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When he was 48, Johann Sebastian Bach (who died 250 years ago today) acquired a copy of Luther's three-volume translation of the Bible. He pored over it as if it were a long-lost treasure. He underlined passages, corrected errors in the text and commentary, inserted missing words, and made notes in the margins.

Near 1 Chronicles 25 (a listing of Davidic musicians) he wrote, "This chapter is the true foundation of all God-pleasing music." At 2 Chronicles 5:13 (which speaks of temple musicians praising God), he noted, "At a reverent performance of music, God is always at hand with his gracious presence."As one scholar put it, Bach the musician was indeed "a Christian who lived with the Bible." Besides being the baroque era's greatest organist and composer, and one of the most productive geniuses in the history of Western music, Bach was also a theologian who just happened to work with a keyboard.He was born (into a family that in seven generations produced 53 prominent musicians) and schooled in Eisenach, Thuringia—at the same school Luther had attended. Johann Sebastian received his first musical instruction from his father, Johann Ambrosius, a town musician. By age 10 Bach was orphaned, and he went to live and study with his elder brother, Johann Christoph, an organist in Ohrdruf.By age 15, Bach was ready to establish himself in the musical world, and he immediately showed immense talent in a variety of areas. He become a soprano (women weren't permitted to sing in church) in the choir of Luneburg's Church of Saint Michael. Three years later, he was a violinist in the chamber orchestra of Prince Johann Ernst of Weimar. After a few months, he moved to Arnstadt to become a church organist.In October 1705, Bach was invited to ...

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