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Bible & Music

An introduction on our new publication Focus on Jesus: A guide to the message of Handel's 'Messiah' by Robert Bashford

I have enjoyed Handel’s Messiah ever since singing in performances of it at school many years ago and have lost count of how many times I have listened to it either at concerts or in recordings. But it was a more recent performance that prompted me to explore the choice of Bible material incorporated in the oratorio. Exploration of the message of Messiah led to a new appreciation of the work, both the text and the music, and a deepened admiration of the two men who gave us the oratorio: not only the composer, Georg Frideric Handel, but also but also Charles Jennens, the librettist. This book grew out of that process.

The book combines two of my great loves: the Bible and music. As a Christian minister, I have a passion to teach the word of God and to explain how the whole of it, both Old and New Testaments, points us to Jesus. This seems to have been the major concern for Charles Jennens too. As I have tried to unpack the message of the Bible texts of the oratorio, I have been amazed at his insightful selection of Bible verses and passages. They truly provide such a full and focused presentation of the person and work of Christ. But it is the music too that makes Messiah such a powerful work. And it has been a tremendous joy to look at the way Handel approached the text with such great understanding and skill.

In the conclusion of the book, I quote a reply that Handel made to an aristocrat who attended a performance of Messiah and complimented him on “a splendid entertainment.” Handel said to him, “My Lord, I should be sorry if I only entertained them; I wished to make them better.” I believe that a person can only be made “better” as a result of the change that is brought about by a personal faith in the Messiah himself. Therefore, my hope for this book is that, not only will it help readers to enjoy the oratorio all the more, but that it will also help them to know Christ all the more.


Rev Robert Bashford is an actively retired minister in Northamptonshire. To see Robert's books click here.

To buy Robert's new book please click here



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