The Hymns and Carols of Christmas does not
necessarily endorse any advertisers. Please use appropriate caution.
Early German Lutheran and Reformation Hymnals
The Achtliederbuch (Hymnal of Eight) also called
Etlich Cristlich lider, published in 1524, was the first German Reformation hymnal. It was compiled and published by Jobst Gutnecht of Nurnberg. It contained eight hymns, four of which were
Martin Luther. Three of the hymns were written by
Paul Speratus and one
which was anonymous (although often attributed to
In Jesus Namen heben wir an). It contained only five melodies. Two tunes from this hymnal are in the Lutheran Book of Worship (LBW). They are "Es ist Das Heil," (LBW 297) and "Nun Freut Euch" (LBW 299). The
translated title page was, Some Christian Hymns, Canticles, and Psalms Made According to the Pure Word of God, From Holy Scripture by Several Very Learned Men, to Sing in Church as it is in Part Already Practiced in Wittenberg. This shows that Luther had already begun to introduce some of the new hymns in the church services. The four hymns which Luther wrote in the Achtliederbuch are, "Dear Christians, Let Us Now Rejoice," "Oh God, from Heaven Look Down," "Although the Fools Say with Their Mouth," and "From Trouble Deep I Cry."
Paul Speratus (1484-1551) was born in Swabia, on December 13, l484, possibly at the Castle of Rothlen near Ellwangen. His name was originally Paul Hoffer or Offer, but he later Latinized it. In 1502 he began his studies at Freiburg which he continued in Paris and Italy. In 1518, he preached at Dinkelsbuhl, Bavaria. During the next few years he also preached at Wurzburg and Salzburg. At both places he was forced to leave because he expressed his evangelical views too openly. In 1520, when he received his Doctor of Divinity degree from the University of Vienna, he married. He was one of the first priests to marry, breaking away from the Roman custom of celibacy. He was denounced by the Theological Faculty at Vienna because of a sermon he preached defending marriage and setting forth the doctrine of justification. He became a preacher in Moravia where he gathered a large following. King Ludwig called him to Olmutz where he was in prison for three months.
In 1523, he came to Wittenberg where he worked with Luther and assisted him in preparing the Achtliederbuch, 1524. Later he was appointed court preacher to Margrave Albrecht at Konigsberg. Luther had recommended him for the position. Speratus had a great deal to do with drawing up the Liturgy and Canons, the Kirchenordnung, for the Prussian Church of his day. He died on August 12, 1551 as the bishop of Pomerania. Speratus wrote the text for one of the hymns in the LBW: "Salvation Unto Us Has Come."
The Enchiridion was published in 1524, in Erfurt. Eighteen of its twenty-five hymns were Luther's .
1525 Wittenberger Gesangbüchlein
This hymnal contained six more hymns. Luther wrote the preface for it. Johann Walther arranged the music in four parts for training young voices.
Johann Walther (1496-1570) was a close friend of and collaborator with Luther on many hymns. For three weeks in 1524 Walther lived in Luther's home as they worked on the German Mass and prepared the five-part harmony for Geystliche gesangk Buchleyn. Walther is considered to be one of the earliest Lutheran composers, known more for his musicianship than his hymnwriting.
He was born in Cola (or Kahla) near Sachensburg in Thuringia in 1496. The first 28 years of his life are unknown until in 1524 when it is reported that he was singing bass in the court of Friederich the Wise, Elector of Saxony at Torgau. In 1526, he was made Singengermeister (Kapellemeister) by Elector Johann of Saxony. When this electoral kapelle was disbanded in 1530, the town reconstituted it and Walther later became the cantor in 1534 at the school at Torgau. In 1548, he went to Dresden as Kapellmeister to Elector Moritz of Saxony where he remained until 1554 when he was pensioned on August 7. He returned to Torgau shortly thereafter and died March 25, 1570 or at least no later than April 24, 1570. Most of his hymns appeared in Das christlich Kinderlied D. Martini Lutheri, published in Wittenburg in 1566. He and Luther are said to have laid the foundation for evangelical church song.
1529 Geistliche Lieder
In 1529, the Geistliche Lieder was published by Joseph Klug. Luther's "Mighty Fortress is our God" first appeared in edition.
1539 Geistliche Lieder
The 1539 Geistliche Lieder was published by Valten Schumann in Leipzig. It was new and improved by Luther.
