O Jesu Christe, wahres Licht

Meter: 8.8. 8.8.
Source: Nürnbergisches Gesangbuch, 1676
Proper Text: O Christ, Our True and Only Light (O Jesu Christe, wahres Licht)
Alternate Name: O Jesu Christ, meins

Zahn No. 535

Associated Texts


This tune first appeared in the Nürnbergisches Gesangbuch, 1676/7, p. 1162, where it was joined to Martin Behm’s 1610 text “Lord Jesus Christ, My Life, My Light (Herr Jesu Christ, meins Lebens Licht)” and was in quadruple meter. It is sometimes traced to Andächtige Haus-Kirche, Nürnberg, 1676, but this work is known by Zahn and is not cited as a source for this tune. It appears with Behm’s text in an altered, triple-meter form in Friedrich Layriz’s CXVII Geistliche Melodien, 1839, No. 45, in a setting for two voices. There it is listed as an alternate tune for the text, the primary tune being the 1625 Herr Jesu Christ, meins (Zahn No. 533a). This version of the tune in triple meter later appears in a four-part setting in Layriz’s Kern des deutschen Kirchengesangs, 1854, No. 51. There it is joined to a variant of Behm’s text, beginning “O Jesu Christ” instead of “Herr Jesu Christ.” It is perhaps due to this association that in The Lutheran Hymnal the present tune is called “O Jesu Christ, meins,” while the 1625 tune is called “Herr Jesu Christ, meins.” In contrast with this practice, Johannes Zahn gives this tune in the triple-meter variation under the title “Herr Jesu Christ, meins,” with the text “Erneure mich, o ewges Licht,” in his Vierstimmiges Melodienbuch zum Gesangbuch der evangelisch-lutherischen Kirche in Bayern, 1855, p. 50, No. 75.

This tune is not found in the Mehrstimmiges Choralbuch, nor is it found in the second edition of Layriz’s Kern des deutschen Kirchengesangs, 1849, which, according to the preface to the Mehrstimmiges Choralbuch, had been the chief work whereby the rhythmic forms of the chorale tunes had been disseminated in Missouri Synod Congregations. Layriz, 2nd ed., lists “Herr Jesu Christ, meins” and “O Jesu Christ, meins” in the index, but both texts are referred to Tune No. 49, which is the 1625 tune, our “Herr Jesu Christ, meins.” C.F.W. Walther’s Kirchen-Gesangbuch lists both “Herr Jesu Christ, meins Lebens Licht” and “O Jesu Christ, meins Lebens Licht” as distinct tune names, though only the variant “O Jesu Christ, meins Lebens Licht” is found as a hymn text (No. 85), to be sung “In eigener Melodie,” i.e., to its own proper tune. The text “O Jesu Christe, wahres Licht” (No. 175), meanwhile, is to be sung to the tune “Herr Jesu Christ, meins.” It seems likely that both tune names listed in Walther’s index of tunes were intended, like Layriz’s 1849 index, to refer to the 1625 tune.

The Evangelical Lutheran Hymn-Book With Tunes, 1930, and following it The Lutheran Hymnal, 1941, refers to this tune as “O Jesu Christ, meins,” and to the 1625 tune as “Herr Jesu Christ, meins.” Modern hymnals, including Lutheran Worship, 1982, and the Lutheran Service Book, 2006, alleviate potential confusion by referring to the present tune as “O Jesu Christe, wahres Licht,” after a 1630 text by Johann Heermann, and to the 1625 tune as “Herr Jesu Christ, meins,” after the Behm text.