nelson of Mount Vernon, New York, castigated its editors in a letter headed, “Nothing Will Save Us But a Pogrom.” He charged that the Century, selling out Christians in order to acquire Jewish dollars, was carrying on “an hysterical campaign of nauseous bathos which would be credit to a Hearst paper.… Before we see the Hitler flare-up end, it would not surprise me to have it reach America and have the blessing of the very men who have been damning Hitler now.… The Jew backs up before violence only. He will not change, or control himself, without it.”

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Such anti-Semitism was abetted by a rabid antialienism and pronativism that infested even the upper echelons of our federal government. Rigid immigration laws and quotas were retained despite the repeated pleas to admit human beings who without a place to flee would die agonizingly.

An atypical, yet revealing, diatribe was mailed to Samuel Dickstein, chairman of the House Immigration Committee. The writer charged that Mr. F. D. Rosenblatt, as he sneeringly called the President, had been scheming to make the U.S.A. a home for undesirable Semites but he “fortunately died before his lousy plan could be carried out with you and your tribe.… We don’t propose to stand idly by and have that bunch of parasite[s] pushed down our throats over here. We fought to preserve America for Americans and our children and not for a bunch of refujews.”

To be sure, rank-and-file citizens, to say nothing of our moral and spiritual leaders, were by no means as hateful as that. Yet the record is plain: The majority of our opinion shapers, educators, industrialists, and public officials did little or nothing to implement the proposals made by desperate individuals and frantic groups to stop the slaughter.

Expert Witness

In order to highlight our nation’s moral failure, let us ask the three authors, who together bring this formidable indictment, about the responses of five different entities: the government, the President, American Jews, non-Jews, and the churches.

1. What was the reaction of our government as the predicament of the Jews held in Hitler’s power became known beyond dispute? Arthur Morse quotes the secret document that was submitted to President Roosevelt in January 1944 by Henry Morgenthau, then secretary of the treasury. It flatly avers that State Department officials “have not only failed to use the Governmental machinery at their disposal to rescue Jews from Hitler, but have even gone so far as to use this Governmental machinery to prevent the rescue of these Jews. They have not only failed to cooperate with private organizations in the efforts of these organizations to work out individual programs of their own, but have taken steps designed to prevent these programs from being put into effect. They not only have failed to facilitate the obtaining of information concerning Hitler’s plans to exterminate the Jews of Europe but in their official capacity have gone so far as to surreptitiously attempt to stop the obtaining of information concerning the murder of the Jewish population of Europe.” Six days after receiving that document the President announced the establishment of the War Refugee Board, which labored valiantly to help European Jews.

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As for Congress, Wyman tells us that “Except for a weak and insignificant resolution condemning Nazi mass murder, [it] took no official action concerning the Holocaust.”

And Morse writes of our government: “Failure to protest was the first in a long series of refusals to respond in any manner. The moribund immigration policy of the U.S., and America’s failure to reassert its traditional defense of humanity, combined to produce total apathy.”

2. What was the reaction of President Roosevelt personally, a humanitarian greatly admired as a champion of the underdog? Morse quotes the words of Mrs. Roosevelt: “Franklin frequently refrained from supporting causes in which he believed, because of political realities.” Morse remarks that though Mr. Roosevelt could not at first come to the physical defense of the Jews, his “failure to come to their moral defense was something else.” Wyman adds this negative judgment: one-time Congressman Emanuel Celler alleged years after the war that, instead of igniting “some spark of courageous leadership,” our President had been “silent, indifferent and insensitive to the plight of the Jews.”

3. What was the reaction of American Jewry to the Nazi program? Ross cites an article that appeared in Opinion, a Jewish monthly: “More painful than the world’s silence is the failure of American Jewry and the American Jewish leadership to do anything themselves or to compel government action in behalf of the victims.… Even national Jewish organizations charged with the task of overseas relief did not do all that could have been done nor all that should have been done! Ultimately and in the final analysis the guilt for the death of five million Jews rests upon all of American Israel. If American Jews had really been deeply aroused, our public officials would have been compelled to initiate real rescue work.” Unfortunately, as Wyman explains, American Jews were sadly ineffectual because of “their failure to create a united Jewish movement and … lack of sustained effort.… Along with the lack of unity, American Jewry’s efforts for rescue were handicapped by a crisis in leadership.… And an additional problem was the inability of American Jewish leaders to break out of a business-as-usual pattern. Too few schedules were rearranged. Vacations were seldom sacrificed. Too few projects of lesser significance were put aside. In brief, there was, a Zionist spokesman afterward lamented, no ‘unquenchable sense of urgency.’ ”

