Joy to the World

Joy to the World
Genre Christmas carol
Written 1719
Text Isaac Watts
Based on Psalm 98:4
Meter (C.M.)
Melody "Antioch" by George Frideric Handel, arranged by Lowell Mason

"Joy to the World" is a popular Christmas carol[1] with words by Isaac Watts. As of the late 20th century, "Joy to the World" was the most-published Christmas hymn in North America.[1]


The words of the hymn are by English writer Isaac Watts, based on Psalm 98, 96:11-12 and Genesis 3:17-18. The song was first published in 1719 in Watts' collection The Psalms of David: Imitated in the language of the New Testament, and applied to the Christian state and worship. The paraphrase is Watts' Christological interpretation. Consequently, he does not emphasize with equal weight the various themes of Psalm 98. In stanzas 1 and 2 Watts writes of heaven and earth rejoicing at the coming of the King. An interlude that depends more on Watts' interpretation than the psalm text, stanza 3 speaks of Christ's blessings extending victoriously over the realm of sin. The cheerful repetition of the non-psalm phrase "far as the curse is found" has caused this stanza to be omitted from some hymnals. But the line makes joyful sense when understood from the New Testament eyes through which Watts interprets the psalm. Stanza 4 celebrates Christ's rule over the nations.".[2] The nations are called to celebrate because God's faithfulness to the house of Israel has brought salvation to the world.[3]


Watts' 1719 preface says the verses "..are fitted to the Tunes of the Old PSALM-BOOK" and includes the instruction "sing all entitled COMMON METER".[4] In the late 1700's Joy to the World was printed together with music several times. [5]

The version of this carol usually heard today is from the edition by Lowell Mason for The National Psalmist (Boston, 1848),[6] his fourth revision of the tune he named ANTIOCH and attributed as "arranged from Handel". This tune has the first four notes in common with the chorus Lift up your heads from Messiah (premiered 1742), and the third line recalls the arioso Comfort ye from the same oratorio, but this resemblance is dismissed as 'chance resemblance' by Handel scholars today.[7] A 1986 article by John Wilson showed ANTIOCH's close resemblance to a predecessor titled COMFORT and associated with Wesley's hymn "O Joyful Sound", with one publication firmly dated 1833, three years earlier than Mason's first version.[8]


The text appears thus in The Psalms of David : imitated in the Language of the New Testament, and apply'd to the Christian State and Worship] (London 1719):

Psalm XCVIII. Second Part.
The Messiah's Coming and Kingdom

Joy to the World; The Lord is come;
Let Earth receive her King:
Let every Heart prepare him Room,
And Heaven and Nature sing.

Joy to the Earth, The Saviour reigns;
Let Men their Songs employ;
While Fields & Floods, Rocks, Hills & Plains
Repeat the sounding Joy.

No more let Sins and Sorrows grow,
Nor Thorns infest the Ground:
He comes to make his Blessings flow
Far as the Curse is found.

He rules the World with Truth and Grace,
And makes the Nations prove
The Glories of his Righteousness,
And Wonders of his Love.

Lyric variants

In the Latter-day Saint hymnal, the refrain in the first verse is "And Saints and Angels Sing" (see Joy to the World (Phelps)).

Modern recordings, including those aimed at children such as VeggieTales (part of A Very Veggie Christmas, The Singing Christmas Tree) and Disney Sing-Along versions, often omit the third verse.


A version by the Trinity Choir was very popular in 1911[9] and the carol has since been recorded by many artists including Andy Williams, The Supremes, Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Johnny Cash, Nat King Cole, Walter Cherry, Neil Diamond, Pat Boone, Perry Como, Vic Damone, Mariah Carey, and the A Capella group Pentatonix. As of the late 20th century, "Joy to the World" was the most-published Christmas hymn in North America.[1]


  1. Joy to the world! the Lord is come! at
  2. Joy to the World!, Worship Leader magazine (, 18 July 2011)
  3. Watts 1719, p. xxxii. it is not clear whether "Old Psalm-book" refers to Playford's 1677 publication or some other.
  4. For example to the tune WARSAW in Samuel Holyoke's Harmonia Americana, 1791 (page 87)
  5. Celebrate, Rejoice and Sing: Christmas Music in America, Roger L. Hall, PineTree Press, 2003, p 8; see also > for usage of ANTIOCH and other tunes.
  6. The Cambridge Handel Encyclopedia, Annette Landgraf, David Vickers, Cambridge University Press, 26 November 2009. 'Joy to the World' entry by Nicholas Temperley
  7. The Origins of the Tune "Antioch", Bulletin No. 166 of the Hymn Society of Great Britain and Ireland; a summary is given in The Oxford Book of Carols 1994, p.273
  8. Whitburn, Joel (1986). Joel Whitburn's Pop Memories 1890-1954. Wisconsin, USA: Record Research Inc. p. 422. ISBN 0-89820-083-0.
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.