During the 17th century, many new church songs had emerged, especially among the Pietist Lutherans (e.g. in Halle, Herrnhut, Württemberg). Orthodox Lutheran theologians were concerned about the content of these new songs. They felt that this put people on the wrong track. They preferred to see that the comforting value from the old Reformation songs was preserved. To be sure of the right texts (with the right teaching), they made an effort to track down and republish the original sources. They recognised problems with difficult imagery or outdated language, but felt that this should not lead to deleting the old songs in new collections, but rather to re-explaining the meaning. This marked the beginning of the field of hymnology, a special subfield of theology in which songs are studied. In the early years, the first half of the 18th century, it was not so much about objective research, but much more about profiling one’s own views using sources. The hymnological pioneers therefore published vast amounts of information, such as hymnbook commentaries, in which they detailed the content of each song. The information from these 18th-century books sheds new light on Bach’s chorale cantatas. Not only on the context where they originated, but also on the content and interpretation of each song in text and music.

Lydia Vroegindeweij researched many of these sources for her dissertation ‘Troost bij Luther en Bach’ (Comfort with Luther and Bach) and is now continuing this research with an analysis of the entire cycle of chorale cantatas. On this website, she will share her sources and publish results of the research.

Leipziger Kirchen-Staat (1710), frontispice

Important hymnologists of Bach's time

This overview is a first start and will be added to in the near future. Please also consult the page with links to digital editions of the main works of these hymnologists.

Enoch Zobel (1653-1697)

Christian Scriver (1629-1693)

Johann Benedikt Carpzov (1639-1699)

Johann Christoph Olearius (1668-1747)

Johann Martin Schamel (1668-1742)

frontispice Evangelischer Lieder-Commentarius 1724

Georg Heinrich Götze (1667-1728)

David Heermann (1655-1720)

Gabriel Wimmer (1671-1745)