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4. What was the reaction of America’s non-Jewish population? Similar to the Jewish community, it was business as usual—only far more so. Here is Wyman’s description of how people lived in the U.S. while Jews were dying in Germany: “Another obstacle to American concern for the European Jews was the preoccupation of most people with the war and with their personal affairs. Public opinion research disclosed that typical Americans, still acutely aware of the Great Depression, were mainly concerned about their jobs and their job chances after the war. They also worried about their boys and men away from home. And they gave a lot of attention to such questions as to how to spend and save and when they could drive their cars for fun again.” These personal matters crowded out even headline issues, except for the progress of the war.

5. But what about the reaction of Christians? Did churches bearing the name of Jesus arise in righteous wrath and obey the biblical injunction to “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute” (Prov. 31:8)? Wyman’s reply: “America’s Christian churches were almost inert in the face of the Holocaust and nearly silent too. No major denomination spoke out on the issue. Few of the many Christian publications cried out for aid to the Jews. Few even reported the news of extermination except infrequently and incidentally.… At the heart of Christianity is the commitment to help the helpless. Yet, for the most part, America’s Christian churches looked away while the European Jews perished.”

One exception, whom Ross applauds, was the editor of the Hebrew Christian Alliance Quarterly. He turned the cold print of its Winter 1943 issue into a passionate cry for action: “What do these revelations of German atrocities do to you? Are you sick at heart? Are you indignant? You should be. Too long have we Christians been silent. Our voices of protest should have been heard long before this has happened. We are our brother’s keeper and we are duty bound to help the helpless and to pray for them, to feed and clothe them. AND TO DEFEND THEM IF NECESSARY. We are not asking for revenge. We call for the defeat of Hitler and his philosophy.”

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Of course, there were hundreds of thousands of Americans, Christians and Jews alike, who prayed fervently, gave money and time sacrificially, and used every resource they had to help. But by and large, America’s response was silence, apathy, inaction, and insofar as war conditions allowed, life as usual, business as usual, and church as usual, too. Sermons rarely referred to the anguish of the Jews except, among evangelicals, as Hitler’s program was interpreted as the fulfillment of prophecy, an oblique proof of the Bible’s truth.


The furnaces of death-camp crematories were extinguished in 1945. Places like Dachau are morbid points of interest for tourists. But 40 years later, have we forgotten the lessons that, it was assumed, had been indelibly etched upon our collective psyche?

Some of us were adults then. What was our reaction? Were we motivated to any sustained action? What are we doing when we hear of genocide, of peoples afflicted, persecuted, and oppressed? Have we succumbed to compassion fatigue?

Do we have a more realistic view of human nature, the abysmal depths of evil to which it can sink? Are we aware that intelligence, education, scholarship, science, religion, and even Christian faith provide no guarantee against the future perpetration of such atrocities?

Do we in God’s name denounce the very first manifestations of racism in jokes, slurs, and stereotypes?

Are we alert to tendencies in our society that, if unchecked, may pave the way for the rise of a freedom-destroying dictatorship?

Is our patriotism a blind chauvinism? Grateful to God for this free and peaceful democracy we inhabit, are we its critical lovers and loving critics? Do we understand the danger of nationalistic self-righteousness, which can keep us from perceiving that our government’s policies, made by egocentric mortals, may be wickedly hard-hearted, short-sighted, and wrong-headed?

Do we refuse to render unquestioning obedience to any human authority? Are we prepared to be part of a lonely minority undergoing ostracism and, if necessary, death in order to stand for moral principles and biblical imperatives?

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In the face of monstrous inequity entrenched in powerful institutions, do we give up the battle? Or do we stubbornly continue to do what we can?

In keeping with Paul’s instruction to Timothy, are we praying daily for “rulers and kings and those in authority,” beseeching the merciful Lover of all mankind to restrain the growth of secular ideologies that can become modern Molochs?

Do we hope to avoid historical amnesia by praying with Rudyard Kipling, “Lord God of hosts, be with us yet, / Lest we forget, lest we forget”?

Sunday Morning Live!

Worship Is a Verb, by Robert E. Webber (Word Books, Inc., 1985, 224 pp.; $12.95). Reviewed by Ben Patterson, pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church, Irvine, California.

