Bach and the universality of the Passion narrative

Jill Segger
By Jill Segger
21 Apr 2011

A setting by an 18th century German composer of a translation into his own tongue of a Greek account of the trial and execution of an Iron Age Mediterranean religious radical, performed in a 15th century English church?

It sounds a little far fetched, put that way. But a Bach Passion performed in a Cambridge college chapel proved both an exemplar of the vitality of the cultural hybrid and also, for me, an inspiration to revisit the source, enabling me to think afresh about the death of Jesus and its universal meaning.

The narrative of the trial and execution of Jesus has been subject to centuries of creative re-interpretation. And it is art, imagery, the poetry of sound and speech which lies at the experiential heart of the matter. Abstract proposition and cold doctrine miss the transformative point of what Quaker William Penn called the 'Holy Experiment".

"To seek the heart that will not harbour you / That keeps itself religiously secure", is how Geoffrey Hill's Sonnet puts it.

The Easter column I have written out of all this, 'Wondering again over the Passion', can be found here: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/14617

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© Jill Segger is an Associate Director of Ekklesia. See: http://www.journalistdirectory.com/journalist/TQig/Jill-Segger You can follow her on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/quakerpen

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