Calov Bible

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The Calov Bible 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.

Title page of the Calov Bible, with Bach's signature and date (1733) in the bottom right hand corner

Connection with J. S. Bach[edit]

The Calov Bible was made famous with the discovery of a long-lost copy that had once belonged to the composer Johann Sebastian Bach. At the time of his death, the inventory of Bach's library specified ownership of Calovii Schrifften (writings of Calovius). It was not known until the 20th century what these writings were.

In June 1934 a Lutheran minister, Christian G. Riedel, was attending a convention of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod in Frankenmuth, Michigan. While a guest in the home of his cousin, Leonard Reichle, pastor Riedel was shown a volume of the Bible in which he recognized Bach's signature on the title page. Reichle subsequently located the other two volumes in his attic, relating that his family had purchased them in the 1830s, in Philadelphia. Reichle donated the three volumes to the Concordia Seminary Library in St. Louis, Missouri, in October 1938, and the Calov Bible is still there today. Only after the upheavals of World War II, however, did the bible become known to Bach scholarship.

The Calov Bible is in three volumes, each signed on its main title page by J. S. Bach, who followed his signature with the date, 1733.[1] These contain 348 underlinings, marks of emphasis, and marginalia in Bach's hand, an attribution that has been proven by handwriting analysis and chemical analysis of the ink. In many instances Bach was correcting typographical or grammatical errors. Three of Bach's more important annotations are in proximity to the following passages.

Bible passage Bible text (GNT) Bachs's annotation
Exodus 15:20 The prophet Miriam, Aaron's sister, took her tambourine, and all the women followed her, playing tambourines and dancing. First prelude for two choirs to be sung to the glory of God.
I Chronicles 25 ... They were to proclaim God's messages, accompanied by the music of harps and cymbals. ... they proclaimed God's message, accompanied by the music of harps ... All of his sons played cymbals and harps under their father's direction, to accompany the Temple worship. This chapter is the true foundation of all God-pleasing church music.
II Chronicles 5:12-13 also the Levites who were the singers, all of them, even Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun, and their sons and their brothers, arrayed in fine linen, with cymbals and psalteries and harps, stood at the east end of the altar, and with them one hundred twenty priests sounding with trumpets;) 13 it happened, when the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking Yahweh; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised Yahweh, saying, For he is good; for his loving kindness endures forever; that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of Yahweh In devotional music, God is always present with His Grace.


  1. ^ Leaver, Robin A. (1985). J. S. Bach and Scripture: Glosses from the Calov Bible Commentary. St. Louis: Concordia. pp. 22–23. ISBN 0-570-01329-1. 

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