Let me speak my piece before I let Robert Webber speak his. Consider these two scenes: an ancient Canaanite consorts with a sacred prostitute; a Hebrew sings psalms in the temple. What is the essential difference between these two forms of worship?

Consider again: a Greek in first-century Ephesus attends a bacchanal; a few blocks away, a gathering of Christians breaks bread and shares a cup in thanksgiving to remember their Lord’s death and to experience his presence among them. What sets these worship services apart?

The essential difference may well be that for the pagan, worship is an experience, a noun, while for the man or woman of the Bible, worship is action, a verb.

True, pagan worship is, by definition, the worship of false gods. But you don’t have to worship false gods to be pagan. You can worship the true and living God in a pagan manner. That happens when worship is seen as a noun and not a verb.

Moreover, pagan worship can be extraordinarily debased and licentious. But it does not have to be prurient to be pagan. Pagan worship can be aesthetically uplifting and morally high minded but still be pagan insofar as it is an experience and not an action.

Webber’s Turn

Now that I’ve let off steam, let’s listen to Webber. This Wheaton college theology professor has written a book on the subject of worship entitled—you guessed it—Worship Is a Verb. Buy it right now. Read it. Then, if you are not a pastor, promise yours that you will double your pledge if he does. Or promise him that you will at least think about it if he does.

If you are a pastor, give it to your worship committee to read, or to your staff. Follow its guidelines scrupulously as you pray for a movement of the Spirit of God in your congregation. Our Lord said the Spirit blows where and when he wills, so there is no worship technique that will, ipso facto, bring revival. But I am convinced that if we learn to worship God along the lines Webber recommends, the Holy Spirit will find our sails spread wide when he does blow.

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Webber’s thesis is this: worship is something we do, not something that is done to us. In worship, God’s people sing to God, pray to God, listen to God, praise God, and give thanks to God. Webber organizes these activities of worship around four themes or motifs: worship celebrates Christ; in worship God speaks and acts; in worship we respond to God and each other; and all creation joins in worship. The thread running through them all is the active role we are to play in the worship of God. Worship is not an experience we have in the presence of God, Webber insists throughout, but the act of offering God our best when we are in his presence.

Pagan worship—even so-called Christian worship done paganly—always misses this crucial distinction. The pagan performs acts of worship in order to have the experience of transcendence, ecstasy, the numinous, or whatever. Worship has happened for the pagan when the experience is attained. If the experience can be had without the rigors of the acts, so much the better. If a crackerjack preacher or a first-class choir can give you goose bumps and a lump in your throat without any effort on your part, excellent! For the pagan, worship is a noun; his experience is the definition.

For the man or woman of the Bible, the acts of worship, of love and adoration, are the worship. If the experience accompanies them, wonderful. If not, it was still worship. One hopes the experience will come some other time. Biblical worship is a verb; God is the direct object.

Best Of The Bunch

Webber’s book stands out from the crowd of recent worship-renewal books because of the creative way the author interacts with the richness of the Christian worship tradition. We evangelicals have long acted as though we believed that God has done little or nothing since the death of the last apostle up to the present. That is worse than delusion; it is conceit. To discern and to appreciate what God is doing now we must discern and appreciate what God was doing in all the yesterdays of his people. That kind of reflection on the past will protect us from error and give a depth and theological integrity to the things we do in the present.

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F. F. Bruce once commented that tradition is a good servant, but a terrible master. Webber’s proposals for worship renewal, while grounded in Christian tradition, are not slaves to it. He provides a dynamic framework within which the rich diversity of the body of Christ can find full freedom of expression in its worship. Groups as widely divergent as Bible fellowships and Presbyterian congregations, Pentecostals and Plymouth Brethren, can all use the principles Webber lays down and still remain true to their own identity.

Worship Is a Verb is not only rich in good worship theology, but it is filled with practical suggestions and examples of how the theology can become incarnate on Sunday morning. After each chapter dealing with one of Webber’s four worship motifs, there follows a corresponding chapter showing how it can be done. At the end of the book is a study guide with discussion questions for each chapter.

Kierkegaard described Christian worship as a performance in which God is the audience, the congregation is the performer, and those who stand up before the congregation (preachers, readers, choir, soloists) are the prompters. The popular mentality of evangelical Christians has the professional preachers and musicians (who should be prompters) playing the role of the performers and the congregation (who should be performers) playing the role of the audience. It is bad enough to have the prompters doing what the performer ought to be doing. But it is blasphemous for the performer to presume to play the part of the audience—for that is to presume to stand in the place that only God can occupy.

