Facts About "Ah, Holy Jesus"
"Ah, Holy Jesus" was written by Johann Heermann in 1630 for Passiontide, a name for the last two weeks of Lent. It was first published in Devoti Musica Cordis in 15 stanzas of 4 lines and was printed with the heading “The cause of the bitter offerings of Jesus Christ, and consolation from his love and grace. From Augustine.” Heermann based the hymn on the seventh chapter of Meditationes Divi Augustini, a book written by Augustine of Hippo.
Ten years later, Johann Crüger (9 April 1598 – 23 February 1662), a well-known German composer set a melody to the hymn. He first published it on his hymn compilation called Neues vollkömmliches Gesangbuch Augsburgischer Confession. Few German composers including Johannes Brahms used the tune for one of his Eleven Chorale Preludes for organ, Op. 122: No. 2.
The hymn was originally published in German called "Herzliebster Jesu". In 1897, Robert Bridges translated this in English with the opening line “Ah, holy Jesus, how has thou offended?". It was the most common translation being used today. In 1863, Catherine Winkworth wrote another translation which begins with "O dearest Jesus, what law hast thou broken?" and this translation appeared on several Lutheran hymnals.
The first stanza of the hymn was referenced from the Book of Isa. 53:3 and John 1:11, the second stanza was from Matt 26:21-22, and the third was from John 3:16-17, John 10:14-15 and Gal. 2:20. All passages depict Christ's atonement. Christ made Himself a sacrifice to save the world. He suffered and died on the cross to clean us from all our sins. Johann Heermann’s tragedy during the misery of the Thirty Years' War (1618-48) has led him to meditate on Jesus’s mercy and undeserved suffering. In the hymn, he acknowledged that it was because of him and humanity that Jesus died. It was his confession to Jesus expressed in a song.