“Who Is He”

TITLE:"Who Is He"
AUTHOR: Ken Bible
COMPOSER: Ludwig van Beethoven; arr. by Edward Hodges
SOURCE: Worship & Song, no. 3082
SCRIPTURE: Psalm 24:7-10; Matthew 21:1-9; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:28-40; John 12:12-15; Revelation 5:11-14
TOPIC: Lent; Holy Week; crown; death and resurrection; glory; grave; hope; Palm Sunday; Passion; Second Coming; Messiah; victory


Ken Bible is an author, hymn writer, editor, publisher, church musician, and a lifelong student and teacher of the Bible. He received his Bachelor of Music in composition at the College Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati. He has worked at Lillenas Publishing Company for thirty years, serving as director from 1977-1990. He is the author of fifteen published books and the -- writer of over 300 hymns with original hymns in sixteen major hymnals. He has more than 34 years experience in nearly every aspect of church music publishing, serving as music editor, product developer, and director. He is the senior editor of the current hymnal for the Church of the Nazarene, Sing to the Lord. He has compiled dozens of publications for children, youth, and adults, in a wide variety of musical styles, including the well-known Master Chorus Book, which has sold more than 1.3 million copies. He is co-founder with his wife, Gloria, and president of LNWhymns.com, a web resource that offers nearly 300 of his hymns, fully indexed, along with a host of companion materials and downloadable books, all free. He lives in Olathe, Kansas.

In the pantheon of great composers, no composer holds a higher place than Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827). His choral, orchestral, and instrumental works continue as staples of the concert, recording, and educational repertoire. His work is regarded as the height of achievement and development in forms such as the classical sonata, concerto, string quartet, and symphony. Among his sacred works are: Mass in C, Missa Solemnis, and Christ on the Mount of Olives. Hymnal editor Carlton Young traces the origin of the HYMN TO JOY tune to Mozart, who used it as instrumental interludes in his motet Misericordias Domine, K. 222. Beethoven made use of the theme in several works prior to the finale of his 1824 Ninth Symphony, including his 1808 Fantasy for piano, chorus and orchestra. The melody’s use as a hymn tune dates from 1864. Its use in the 1989 United Methodist Hymnal was accompanied with considerable controversy. The restoration of Beethoven’s original syncopation at the beginning of the fourth line came as a shock and surprise to many singers accustomed to the traditional squaring off of the rhythmic pattern. (Note: The Commentary on Hymns and Songs found at the back of the Leader’s Edition of Worship & Song mistakenly says that the syncopated version of Beethoven’s original rhythm in the 1989 hymnal has been replaced by the earlier version of the 1966 hymnal.)

Edward Hodges (1796-1867) first adapted Beethoven’s melody as a hymn tune. Hodges showed musical abilities at an early age and was organist at St. James' Church in Bristol, England, in 1819 and at St. Nicholas from 1821-1838. He earned a doctorate in music in 1825 from Cambridge University and composed a number of services and anthems. In 1838, he accepted a post at the cathedral in Toronto, Canada. He became music director at Trinity Parish in New York City in 1839. He was the organist at Trinity Church in New York City when it opened in 1846, and he designed the organ’s specifications at that church. His adaptation of Beethoven’s tune first appeared in his Trinity Collection of Church Music (Boston: 1864), which he edited.


The melody of HYMN TO JOY is the familiar AABA form with the four phrases cadencing on the dominant-tonic-dominant-tonic successively. Each phrase consists of two shorter sub-phrases, all in short arch forms. The B phrase consists of motives developed from the A phrase.


The text works well as a Palm Sunday hymn or as the opening hymn for a Passion Sunday observance.

  • Stanza 1: The text begins with a paradoxical question: "Who is he who both comes in triumph and to die? comes in peace and in power? hidden yet lifted up?" And the response is "Jesus, Lord, Messiah, Master of the grave, riding as the King of glory, God come to save."
  • Stanza 2: He comes in humble splendor with the crowd greeting him in glorious shouts of praise, just as the angelic host greeted his birth in Bethlehem. In Bethlehem he was greeted as the long-awaited hope; but on Palm Sunday, he is welcomed as the people’s King.
  • Stanza 3: The processional moves on to Jerusalem, through the "gates of splendor," as all are invited.


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