Fulfilling

Until tonight, while I was listening to those “Midnight Cry” clips, I always thought the line in the second verse was:

I see prophecies fulfilled.

But no. In fact, it is, evidently:

I see prophecies fulfilling.

Huh?

First off, put your flame throwers away. I’m not advocating some purist’s hard line here. The song is perfectly comprehensible the way it is, as are many songs that have one-off lines or other odd lyrical tics. But unlike a lot of those other instances, which arise when writers try to shoe-horn too many ideas or thoughts into rhythmically unaccommodating lines, the choice of unidiomatic diction is less clear here, since the idiomatic choice - fulfilled - would have worked just as well or better rhythmically and been more coherent.

The Occam’s razor possibility is, of course, that somebody chose the wrong word and didn’t have a good editor to tell them so.

More generously, though, I guess you could read the line as grammatically elliptical, making the verb reflexive. At least it makes a little more sense this way: as in, “I see prophecies fulfilling themselves.” But even this generous reading doesn’t make complete sense, since in evangelical Christian eschatology, prophecies aren’t supposed to fulfill themselves. They are fulfilled, by God, in his divine end times. Which in this case would mean the passive voice: I look around and I see prophecies being fulfilled by God.

Put it this way, and it makes me think maybe the writers wanted to convey the idea of looking around and seeing, not completed prophecies, but the fulfillment of prophecy in progress, which the present participle fulfilling must have seemed to capture better than the grammatically correct past participle that this kind of passive-voice construction takes: fulfilled.

Any writers wanna jump in here?

Update: Just to bear out the old maxim that we argue the most when the stakes are the lowest, let me clarify something that came up in comments. Baritone77 suggests that because “fulfilled” is the past participle and the verse is in the present tense, using “fulfilled” would require recasting the entire verse in the past tense. But this isn’t quite right. What we have here isn’t a straightforward past/present issue. In this case, using “fulfilled” doesn’t change the tense of sentence; rather, it makes part of the sentence passive voice: Instead of “I see prophecies fulfilling themselves” we have, “I see prophecies fulfilled by God.” Both are present tense (”I see” in the both), but the latter is a present tense sentence with a passive-voice predicate (”fulfilled by God”), which requires the past participle to defer to the agency of the action to God. Not to be technical or anything … heheh.

Email this Post

Comments

  1. Joe wrote:

    Doug-

    I have always loved that line, for what it really says.

    I agree with you that grammatically, it is incorrect.

    But theologically, it is spot on. And even more so, 20 years after it was first written and recorded.

    I was speaking to a huge audience 2 months ago, and asked for a show of hands of those who honestly felt that they would be alive when the Lord Jesus returned. The vast majority put their hands up.

    That is because many Christians really do see “prophecies fulfilling…”!

  2. Baritone77 wrote:

    Fulfilled is past tense while fulfilling is present tense. It agrees with the tense of the verse. If you changed that line you’d also need to change about the signs of the times appearing.

  3. Kyle wrote:

    Okay, now tell me which is correct….the song as written (and originally recorded) says, “When Jesus steps out on a cloud to call His children.”

    When Gold City started doing it live, though, they altered it to, “When Jesus steps out on a cloud to call God’s Children.”

    ?????

  4. Wade wrote:

    Kyle kinda beat me to but here is the REST of the Story… I went to church with Jeff Hullender who was playing bass with GCQ during that time.

    When it was first recorded as Kyle said the line was…

    “When Jesus steps out on a cloud to call His children.”

    They sang at a church one night and the minister pointed out they were God’s children and not Children of Jesus. So to be correct they even went back in the studio and changed it for future duplications.

    That is how the Story goes.

    Let the legalist begin the debate.

  5. Leigh wrote:

    While you’re on the topic of lyrics, I have spent decades wishing someone would let The Greenes know that sin is not a “captive”, it is a “captor”. (”When I Knelt The Blood Fell”…opening line.)

