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JS Bach’s Bible annotations

January 20, 2010

JS Bach wrote these comments on his copy of the Bible.  The annotations are here given in German with a translation by Alfred Clayton.  The extracts are quoted in Interpreting Bach at the Keyboard by Paul Badura-Skoda.   I have also indicated what part of the Bible the annotations refer to, information that Badura-Skoda includes in a footnote.

1.  NB Erstes Vorpsiel. auf 2 Chören zur Ehre Gottes zu musicieren.


NB First prelude, to be performed on 2 choirs to the glory of God.

Written beside Exod. 15:20.

2.  NB Dieses Capitel ist das wahre Fundament aller Gottgefälligen Kirchen Music etc.


This chapter is the true foundation of all sacred music etc.

Written beside 1 Chr. 25: 7, 31.

3.  Ein herrlicher Beweis, dass neben anderen Anstalten des Gottesdienstes, besonders auch die Musica von Gottes Geist durch David mit angeordnet worden.


NB Wonderful evidence that, apart from other kinds of worship, music in particular was commanded by the Holy Ghost through David.

Written beside 1 Chr. 28: 21.

4.  Bey einer andächtigen Musique ist allezeit Gott mit seiner Gnadengegenwart.


NB In devout music God is at all times present with his grace.

Written beside 2 Chr. 5:13.

Quoted in: Badura-Skoda, Paul, trans. Alfred Clayton, Interpreting Bach at the Keyboard, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1993, ISBN 0-19-816155-7, p. 522-523.  The source for the quotation is Bach-Dokumente, iii. Dokumente zum Nachwirken Johann Sebastian Bachs 1750-1800, ed. H.-J. Schulze, Kassel and Leipzig, 1972, p. 636.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. February 12, 2010 8:54 am

    Good article :) This is interesting to hear Bach’s motivations. I read he just composed for the glory of God and sought to bless the church.

    Do you know where I can find Bach-Dokumente?

    • February 15, 2010 9:39 am

      I’m afraid I don’t know where you can find a copy of Bach-Dokumente as it is a German publication I believe. I imagine there must be an English translation available, but I don’t know for certain.

  2. Max permalink
    February 18, 2010 9:02 pm

    I too am interested in the composer’s thoughts on the bible and his writings. I found this book that has all the notations as well as facsimiles of the pages from his Calov Bible (the bible Bach used) and even commentary on Bach’s religious life.

    Title: J S Bach and Scripture – Glosses from the Calov Bible Commentary

    More info at Concordia Publishing’s site:


  3. July 6, 2010 12:14 pm

    Thank you Max!

  4. Anonymous permalink
    April 12, 2012 12:35 am

    I was wondering where in the book ‘Interpreting Bach at the Keyboard’ you found these, I found that book in my school library but couldn’t find anything about this. Thanks.

    • April 17, 2012 8:21 pm

      You could check if it is exactly the same book and edition – all the details are given at the bottom of the post, so if you have the right edition you should be able to find the extract.

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