Most Christian congregations are functional blasphemers in that they come to Sunday morning worship as an audience. Webber’s book is a guide for the prompters who want to get their performers out of their seats and back on the stage.

God-Intoxicated Writers

An American Procession, by Alfred Kazin (Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1984, 448 pp.; $18.95). Reviewed by Daniel Pawley, an assignment writer living in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

How might one tour the Christian’s relationship to American literature and its theological foundations? The best current guidebook; Alfred Kazin’s An American Procession.

Kazin understands the theological roots of our literature. Like T. S. Eliot, who once condemned some of D. H. Lawrence’s ramblings because they came out of a mind “free from any restriction of tradition or institution,” Kazin suggests that literature does not arise in a theological vacuum. He consequently pays attention to authors’ Christian upbringings and develops a narrative with Christianity and the church as central themes.

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“Build Your Own World.”

The characters in Kazin’s narrative are the writers themselves, and he begins in the 1830s with the enchanting Reverend Emerson resigning his pulpit with a farewell sermon on the Lord’s Supper. Kazin writes: “No one had ever been more truly born to the ministry than Emerson.… For nine successive generations in New England, Emersons had been ministers.” Once Emerson had made up his mind to vacate tradition, though, he turned from sermons to essays in which he developed his revolutionary theme of self-reliance. Boldly he wrote: “There are innocent men who worship God after the tradition of their fathers, but their sense of duty has not yet extended to the use of all their faculties.… Build therefore your own world.”

Literature does not so much establish culture as reflect it, and the sensitive mind reflects what is happening in a culture at a given time. In Emerson’s mind the church had lost its appeal to the educated classes. “History,” says Kazin, was replacing religion “as the first drama of human experience.… Freed from obedience to superstition, dogma, hierarchy, and Sunday routine, man … would find in himself all that men had ever meant by God.”

The self-reliance motif filtered down to the writers Kazin calls “Emerson’s children” and in some way shaped most American literature to come. No one emphasized the self, in all its arrogance, more than Walt Whitman: “One’s-Self I sing, a simple separate person.” And for the hermit Thoreau, the self alone, with God’s creation, provided a basis for spirituality. Kazin writes: “For spiritual life Thoreau depended so much on his daily and hourly search of fields and streams that he sometimes felt he was wearing nature out even as it was wearing him out.”

However, the emphasis on self did not cancel the emphasis on God. Although Emerson was far from orthodox Christianity, Kazin describes him as “God-intoxicated,” a label that could have applied to Whitman and Thoreau as well. “Not God was dead but the church!” Kazin adds. These writers tried to be religious without adhering to the church—a fruitless undertaking, as history has shown.

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Spirit Without Structure

Unrestrained by orthodoxy, the writers who followed seemed somehow trapped into producing out of the void: Spirit without structure. They reacted differently, though. Hawthorne, for instance, had a “strikingly uncooperative imagination,” says Kazin, and he recognized that it was a serious mistake to try to bury the heritage of orthodoxy. “The past contained the one secret they were always looking for.”

Hawthorne, moreover, chose to write about Puritan New England; about sin, a sovereign God, and individuals who lacked assurance of their salvation. He wrote about a “higher meaningfulness and moral purpose,” Kazin points out. Many of his stories developed a dark, penetrating psychology of sin’s effects; yet for all the blackness, much of Hawthorne’s work proved to be “more dramatic than any newly ‘liberated’ self rebelling against nineteenth-century convention.”

Melville, on the other hand, epitomized the wandering soul lost in the cultural void. Hawthorne said concisely of the bearded man with Spanish eyes: “He can neither believe, nor be comfortable in his unbelief.”

Like others in Kazin’s procession, Melville had grown up with religion. His skepticism was fueled, Kazin suggests, in the South Seas where corrupt missionaries were uprooting native society. Kazin describes Melville as “the great American agonist, forever trying to recapture his belief.” His characters assumed the roles of orphan, castaway, and renegade from orthodox Christianity; an “anxiously searching mind that has lost his father in heaven.” Said Melville: “I feel that the Godhead is broken up like the bread at the Supper and that we are the pieces.”

A Tale Of Backsliders

The torturously analytical Melville was probably the most violently unhappy of all those in the procession. But his inability to come to terms with his Christian heritage seemed a thread that tied him to most of the others. As literature expresses culture at large, one cannot help coming to view America and its literature as a tale of backslidden Christians: an entire nation unreconciled to its heritage, refusing to see that to be severed from the past means disaster.

