Christian Encounters Series
Thomas Nelson, 2011
This book is one in a series of short biographies in the Christian Encounter series published by Thomas Nelson. Others include D. L. Moody, Tolkein, Schweitzer, Columbus, Newton and Galileo.
Before I read this book I knew little of the life of Bach. I had enjoyed his cello suites and knew that his Christian faith influenced his work. I wanted to know more about how his faith influenced him and to see how his faith integrated with his music. I read this book hoping to find these answers. Marschall largely succeeds in this. As he notes, 'there have been very few studies on Bach's faith life' and he writes to fill that gap.
Although Bach never travelled more than a few hundred miles from his birthplace his music has global appreciation. It is clear from this book that Bach's faith permeated all of his life and his music in particular as these quotes from the book reveal:
'Bach too, was a preacher, as effective and doctrinally pure as many saints since apostolic times, but he exhorted through his music'.
'He did not preach about music. His music preached about Christ.'
The book shows Bach as an orthodox Lutheran having a close relationship with his saviour. He read the Bible daily and also read Luther's writings. He began almost all his compositions with 'Jesus help me' written at the top left of the first page and 'To God alone the glory' at the bottom right corner of the completed score. Bach wrote for an audience of one: Jesus Christ his saviour.
Marschall shows that we can't understand Bach without understanding his faith and the other main factor on him, his family: he had twenty children!
This is a helpful biography of Bach that does justice to Bach's faith and his music.