|Full name:||Biblia / das ist / die gantze Heilige Schrifft Deudsch|
|Language:||Early New High German|
|Complete Bible published:||1534|
|Apocrypha books:||Deuterocanonical books and the Prayer of Manasseh|
|Author(s):||Collaborative effort of Martin Luther, Philipp Melanchthon, Caspar Creuziger, Justus Jonas, Johannes Bugenhagen, and others|
|Textual basis:||NT: Textus Receptus (Luther), Vulgate (Bugenhagen)|
|Version revised:||Last official: 1984|
|Copyright status:||Public domain due to age|
|Religious affiliation:||Lutheran, several Reformed churches|
The Luther Bible is a German language Bible translation from Hebrew and ancient Greek by Martin Luther, of which the New Testament was published in 1522 and the complete Bible, containing the Old and New Testaments and Apocrypha, in 1534.
Luther's New Testament translation
While he was sequestered in the Wartburg Castle (1521–22) Luther began to translate the New Testament from ancient Greek into German in order to make it more accessible to all the people of the "Holy Roman Empire of the German nation." He translated from the Greek text, using Erasmus' second edition (1519) of the Greek New Testament, known as the Textus Receptus. Luther did not translate from the Latin Vulgate translation, which is the Latin translation officially used by the Roman Catholic Church. Both Erasmus and Luther had learned Greek at the Latin schools led by the Brethren of the Common Life (respectively in Deventer (Netherlands) and in Magdeburg). These lay brothers added late 15th century Greek as a new subject to their curriculum. At that time Greek was seldom taught even at universities.
To help him in translating into contemporary German, Luther would make forays into nearby towns and markets to listen to people speaking. He wanted to ensure their comprehension by translating as closely as possible to their contemporary language usage. His translation was published in September 1522, six months after he had returned to Wittenberg. In the opinion of the 19th century theologian and church historian Philip Schaff,
The richest fruit of Luther's leisure in the Wartburg, and the most important and useful work of his whole life, is the translation of the New Testament, by which he brought the teaching and example of Christ and the Apostles to the mind and heart of the Germans in life-like reproduction. It was a republication of the gospel. He made the Bible the people's book in church, school, and house.
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Publication of the complete Bible translation
The translation of the entire Bible into German was published in a six-part edition in 1534, a collaborative effort of Luther and many more such as; Johannes Bugenhagen, Justus Jonas, Caspar Creuziger, Philipp Melanchthon, Matthäus Aurogallus, and Georg Rörer. Luther worked on refining the translation up to his death in 1546: he had worked on the edition that was printed that year.
There were 117 original woodcuts included in the 1534 edition issued by the Hans Lufft press in Wittenberg. They reflected the recent trend (since 1522) of including artwork to reinforce the textual message.
Luther added the word "alone" (allein in German) to Romans 3:28 controversially so that it read: "So now we hold, that man is justified without the help of the works of the law, alone through faith" The word "alone" does not appear in the Greek texts, but Luther defended his translation by maintaining that the adverb "alone" was required both by idiomatic German and the apostle Paul's intended meaning.
View of canonicity
Initially Luther had a low view of the Old Testament book of Esther and of the New Testament books of Hebrews, James, Jude, and the Revelation of John. He called the Letter of James "an epistle of straw," finding little in it that pointed to Christ and His saving work. He also had harsh words for the Revelation of John, saying that he could "in no way detect that the Holy Spirit produced it." In his translation of the New Testament, Luther moved Hebrews and James out of the usual order, to join Jude and the Revelation at the end, and differentiated these from the other books which he considered "the true and certain chief books of the New Testament. The four which follow have from ancient times had a different reputation." His views on some of these books changed in later years.
Luther chose to place the Biblical apocrypha between the Old and New Testaments. These books and addenda to Biblical canon of the Old Testament are found in the ancient Greek Septuagint but not in the Hebrew Masoretic text. Luther left the translating of them largely to Philipp Melanchthon and Justus Jonas. They were not listed in the table of contents of his 1532 Old Testament, and in the 1534 Bible they were given the well-known title: "Apocrypha: These Books Are Not Held Equal to the Scriptures, but Are Useful and Good to Read". See also Biblical canon, Development of the Christian Biblical canon, and Biblical Apocrypha.
