The Passion of Bach: The Heart of Tragedy

I was watching a TV programme on Bach. In one part of the programme, a well-known conductor was being interviewed. He spoke about the deep effect Bach’s St Matthew’s Passion had on him each time he listened to it or conducted it. He focused on a specific part of the music:

“Every time I get to that part of the music, I can’t stem the tears. Just talking to you about it makes me feel the suffering (PASSIONIS – Latin)  and grief.” Passion” comes from the Latin root passio “to render.” So when we suffer, we have to submit to causes that deprive us of our freedom or well-being. (Passivity and Suffering in the Passion of Christ). He added quickly:  “Not that I believe that the person being crucified was anything but a man. You don’t have to be a Christian to feel the pain and the tragedy of such suffering.”.

Ecce homo (Behold the man)

Ecce homo (Behold the man)

The tragedy is that this deeply sensitive man of music could not see that this Death means much more than a human tragedy; it was a  Death that brings life; the only Death that can bring LIFE.  Failure to grasp the meaning of this Death is what lies at the heart of tragedy.

5 thoughts on “The Passion of Bach: The Heart of Tragedy

  1. The thing is, bography, the Jewish Bible does not agree with your viewpoint. G-d in the Jewish Bible made clear that He holds each individual accountable for his or her own transgressions, and He described that rule permanent.

    So the musician is much more “in tune” with the Jewish Bible than you seem to be. And the truth is, I am very sad about that, for you.

    • Two things Anon, the one a double question:

      1. Do you believe that there was such a “Passion” of a man called Jesus that Bach describes, and if you do, would you feel compassi0n for him, taking into account the things he said that you would regard as anti-Torah. The conductor seems to have believed that there was such a person as Jesus.

      2. Nowhere in my article did I say anything about “He holds each individual accountable for his or her own transgressions, and He described that rule permanent.” Christians, of course, do believe this, but not in the same way. The pivot of Christianity, though, is the death (and resurrection) of Christ.

      • To your first point: I don’t have enough information to say for certain whether one of the thousands of Jews the evil Roman empire crucified during its tyranny over Israel was named Jesus or not. Setting aside all of the problems with the Christian bible’s credibility (written decades after the “fact”, paltry attestation of witnesses, absence of non-Christian historical reports, etc.), there is the ridiculous story line that Pilate’s conscience was troubled at butchering one more Jew, and that he magnanimously gave in and rubbed Jesus out only because he was feeling the heat from his brutal subjugation victims who really wanted gentiles to slaughter more of their own. A more plausible course of events, if Jesus existed at all, is that he was mentally ill, had a “Jesus complex” and fancied himself the messiah, and he talked smack to the Roman powers that be and experienced their typical reaction to such. I feel awful about each and every innocent Jew that Rome crucified, burned, skinned alive, drew and quartered, etc.

        To your second point: I wasn’t insinuating you’d included my statement in your article. I know that your article, and your outlook, constitute the opposite of my statement. My statement is based in the Jewish Bible, which does not align with Christian “salvation through grace” doctrine in which person A died for person B’s sins. Rather, the Jewish Bible holds each person accountable for his own sins (II Kings 14:6), and G-d emphatically hammered home the point that He was never going to change His mind (Num. 23:19) and retract His edictsin the Jewish Bible (Deut. 5:29). I know that Christianity takes a different view, wherein G-d totally changed His mind and had Jesus die for your sins, but that’s the rub. That’s where the two religions, the one that follows the Jewish Bible and the Christian religion, really come into head-on theological conflict.

        • Anon, you insist that the NT historical record is fraudulent; I, in contrast, am convinced that it is not. So, it seems we have hit an impasse, for until we can agree on whether Jesus and Pilate existed and said and did what is recorded in the Gospels, the discussion cannot proceed. I value history – a rational approach to it. I believe, with Martyn Lloyd Jones that reading history is the best preparation for prayer (Martin Lloyd-Jones “True and false religion” in his Unity and Truth, ed. Hywel R. Jones (Darlington, Co. Durham: Evangelical Press, 1991), 161).

      • No, bography, we’re not at an impasse. We’re at the beginning of our journey together. Now the fun begins. You think Jesus did exist, I say we can’t know. I’ve put forth my reasons. Now, it’s your turn to supply reasons. Then we can compare our reasons. If, at the end of the day we each find the others’ evidence unconvincing, then we go our separate ways. But to conclude the impasse impassable without first examining it seems premature.

        On what rational basis have you concluded the “new testament” accounts of Jesus are factually accurate? And, to get the ball rolling, if I may choose one particular point of information within the Christian bible that is difficult from an historicity aspect, how do you contemplate both the David-to-Jesus genealogies offered in the gospels to be truthful, given that one family tree includes about double the number of generations spacing the two men than the other? What is your explanation for this discrepancy, and, equally important, what is the evidence you have to support your explanation?

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