BWV 109 Ich glaube, lieber Herr, hilf meinem Unglauben!

Twenty-first Sunday after Trinity.

Poet unknown.

1. Mk. 9:24; 6. Lazarus Spengler, verse 7 of "Durch Adams Fall ist ganz verderbt," 1524 (Wackernagel, III, #71).

17 October 1723, Leipzig.

BG 23; NBA I/25.


1. Chorus [Dictum] (S, A, T, B)

I have faith, O dear Lord, help my unbelieving.

2. Recit. (T)

The Lord's own hand, indeed, has not grown short,(1)
I can receive his help yet.
Ah no, I sink to earth already
With sorrow, to the ground am I cast down.(2)
The Highest yearns, his father's heart doth break.(3)
Ah no! He hears the sinners not.
He will, he must come to thy rescue quickly
And to thy need bring healing.
Ah no, I still remain for help most anxious;(4)
Ah Lord, how long then?(5)

3. Aria (T)

How filled with doubting is my hoping,
How wavering my anxious heart!

    Of faith the wick but dimly glows,
    Now snaps the almost broken reed,(6)
    And fear doth ever cause new grief.

4. Recit. (A)

Compose thyself, thou doubt-beridden heart,
For Jesus still doth wonders work!
The eyes of faith e'en yet shall witness
God's healing pow'r;
Though the fulfillment distant seem,
Thou canst, indeed, rely upon his promise.

5. Aria (A)

The Savior knows, indeed, his people,(7)
Whene'er their hope doth helpless lie.

    When flesh and will within them quarrel,
    He shall himself yet stand beside them,
    That at the last their faith triumph.

6. Chorale (S, A, T, B)

Who hopes in God and in him trusts
Shall never be confounded;
For who upon this rock doth build,
E'en though there may surround him
Great danger here,
I've yet known ne'er
That man to fall in ruin,
Who doth rely upon God's help;(8)
He helps his faithful always.


1. Cf. Num. 11;23 and Is. 59:1. This recitative sets up a dialogue within the soul between faith and doubt which lends a dramatic character to the whole cantata.

2. Cf. Mk.v 9:18.

3. Cf. Jer 31:20: "Is Ephraim my dear son? Is he my darling child? For as often as I speak against him, I do remember him still. Therefore my heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him, says the Lord."

4. Cf. Is. 38:17.

5. Cf. Ps. 6:3.

6. Cf. Is. 42:3 and Mt. 12:20.

7. Cf. Jn. 10:14 and 27.

8. The slight anacoluthon (change of syntactical construction in the middle of a sentence) is in the original. The "I" interjects a declaration of personal faith appropriate to the central theme of the cantata. Erdmann Neumeister includes this verse in Gelobet sey der Herr, Geistliches Singen und Spielen (Gotha 1711), for which Bach probably wrote music. This translation follows the colometry of that edition (9 lines instead of the 8 in Neumann T, p. 144).


© Copyright Z. Philip Ambrose


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