I was a history major, and I love learning history through its physical artifacts. Last summer I visited Gettysburg for the first time. While I was brought to tears standing on its hallowed battlefields, I was also riveted by the stories behind the many Civil War relics there — stories told through well-researched exhibits, and then extended to mini-dramas in my own imagination.

So I was intrigued when I received an e-mail that the personal Bible of Johann Sebastian Bach (a commentary Bible) was going to be on display at a local choral concert. We've received suggestions to do a program on Bach and his personal faith — an item on our very big, very long list of show ideas. For now, I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to see Bach’s Bible up close, hear about its history, and learn what it reveals about his faith.

Dr. Thomas Rossin kindly gave me the opportunity to photograph the Bible and talk to him about it. Rossin did his doctoral work on translating the handwritten notes in Bach’s Bible and tracing its history. He's the founder and conductor of Exultate Choir and Chamber Orchestra, and he was allowed to take two of the Bible's three volumes on tour with him to display during Exultate's recent performances of Bach's Mass in B Minor (never will all three volumes travel at the same time). He describes how Bach's Bible has 350 entrances that give evidence to Bach as a person of faith (II Chronicles 5:12-13 "In devotional music, God is always present with His Grace", and his understanding of those entrances greatly impacts how he approaches performances of Bach's works.

An aside: the story of Bach's Bible reminded me of one of my favorite movies, The Red Violin, a fictional story about a 17th-century, hand-crafted violin that travels over three centuries. It includes a beautiful score with violin solos by Joshua Bell.

Share Your Reflection



Colleen, your insight into what matters, and when, brought this delightful discovery-rediscovery story to Krista's listeners. Well, the listeners who also like to pry into the richness of your Speaking of Faith website.

Thank you! All of you.

Bill Marston, LEED AP • Philly

Hi Coleen, this is most interesting. I hear God in between Bach's notes. And seeing this Bible of many stories brings me closer to both. Thank you!

Hi Colleen, I'm the new Director of Library Services at Concordia Seminary, home of the Bach Bible. A new facsimile of this treasure is being produced. More information at www.bachbible.com. I'd love to talk about any way we might be helpful in letting the world know about this story. We could explore the story line of how it came to us during the days of Hitler or several other story lines which the youtube video explores. I'd love to talk more. If interested, feel free to contact me at hauptb@csl.edu. BTW, huge fan of the show. Thanks for all you do!

What a great video. Thank you. And for those Bach lovers and historians out there interested in studying and listening to Bach's Mass in B Minor and other works; the Digital Bach Project on OBF's website is the only place I've found on the web where Bach's music has been seamlessly integrated into digital media combining facsimiles of his original music scores with fascinating graphics that illuminate the theory of the music, insightful essay, video,and cue points. There is truly a lifetime of exploration in this resource worth visiting for any interested in further study of Bach. You can visit at

I feel tdeeply moved by the presentation of this information ...it is difficulet to put words on the depth of feeling Bach's music spreads throughout thefeeling mind ...it seems like an after thought that Bach would have been a believer in God and the mysteries surrounding our experience of the sacred......we just have to come into contact with his works and we know this man felt what he was rxpressing and much more than my little mind can imagine at this moment . Thank you for this presentation .

My father, Dr. Howard Cox, edited the book titled The Calov Bible of J.S. Bach which was published in 1985 by UMI Research Press. He was able to authenticate the hand-penned ink entries in the Bible itself by having the ink analyzed at the University of Ca. at Davis. This was an important scholarly effort to, in fact, verify Bach's strong religious faith and its influence on his incredible musical output. My father, professor emeritus at Moravian Theological Seminary in Bethlehem, Pa., continues to write on music and religion.