Site Map
Xrysostom's Home
Ask the Pastor
General Christianity
General & World Religion
Christian Computing

+ + +

Things I've Written:

Ask the Pastor Blog
ATP Column Archives
Lutheran History
Lutheranism Compared
St. Paul: A Chronology
Luther: A Chronology
J. S. Bach, Lutheran Theologian
Bible Subject Reference
Church and Lodge Compared
Why Suffering and Death?

+ + +

Others' Writings:

The God of the Koran

+ + +

Click on Martin Luther's Seal to Order Lutheran Literature from
Browse and Order Lutheran Books from
+ + +

Current and Former Calls:

Holy Cross, Emma, MO
St. Paul, Jasper, TX
Faith, Woodville, TX

+ + +

+ + +

Lutheran Church - MO Synod

+ + +

The L.O.M.L.

+ + +

Mail Me!

+ + +

Site Statistics

+ + +

More Composer Links at the
Composers at the ODP
Open Directory Project (ODP)

+ + +

Lutheran Theology
ODP Lutheran Theology
at the ODP

+ + +

Lutheran History
Mozzie Luther at DMOZ
at the ODP

+ + +

Higher Things

+ + +

Lutheran Tidbit of the Day @

+ + +

KF6FNS' Lutheran Theology and Amateur Radio Page

+ + +

Add Me!

J. S. Bach:
Orthodox Lutheran Theologian?

Shop until you Bach!

The Rev. Walter Snyder (XRYSOSTOM)

Note: This paper was written as a "problem study" for a class in European Lutheranism taught at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri by Dr. August Suelflow. The format of such a study varies somewhat from a traditional major paper, but should provide no difficulties to the reader.

Following the paper and notes is a time chart that details Bach's life against the backdrop of European history.

Further information may be found by using the annotated bibliography and links at the end of this document. You may also order from the catalog of the Essential J. S. Bach or browse an entire Bach Store at, which also offers a number of Bach books.


Was Johann Sebastian Bach a champion of Orthodoxy in a period of Pietism and Rationalism? If not, why is he so much a part of our liturgy and worship lives? While we know that orthodox Lutheranism did not die out during and after the Thirty Years' War, those who continued in the Orthodox fold were not of an overwhelming number. So if Bach stayed within this movement, he displayed both courage and an example which would bear examination even now. For while we may never have another Bach, it would certainly do no harm to have him as stimulation for the work of present and future composers within orthodox Lutheranism.


Many of us---including myself---know little enough about music. But I love to listen, and have slowly developed an appreciation for all types of music. Bach was always part of the sounds of my life; however, it took an honors class in my senior year of college to start me thinking about his theology. This course in Artificial Intelligence used Goedel, Escher, Bach as its text. But the author was a scientific determinist, and I felt uncomfortable seeing Bach held up in this company. Yet at the time, I had no opportunity to explore him in any depth.

Still, I did know a little about him, since he is such a part of Lutheran hymnody. Because he followed Luther and built on his work, I'd always assumed that he believed in what Luther did and wrote. This thought became stronger when I found out about the climate in which he wrote, since he seemed to look so much to Luther in a time when much of Protestant Europe was going in contrary directions.

Since beginning seminary, my views have been strengthened. Bach was spoken of highly in many classes, by the faculty, and by many of my peers.. In various classes, I heard him mentioned in glowing terms. Additionally, guest speakers such as Rev. Robin Leaver have done much to laud him. My Worship class taught additional respect for his work in chorales, cantatas and liturgies.

Because of what I knew going in, I believed that Bach was strongly in the Orthodox camp. Even today, his religious music is popular in confessional churches, especially Lutheran. I trusted his theology to be deeper and more reverent than that of a Rationalist. And his strong championing of music as a central part of worship seemed far from the de-emphasizing to which Pietism subjected it.


This section is subdivided into examinations of the early and later portions of Bach's life. Included also will are observations and commentaries of his contemporaries and later writers. The final area to be examined is Bach in his own words, both from his music and from any correspondence or public statements which might bear on his theology.

