In this opening scene, set in the Garden of Gethsemane (although this is not actually named), Christ is betrayed. Bach illustrates the arrival of Judas and the soldiers with a distinctive lowering of pitch in the continuo and diminished harmony, giving the music an unsettled feel. He also punctuates, very purposefully, the listing of the lanterns, the torches and the weapons. Already the mood has turned ugly. The chorus (3), representing the band of officers and chief priests, has two very short and similar interjections in response to Christ’s question. At the very end (6), when Christ asks for his disciples to be allowed to take their leave, his words become briefly accompanied and the music more reflective in style.



Jesus ging mit seinen Jüngern über den Bach Kidron, da war ein Garten, darein ging Jesus und seine Jünger. Judas aber, der ihn verriet, wußte den Ort auch, denn Jesus versammlete sich oft daselbst mit seinen Jüngern.

Da nun Judas zu sich hatte genommen die Schar und der Hohenpriester und Pharisäer Diener, kommt er dahin mit Fakkeln, Lampen und mit Waffen. Als nun Jesus wußte alles, was ihm begegnen sollte, ging er hinaus und sprach zu ihnen:

When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron, where there was a garden, into which he entered, and his disciples.


And Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons. Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth and said unto them:



“Wen suchet ihr?” 

“Whom seek ye?”

  Evangelist Sie antworteten ihm:  They answered him:
3 Chorus “Jesum, Jesum von Nazareth.” “Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth.”
4 Evangelist Jesus spricht zu ihnen: Jesus saith unto them:
  Christ “Ich bin’s.” “I am he.”
  Evangelist Judas aber, der ihn verriet, stund auch bei ihnen. Als nun Jesus zu ihnen sprach: “Ich bins”, wichen sie zurükke und fielen zu Boden. Da fragete er sie abermal: And Judas also, which betrayed him, stood with them. As soon then as he had said unto them “I am he”, they went backward and fell to the ground. Then asked he them again:
  Christ "Wen suchet ihr?" “Whom seek ye?”
  Evangelist Sie aber sprachen: And they said:
5 Chorus “Jesum, Jesum, Jesum von Nazareth.” “Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth.”
6 Evangelist Jesus antwortete: Jesus answered:
  Christ  “Ich habs euch gesagt, daß ichs sei, suchet ihr denn mich, so lasset diese gehen!” “I have told you that I am he, if therefore ye seek me let these go their way!” 

The first chorale, the seventh stanza of the hymn Herzliebster Jesu, contrasts Christ’s great love and suffering with man’s living in a world of pleasure and joy. The melody is by Johann Crüger (1598-1662) and the words, written in 1630, are by Johann Heerman (1585-1647). The harmony is very colourful in this setting, particularly in the third line where the bass line descends chromatically through the words diese Marterstraße (path of torment), and then rises chromatically through the words which follow on immediately. The bass part describes a tritone on the word leiden (suffer). (The tritone, or augmented 4th / diminished 5th interval, the exact division of the octave in equal temperament, known also as the diabolus in musica (the devil in music) has been used by composers since the middle ages to represent evil, or fear, or discomfort.)




O große Lieb,

O Lieb ohn alle Maße, 

die dich gebracht auf diese Marterstraße!

Ich lebte mit der Welt in Lust und Freuden,

und du mußt leiden.

O great love,

O immeasurable love,

which brought you to this path of torment!

I lived with the joys and pleasures of this world,

and you must suffer.