One of the best-loved gospel songs worldwide, “How Great Thou Art” began as a nine-stanza hymn of praise, “O Store Gud” (“O Great God”), written in 1885 by Swedish poet and lay minister Carl Gustav Boberg (1859–1940). In 1891 Boberg published the poem, accompanied by a Swedish folk melody, in Sanningsvittnet (Witness for the Truth), a weekly Christian journal of which he was editor. Today, the tune is commonly named SANNINGSVITTNET in hymnals.
From its Swedish origins, the text was translated to German in 1907, then to Russian in 1912. The Russian text became the basis for a translation to English by Stuart W. K. Hine (1899–1989), a British Methodist missionary who discovered it in 1931 while on mission in the Ukraine. Hine’s work commonly contains four verses: the first two being a relatively close translation of stanzas by Boberg, and the latter two being original verses by Hine. Published in 1949, “How Great Thou Art” gained great popularity in North America after George Beverly Shea began singing it in the Billy Graham evangelistic crusades in 1955. It has been named the #1 favorite hymn by respondents to various polls in both the United States and United Kingdom.