The Early Years

Johann Sebastian Bach was born in Eisenach, Thuringia in 1685. Here was "the town wherein Luther hid himself from his enemies, ... in the Wartburg [where] he made his translation of the Bible and created some of his hymns."[1] The muse did not settle in isolation when she visited Bach. Veit Bach, his great-great-grandfather, was known to play the zither; his son Hans was a fiddler, and the trend continued through his father's generation, when Johann Ambrosius was "court musician at Eisenach,"[2] and "had two brothers and six first cousins in this walk of life."[3] One other thing the Bach family had much of was the name Johann,"[4] so I will use middle names when using "Bach" would be confusing.

Sebastian spent his early years in Eisenach, attending grammar school and singing soprano in the church choir. When his father died in 1695, he went to live with his organist brother, Johann Christoph, a former student of Pachelbel, who continued Sebastian's music education. In 1700, Christoph found the boy a choir position at St. Michael's, Lueneburg. Sebastian continued at Lueneburg after his soprano voice broke, "presumably because he was also a useful player of various instruments."[5]

While still living with Christoph in Ohrdruf, Bach had his "first experience with Pietism."[6] Ohrdruf was a Pietist stronghold, but the school authorities had taken their oaths to the Orthodox formulations, and thus the community was split.[7] Perhaps because the battle was so close to home (Christoph was on record with his signature supporting Orthodoxy), Sebastian may have seen too much, too soon. But whatever else, the school's stand did influence Sebastian. "Well grounded in the humanities, his character absorbed the theological bias of the school...."[8]

There is also some early evidence that Bach was not only seeing the major theological controversy of the day first hand, he was also advancing rapidly in other areas of learning. After coming to Ohrdruf, he applied himself, and "worked his way out of Quarta in half a year. He was barely ten when he entered the class, the average age of whose pupils was twelve."[9] When scarcely fifteen, he finished Prima, and this was almost three years earlier than was normal among his contemporaries.[10] Thus we have evidence of a young man who had the combination of knowledge and wisdom to excel in his studies. Knowing the nature of his courses, which included much theology, Greek, and Latin, I feel that Bach was quite aware of the surrounding battles, and was able to think them through fully.

J S Bach Following his time at Lueneburg, Bach was briefly employed in Weimar, before taking a position as the New Church, Arnstadt's organist. He got the job by accident; he asked the authorities for permission to try their new organ. They "were so impressed with his skill that they offered him the post ... on the spot."[11] He was only eighteen. However, Bach didn't devote all his time to the organ and the church choir. When he was twenty-one, "he was reprimanded by the Church Consistory for 'making music' with 'a stranger maiden' in the choir loft," during a time when girls were not allowed in church choirs.[12] So no matter what his other inclinations, Bach was not overly concerned at that time about the individual expressions associated with a staunch Pietist.

Bach married his second cousin, Maria Barbara, about a year after this incident. Whether or not she was the "stranger maiden," he had already moved on to Muehlhausen and a fresh start, and had to return to Arnstadt to tie the knot.[13] At this time, Bach was employed By St. Blasius Church. Here is the time when the young Sebastian Bach disappears and his mature incarnation begins to assume full stature. When he left for his next position, his resignation showed a well thought-out plan for himself and for the future of his music:

[I]t was my intention to advance the music in the divine service toward its very end and purpose, a regulated church music in honor of God; ... also ... to improve the church music ... [as well as starting and financing other projects]: it so happened that none of this was possible without vexatious relations.... So God willed to bring about an opportunity that will not only put me in a better position as far as the subsistence of my livelihood is concerned, but will also make it possible for me ... to persevere in working for my very end which consists in organizing church music well.[14] [Emphasis added.]

Any further work should be considered in light of these farewell remarks, and how Bach accepted or rejected the destiny he laid out for himself.

No matter what else, Bach showed his orthodox Lutheranism and his great love of music at this time. His desire was to keep his family well, but his over-arching goal was to keep music as an integral part of corporate worship. Whether or not he stayed his course is a matter to consider as he grew and evolved musically.

