BWV 4 Christ lag in Todes Banden

First Day of Easter.

Martin Luther, the eight verses of the hymn, 1524 (Wackernagel, III, #15).

Ca. 1707, certainly before 1714.

BG 1; NBA I/9.


1. Sinfonia

2. Verse 1 (S, A, T, B)

Christ lay to death in bondage,
For all our sin was given;
He is once more arisen
And hath us brought true life now;
For this shall we joyful be,
God giving praise and gratitude
And singing hallelujah.
Hallelujah!

3. Verse 2 (S, A)

That death no one could subdue
Amongst all mankind's children;
This was all caused by our sin,
No innocence was found then.
From this came, then, death so quick
And seized power over us,
Held us in his realm as captives.
Hallelujah!

4. Verse 3 (T)

Jesus Christ is God's own Son,
To our abode he cometh
And hath all sin now set aside,
Whereby from death is taken
All his rule and all his might;
Here bideth nought but death's mere form,
His sting hath fully perished.
Hallelujah!

5. Verse 4 (S, A, T, B)

It was an awesome thing that strife,
When death and life(1) did wrestle;
And life did the vict'ry win,
For it hath death devoured.
The Scripture foretold it so,(2)
How one death the other ate;
To scorn has now death been given.
Hallelujah!

6. Verse 5 (B)

Here is the spotless Easter lamb,
Whereof God hath commanded;
It is high on the cross's branch
In ardent love now burning;
The blood signeth now our door,
Our faith doth it to death display,
The strangler can now no more harm us.
Hallelujah!

7. Verse 6 (S, T)

So let us keep the great high feast
With heartfelt joy and pleasure,
Which us the Lord makes manifest;
He is himself the sunlight,
And through his own shining grace
He filleth all our hearts with light;
The sin-filled night now hath vanished.
Hallelujah!

8. Verse 7 (S, A, T, B)

We eat now and live indeed
On this true bread of Easter;
The ancient leaven shall not
Bide with the word of favor;
Christ would be our sustenance
And nourish the soul alone,
For faith would on none other live.
Hallelujah!


1. This and several lines of this hymn have heterodyne meter, i.e., have falsely accented words. Here Leben is accented on the second syllable. Perhaps to correct this a da or das is added after Leben in some parts. Where so, translate: "And life did then the vict'ry win" or "And life, it did the vict'ry win.

2. All parts but the cantus firmus have verkündiget instead of verkündigt. With the former translate: "The Scripture foretold of it so."


© Copyright  Z. Philip Ambrose


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