The Luther Bible was not the first German Bible translation, but it was the most influential.
Luther's German Bible and its widespread circulation facilitated the emergence of a standard, modern German language for the German-speaking peoples throughout the Holy Roman Empire, an empire extending through and beyond present-day Germany. It is also considered a landmark in German literature, with Luther's vernacular style often praised by modern German sources for the forceful vigor ("kraftvolles Deutsch") with which he translated the Holy Scripture.
A large part of Luther's significance was his influence on the emergence of the German language and national identity. This stemmed predominantly from his translation of the Bible into the vernacular, which was potentially as revolutionary as canon law and the burning of the papal bull. Luther's goal was to equip every German-speaking Christian with the ability to hear the Word of God, and his completing his translation of the Old and New Testaments from Hebrew and Greek into the vernacular by 1534 was one of the most significant acts of the Reformation. Although Luther was not the first to attempt such a translation, his was superior to all its predecessors. Previous translations had contained poor German, and had been from the Vulgate Latin translation, i.e. translations of a translation rather than a direct translation into German from the originals. Luther sought to translate as closely to the original text as possible, but at the same time his translation was guided by how people spoke in the home, on the street and in the marketplace. Luther's faithfulness to the language spoken by the common people was to produce a work which they could relate to. This led German writers such as Goethe and Nietzsche to praise Luther's Bible. Moreover, the fact that the vernacular Bible was printed also enabled it to spread rapidly and be read by all. Hans Lufft, the Bible printer in Wittenberg, printed over one hundred thousand copies between 1534 and 1574, which went on to be read by millions. Luther's vernacular Bible was present in virtually every German-speaking Protestant’s home; and there can be no doubts regarding the Biblical knowledge attained by the German common masses. Luther even had large-print Bibles made for those who had failing eyesight. German humanist Johann Cochlaeus complained that
Luther's New Testament was so much multiplied and spread by printers that even tailors and shoemakers, yea, even women and ignorant persons who had accepted this new Lutheran gospel, and could read a little German, studied it with the greatest avidity as the fountain of all truth. Some committed it to memory, and carried it about in their bosom. In a few months such people deemed themselves so learned that they were not ashamed to dispute about faith and the gospel not only with Catholic laymen, but even with priests and monks and doctors of divinity."
The spread of Luther's Bible translation had implications for the German language. The German language had developed into so many dialects that German speakers from different states could barely understand each other. This led Luther to conclude that “I have so far read no book or letter in which the German language is properly handled. Nobody seems to care sufficiently for it; and every preacher thinks he has a right to change it at pleasure and to invent new terms." Scholars preferred to write in the Latin which they all understood. Luther popularized the Saxon dialect of German and adapted it for theology and religion; which subsequently made it the common literary language used in books. He enriched the vocabulary with that of German poets and chroniclers. For this accomplishment a contemporary of Luther's, Erasmus Alberus, labeled him the German Cicero, as he reformed not only religion but the German language also. Luther's Bible has been hailed as the first German 'classic', comparable to the English King James version of the Bible, which became one of the first English classics. German-speaking Protestant writers and poets such as Klopstock, Herder and Lessing owe stylistic qualities to Luther's vernacular Bible. Luther adapted words to the capacity of the German public and through the pervasiveness of his German Bible created and spread the modern German language.
Luther's vernacular Bible also had a role in the creation of a German national identity. Because it penetrated every German-speaking Protestant home, the language of his translation became part of a German national heritage. Luther's program of exposure to the words of the Bible was extended into every sphere of daily life and work, illuminating moral considerations for Germans. It gradually became infused into the blood of the whole nation and occupied a permanent space in a German history. The popularity and influence of his translation gave Luther confidence to act as a spokesperson of a nation and as the leader of an anti-Roman movement throughout Germany. It made it possible for him to be a prophet of a new German national identity and helped form the spirit of a new epoch in German history.