The Later Years

From Muehlhausen, Bach moved on to Sachsen-Weimar, and the court of Duke Wilhelm Ernst. He was to be chapel musician, and hoped to pursue the plans he laid in Muehlhausen. Here, Bach was charged with composing a new cantata every month, and with the musical instruction of the Duke's nephews.[15] The Duke was not overly carried away with passions in any area, but seems to have been content to rule quietly, wisely and well. "Holding a middle course between orthodox zealotry and fanatic Pietism, he curbed the acerbities of ecclesiastical controversy and ruled his churchmen with Erastian firmness."[16] It is interesting that Bach did so much with the cantata. While many strong Pietists enjoyed music, and included hymns along with the chanting of Bible texts and Psalms, Pietism de-emphasized corporate worship. Not so Bach. His cantatas and chorales were designed to be integral parts of the worship service, and required much preparation and the organization of a great amount of talent among the congregation's singers.

Bach spent almost ten years at this job, then picked up his stakes again. At least part of the problem was the promotion of a musical inferior to the post of Kapellmeister.[17] Even if Bach had a strong faith and a deep love for God, he also had strong pride, and a deep love of his own work. But when he attempted to leave for Koethen, where the climate was pro-music (even if also strongly Calvinist), he found himself under arrest "'for too stubbornly forcing the issue of his dismissal.'"[18]

When in 1717 he went to Koethen, Bach's output underwent drastic change. Some of the authors I've examined consider this period to show a shallowness of faith, since little religious music was composed or presented, while others argue that Koethen was a only a respite, and that it is impossible to separate "sacred" from "secular" when considering the music of Bach. At Koethen,

[H]e really flowered as a secular composer, producing ... the Brandenburg concertos ... although he continued to compose religious music as well.... It was the best job he ever had, and he might have stayed indefinitely had it not been for the death of the prince's wife, who loved music.... [T]he new princess turned out to be a woman who cared little---and spent less---for music.[19]

Following his time in Koethen, Bach once again sought greener pastures, and accepted in 1723 the position of Cantor of St. Thomas Church, Leipzig---which is probably his most famous position. Besides a few trips to other parts of Germany, it was in Leipzig where Bach stayed until he died. Leipzig was home to his greatest religious compositions. Here he wrote and introduced to the world the Magnificat in D, the St. John Passion, the St. Matthew Passion, the B-Minor Mass, and the Christmas Oratorio.[20] Bach also returned to the heart of Orthodox worship services, when "he composed five sets of Church cantatas for all the Sundays and holy days of the ecclesiastical year, a total of about 300."[21]

In Leipzig, Bach continued his practice of heading most manuscripts with "Jesu Juva" ("save, Jesus"), while concluding them with "S.D.G." (Soli Deo Gloria; "to God alone the Glory"), which, along with the texts and their settings, is "indicative of his personal faith."[22]

Thus far, the evidence points toward an orthodox and pious Lutheran composer. But what have others said of Bach?

In Others' Words

Bach has drawn thousands of comments through the years. Some are favorable, some not. A sampling of others' views of his music and theology will help put better perspective on him. Geiringer notes a strong Christocentricity:

The simultaneously temporal and atemporal nature of Bach's music is thus exactly mirrored in the simultaneously harmonic-vertical and linear-horizontal character of his technique: in this sense he may be said to be the supreme composer of the Christian Cross, itself a metaphor at once vertical and horizontal.[23]

But he also sees Bach as moving in a direction away from the totality of classic Lutheran theology. Examining the Mass in B-Minor, he wrote: "Its completion might well indicate a mellowing in the aged master's attitude, a deviation from belligerent Lutheran orthodoxy toward a more ecumenical attitude."[24] [emphasis added]

Bach had a strong intellect, as his school record notes. But in his fugues, he displayed true Rationalism, working within strict rules to produce, as in the "Six Voice Ricercar" of the Musical Offering, a complex fugue on a "very complex" theme, for which writing "a decent fugue of even two voices based on it would be difficult for the average musician."[25] But Nietzsche complains that, "'In Bach there is too much crude Christianity, crude Germanism, crude Scholasticism.... [A]t the threshold of modern European music ... he is always looking back toward the Middle Ages.' [1878]"[26] Was Nietzsche right? Or did his religious antipathy blind him to a trinity of piety, pure doctrine, and advanced thought which Bach possessed?

