Greek Version of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

I’m the kind of person who finds myself singing Christmas carols in the middle of 110-degree heat in August. I don’t condone this sort of behavior; it just happens. I especially love advent hymns that capture some of the rich themes of the Gospels. So, this year, I’ve decided to translate some of them into Koine Greek.

I just introduced O Come O Come Emmanuel to my class last week. It’s only just turned November, but we’re only learning one verse per week, so we’ll be near Christmas by the time we finish. Below I provide the English and the original Latin along with my Greek version of the hymn. I have tried to keep the basic rhyming scheme and to stick to the meaning. Let me know if you find any mistakes, or if you have any suggestions. I hope to post a recording of the song soon. Keep an eye out for other songs, as well, which I hope to post in the next couple weeks. Enjoy!

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
Verse 1 (στροφή α´)
O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Veni, veni Emmanuel;
Captivum solve Israel,
Qui gemit in exilio,
Privatus Dei Filio.
ἔρχου δὴ ὦ Ἐμμανουήλ
τοῦ λυτρῶσαι τὸν Ισραήλ
ὅς ἐν αἰχμαλωσίᾳ πενθεῖ
ἕως Μεσσίας ἐπιφαίνει

Refrain (ὁ χορός or  ὁ ἐπῳδός)
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel,
Nascetur pro te, Israel!

εὐφράν-θητε, ὅτι Ἐμμανουήλ
ἐλεύσεται πρὸς Ισραήλ.

Verse 2 (στροφή β´)
O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Veni, veni, O Oriens;
Solare nos adveniens,
Noctis depelle nebulas,
Dirasque noctis tenebras.

ἔρχου δὴ ἀνατολή
φωτίσαι ἐν τῇ σῇ ἐλεύσῃ
τὸν γνόφον ἀφανίσαι
σκιὰν θανάτου ἐξᾶραι


Verse 3 (στροφή γ´)
O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Veni, Clavis Davidica!
Regna reclude caelica;
Fac iter tutum superum,
Et claude vias inferum.
ἔρχου δὴ ἐν ἐξουσίᾳ
ἀποκαλύψαι οὐράνια
ὁδὸν ζωῆς φυλάξαι
τὰς πύλας τοῦ ᾅδου κλεῖσαι


Verse 4 (στροφή δ´)
O come to lead us Adonai,
Who to the tribes on height of Sinai
In ancient times did’st give the Law,
In cloud, and majesty and awe.
Veni, veni Adonai!
Qui populo in Sinai,
Legem dedisti vertice,
In maiestate gloriae.
ἔρχου δὴ ὦ κύριε
ὁ δοὺς τὸν νόμον πάλαι
τῷ Ισραὴλ ἐν τῷ ὅρει
ἐν τῷ μεγάλῳ πυρί


Verse 5 (στροφή ε´)
O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o’er the grave
(no Latin)
ἔρχου δὴ τοῦ Ἰεσσαὶ ὑιέ
τὸν λαόν σου δικαιῶσαι
σῶσαι ἡμᾶς ἐκ τοῦ σκότους
νικῆσαι πάντας πονηρούς


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7 Responses to Greek Version of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

  1. Michael Templin says:

    My favorite hymn during Adventus. Why do you choose to translate Privatus Dei Filio as ἕως Μεσσίας ἐπιφαίνει? Are you implying that Messiah equals Son of God? Anyways, fun project!

    • Mike, good observation. I don’t recall my thought process in choosing Messiah instead of Son of God. I likely chose the former for reasons of euphony and rhythm, since ο υιος του θεου is five/six syllables (depending on how much you compress the proclitic), while Μεσσιας has a much more manageable three.
      I do think, though, that two points could also be made: 1) The two descriptions overlap quite a bit in meaning because of their application to the king (or future king) of Israel in various texts, e.g. Ps 2. John 20 and Matt 16 also come to mind as examples of their very close relation. In the Gospels, Jesus is “anointed” with the holy spirit at the same time he is declared God’s son (at his baptism). 2) Christians eventually came to attach Trinitarian theology to the description “Son of God,” so using this title in a song which expresses Israel’s pre-advent hopes seems a little out of place. I don’t feel that strongly about that point, though.

  2. Gary Simmons says:

    Daniel, I’ve been studying Greek for several years now, having learned primarily through traditional seminary instruction and following up over the past four years through extensive independent reading.

    I stumbled across your blog κατα συντυχιαν (η ισως θεου επιχορηγιαν) earlier this week, and I cannot help but rejoice. I have been working hard to try to come up with a Greek curriculum through which I may teach others in a manner similar to how modern languages are treated. Why is it that my professors cannot count to ten? By the way, I scored a six on your pop quiz, if that lets you know where I’m at right now.

    I was afraid I was alone in pursuing a better way to teach. Friends have looked at me doubtfully when I mention something along the lines of developing picture books or even Greek translations of children’s books, but ιδου! μονογενης ουκ ειμι!

    I kid you not — I was singing Veni, Veni, Emmanuel in early December and I wish I had been inspired enough to translate it into Greek. I have managed to do three or four worship songs in Greek, though.

    I like what you did here. Only two questions: How does the ὅτι in the chorus work metrically? I think the chorus works better without it. Secondly, what does privatus mean? My Latin is subpar.

    If you have any projects that might require an extra hand, let me know. I am not a professional linguist, but I have a serviceable grasp of Koine, αρκετον του μεθερμηνευειν εξαιφνης.

  3. Pingback: Christmas Songs in Koine Greek | καὶ τὰ λοιπά

  4. Paul says:

    You may be interested in listening to the following on youtube though some of the material is in Modern Greek.
    “Ω! έλα Εμμανουήλ”

    Χριστος Γενναται

    Αγια Νυχτα

    traditional Greek Christmas song

    Καλήν εσπέραν άρχοντες
    κι αν ει – κι αν είναι ο ορισμός σας,
    Χριστού τη θεία γέννηση,
    να πω, να πω στ’ αρχοντικό σας.

    Χριστός γεννάται σήμερον
    εν Βη – εν Βηθλεέμ τη πόλει,
    οι ουρανοί αγάλλονται,
    χαίρε – χαίρετ’ η φύσις όλη.

    Εν τω σπηλαίω τίκτεται,
    εν φα – εν φάτνη των αλόγων
    ο βασιλεύς των ουρανών
    και ποι – και ποιητής των όλων.

    Luke 2 with Christmas carols

    By the way here is a site in Classical Greek with the current News

  5. Stu says:

    I’ve only just found this. Love it!!

    Out of interest, the Latin of the Jesse verse:
    Veni, O Iesse virgula,
    ex hostis tuos ungula,
    de spectu tuos tartari
    educ et antro barathri.

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