Johann Sebastian Bach, the 18th-century German composer and musician, is considered one of the greatest classical music composers — by many, the greatest — of all time, but a number of his cantatas and librettos reveal that he agreed with the Gospel of John, that the Jews were liars and murderers:
The choral accompaniments are based on the anti-Semitism inherent in the Lutheran Church of the period as proclaimed by Martin Luther, a seminal figure in the Protestant Reformation and a staunch anti-Semite.
“In some cases, it is explicit and people sometimes don’t know it because it’s in German,” said Michael Marissen, the Daniel Underhill Professor Emeritus of Music at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. “Some people say it’s the music that counts, but I think that’s ethically lazy.”
Marissen is a scholar of medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, and classical European music, and he has written several books on Bach and Handel, including: “Bach & God,” “Lutheranism, Anti-Judaism, and Bach’s St. John Passion,” and “Tainted Glory in Handel’s Messiah…”
…Marissen said he became interested in the anti-Semitic references permeating Bach’s musicalization of the Gospel of St. John in 1995 after controversy at Swarthmore over a performance of Bach’s “St. John Passion” exploded in protests that spread elsewhere.
The orchestral and choral work “is about Jesus’ faith, but it uses the terms ‘the Jews did this, the Jews murdered Jesus, the Jews, the Jews, the Jews,’” particularly as the chief instigators of Jesus’ crucifixion, Marissen told NJJN in a phone interview from his Manhattan home.
The discussions swirling around the performance prompted Marissen, who is not Jewish, to conduct research and write “Lutheranism, Anti-Judaism, and Bach’s St. John Passion.”
“St. John Passion” is filled with “biblical allusions,” Marissen said, citing the lines, “They will put you under the ban” and “They will kill you and think they are doing so in the service of God”; these quotes from the Gospel of John refer to Jesus’ warning his followers of actions that will be taken against them by the Jews, planting seeds of anti-Jewish attitudes.
“Some of my colleagues say that Christians are a diverse group and of course there are some disagreements with Jews,” he said. “Disagreements are not a problem, but calling Jews murderers and liars is. A problem with the gospel is that it says Jews are murderers and liars by nature.”
Marissen spends much of his time presenting lectures at concerts, sometimes along with Jewish or Christian clergy, to illustrate instances of anti-Semitic tropes in the works being played and place them in a modern context.
“A few people say these works shouldn’t be performed anymore, while others say they should, but that we should talk about it,” Marissen said. He endorses the latter approach; the music should continue to be performed in concerts, he said, “but we should view them as an educational opportunity.”
Of all the writings of the New Testament, the Jews hate the Gospel of John the most as it clearly exposes their lies, hypocrisy, and murderous intent. To this very day, they are so worried about the “antisemitism” in the Gospels that Jews are demanding that many passages be censored. Any Christian who bothers to read the New Testament would have to go out of their way to miss how Christ rebukes the Jews at every turn. Nowhere can you find one example where Christ praises the Jews for any reason whatsoever.
And that, apparently, is J.S. Bach’s great sin — he took John’s words to heart when he wrote that the Jews were murderers from the beginning. Bach did nothing more than trust that Christ was telling the truth, a trust which makes Bach an antisemite. Bach, of course, was a devout Christian and inscribed each of his musical manuscripts with “S.D.G.” an abbreviation for “Soli Deo Gloria” or “for the glory of God.” Nothing that the Jews have ever produced was created for the glory of God, and it shows. There is no jewish J.S. Bach, and there never could be.