Will Durant obviously viewed Bach as one of the Orthodox. In The Age of Voltaire, he said succinctly, "'Bach's works are the Reformation put to music.'"[27] Robin Leaver agrees: Bach was a "serious student of Luther," purchasing an Altenburg edition of Luther's works after already owning the earlier Jena edition.[28] Obviously, the second edition would be redundant for anyone not dedicated to truly understanding the work of the reformer. And such dedication is not that of one on the fringes of Lutheran theology.

In Bach's Words

Finally, we must look at what Bach said and did. He was a student of Scripture and of Lutheran theology. In his Calov Commentary to Luther's Bible, he noticed that Calov missed part of Luther's commentary on original sin in Genesis 3. Luther had argued that original righteousness was an integral part of man, and Bach replaced the missing words from the Altenburg edition, where Luther illustrated the scholastic position of this righteousness as an adornment a man might place on a woman, "which comes from outside and without injuring her nature."[29] Many other corrections may be found in his commentary, showing attention to detail, and a desire to understand his theology exactly as Scripture would have it understood.

In his passions, Bach came face-to-face with the suffering and death of Christ. He was capable of displaying orthodox trust in one passage, and the personal expression valued by many Pietists. In the St. Matthew Passion, he has the congregation respond to Jesus in the garden, "... Whoever trusts God, Builds firmly on him, will never be forsaken."[30] But the human reaction of the women to his death is also clearly shown. "Penitence Tears my sinning heart in two, Let the teardrops of my weeping Soothing spices ever be, Beloved Jesu, offered thee."[31] While using his libretto masterfully, he also used his genius to craft music to bring emphasis to certain areas.

Many musicologists have commented on the halo in sound that is placed around the head of Jesus by the strings' accompaniment of his words. Significant when present, this halo is also significant when absent, as in the words of dereliction on the cross and in Jesus' refusal to give an answer to Pilate.[32]


Having speculated and investigated, my conclusion is that Johann Sebastian Bach was, indeed, firmly in the Orthodox camp. But he was also the forerunner of much that is modern in thought, and structured vast portions of his music with a mathematical precision which would be admirable to a Rationalist. Yet there was also a dimension in him of personal expression of faith, which would be a Pietist trait.

In reference to my speculations, I see that while I was not wrong in thinking of Bach as orthodox, I also over-simplified him. He was a complex person, and pinning the strict label of Orthodox on him damned with faint praise. The beauty of the music shows a depth of feeling and a desire of Bach to express himself. As far as following the lead of Luther, the Calov Bible and the two sets of the reformer's works show that the theologian had more than passing influence on the composer, while many of the cantatas are based directly on Luther's chorales.[33]

After examining so much evidence, I am compelled to abandon my original conclusions as being too narrow. From his earliest school records to the last of his fugues, he showed not only great intellect, but the continual pushing of that intellect to new levels. In such revelling in the complex expression of his thought, Bach surely was of the "new" time and the Rationalist school. But no man produces so much in any field without being compelled by overwhelming passion. And the passion of Bach, as we have seen above, never strayed far from his crucified and risen Savior.

His religious works are the personal expression of his faith, often the mark of the Pietist. But these works were created for the Church, and show Bach's unswerving allegiance to corporate worship by their very make-up. Taken even by themselves, the 300-odd cantatas composed at Leipzig show a man who saw the Church as the proper setting for man's response to his Maker. And his own margin notes show him to be a devoted Bible scholar---and one who followed the Orthodox lead of Calov. Similarly, his collections of Luther indicate a man who was pursuing the path of the Reformation.

Therefore, my mind was not so much "changed" as it was "expanded." I don't feel that I was wrong in my initial evaluation, but that I wasn't right enough. Bach still seems quite Orthodox---but not one-dimensionally so. In him we see a true balance found by few. Without sacrificing any area, Bach excelled in Piety, Rationality and Orthodoxy. Each shaped the others, and all were normed by his love of making music, and his love of Jesus Christ.

Soli Deo Gloria

The victory is won; the perfect sacrifice has for me all been paid. No more the law dominion hath or dares obstruct me. The course is run. God from death's bondage has released me; as one from prison I am free.[34]

Section V: END NOTES

1. Eva and Sydney Grew, Bach (London: Aldine House, 1947) 5. Back to the text.

2. Cynthia Millar, Bach and His World (Morristown: Silver Burdett, 1980) 10. Back to the text.

3. Grew 1. Back to the text.

4. Denis Arnold, "Bach," The New Oxford Companion to Music, ed. Denis Arnold, 3 vols. (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1983) 3: 126. Back to the text.

