Ich glaube, lieber Herr, hilf meinem Unglauben

Ich glaube, lieber Herr, hilf meinem Unglauben

BWV 109 performed by the Netherlands Bach Society
conducted by Shunske Sato
Walloon Church, Amsterdam

  • Menu
  • 1. Ich glaube, lieber Herr (Chor)
  • 2. Des Herren Hand (Rezitativ)
  • 3. Wie zweifelhaftig (Arie)
  • 4. O fasse dich (Rezitativ)
  • 5. Der Heiland kennet (Arie)
  • 6. Wer hofft in Gott (Choral)

Behind the music



Doubts are heard at first, but the ending radiates unshakeable faith

The father of a boy who suffers from epileptic fits asks Jesus for help. Jesus answers that everything is possible for those who believe. To which the father of the sick boy replies: “I believe, dear Lord, help my unbelief!”
These words form the opening of Bach’s cantata from October 1723. They resound with ambiguity and doubt, as do the subsequent recitative by the tenor and particularly the aria, with its indecisive rhythms and uncertain harmonies.

Religious doubts became increasingly common in Bach’s day, and atheism was a growing concern for many theologians. In Bach’s own library, there was a copy of Johannes Müller’s Atheismus devictus (“Atheism Conquered”); a “detailed report of atheists, God spurners, Bible desecrators and religion scorners”, from 1672.

In the year Bach wrote this cantata, a notorious issue arose, near to Leipzig. At the university in Halle, in 1721, a mathematics professor with an interest in philosophy held a lecture for 1000 people on Chinese philosophy. This professor, Christian Wolff, argued that through their Confucianism the Chinese could equal the high moral and ethical standing of Christians. The implicit message was that it was not necessary to believe in a god to be a good person. And the result? A riot and many years of debate that produced almost three hundred polemic writings. Opponents accused of Wolff of secretly being an atheist.

In the cantata, the alto gives heart to the doubter: God will stand by his side in the battle, so that faith will win in the end. And just where you expect a simple chorale at the end of the cantata, suddenly you hear a grand arrangement with rousing orchestral accompaniment. It is one of the oldest Lutheran hymns, with words that testify to an unshakeable faith in God.

In November 1723, shortly after the first performance of this cantata, Christian Wolff was dismissed from his job and banished from the Prussian region. But in 1740, at the request of Frederick the Great, he returned to Halle in triumph and with an extremely generous salary.

Ich glaube, lieber Herr, hilf meinem Unglauben
unknown, chorale by Lazarus Spengler
Twenty-first Sunday after Trinity
First performance
17 October 1723

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Extra videos

Vocal texts


1. Chor
“Ich glaube, lieber Herr, hilf meinem Unglauben!”

2. Rezitativ (Tenor)
Des Herren Hand 
ist ja noch nicht verkürzt,
mir kann geholfen werden.
Ach nein! Ich sinke schon zur Erden
vor Sorge, daß sie mich zu Boden stürzt.
Der Höchste will, sein Vaterherze bricht.
Ach nein! Er hört die Sünder nicht.
Er wird, er muß dir bald zu helfen eilen,
um deine Not zu heilen.
Ach nein! Es bleibet mir 
um Trost sehr bange,
ach Herr, wie lange?

3. Arie (Tenor)
Wie zweifelhaftig ist mein Hoffen,
wie wanket mein geängstigt Herz!
Des Glaubens Docht 
glimmt kaum hervor,
es bricht dies fast zerstoßne Rohr,
die Furcht macht stetig neuen Schmerz.

4. Rezitativ (Alto)
O fasse dich, du zweifelhafter Mut,
weil Jesus itzt noch Wunder tut!
Die Glaubensaugen werden schauen
das Heil des Herrn;
scheint die Erfüllung allzufern,
so kannst du doch auf die Verheißung bauen.

5. Arie (Alto)
Der Heiland kennet ja die Seinen,
wenn ihre Hoffnung hülflos liegt.
Wenn Fleisch und Geist in ihnen streiten,
so steht er ihnen selbst zur Seiten,
damit zuletzt der Glaube siegt.

6. Choral
Wer hofft in Gott und dem vertraut,
der wird nimmer zu Schanden;
denn wer auf diesen Felsen baut,
ob ihm gleich geht zu Handen
viel Unfalls hie, hab ich doch nie
den Menschen sehen fallen,
der sich verläßt auf Gottes Trost;
er hilft sein' Gläubgen allen.


1. Chorus
Lord, I believe, help Thou mine unbelief!

2. Recitative
The hand of the Lord
is not yet waxed short,
I can be helped.
Ah no, already I sink to earth,
for fear that He casts me down.
This is the Lord’s will, His father’s heart breaks.
Ah no! He does not hear the sinners.
He will, He must soon hasten to help you,
to heal your distress.
Ah no, I am fearful
of Thy consolation;
ah Lord, how long?

3. Aria
How uncertain is my hope,
how my anxious heart wavers!
The wick of faith
hardly burns,
the almost broken reed now snaps,
fear constantly creates fresh pain.

4. Recitative
Compose yourself, doubting heart,
for Jesus still works wonders!
The eyes of faith shall witness
the healing power of the Lord;
though fulfilment seems so distant
you can rely on his promise.

5. Aria
For the Saviour knows his people,
when their hope is destitute.
When the flesh and the spirit war within them,
He Himself shall stand by their side,
that faith may finally triumph.

6. Chorale
Who hopes in God and trusts in Him
shall never be confounded;
for he who builds on this rock,
though he suffer great misfortune
here on earth, I have never seen
that man fall
if he trust in God’s consolation;
He helps His faithful always.


  • Release date
    21 July 2022
  • Recording date
    28 May 2021
  • Location
    Walloon Church, Amsterdam
  • Violin and direction
    Shunske Sato
  • Alto
    Alex Potter
  • Tenor
    Daniel Johannsen
  • Ripieno soprano
    Lauren Armishaw, Marta Paklar, Amelia Berridge
  • Ripieno alto
    Sofia Gvirts, Bernadett Nagy, Adriaan de Koster
  • Ripieno tenor
    Adriaan de Koster, Immo Schröder
  • Ripieno bass
    Matthew Baker, Pierre-Guy Le Gall White, Michiel Meijer
  • Violin 1
    Sayuri Yamagata, Annelies van der Vegt, Andrew Wong
  • Violin 2
    Pieter Affourtit, Anneke van Haaften, Manja Kruidhof-Okkerse
  • Viola
    Staas Swierstra, Deirdre Dowling
  • Cello
    Lucia Swarts, Barbara Kernig
  • Double bass
    Robert Franenberg
  • Oboe
    Rodrigo Lopez Paz, Katharina Verhaar
  • Bassoon
    Benny Aghassi
  • Trumpet
    Robert Vanryne
  • Harpsichord
    Siebe Henstra
  • Organ
    Leo van Doeselaar
  • Director and camera
    João MB Costa
  • Music recording
    Guido Tichelman, Bastiaan Kuijt, Pim van der Lee
  • Music edit and mix
    Guido Tichelman
  • Camera
    Santiago Rodriguez, Milo McCafferty, Oscar Widl, Enzo Dumettier
  • Lights
    Zen Bloot
  • Grip
    Patrick Galvin, Harm Bredero, Sven Deen
  • Assistant director
    Santiago Rodriguez
  • Video editing
    Rob Gradisen, Robin van Erven Dorens
  • Assistant music recording
    Marloes Biermans
  • Producer concert
    Imke Deters
  • Producer film
    Jessie Verbrugh
  • With support from

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