More recent scholarship assigns the qualification "between the third and the fourth cycles" to the few known cantatas written from 1727 to the start of the fourth cycle.
there are extant copies by Johann Sebastian Bach and his usual scribes for 16 cantatas (JLB 1–16), covering nearly half of the occasions in that period.
Bach's earliest cantatas date from more than 15 years before he became Thomaskantor in Leipzig in 1723.
The extant cantatas are around two thirds of that number, with limited additional information on the ones that went missing or survived as fragments.
The listing below contains cycle information as available in scholarship, and may include cantatas that are or were associated with Bach (e.g., listed in the BWV catalogue), but were not actually composed by him.
Another cantata, JLB 21, was likely also given its Leipzig premiere in this same period (Easter, (fourth Sunday after Trinity), or later in 1729, to a libretto from the printed cycle of 70 cantata texts for 1728–29 by Picander.
Later additions to this cycle and Picander librettos without extant setting from Bach's time in Leipzig can be seen as belonging to this cycle.
Sacred cantatas were also performed for the inauguration of a new city council (Ratswechsel, in Leipzig in August), consecration of church and organ, weddings, confession, funerals, and functions of the University of Leipzig.
Bach started a second annual cycle on the first Sunday after Trinity of 1724, planned to contain only chorale cantatas, each based on a single Lutheran hymn.
Throughout his life as a musician, Johann Sebastian Bach composed cantatas for both secular and sacred use.
His church cantatas are cantatas which he composed for use in the Lutheran church, mainly intended for the occasions of the liturgical year.
The expression "Weimar cycle" has been used for the cantatas composed in Weimar from 1714 (which form the bulk of extant cantatas composed before Bach's Leipzig time).
In Köthen, where Bach worked from 1717 to 1723, he restaged some of his earlier church cantatas.
As , director of music of the main churches of Leipzig, Bach was responsible for the Thomasschule and for the church music at the main churches, where a cantata was required for the service on Sundays and additional church holidays of the liturgical year.