  6. quartet-man wrote:

    Kyle, that was changed because either Gold City realized (or someone pointed out to them) that we aren’t Jesus’ children, but God’s, so they changed it and replaced it with God’s forevermore.

  7. judi wrote:

    There is a real tendency these days to use the progressive (-ing) form of the verb in many forms of writing, such as headlines and leads in articles, without the requisite form of “to be” (as in prophecies are fulfilling…) so it’s not surprising it’s in creative work as well. (A Kansas newspaper once used this headline to describe how a church was moving its pipe organ from the old building to the new: “Organ taking weeks to relocate.” I’ve pondered the willfulness of that organ for years. As for Jesus calling His children vs. God’s children, it could be an attempt to use fewer masculine pronouns to refer to God or Jesus, in whom the apostle Paul assures us, “there is neither male nor female.” Hymnals used in many mainline churches today often alter pronouns referring to God in this way, to make God appear less in our image. Or it could be that the performers just like the way the word God resonates when they sing that line.

  8. irishlad wrote:

    The average sg fan can barely read, going down that grammatical road is a waste of time. This site is rapidly becoming the domain of the esoteric(an adjective by the way). Also when i’m on the point when you (Americans) stop bastardising the English language color instead of colour, check rather than cheque etc then perhaps you can flex that mighty muscle inside your head.

  9. irishlad wrote:

    I quickly and unreserveably retract my previous comment. It was a particulary venomus outburst on an unsuspecting and indeed undeserving public. Temporarily the fires of my Irish ‘charm’ were dampened. Sincere apologies.

  10. joe wrote:

    There’s nothing I enjoy more than reading a line as gramatically eliptical and making a verb reflexive!

  11. irishlad wrote:

    Go to mp3 lyrics organized and you will read ‘prophecies full filling’ lyrics by Alvin Slaughter. Surely it was Chuck and Greg Day who penned the song. The spelling was bad enough without getting the authorship wrong.

  12. wackythinker wrote:

    I know, let’s all start singing the line like this: “I’m seeing prophecies being fulfilled.” Or “I see prophecies that have been fulfilled.” Make that work rhythmically.

    Let’s give a little poetic lisence on the grammar. This is like Gloria Gaither (former school teacher) telling Mark Lowry his “Mary, Did You Know” is grammatically incorrect. I think Gloria is wrong. It sounds to me that Mark was asking if Mary knew in advance. Gloria thinks it should be “Mary, Do You Know,” and that Mark was using a colloquialism.

    Of course Mary knows now. But did she know in advance?

    Or does any of this really matter?

  13. Jeremy Hatfield wrote:

    Yeah, there are a couple of other things that have bothered me about the way “Midnight Cry” is performed. Too often nowadays, some singers want to personalize it by singing “I can almost hear my Father saying Son, go get your children,” which I believe is a pretty bold claim to Messiah-ship on the singer’s part. When I was younger, too, I thought they were singing “I hear the sound of a mighty Russian wind,” to which I would quip to whoever was sitting next to me, “Yeah, Boris Yeltsin just farted.”

  14. Chris wrote:

    You know, when I woke up this morning, I said to myself, “Man, I hope I can go online and conjugate verbs.”

  15. Leebob wrote:

    Anybody for Oh What A Savior and God searching through heaven wondering what he was going to do for a savior? My Bible reads that God had a plan all along.

  16. Kyle wrote:

    So, songs like “It Don’t Mean A Thing If Your Heart Ain’t Right” and “I Just Can’t Hardly Wait” don’t count here, huh??

  17. jb wrote:

    I think some people have waaaaaay too much time on their hands. The vast majority of people don’t pick the lyrics with a fine tooth comb. Maybe I am ignorant, but, who cares if it’s “fulfilled” or “fulfilling”……

  18. oldtimer wrote:

    This one has been a favorite whipping boy for years, #15, but the Oh What A Savior reference really does have a biblical origin. In Revelation chapter 5 the Word states that they searched through heaven, in Earth and under the Earth in an effort to find one who was worthy to open the scrolls (which contained God’s plan for redemption.) The only one worthy was the Lamb Of God - Oh What a Savior indeed! You have changed the lyric - the writer of the song said nothing about God “wondering” anything. Those are your words. The lyric said simply that they searched through heaven. So the songwriter is accurate - you, not so much.