Kazin develops this theme with different lapsed authors.

• Of Emily Dickinson: “Religion was the background of her life, but her quest for a living God was almost humorous.… God was an idea, not a person.”

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• Of Mark Twain: “… even though he unwittingly kept to the determinism of his Presbyterian upbringing, he turned it into a grimly assertive denial of God’s grace and man’s possibility of salvation.”

• Of Stephen Crane: “… his father was a Methodist minister, his mother was a bulwark of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union … [but] Crane chose to be negative about whatever his class took as gospel—especially the Gospels.”

• Of Theodore Dreiser: “Dreiser had been scarred by … the rigidity of his German Catholic father, his Mennonite mother’s seeming helplessness … [and] he managed to die a member of the Communist Party.”


The individual lives in Kazin’s account provide microcosms of the entire procession. As Kazin points out, “Modernist literature would picture history exclusively as a Great Fall.” It seems as if each writer grew so fused to the skeptical, rebellious spirit of his time, that each author’s “fall” mirrored collapses in society itself.

Of Hemingway, for instance, Kazin asserts: “He knew that the public world was pushing him and everyone else toward an abyss.… His emotions were prophetic, his antennae were out to the truth. He knew that destruction is a god over our lives, that the fear of death shapes us, that without any belief in immortality there can be no expectation of justice, so that the whole ghastly century is beginning to look like one unending chain of murder and retribution.… There is no charity in his writing, … he portrayed us and the pitiless century into which we were born.”

On a more heartening level, Kazin draws attention to T. S. Eliot who, despite a catastrophic emotional breakdown, managed to convey greater feelings of hope than others of his era. The man who had once complained that as a Unitarian he had been reared “outside the Christian fold” seemed to be an honest seeker after God’s truth. Says Kazin: “Salvation was a distant hope, but for Eliot it was somehow more urgent than for anyone else of his generation.” Unfortunately, Kazin’s narrative terminates in 1930, and he does not report Eliot’s later conversion.

On The Outside, Looking In

Kazin identifies with his cast of characters when he says, “I tend in my own belief to be rather Emersonian,” and when he writes, “Emily Dickinson summed up … much of my argument when she wrote in a letter: ‘We thank thee, Father, for these strange minds that enamor us against thee.’ “Kazin described himself to CT as “a faithful Jew without being a particularly observant one.”

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Perhaps his vantage point, a personal spirituality positioned outside the dominant religious tradition of our culture, contributes to a deeper understanding of writers who could neither believe nor ignore the Christian faith. He states: “A Jewish intellectual of my generation inevitably gets more education from the world around him than from his Jewish faith. Being an American, I’ve always been interested in the Christian faith without becoming a Christian myself. My interest in Christianity is entirely cultural and historical.”

Kazin’s book has been promoted as “the most important study of American literature in our time.” For those who practice the Christian faith, the book seems especially valuable. Kazin knows that theology is what has made our literature important, and that theological analysis remains the truest way to probe the soul of America.

A Church Musician’s Faithful Companion

Dictionary of Hymnology, by John Julian (Kregel Publications, new edition 1985, 2 vols., 1,306 pp.; $120). Reviewed by Richard Dinwiddie, music director of the Chicago Master Chorale.

Hymns historically have been one of the most significant means of proclaiming the Word. Luther’s critics charged that his hymns were more effective than his sermons.

Hymns can even propagate heresy. Fourth-century bishop John Chrysostom tried to counter the popular heretical hymns of the Arians with orthodox hymn sings—until he finally banished the Arian heretics altogether.

Hymn backgrounds and anecdotes enrich sermons and enhance the people’s understanding of their own music. Regrettably, although such stories affect our emotions, many are either apocryphal or so highly embellished that truth is buried in fancy.


Enter the Rev. John Julian, D.D. (1838–1913), an English canon and vicar who wrote and translated many hymns. Julian recognized that the great power of hymns could be used with integrity only if the hymns were treated with respect, not only in their meanings, but also in their historical origins and significance.

In 1892, Julian published hymnology’s equivalent of the Oxford English Dictionary under the title, Dictionary of Hymnology, Setting forth the Origin and History of Christian Hymns of all Ages and Nations, with special reference to those contained in the Hymn Books of English-speaking Countries. Not only is it the basic source in English of much hymnological information, but, even after nearly a century, it remains the only readily available source of much of that information.