In a sense the vernacular Bible also empowered and liberated all Protestants who had access to it. The existence of the translation was a public affirmation of reform, such as might deprive any elite or priestly class of exclusive control over words, as well as over the word of God. Through the translation Luther was intending to make it easier for "simple people" to understand what he was teaching. In some major controversies of the time, even some evangelicals, let alone the commoners, did not understand the reasons for disagreement; and Luther wanted to help those who were confused to see that the disagreement between himself and the Roman Catholic Church was real and had significance. So translation of the Bible would allow the common people to become aware of the issues at hand and develop an informed opinion. The common individual would thus be given the right to have a mind, spirit and opinion, to exist not as an economic functionary but as subject to complex and conflicting aspirations and motives. In this sense, Luther's vernacular Bible acted as a force towards the liberation of the German people. The combination of Luther's social teachings and the vernacular Bible undoubtedly had a role in the slow emancipation of western European society from a long phase of clerical domination. Luther gave men a new vision of perhaps the exaltation of the human self. Luther's vernacular Bible broke the domination and unity of the Roman Catholic Church in Western Europe. He had claimed Holy Scripture to be the sole authority, and through his translation every individual would be able to abide by its authority, and might nullifying his or her need for a monarchical pope. As Bishop Fisher put it, Luther's Bible had “stirred a mighty storm and tempest in the church” empowering the no longer clerically dominated public.
Although not as significantly as on German linguistics, Luther's Bible also made a large impression on educational reform throughout Germany. Luther's goal of a readable, accurate translation of the Bible became a stimulus towards universal education, since everyone should be able to read in order to understand the Bible. Luther believed that mankind had fallen from grace and was ruled by selfishness, but had not lost moral consciousness: all were sinners and needed to be educated. Thus his vernacular Bible could become a means of establishing a form of law, order and morality which everyone could abide by, if all could read and understand it. The possibility of understanding the vernacular Bible allowed Luther to found a State Church and educate his followers into a law-abiding community. The Protestant states of Germany became educational states, which encouraged the spirit of teaching which was ultimately fueled by Luther's vernacular Bible.
Finally, Luther's translated Bible also had international significance in the spread of Christianity. Luther's translation influenced the English translations by William Tyndale and Myles Coverdale who in turn inspired many other translations of the Bible such as the Bishops' Bible of 1568, the Douay–Rheims Bible of 1582–1609, and the King James Version of 1611. It also inspired translations as far as Scandinavia and the Netherlands. In a metaphor, it was Luther who 'broke the walls' of translation in western Europe and once such walls had fallen, the way was open to all, including some who were quite opposed to Luther's beliefs. Luther's Bible spread its influence for the remolding of Western European culture in the ferment of the sixteenth century. The worldwide implications of the translation far surpassed the expectations of even Luther himself.