1543 Geistliche Lieder
The 1543 Geistliche Lieder revised by Joseph Klug was published. In the preface Luther complained that people changed his words.
1545 Geistliche Lieder
Luther considered the Geistliche Lieder, Wittenberg, which was edited by him and published by Valentin Babst in Leipzig, in 1545, as "his" hymnal. It was considered the finest hymnal of the Reformation period. It was the most complete and most carefully edited during Luther's lifetime. He wrote the preface for it which ended up being his last contribution to hymnody. It contained two parts.
Part 1--89 hymns, 59 melodies
Part 2--40 hymns, 38 melodies
This is probably the finest hymnal of the Lutheran reformation in Germany. It is referred to as the Babst hymnal because Babst is the name of the printer who published the collection. It contained 89 hymns with an appendix of 40 additional hymns. Even though there was a proliferation of hymnals throughout Germany during this period, this is generally considered to be the most representative hymnal of its time.
The Lutheran chorales which this hymnal represented were drawn from five basic sources. The first was the sequence and office hymn. These were Gregorian chants that were simplified, altered, and "improved" to make them theologically acceptable and more singable for the congregation. A good example of this style is "Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland."
The second source was the leisen. These are a body of pre-reformation sacred folk songs sung by the people in the vernacular. "Christ ist erstanden" is a good example of this genre.
The third source of early reformation hymnody was the Latin cantios. These were pre-reformation songs which although religious were not directly related to the liturgy. Many macaronic texts fit into this category (the mixing of the vernacular and Latin). "In dulci jubilo" typified this style.
1586--Fünfzig Geistliche Lieder und Psalmen
Lukas Osiander (changed melody from tenor to soprano)
1587--Christliche Psalmen, Lieder and Kirchengesänge
Published in Leipzig by Johann Beyer
Contained many Nikolaus Selnecker hymns (he helped with Formula of Concord)
Nikolaus Selnecker (1532-1592)was born at Hersbruck, Germany on December 5, 1532. In 1536 he moved to Nurnberg where he became while only 12 years old the organist at the chapel in the Kaiserburg. He attended the University of Wittenberg, where he became Philip Melancthon’s favorite pupil. Selnecker graduated on July 31, 1551, and lectured as a privat-docent to students there. In 1557 he was appointed second court preacher at Dresden and tutor to the heir apparent, Prince Alexander. He was ordained at Wittenberg on January 6, 1558. His adherence to strict Lutheran doctrine, rather than the Calvinism of the court theologians, caused him to be relieved of his call. He was called as Professor of Theology at Jena, where he left after another doctrinal conflict caused him to be expelled. The Elector August then appointed him as Professor of Theology at Leipzig, and also as pastor of St. Thomas’ church and superintendent at Leipzig in 1568.
In July of 1570, he went to Wolfenbuttel as court preacher and general superintendent where he got the clergy to accept the Saxon Confession. In 1573 he drew up a book of Church Order and Discipline for the district of Oldenburg-Jever. Selnecker found himself once again in theological conflict, this time with Martin Chemnitz, the Superintendent of Brunswick. Accused of being a crypto-Calvinist, he left Brunswick to take up his duties again in Leipzig where he began lecturing in 1574. In 1576 he was reappointed as pastor of St. Thomas’ Church and Superintendent. While he was in there, he became newly involved in controversies. He helped to draw up the Formula of Concord, which was published on July 22, 1577. He took violent abuse from the high Lutherans and the Calvinists during the year 1579, which he called his "year of patience and silence."
After that his life became more peaceful. He devoted himself to poetry and music, and building up the Motett Choir of St. Thomas’ Church, where J. S. Bach was to conduct, some years later. After the death of the Elector August in 1586, however, Selnecker’s life again was in turmoil. The new court preacher began to teach the Calvinist doctrine, impugning the Formula of Concord. Selnecker published a pamphlet disputing the court preacher’s theology. He was thrown out of his position on May 17, 1589. After receiving notice to cease writing against the Calvinists, he left Leipzig and spent time in Halle and Magdeburg. He was soon appointed Superintendent at Hildesheim. In 1591, he was called upon to arbitrate a controversy in Augsburg. His journey to Augsburg, in inclement December weather made him ill. In the meantime, after the elector’s death, his wife recalled Selnecker to Leipzig, where he returned on May 19, 1592, only to die on May 24.