5. Arnold, Companion, 126. Back to the text.

6. Leo Schrade, "Bach: The Conflict Between the Sacred and the Secular," Journal of the History of Ideas (1946; New York: Merlin Press, n.d.) 18. Back to the text.

7. Schrade 19-20. Back to the text.

8. Charles Terry, Bach: A Biography (London: Oxford UP, 1964) 30. Back to the text.

9. Terry, Bibliography 27. Back to the text.

10. Terry, Bibliography 30. Back to the text.

11. Millar 13. Back to the text.

12. Herbert Kupferberg, Basically Bach (London: Robson Books, 1985) 36. Back to the text.

13. Karl Geiringer, with Irene Geiringer, Johann Sebastian Bach: The Culmination of an Era (New York: Oxford UP, 1966) 23. Back to the text.

14. Schrade 9-10. Back to the text.

15. Millar 14. Back to the text.

16. Terry, Biography 87. Back to the text.

17. Terry, Biography 104. Back to the text.

18. Kupferberg 55. Back to the text.

19. Kupferberg 34. Back to the text.

20. Millar 28. Back to the text.

21. Kupferberg 79. Back to the text.

22. Robin Leaver, J. S. Bach as Preacher: His Passions and Music in Worship, Church Music Pamphlet Series, ed. Carl Schalk (St. Louis: Concordia, 1982) 13. Back to the text.

23. Geiringer 9. Back to the text.

24. Geiringer 207. Back to the text.

25. Douglas R. Hofstadter, Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid (New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1979. Back to the text.

26. Kupferberg 7-8. Back to the text.

27. Kupferberg 9. Back to the text.

28. Robin A. Leaver, "Bach and Luther," Bach 9.4 (1978): 26. Back to the text.

29. Robin A. Leaver, J. S. Bach and Scripture (St. Louis: Concordia 1985) 57. Back to the text.

30. Paul S. Minear, Death Set to Music, (Bach's text trans. Thomas Dunn, 1986; Atlanta: John Knox, 1987) 48. Back to the text.

31. Minear 51. Back to the text.

32. Minear 46. Back to the text.

33. Charles Sanford Terry, Joh. Seb. Bach Cantata Texts Sacred and Secular (London: Holland Press, 1964) 655 [index page, gives reference to the Luther hymns used by Bach]. Back to the text.