  19. Dean Adkins wrote:

    That (prophecies fulfilling) doesn’t bother me half as much as the multitude of songs that include “for you and I” or “to you and I.”

  20. irishlad wrote:

    just got waylead on youtube. Hawkeye315 has posted some new GC clips. Solid quartet they have there. Aaron is some bass, i heard him first at natqtc when he had just replaced Jeff Pearles with PSQ. He was only 22 then and i don’t believe Richard Sterban was any better at that age.

  21. j-mo wrote:

    My favorite theological issue is from One Day at A Time. “Do you remember when you walked among men?”. I’m guessing he remembers.

  22. Grigs wrote:

    I’ve always heard Ronnie Hinson suggested the lyric change on “Midnight Cry”.

    Oldtimer, stop confusing us with the facts.

  23. Ed Martin wrote:

    irishad,

    Go here http://youtube.com/watch?v=6mbYs3xIrIM and listen to the two side by side.

  24. quartet-man wrote:

    Dean, I take it you are bothered by the fact that it should be for you and me and not the phrase itself or its overuse. :)

  25. 1 old fan wrote:

    Dean, I’m with you. “For you and I” and “to you and I” are so graiting on my nerves. It sould be “for you and me” or “to you and me.”

    For those who don’t get it, the rule is that the preposition (for, to, by, in, under, over, around, etc) goes with both nouns. We would not say “for I” or “to I”. Therefore, we shouldn’t say “for you and I” or “to you and I”.

    But too many songwriters think we should.

    I learned that in jr high.

  26. Leebob wrote:

    #18 Oldtimer It says…”they searched through heaven and found a Savior” …the implication being…oh what are we gonna do? Obviously in Heaven at the time John is referring to there is only One worthy to open the scrolls, the Lamb who was slain to redeem man. If I were getting my theology from the song….and many pastors have come to the same conclusion… prior to my salvation, the Almighty had no earthly idea how to redeem man. Fortunately our theology is not based upon a beloved song but rather the Word. A simple changing of that phrase to…”then down from Heaven there came a Savior” would resolve any issue in any persons mind and still not change the message.

    Next on the chopping block should be “I’ve got to make it to heaven some how”. Can somebody explain the justification of this line please?

  27. Richamania wrote:

    Wow! Slow week in southern gospel music.
    I know let’s rewrite every song, or we could take #14’s idea and conjugate verbs. Break out the #2 pencils kids, let’s diagram sentences!!!

  28. Grigs wrote:

    If it works for you, it works for I!

  29. quartet-man wrote:

    #28 LOL.

  30. apathetic wrote:

    Songwriters are not writing English textbooks. They are writing songs. Sometimes grammar is sacrificed for rhyme. Most listeners don’t care if correct grammar is used as long as they get the point/message in the song. There are a whole host of songs out there with grammatical errors, purposely misspelled words (nothin, dyin, prayin, movin), double negatives (He Ain’t Never Done Me Nothin But Good), etc. However full of errors the songs may be, it doesn’t stop others from singing along nor does it stop them from getting the message.

  31. Leebob wrote:

    Start singin’ Yoda style we should?

  32. Angie M wrote:

    FWIW, in his version, Clay Crosse sang, “I look around me, I see prophesies fulfilled (everywhere).” This must be from 1991 or so.

  33. Casimira wrote:

    With havin so much content and articles do
    you ever run into any problems of plagorism or copyright infringement?
    My website has a lot of exclusive content I’ve either written myself or outsourced but it seems a lot of it is popping it up all over the web without my agreement. Do you know any methods to help protect against content from being stolen? I’d certainly appreciate it.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked * Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.

*

*