Selnecker’s life shows the extremities to which theological debates were taken in the 16th century. He is an important figure in the ecclesiological history of the time. He wrote some 175 theological works in both Latin and German, his most important being, Institutio Religionis Christianae, Frankfurt, 1572-1573. He ranks as one of the greatest hymnwriters of his day. Also, Selnecker wrote a play in Latin on the Fall of our First Parents, called Theophania, Wittenberg, 1560 and a version of the Psalms as Paraphrasis Psalterii, 1573. He loved the Psalter and published an expostion of selected Psalms, Der Psalter mit kurtzen Summarien 1572, and an exposition of the prophets. He also published several volumes of sermons, Sieben Buss Psalmen, Leipzig, 1585, and Drey Predigten, 1572, with three sermons by Selnecker, three by Martin Chemnitz and by Christoph Vischer at the baptism of Anna Ursula, Duchess of Brunswick Luneburg. Selnecker published in that work as well, 6 hymns on Luther’ Catechism. These were published later in his Christliche Psalmen, Lieder und Kirchengesange, &c. Leipzig 1587.
Philip Nicolai's two great hymns "Wie Schön Leuchtet" "Wachet Auf"
Philipp Nicolai (1556-1608) was born at Mengeringhousen in Waldeck, August 10, 1556, the son of a Lutheran pastor. In 1575 Nicolai entered the University of Erfurt, and in 1576 he went to Wittenberg. For four years after his graduation, he lived at Volkhardinghousen, near Mengeringhousen, and frequently preached for his father. In August, 1583, he was appointed Lutheran preacher at Herdecke, but found many difficulties there, the members of the Town Council being Roman Catholics. After the invasion by the Spanish troops in April, 1586, his colleague re-introduced the Mass, and Nicolai resigned his post.
In the end of 1586 he was appointed diaconus at Niederwildungen, near Waldeck, and in 1587 he became pastor there. He then became, in November, 1588, chief pastor at Altwildungen, and also court preacher to the widowed Countess Margaretha of Waldeck, and tutor to her son, Count Wilhelm Ernst. In this position he found himself in disagreement with the Calvinists on the meaning of the Lord's Supper, and took part in having the Formula of Concord adopted by the clergy of the principality.
He went to Unna in Westphalia in 1596 where he again was involved in controversy with the Calvinists. The city of Unna fell victim to the plague in 1597 and 1598, which took the lives of 1,300 of its inhabitants. From the parsonage which overlooked the churchyard, Nicolai was saddened by the continual burials. On one day thirty graves were dug. It was in the midst of this distress that he wrote a series of meditations to which he gave the title, "Freuden Spiegel," or "Mirror of Joy." By these writings Nicolai was able to look to the hope of eternal life in Christ.
On December 27, 1598, Nicolai was forced to flee Unna before the invasion of the Spaniards, and did not return till the end of April, 1599. During this time Nicolai prepared his Frewden-Spiegel dess ewigen Lebens, ("Joyful Mirror of the Eternal Life.") Finally, in April 1601, he was elected chief pastor of St. Katherine's Church, at Hamburg, where he began his duties August 6, 1601.
On October 22, 1608, he took part in the ordination of a colleague and returned home feeling unwell. He developed a violent fever, and died October 26, 1608. While in Hamburg, Nicolai gained great fame for his influential preaching, being hailed as a "second Chrysostom." Even so, his reputation rests mainly on his hymns. Of his hymns, only four seemed to have been ever printed. His "Jesus hymns" marked the beginning of the 17th century's era in hymn writing. Marked by a new sincerity, they gave the church a new song. Published just a few short years before Johann Arndt's True Christianity, they reflect a similar feeling of devotion about Jesus.
1601--Geistliche Deutsche Lieder
1604--Kirchegesäng und Geistliche Lieder Vulpius
THIRTY YEARS WAR
1627--Cantional oder Gesang-Buch Augspurgischer Confession
Johann Hermann Schein, cantor in Leipzig
Johann Heermann, 49 hymns
Heermann's hymns for the Gospel lessons of the church year
1640--Praxis Pietatis Melica
Johann Crueger's hymnal, including many of Paul Gerhardt's hymns
Johann Rist (most prolific writer of the day, poet laureate)
Johann Rist (1607-1667) was born at Ottensen, near Hamburg, Germany, March 8, 1607, the son of a pastor. From his birth he was dedicated to the ministry. He studied at Hamburg and Bremen before entering the University of Rinteln in 1626 as a student of theology. It was there that became interested in hymnwriting under the direction of Josua Stegmann. After leaving Rinteln he acted as tutor to the sons of a Hamburg merchant, accompanying them to the University of Rostock, where he himself studied Hebrew, Mathematics, and also Medicine.
