Johann Sebastian Bach

St. Matthew Passion

Part I

Title Page Facsimile

New International Version of composite translation of








Chorus (groups, crowds)


Daughter of Zion: (Choir 1)
Believers: (Choir 2)
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1 Double Chorus with Chorale
Come, you daughters,
help me lament . . .
The Bridegroom.
Behold Him!
Like a Lamb!  . . .
Behold His patience. . .
Where, where?
Behold our guilt.
Behold Him, out of love
and graciousness,
Himself carrying the
wood of the Cross.
O guiltless Lamb of God
slaughtered on the stem of the cross,

always found patient,
how despised You were.

You have born all sin,
else we must have despaired.

Have mercy upon us, O Jesus!
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2 Evangelist When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples,

Jesus As you know, the Passover is two days away -- and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.

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3 Chorale
Beloved Jesus,
what have you done wrong
that they have pronounced
so hard a sentence?
What is your guilt,
into what sort of misdeeds
have you fallen?
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4a Evangelist Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and they plotted to arrest Jesus in some sly way and kill him.   They said however,

4b High Priests

But not during the Feast, or there may be a riot among the people. 

4c Evangelist While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table. When the disciples saw this, they were indignant and said,

4d Disciples

Why this waste? This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.

4e Evangelist Aware of this, Jesus said to them,

Jesus Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.

Dear Redeemer --
when your disciples foolishly quarrel
because this pious woman
with ointment your body
would prepare for the grave,
--  grant then, also, that I
with the tears streaming from my eyes
may pour water upon your head.
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5 Recitative (Alto)
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6 Aria (Alto)
Penance and remorse
grind the sinful heart in two.
May the drops of my tears
be an acceptable anointing
to you, faithful Jesus.
Penance and remorse . . .

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7 Evangelist
Then one of the Twelve--the one called Judas Iscariot--went to the chief priests and asked,

Judas What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?

Evangelist So they counted out for him thirty silver coins. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.

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8 Aria (Soprano)
Bleed on, dear heart.
Ah, a child that you raised,
that sucked at your breast,
threatens to murder its guardian,
for it has become a serpent.
Bleed on . . .

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9a Evangelist On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked,

9b Disciples

Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?

9c Evangelist He replied,

Jesus Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, `The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.'

Evangelist So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.  When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve.  And while they were eating, he said,

Jesus I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.

9d Evangelist  They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other,

9e Disciples

Surely not I, Lord?

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10 Chorale
It is I.  I should atone,
my hands and feet
bound, in hell.
The scourges and the fetters
and all that you endured --
that has my soul earned.
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11 Evangelist Jesus replied,

Jesus The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me.  The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.

Evangelist Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said,


Although my heart swims in tears
because Jesus takes leave of us,
yet his testament makes me glad.
His precious flesh and blood,
he bequeaths into my hands.
As He, in the world, with his own self
could not think evil,
so He loves them to the end.
Judas Surely not I, Rabbi?

Evangelist Jesus answered,

Jesus Yes, it is you.

Evangelist While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying,

Jesus Take and eat; this is my body.

Evangelist Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying,

Jesus Drink from it, all of you.   This is my blood of the  covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.  I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's kingdom.


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12 Recitative (Soprano)
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13 Aria (Soprano)
I will give my heart to You;
sink yourself in it, my Salvation.
I will submerge myself in You.
And if the world is too small for You,
ah, then for me alone shall You
be more than world and Heaven.
I will give ...

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14 Evangelist

When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.  Then Jesus told them,


This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: "`I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered."  But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.

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15 Chorale
Know me, my keeper,
my shepherd, take me to you.
Through You,
source of all good things,
much good has befallen me.
Your mouth has refreshed me
with milk and sweetmeats.
Your spirit has favoured me.
with many a heavenly longing.
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16 Evangelist

Peter, replied,

Peter Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.


Jesus answered,


I tell you the truth, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.


But Peter declared,

Peter Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.


And all the other disciples said the same.

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17 Chorale
I would stand here beside You;
do not then scorn me!
I will not depart from You
even if your heart is breaking. '
When your heart grows pale
in the last pangs of death,
then I will hold You
in my arms and lap.
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18 Evangelist

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them,


Sit here while I go over there and pray.

Daughter of Zion:

0 sorrow!
Here trembles the anxious heart!
How it sinks! How pales his countenance!

The judge leads him to judgement,
there is no comfort, no helper.

He suffers all the pains of hell,
he must pay for others' robbery.

Ah! if my love for You, my Saviour,
could lessen your fear and trembling
or help You bear,
how gladly would I remain here


What is the cause of all such woes?

Ah, my sins have felled You.

Ah, Lord Jesus, I have deserved this,
which You are suffering!

He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled.  Then he said to them,


My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.

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19 Recitative (Tenor) with Chorale
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Daughter of Zion:
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20 Aria (Tenor) with Chorus
I will watch beside my Jesus
Then our sins go to sleep.
His soul's distress atones for my death.
His mourning makes me full of joy
So his meritorious Passion must for us
be truly bitter and yet sweet.
I will watch beside my Jesus ...
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21 Evangelist

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed,


My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.

The Saviour falls down before his Father,
Thereby he raises me and all men from our fall.
upward to God's grace again.
He is ready to drink the cup, death's bitterness,
wherein the sins of this world
are poured and stink odiously,
because it pleases dear God.
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22 Recitative (Bass)
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23 Aria (Bass)
I will gladly submit myself
to take up cross and cup,
since I drink as my Saviour did.
For his mouth,
which flows with milk and honey,
has made the cause
and the bitter shame of suffering
sweet through his first draught.
I will gladly . . .

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24 Evangelist

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping  and said to them,


Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.


He went away a second time and prayed,


My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.

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25 Chorale
Whatever my God wills,
may it be so.
His will is best.
He is ready to help those
who firmly believe in him.
He helps them in time of need,
and, in his goodness,
chastises in measure.
Who trusts in God
and builds firmly on him,
God will not forsake.
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26 Evangelist

When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy.  So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.  Then he returned to the disciples and said to them,


Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.   Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!


While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people.  Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: "The one I kiss is the man; arrest him."  Going at once to Jesus, Judas said,

Judas Greetings, Rabbi!


and kissed him.  Jesus replied,

Daughter of Zion:
So is my Jesus captured now.
Loose him, do not hold, do not bind him!
Moon and light are quenched for sorrow,
because my Jesus is captured.
Loose him, do not hold, do not bind him!
They lead him away, he is bound.

Friend, do what you came for.


Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him.

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27a Aria (Soprano &  Alto) with  Chorus
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27b Chorus
Have lightnings, has thunder
vanished in the clouds?

Open your fiery pit, o hell,
wreck, ruin, engulf, shatter
with sudden force
the false betrayer,
the murderous blood.

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28 Evangelist

With that, one of Jesus' companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Jesus said to him,


Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.  Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?   But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?


At that time Jesus said to the crowd,

0 Man, mourn your great sin;
For this, Christ, from his Father's bosom,
went forth and came to earth.
Of a Virgin pure and gentle,
He was born here for our sake.
He was willing to mediate.
To the dead He gave life
and conquered all sickness,
until the time came
that He should be sacrificed for us,
and carry the heavy burden of our sins
upon the Cross itself.

Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me.  But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.


Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.

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29 Chorale Fantasia
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--- End of Part I ---


Part II