|Verse||Luther Bible||Translation||English versions||Notes|
|Gen 2:23||"[...] Man wird sie Männin heißen, darum daß sie vom Manne genommen ist."||"One will call her she-man, based on this[:] that she was taken out of the man."||"[...] She shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man."||Here Luther tried to preserve the resemblance of Hebrew ish (man) and ishah (woman) by adding the female German suffix -in to the masculine word Mann, because the correct word (at that time), Weib, does not resemble it. (As neither does the modern Frau.) As like as adding she- to man in English, adding -in to Mann in German is to be considered grammatically awkward.|
|Matthew 12:34||"[...] Wes das Herz voll ist, des geht der Mund über."||"What the heart is full of, of that the mouth overflows."||"[...] For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks."||Emphasis on conveyance of meaning.|
|John 11:35||"Und Jesus gingen die Augen über."||"And Jesus' eyes overflowed."||"Jesus wept."||Poetic emphasis.|
|John 19:5||"[...] Sehet, welch ein Mensch!"||"Behold what a man (this is)!"||"[...] Behold the man!"||Emphasis on Jesus' glory in spite of an ignoble situation. Now considered an incorrect translation. See also: Ecce Homo.|
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- Mathesius, Johannes (1906). "Die dreyzehnde predig, vom viertzigsten jare in Doctor Luthers historien. [Thirteenth Sermon: About the Fortieth Year of Doctor Luthers Biography]". In Georg Loesche. Johannes Mathesius: Ausgewählte Werke [Johannes Mathesius: Selected Works] (in Early New High German). Dritter Band: Luthers Leben in Predigten [Third Volume: Luthers Life in Sermons] (2nd ed.). Prague: J.G. Calvesche k.u.k. Hof- u. Universitäts-Buchhandlung (Joseph Koch). p. 316. OCLC 12595454. "Wenn nun Doctor [Luther] zuvor die außgangen Bibel vbersehen und darneben bey Juden vnnd frembden sprachkündigen sich erlernet vnd sich bey alten Deutschen von guten worten erfragt hatte, Wie er ihm etlich Schöps abstechen ließ, damit jn ein Deutscher Fleischer berichtet, wie man ein jedes am Schaf nennete, kam Doctor in das Consistorium mit seiner alten Lateinischen und newen Deutschen Biblien, darbey er auch stettigs den Hebreischen text hatte. Herr Philippus bracht mit sich den Greckischen text, Doctor Creuziger neben dem Hebreischen die Chaldeische Bibel. Die Professores hatten bey sich jre Rabinen, D. Pommer het auch ein Lateinischen text für sich, darinn er sehr wol bekant war. Zuvor hat sich ein jeder auff den text gerüst, davon man rathschlagen solte, Greckische unnd Lateinische neben den Jüdischen außlegern vbersehen. Darauff proponirt diser President [Luther] ein text und ließ die stimm herumb gehen und höret was ein jeder darzu zu reden hette, nach eygenschaft der sprache oder nach der alten Doctorn außlegung. [Roughly: "After Doctor Luther had translated the original Bible, learning from Jews, from foreign language scholars, and from old Germans in the process (for example, he asked a German butcher to slaughter some wethers for him so he could tell him how the different entrails are called), he came to the consistory with his old Latin Bible and with his new German Bible. He also always carried the Hebrew text with him. Herr Philippus contributed the Greek text, Doctor Creuziger contributed the Hebrew text and the Chaldaic Bible. The Professors also brought their Rabbinic Bibles, and Doctor Pommer had a Latin text which he knew very well. Before the meetings, everyone of them studied the text that was to be translated, to discuss the translation of the Greek and Latin version along with the Hebrew exegesis. Luther then proposed a text and asked and listened to what everyone had to say concerning the language or the interpretation.]"
- Luther, Martin (1545). "Genesis 1:1-3". Die gantze Heilige Schrifft Deudsch (in Early New High German) (5th ed.). Wittenberg: Hans Lufft. ISBN 978-3-933070-56-2.
- Luther, Martin (1545). "John 3:16". Die gantze Heilige Schrifft Deudsch (in Early New High German) (5th ed.). Wittenberg: Hans Lufft. ISBN 978-3-933070-56-2.
- Martin Brecht, Martin Luther: Shaping and Defining the Reformation, 1521-1532, Minneapolis: Fortress, p. 46
- Mark U. Edwards, Jr., Printing, Propaganda, and Martin Luther (1994)
- History of the Christian Church, 8 vols., (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1910), 7:xxx. 
- Carl C. Christensen, "Luther and the Woodcuts to the 1534 Bible," Lutheran Quarterly, Winter 2005, Vol. 19 Issue 4, pp 392-413
- The 1522 "Testament" reads at Romans 3:28: "So halten wyrs nu, das der mensch gerechtfertiget werde, on zu thun der werck des gesetzs, alleyn durch den glawben" (emphasis added to the German word for "alone." 
- The Greek text reads: λογιζόμεθα γάρ δικαιоῦσθαι πίστει ἄνθρωπον χωρὶς ἔργων νόμου ("for we reckon a man to be justified by faith without deeds of law")
- Martin Luther, On Translating: An Open Letter (1530), Luther's Works, 55 vols., (St. Louis and Philadelphia: Concordia Publishing House and Fortress Press), 35:187–189, 195; cf. also Heinz Bluhm, Martin Luther Creative Translator, (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1965), 125–137.
