Hymn-Theology: And Were the Skies of Parchment Made


“Could we with ink the ocean fill, and were the skies of parchment made; were every stalk on earth a quill, and every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry; nor could the scroll contain the whole, though stretched from sky to sky.”
“The Love of God” ~ Frederick M. Lehman 1917

This hymn is as moving to me now as the first time I heard it some fifteen years ago.

The writer posits a theory that unlimited resources are insufficient to describe God’s love. What the Love of God is to us, how it changes our lives, and how it sustains our very being, is almost indescribable.

Romans 5:5 tells us that the hope we have will not disappoint us because of God’s love which has already been poured out upon us. We have peace, justification, faith, perseverance, character, and hope because of His love.

Paul’s prayer in the third chapter of the Letter to the Ephesians asks that they not only be “rooted and grounded in love” but that they would be able to comprehend the extent of it.

1 Corinthians 13 is the go-to passage for the Bible’s description of love but in 1 John 4 we are told that not only is God love but Christ is the manifestation of that Love.

In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 1 John 4:9

Taking the logical assumption that God is Love, Jesus is God; therefore, Jesus is love, the last verse in John sums it up best.

And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen. John 21:25

Amen and Amen.

For Thought & Discussion:

All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

9 thoughts on “Hymn-Theology: And Were the Skies of Parchment Made”

  1. This was my wife’s favorite Hymn when she was growing up. She introduced it to me when we became friends and I have liked it ever since because of its beautiful imagery concerning the immensity and unfathomable breadth of just one of God’s attributes. I finally found where the part of the song that you reference comes from!!! I thought you might be interested since you asked “Are there any other verses that back up this hymn theologically?” I know you asked this two years ago but are you still interested?

  2. I was facinated to discover, almost this exact quote, in a collection of poems. The poem is called ‘Akdamut Milin which means “Before the words [of the Ten Commandments]” it was written for the festival of Shavu’ot and was composed by Rabbi Meir ben Yitzhak Nehorai in Worms Germany in the 11th century.

    “Could we with ink the ocean fill, And were the skies of parchment made, Were every reed on earth a quill, And everyone a scribe by trade, To write the love of God above, Would drain the ocean dry. Nor could the scroll contain the whole, Though stretched from sky to sky”

    But it seems this quote may go futher back than that since I found two very similar quotes from around the 6th century concerning how the words or teachings of God are endless:

    “If all the trees that are upon the earth were to become pens, and if God
    should after that swell the sea into seven seas of ink, His words would not be
    exhausted: for God is Mighty, Wise.”

    This comes from the Qur’an Sura 31:27. It’s amazing to find this univeral feeling of awe for the immensity of God and his attributes that are beyond human comprehension shared by so many religions.

    Not only that but after I found these quotes I ran across a blog of Tibetan topics that found this same imagery in Buddist and Hindu texts.

    Any thoughts?

  3. Absolutely. How unjust would it be for God to send his message to humanity without it being The Truth? Such injustice would be unthinkable for God. Likewise how unjust would it be for The Truth to be out of reach to peoples of the earth if He is to then judge them by it?
    It is only just that all peoples had access to The Truth no matter where or when they lived. I think this song speaks beautifully to The Truth of God’s immense love. And that love would not permit his creation to be punished by a standard they could not receive due to barriers of geography and time.
    The good parent does not punish for broken rules the child does not know.
    Any more thoughts on God’s love and The Truth?

  4. I was singing this song in my head on the way in to work this morning, and I wanted to refresh my memory of all the lyrics for the entire song – and my search brought me to this very excellent webpage. I am glad, and I received much more than I was searching for – truly, it is good and pleasant to frequently (if not constantly) consider the sublime glory of Almighty God. Finding like-minded souls is always an encouragement. Thank you for sharing this with me!

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