During his residence at Rostock the terrors of the Thirty Years War almost emptied the University, and Rist himself almost succumbed to the pestilence which raged there in 1633. After his recovery he seems to have spent some time at Hamburg, and then two years later was appointed pastor at Wedel, where he led 'a patriarchal and happy life' despite the bloodshed, famine, plundering and plague which characterized the era. In the spring of 1635 he married Elizabeth Stapfel, sister of the Judge Franz Stapfel, and settled at Wedel were he accepted a pastorate seemingly due to his wife's influence. Rist remained in Wedel until the time of his death on August 31, 1667.
He ministered both to the spiritual and physical needs of his people as a pastor and a physician. Rist was a highly ranked prolific hymn-writer writing some 680 hymns, intended to cover the whole ground of theology, and to be used by all ranks and classes, and on all the occasions of life. As a result, Rist's hymns were soon being sung all over Germany. Rist, however, never meant them for public worship but rather for private use, and during his lifetime they were never used in the church at Wedel. It is said that even the Romanists became deeply intrigued by them. His hymns invariably reflect an abiding trust in God and a fervent love to Christ.
1653--Geistliche Lieder und Psalmen
Berlin, Editor Runge, at request of Luise Henriette
1654--Christen alltäglich Hausmusik
Johann Schop, a noted violinist of the day, wrote many tunes for Rist
1682--Neu Leipziger Gesangbuch
Used by Bach for his cantatas and preludes; edited by Gottfried Vopelius
Johann Anastasius Freylinghausen, 683 hymns
The Freylinghausen hymnbook Geistreiches Gesangbuch of 1704 was one of the first hymnal of Halle Pietism. Its editor and publisher Johann Anastasius Freylinghausen was an assistant to August H. Francke, one of the leading Pietist pastors of the day. He married Francke's daughter in 1715 and became his father-in-law's assistant pastor at St. Ulrich's in Halle, Germany. There he continued his father-in-law's ministry.
The second edition of his hymnal Neues Geistreiches Gesangbuch of 1714 and the first edition were issued together as one book in 1741, known as "Freylinghausen's Gesangbuch" or the "Halle Hymnal." All of the editions traveled far and wide in Europe and became significant to the Pietists in Scandinavia. This hymnal included of 1581 texts and 597 tunes. The music consists of a melody with a figured bass.
1714--Neues Geistriches Gesangbuch
Johann Anastasius Freylinghausen, 815 hymns
1740--The Hannover Gesangbuch
contains many of Benjamin Schmolck's hymns
edited by G. A. Francke, 1582 hymns, 600 tunes
1741 -- Freylinghausen's Gesangbuch
First edition in 1547, but finest in 1747. Popular with German immigrants, it was brought to America by Henry Melchior Muhlenberg.
Philipp Friedrich Hiller, set Johann Arndt's Paradies-Gärtlein
Popular in Württemburg and Hanover
1757--Geistlichen Oden und Lieder
1774--Zwote Sammlung Geistliche Lieder
1833--Psalter und Harfe
Carl Johann Philip Spitta (1801-1859) was born in Hannover, the heir of French Huguenots. He spent much of his life writing hymns and songs, producing even a collection of folk songs for the laboring people. a pastor, he spent his evenings writing, singing and playing hymns on the harp or piano. It was in his collection of hymns Psalter und Harfe, published in Leipzig in 1833, where he made his greatest impact. Spitta's brother was the 19th century biographer of J. S. Bach
Albert Knapp's comprehensive hymn collection contained 3590 hymns
Albert Knapp's addition of 250 hymns to his collection
1843--Psalter und Harfe
Spitta's second edition of songs, not quite church hymnal
Christmas is a wonderful, cheerful holiday. Whether we spend it by a
real tree or someBalsam
Hill artificial Christmas trees, at the end of the day
what matters is that we enjoy our time together with our loved ones.
The Hymns and Carols of Christmas
Douglas D. Anderson