34. Terry, "Ich Weiss, Dass Mein Erloeser Lebt," Cantata Texts 215. Back to the text.


Year Bach's Life Other Events
1685 Bach Born. Handel and D. Scarlatti born; Charles II dies, James II new King of England.
1686 . Calov dies.
1687 Versailles completed; Newton's Principia Mathematica; Bengel born.
1688 . Quenstedt dies.
1689 Peter the Great Tsar; James II abdicates, William and Mary crowned; Purcell's Dido and Aeneas.
1694 Bach's mother dies. Queen Mary II of England dies; Voltaire born.
1695 Bach's father dies; Bach goes to live with brother Joh. Christoph. Purcell and La Fontaine die.
1698 E. Herda starts teaching Bach. George Louis becomes Elector of Saxony.
1699 Racine dies.
1700 Bach to Lueneburg to St. Michael's Choir. Dryden dies.
1701 Yale College founded; War of Spanish Succession begins.
1702 Bach walks to Hamburg. William III dies, Anne succeeds.
1703 Bach briefly at Weimar; becomes New Church, Arnstadt's organist. J. Wesley born.
1705 Bach granted 4 weeks leave to hear Buxtehude at Luebeck, stays gone 4 months. Spener dies.
1706 Bach returns to Arnstadt in February. Ben Franklin born.
1707 Bach becomes organist at St. Blasius, Muehlhausen; marries cousin Maria Barbara in October. Ch. Wesley, H. Fielding born; Buxtehude dies.
1708 Bach to court of Duke Wilhelm Ernst of Sachsen-Weimar; 1st child, Catherina Dorothea born.
1709 Bach inaugurates new organ at Muehlhausen. Samuel Johnson born; 1st piano built.
1710 Bach's son Wilhelm Friedemann born. Handel to England; Robert Boyle born.
1712 . Rousseau born; Pope writes The Rape of the Lock; England's last witchcraft trial.
1714 Bach's son, Carl Philipp Emanuel born. Queen Anne dies, George I of Hanover becomes king; Fahrenheit invents mercury thermometer.
1715 Bach's son Joh. Gottfried Bernhard born. Louis XIV of France (the Sun King) dies.
1716 Drese dies, his son given Kapellmeister job over Bach. Thos. Gray born.
1717 Bach arrested by Wilhelm Ernst, finally released to become Kapellmeister at Koethen; contest with Marchand. .
1719 Bach tries and fails to meet Handel in Halle. Defoe writes Robinson Crusoe.
1720 Maria Barbara dies. .
1721 Bach composes Brandenburg Concertos; marries Anna Magdalena in December.
1722 1st part of Well Tempered Clavier, 1st music book for Anna Magdalena, composed. .
1723 St. John Passion 1st performed; Bach becomes Cantor of St. Thomas, Leipzig. Sir Christopher Wren dies; Joshua Reynolds and Adam Smith born.
1724 . Kant born.
1725 2nd "Anna Magdalena" book. Peter the Great, A. Scarlatti die.
1726 . Swift writes Gulliver's Travels; Vivaldi composes Four Seasons.
1727 George I, Newton, Francke die; Gainsborough born.
1729 St. Matthew Passion 1st performed, on Good Friday. .
1730 Gesner new Rector, St. Thomas. Edmund Burke born.
1731 1st part of Klavier-Uebung. Defoe dies; G. Washington born.
1732 Bach's son Joh. Christoph Friedrich born. Haydn born.
1733 B-Minor Mass composed. .
1734 1st performance of Christmas Oratorio. Frederick Augustus II of Saxony becomes Fred. Aug. III of Poland.
1735 Bach's son Joh. Christian born; 2nd part of Klavier-Uebung's published. .
1736 Bach receives honorary post of court composer to the Elector of Saxony. James Watt born.
1739 3rd part of Klavier-Uebung. 1st performances of Handel's Saul and Israel in Egypt.
1740 Carl Philipp Emanuel employed by Frederick II of Prussia; Bach's eyesight very bad. Frederick the Great introduces freedom of press and worship to Prussia.
1741 4th part of Klavier-Uebung. Handel composes Messiah.
1742 Goldberg Variations composed. Messiah 1st performed, Dublin.
1743 . Handel writes Samson.
1744 2nd part of Well-Tempered Clavier written. A. Pope dies; Lamarck born.
1745 Bach's 1st grandson, Joh. August, born (son of C. P. E.). Swift dies.
1746 Gottlob Storr born; Battle of Culloden; Handel writes Judas Maccabeus.
1747 Bach visits Fred. the Great at Potsdam; receives theme for the Musical Offering. .
1748 Art of the Fugue probably begun.
1749 . Goethe born; Fielding writes Tom Jones.
1750 Two eye operations fail, Bach almost blind; dies on 28 July. Salieri born; Europe's population estimated at 140 million.

Primary sources for this chart were Cynthia Millar's Bach and His World and the time line from Dr. Suelflow's European History class, H-452.


Notes: Documents marked with asterisk (*) are quoted in paper

Titles available for purchase are linked to Some of these may be other editions than those quoted, whose page numbers may not match endnotes.

Arnold, Denis. Bach. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1984. A good summary, deals mainly with the music and philosophy of Bach.

---. "Bach." The New Oxford Companion to Music. Ed. Denis Arnold. 3 vols. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1983. 1: 125-132. *Article formed basis for Arnold's book. Quick reference.

Blume, Friedrich. Two Centuries of Bach: An Account of Changing Taste. London: Oxford UP, 1950. Some antipathy, not an easy read. Secularizes Bach.

Chiapusso, Jan. Bach's World. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1968. Helpful for understanding the background in which Bach worked.

David, Hans T., and Arthur Mendel, eds. The Bach Reader. 2nd ed. New York: W. W. Norton, 1966. Bach in his own words. Also contains Forkel's biography and comments by contemporaries and later critics.

