We Three Kings
The Story Behind the Song

Both the text and tune of this Epiphany carol were written by John Henry Hopkins, Jr. in 1857, and the hymn was first published in 1863. The song written to be part of a Christmas pageant for the General Theological Seminary in New York City. The tune achieves the character of a folksong because of its storytelling style and many verses.

Hopkins was not content with just telling the story of the visit of the wisemen. This native American hymn-writer looked beyond the story of Christmas to Good Friday and Easter Day with the words in his final verse ... "Glorious now behold Him arise, King and God and Sacrifice; Alleluia, Alleluia, Sounds through the earth and skies."

John was the son of a Bishop of the Episcopalian Church in Vermont. At the time that he wrote this hymn, John was the pastor of Christ Episcopal Church in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, which is still standing at the corner of Fourth and Mulberry Streets. In addition to being a writer and editor, Hopkins was also a stained glass artist and book illustrator. He wrote many other poems which became hymns, but none as famous as this one. As we play this Christmas carol on our dulcimers, we should remember the wonders of the magi who visited the Christ Child.

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