Isaac Watts: The Father of English Hymnody

Born July 27, 1674, in Southhampton, England, Isaac Watts became one of the world’s most prolific hymn writers. The eldest of nine children, Isaac shared his father’s love of books, learning Greek and Hebrew as a young man. He also had the “strongly held faith” of his father, a Dissenter from the Anglican church. Because of his father’s belief’s, Isaac was banned from attending Cambridge or Oxford. Instead he attended an academy run by Dissenters. His years of language and Bible study led to his prolific hymn writing. One of Watts’s most famous collections was called “The Psalms of David: Imitated in the Language of the New Testament." He wrote that he wanted “to imitate rather than to translate” the Psalms, including his “imitation” of Psalm 98, which became one of the most popular hymns of all time—“Joy to the Word, the Lord has come!”

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