Foelber, Paul F. Bach's Treatment of the Subject of Death in His Choral Music. Diss. Catholic U of America, 1961. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1961. Oriented toward music, slight value in this paper.

Geiringer, Karl, with Irene Geiringer. Johann Sebastian Bach: The Culmination of an Era. New York: Oxford UP, 1966. *Good summary of Bach's life. Excels in showing background and culture.

Grew, Eva, and Sydney Grew. Bach. London: Aldine House, 1947. *Good, readable biography. Includes chronology, bibliography.

Herz, Gerhard. Bach's B-Minor Mass in History. Accession #77371. Concordia Seminary Library, St. Louis. N.p.: n.p., [1963?] Appears to be program notes from a concert. Interesting; limited scope.

---. "Toward a New Image of Bach." Bach 1.4 (1970): 9-27. Notes on Calov Bible. Defense against Blume and others.

Hofstadter, Douglas R. Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1979. *Integrates music, visual art and math. Author tries to be strict determinist, but fails at times. Worth a serious read by theologians, artists, scholars and computer specialists.

Kupferberg, Herbert. Basically Bach: A 300th Birthday Celebration. London: Robson Books, 1985. *Does a superior job in catching vignettes from Bach's life. The off-beat as well as the ordinary are here.

Leaver, Robin A. "Bach and Luther." Bach 9.4 (1978): 9-12, 25-32. *Refers to Calov Bible.

---. "The Calov Bible from Bach's Library." Bach 7.4 (1976): 16-22. Refers to Calov Bible.

---. J. S. Bach and Scripture: Glosses from the Calov Bible Commentary. St. Louis: Concordia, 1985. *In-depth study of Calov Bible. Good translations of text and margin notes. Great help in understanding Bach the theologian.

---. J. S. Bach as Preacher: His Passions and Music in Worship. Church Music Pamphlet Series. Ed. Carl Schalk. St. Louis: Concordia, 1982. *A summary of Bach's theology, based in large part on Calov Bible.

Mellers, Wilfred Howard. Bach and the Dance of God. London: Faber and Faber, 1980. Attempts to show Bach in tune with a "Dance of Creation." Interesting, but not much help in matters theological.

Millar, Cynthia. Bach and His World. Morristown: Silver Burdett, 1980. *Valuable summary of Bach's life and times. Copious Illustrations.

Minear, Paul Sevier. Death Set to Music: Masterworks by Bach, Brahms, Penderecki and Bernstein. Translation copyright 1986 by Thomas Dunn. Atlanta: John Knox, 1987. *Fascinating book. Examines the theology and musical settings of four different masses.

Pelikan, Jaroslav. Bach Among the Theologians. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1986. Good read; sums up Pelikan's theology even better than it does Bach's.

Schalk, Carl F. "Sketches of Lutheran Worship." A Handbook of Church Music. Eds. Carl Halter and Carl Schalk. St. Louis: Concordia, 1978. Basic text for understanding origins of current worship.

Schrade, Leo. "Bach: The Conflict Between the Sacred and the Secular." Journal of the History of Ideas 7.2 (1946). New York: Merlin Press, n.d. *He found some gems seemingly missed by others.

Terry, Charles Sanford. Bach: A Biography. London: Oxford UP, 1928. *He may be the English language Bach biographer. Well-written, informative, great help in understanding the composer.

---. Joh. Seb. Bach Cantata Texts Sacred and Secular. London: Holland Press, 1964. *Introductions helpful. Translates texts to English.

---. The Music of Bach: An Introduction. Oxford: Oxford UP. 1933. New York: Dover Publications, 1963. Examines why Bach did as he did.


  • Bach Cantatas not only deals with this form of music but provides a wide range of references.
  • Dave's J. S. Bach Page includes the venerable Bach Central Station and other resources and links. It's still a solid resource, although not recently updated.
  • The Industrious Herr Bach provides an easy to navigate introduction to his life and works.
  • The Open Directory Project offers catalogued links of general interest plus special categories for audio files, bibliographies, cantatas, chats and forums, and theology.

Page designed by Walter Snyder as part of the Xrysostom family of Web pages. This page © 1991, 2000 by Walter P. Snyder.