What a Friend We Have in Jesus

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"What a Friend We Have in Jesus"
Publishedlyrics published 1865 by H. L. Hastings
lyrics with tune published 1870 by Oliver Ditson & Co.[1]
Composer(s)Charles C. Converse (1868)
Lyricist(s)Joseph M. Scriven (1855)

"What a Friend We Have in Jesus" is a Christian hymn originally written by preacher Joseph M. Scriven as a poem in 1855 to comfort his mother, who was living in Ireland while he was in Canada.[2] Scriven originally published the poem anonymously, and only received full credit for it in the 1880s.[3] The tune to the hymn was composed by Charles Crozat Converse in 1868.

The hymn also has many versions with different lyrics in multiple languages. The Handbook to the Lutheran Hymnal notes, "In spite of the fact that this hymn, with its tune, has been criticized as being too much on the order of the sentimental gospel type, its popularity remains strong, and the hymn retains a place in modern hymnals."[4] In some settings, the lyrics have been matched to other tunes such as the Welsh "Calon Lân" (originally wedded to the Welsh poem translated as "A Pure Heart").


In Asia[edit]

In Japan, the hymn's title was originally translated as "Itsukushimi Fukaki" (いつくしみ深き, lit. "Merciful"),[10] by which it is best known. In 1910, Daisui Sugitani rewrote the lyrics in Japanese and changed the title to "Hoshi no Yo" (星の界, lit. "World of Stars"). Another version was written by Ryūkō Kawaji with the title "Hoshi no Sekai" (星の世界, lit. "World of Stars"). It is also known by the title "Tsumitoga o Ninou" (つみとがをにのう, lit. "To Bear Sin"). The hymn is popular at wedding ceremonies in Japan.[11] Both hymn instrumentals of "Hoshi no Sekai" and "Itsukushimi Fukaki" are used as background music for Key's 2004 visual novel Planetarian: The Reverie of a Little Planet, arranged by Magome Togoshi.

In Indonesia, the hymn is known as "Yesus Kawan yang Sejati" and is sung in Indonesian or Batak (the indigenous language of North Sumatra) in Manado, Maluccan, and Protestant churches (around 6% of the population). Statistically, most Indonesians are Muslim (around 76%), but native religion elements have up to 90% of the total population and consequently the hymn is widely known only among musicians, scholars, and Indonesia's Christian community. Prior to when Suharto seized power in 1967, though, the same music was adopted for a popular patriotic song titled "Ibu Pertiwi".

In Hindi, the hymn is a very important song and is sung as "Yeshu kaisa dost pyara". In Marathi, the hymn has been translated as "Kon Mitra Yeshuwani" By Mary Bessel. The song is common during solemn services (Passion week and burial). In Malayalam, the hymn as "Enthu Nallore sakhi Yesu" is sung to comfort and as an invitation to Christ.[12] This hymn had been translated into Telugu and is sung during occasions as a song of comfort and solace. It is translated as "Preethi gala mana Yesu" and is listed in the Andhra Kraisthava Keerthanalu (Andhra Christian hymnals) as hymn No. 407.

In India, the hymn sung in Konkani, "Dulob Jezu", was translated by Felix Paul Noronha of Mangalore.

In South Korea, the hymn is translated as the title of "The Savior who took our burden of sins". The hymn was first introduced to South Korea by Oriental Mission Society, which is the previous organization of Korea Evangelical Holiness Church in 1919. This hymn has been sung by the church of evangelical denomination in common for a century. The remake version has been also made through contemporary Christian music.

Parodies and homages[edit]

Parody versions have included the First World War soldiers' song, "When this lousy war is over".[13]

Alan Price used the tune for his song "Changes" in the 1973 film O Lucky Man!, which was reused in a Volkswagen commercial of the same name with Paula Hamilton in the 1980s. In 1989, the song reached number 54 on the UK charts and number 29 on the German charts. In 2013, Hugh Laurie covered the song on his album Didn't It Rain.

The tune is also used in the 2021 anime series Taisho Otome Fairy Tale.

Published versions[edit]


  1. ^ "What a friend we have in Jesus". Hymnology Archive. Retrieved 2020-07-05.
  2. ^ Guillet, Edwin C., "Community Life: Religion", The Valley of the Trent, Chapter IX, page 301. The Champlain Society, 1957.
  3. ^ "What a Friend We Have in Jesus". www.hymntime.com. Retrieved 2007-05-03.
  4. ^ Polack, W. G. (1941). Handbook to the Lutheran Hymnal. St. Louis: Concordia. p. 323.
  5. ^ "Washington Phillips discography". wirz.de. Retrieved August 24, 2015.
  6. ^ George Washington Phillips: Jesus Is My Friend at AllMusic. Retrieved August 24, 2015.
  7. ^ "Pure Hymns overview". Allmusic. Retrieved July 4, 2010.
  8. ^ "Monty Alexander UPLIFT 2". Jazz Legacy Productions. Retrieved January 11, 2014.
  9. ^ "Bolcom, W.: Gospel Preludes, Books 1-4 (Hand)". Naxos. Retrieved November 11, 2021.
  10. ^ "Itsukushimi Fukaki song sheet" (PDF). Retrieved 2007-07-16.
  11. ^ "312: What a Friend We Have in Jesus". Retrieved 2008-03-19.
  12. ^ Christhiya Keerthanangal (Christian Hymns). 2007. Hymn 173.
  13. ^ "Trench Songs – When this Lousy War is Over". The First World War Poetry Digital Archive. Retrieved 30 July 2020.

External links[edit]