- "Martin Luther – Questions and Answers". Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. Archived from the original on 2009-04-15.
- Martin Brecht, Martin Luther, James L. Schaaf, trans., 3 vols., (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1985-1993), 3:98.
- Schreiber, Mathias (2006). Deutsch for sale, Der Spiegel, no. 40, October 2, 2006 ("So schuf er eine Hochsprache aus Volkssprache, sächsischem Kanzleideutsch (aus der Gegend von Meißen), Predigt und Alltagsrede, eine in sich widersprüchliche, aber bildhafte und kraftvolle Mischung, an der die deutschsprachige Literatur im Grunde bis heute Maß nimmt.")
- Köppelmann, K. (2006) . Zwischen Barock und Romantik: Mendelssohns kirchliche Kompositionen für Chor ("Between Baroque and Romanticism: Mendelssohn's ecclesiastic choir compositions"), Mendelssohn-Programm 2006, p. 3 ("Martin Luthers kraftvolle deutsche Texte werden durch Mendelssohns Musik mit emotionalen Qualitäten versehen, die über die Zeit des Bachschen Vorbildes weit hinaus reicht und das persönlich empfindende romantische Selbst stark in den Vordergrund rückt.")
- Werth, Jürgen. Die Lutherbibel ("The Luther Bible"), in Michaelsbote: Gemeindebrief der Evangelischen Michaeliskirchengemeinde ("St. Michael's Messenger: Parish newsletter of the Protestant Community of St. Michael's Church"), no. 2, May/June/July, 2007, p. 4. ("Gottes Worte für die Welt. Kaum einer hat diese Worte so kraftvoll in die deutsche Sprache übersetzt wie Martin Luther.")
- Lehmann, Klaus-Dieter (2009). Rede von Klaus-Dieter Lehmann zur Ausstellungseröffnung von "die Sprache Deutsch" ("Speech held by Klaus-Dieter Lehmann upon the opening of the exposition 'The German language'"), Goethe-Institut ("Und so schuf der Reformator eine Sprache, indem er, wie er selbst sagt, 'dem Volk auf's Maul schaut', kraftvoll, bildhaft und Stil prägend wie kein anderes Dokument der deutschen Literatur.")
- Weigelt, Silvia (2009). Das Griechlein und der Wagenlenker - Das kommende Jahr steht ganz im Zeichen Philip Melanchtons ("The Greek writer and the charioteer: 2010 to be the official Philipp Melanchthon year"), mitteldeutsche-kirchenzeitungen.de, online portal of the two print church magazines Der Sonntag and Glaube und Heimat ("Wenn auch die kraftvolle und bilderreiche Sprache des Bibeltextes zu Recht als Luthers Verdienst gilt, so kommt Melanchthon ein gewichtiger Anteil am richtigen sprachlichen Verständnis des griechischen Urtextes und an der sachlichen Genauigkeit der Übersetzung zu.")
- Hulme, David (2004). Die Bibel - ein multilinguales Meisterwerk ("The Bible: A multi-lingual masterpiece"), visionjournal.de, no. 2, 2006, the German version of the spiritual magazine Vision: Insights and New Horizons published by Church of God, an International Community available in English at www.vision.org ("Luthers Bibelübersetzung mit ihrer kraftvollen, aus ostmitteldeutschen und ostoberdeutschen Elementen gebildeten Ausgleichssprache hatte auf die Entwicklung der neuhochdeutschen Sprache großen Einfluss.")
- Salzmann, Betram; Schäfer, Rolf (2009). Bibelübersetzungen, christliche deutsche ("Bible translations, Christian and German"), www.wibilex.de: Das wissenschaftliche Bibellexikom im Internet ("die Orientierung an der mündlichen Volkssprache, die zu besonders kräftigen und bildhaften Formulierungen führt")
- Schmitsdorf, Joachim (2007). Deutsche Bibelübersetzungen: Ein Überblick ("German Bible translations: An overview") ("Kraftvolle, melodische Sprache, die gut zum Auswendiglernen geeignet, aber auch oft schwer verständlich und altertümelnd ist")
- Lutherdeutsch ("Luther's German") ("Luthers Sprache ist saft- und kraftvoll.")