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The dictionary was a heroic objective, and Julian struggled heroically to achieve it. Producing this scholarly work to preserve the mass of hymnological information he saw in danger of being lost, he examined primary documents in many libraries and personally amassed a large quantity of documents. He was assisted by 44 other editors plus various contributors.

Julian revised the work and added a supplement in 1907. Dover Publications issued a two-volume reprint in 1957.

Now, after being out of print for several years, the 1907 revision has been reprinted by Kregel Publications in a high quality edition, with the text cleaned up and the type enlarged. The work will sell for $120, but Kregel is offering a special prepublication price through December 31.

Between The Covers

The 1,768-page dictionary includes 462 pages of indexes with a supplemental cross-index of 31 pages. There are over 15,000 entries, many written by Julian himself, including 30,000 first lines and references to over 400,000 hymns. Authors, translators, editors, first lines of hymns, categories, nationalities, and denominational groupings are listed alphabetically.

Since the dictionary focuses only on the hymn text, and not on the tunes, only writers are discussed.

Two of the most important authors are Isaac Watts (11 columns) and the prolific translator John Mason Neale (10 columns). By contrast, Luther rates only 2 columns.

Extensive articles treat hymns grouped by language origin. English, with 15 columns, would be expected. However, there are 20 columns on Greek hymnody, and 30 columns on Latin hymnody, the latter including an in-depth discussion of medieval musical notation. (The influence of the nineteenth-century Oxford movement, an Anglican attempt to return to the piety of the ancient church, accounts for the large quantity of hymns of Latin and Greek origin, all given in the original language.) There is even a 10-column discussion of Syriac hymnody!

Julian deals at length with important British hymnals such as the Sternhold and Hopkins “Old Version,” first published before 1549 during the reign of Henry VIII, and the Tate and Brady “New Version” of 1696. He also discusses Latin breviaries and the metrical psalters so popular in Britain, particularly in Scotland.

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Denominations are generally found within nationalities, rather than under the denominational title. Three notable exceptions are Church of England hymnody, Unitarian hymnody, and Swedenborgian hymnody.

Julian lists what were considered the four most popular hymns in English-speaking countries at the time. These were, in order of their appearance, “Awake, My Soul,” by Thomas Ken; “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” by Isaac Watts; “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing,” by Charles Wesley; and “Rock of Ages,” by Augustus Toplady.

Julian’s approach to hymn discussion can be exceedingly thorough. Where else, for example, would you find the original Hebrew text of “The God of Abraham Praise,” or all 10 original stanzas of “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing” (listed under its original title, “Hark how all the welkin rings”)?

Two articles that strongly reflect the mindset of turn-of-the-century Victorian England are the extensive discussions of hymns considered appropriate for children and “temperance hymnody.”

Starting Point

Julian remains a good starting point for anyone who wants to know the real story behind a hymn, or to check other data. The book is excellent in indicating how hymns change and are massaged by editors. The quality of his original scholarship was such that he had to make less than half a page of corrections when he published the second edition 15 years later.

With all its good qualities, Julian’s dictionary still has some obvious weaknesses. The scholarship is three-quarters of a century old. It cuts off with the Victorian era. Gospel music is limited to being pretty well identified with the songs of Ira Sankey and Fanny Crosby.

Major religious poetic forms are given special attention, such as Latin antiphons and the important medieval sequences. However, in such articles the dated nature of the scholarship becomes apparent. The discussion on carols, for example, should basically be dismissed, for its premise is wrong. In 1935, Richard L. Greene firmly established the carol as primarily a literary form. But Thomas Helmore, who wrote the Julian article, reflects the subjective concepts of “carol” prevalent at the turn of the century. He defines the form primarily from the origin of the word carole, as music to accompany a dance, which the carol originally did, and he vainly tries to tie in Old Testament dance as part of the history of the carol.

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Besides consulting Julian, ministers and church musicians should use some of the better hymnal companions, such as the Episcopal, Lutheran, and Southern Baptist ones, as well as Donald Hustad’s nondenominational volume. Scholarly biographies of hymn writers are another fine resource. Avoid the cotton-candy variety so popular with hymn storytellers a few years ago. Also explore the fine hymnal concordances that are beginning to appear. On American hymnody, the recent two-volume work by Christ-Janer, Hughes, and Smith, American Hymns: Old and New (Columbia Univ. Press), is a very accessible and scholarly contribution.

But John Julian’s Dictionary of Hymnology is still the most comprehensive single work available in the field, and is a sine qua non for every preacher’s and church musician’s library.

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