Bach and his Bible

Bach’s notes in his Bible

It’s an incredible story! Hear about the discovery of Bach’s own Bible in a Michigan farm house and how it was protected from Hitler and the Nazis. What did Johann Sebastian Bach write in his own Bible? Discover more of his personal faith that is expressed over and over in his music. Take a few minutes and listen to Dr. Thomas Rossin as he tells the story.

Johann Sebastian Bach’s Bible was a “Calov Bible”, which is a three-volume 17th-century Bible that contains German translations and commentary by Martin Luther and additional commentary by Wittenberg theology professor Abraham Calovius. [1]

The three-volume “Calov Bible commentary is a vital source for understanding Bach’s approach to Scripture. Each volume contains Bach’s handwritten monogram. Bach underlined many passages, in both red and black ink and, most importantly, wrote his own comments in the margins. These markings give us a glimpse into Bach’s personal beliefs and how he understood his vocation.” [2]

Johann Sebastian Bach’s Bible
Bach’s signature in his Bible

Thomas Rossin, a Minnesota conductor who did his dissertation on the volumes that feature Bach’s signature and the date 1733–which could be the year the musician acquired the Bible commentary–said they verify that Bach’s interest in church music was more than just a function of his job as an organist and choir director in Germany. “Finally we have proof in his own hand, not meant for anyone else to see, saying things like, ‘This chapter is the true foundation of all God-pleasing church music,'” Rossin said. [3]

The Bible is now residing, permanently, at Concordia Lutheran Seminary in St. Louis MO. It is possible to make an appointment to see a portion of it, pending on the availability of the librarian.

Gottes wort bleibt in Ewigkeit: “God’s Word stands Forever!”


1. Calov Bible (Wikipedia)

2. Bach & the Bible (Christianity Today)

3. Bach’s faith resonates in his Bible notations (Baptist Standard)