- Carter Lindberg, The European Reformation (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 1996), 91
- A.G. Dickens, The German Nation and Martin Luther (New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1974), 206
- ibid, 91
- Mark Antliff, The Legacy of Martin Luther (Ottawa, McGill University Press, 1983), 11
- Carter Lindberg, The European Reformation (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 1996), 92
- Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1910), 5
- A.G. Dickens, The German Nation and Martin Luther (New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1974), 134
- Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1910), 6
- Ibid, 12
- Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1910), 13
- Ibid, 13
- Gerhard Ritter, Luther: His life and Work ( New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1963), 216
- Idib, 216
- Hartmann Grisar, Luther: Volume I (London: Luigi Cappadelta, 1914), 402
- V.H.H Green. Luther and the Reformation (London: B.T. Batsford Ltd, 1964), 193
- Gerhard Ritter , Luther: His life and Work ( New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1963), 213
- Mark Edwards, Luther and the False Brethren (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1975), 193
- A.G. Dickens, The German Nation and Martin Luther (New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1974), 226
- Gerhard Ritter , Luther: His life and Work ( New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1963), 210
- V.H.H Green. Luther and the Reformation (London: B.T. Batsford Ltd, 1964), 10
- Gerhard Ritter , Luther: His life and Work ( New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1963), 241
- B.A. Gerrish, Reformers in Profile (Philadelphia: Fortpress Press, 1967), 112
- Gerhard Ritter , Luther: His life and Work ( New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1963), 212
- Antliff, Mark. The Legacy of Martin Luther. Ottawa, McGill University Press, 1983
- Atkinson, James. Martin Luther and the Birth of Protestantism. Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1968
- Bindseil, H.E. and Niemeyer, H.A. Dr. Martin Luther's Bibelübersetzung nach der letzten Original-Ausgabe, kritisch bearbeitet. 7 vols. Halle, 1845–55. [The N. T. in vols. 6 and 7. A critical reprint of the last edition of Luther (1545). Niemeyer died after the publication of the first volume. Comp. the Probebibel (the revised Luther-Version), Halle, 1883. Luther's Sendbrief vom Dolmetschen und Fürbitte der Heiligen (with a letter to Wenceslaus Link, Sept. 12, 1530), in Walch, XXI. 310 sqq., and the Erl. Frkf. ed., vol. LXV. 102–123.]
- Bluhm, Heinz. Martin Luther: Creative Translator. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1965.
- Brecht, Martin. Martin Luther. 3 Volumes. James L. Schaaf, trans. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985–1993. ISBN 0-8006-2813-6, ISBN 0-8006-2814-4, ISBN 0-8006-2815-2.
- Dickens, A.G. The German Nation and Martin Luther. New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1974
- Edwards, Mark Luther and the False Brethren Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1975
- Gerrish, B.A. Reformers in Profile. Philadelphia: Fortpress Press, 1967
- Green, V.H.H. Luther and the Reformation. London: B.T. Batsford Ltd, 1964
- Grisar, Hartmann. Luther: Volume I. London: Luigi Cappadelta, 1914
- Lindberg, Carter. The European Reformation. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 1996
- Reu, [John] M[ichael]. Luther and the Scriptures. Columbus, Ohio: The Wartburg Press, 1944. [Reprint: St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1980].
- Reu, [John] M[ichael]. Luther's German Bible: An Historical Presentation Together with a Collection of Sources. Columbus, Ohio: The Lutheran Book Concern, 1934. [Reprint: St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1984].
- Ritter, Gerhard. Luther: His life and Work. New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1963
- Luther's Biblia Germanica 1545 Last Hand Edition
- Luther's Translation of the Bible in Philip Schaff's History of the Christian Church
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