The Statenvertaling (Dutch for States Translation) or Statenbijbel (Dutch for States Bible) is the first Bible translation from the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek languages to the Dutch language, ordered by the government of the Protestant Dutch Republic first published in 1637.
The first complete Dutch Bible was printed in Antwerp in 1526 by Jacob van Liesveldt. This translation and other existing Dutch Bibles were merely translations of other translations. Furthermore, the translation from Martin Luther was widely used, but it had a Lutheran interpretation. At the Synod of Dort in 1618/19, it was therefore deemed necessary to have a new translation, accurately based on the original languages in imitation of the King James Bible from 1611. The synod requested the States-General of the Netherlands to commission it.
In 1626 the States-General accepted the request from the Synod and the translation started. It was completed in 1635 and authorized by the States-General in 1637. From then until 1657 half-a-million copies were printed. This translation remained authoritative in Protestant churches well into the 20th century.
Guidelines for translation
The Statenvertaling was written with specific guidelines for translation established by the Synod during its 8th session on November 20, 1618. The four main instructions to the translators were:
- That they always carefully adhere to the original text, and that the manner of writing of the original languages be preserved, as much as the clarity and properties of Dutch speech permit. But in case where the Hebrew or Greek manner of speech was harder than could remain in the text, that they note this in the margin.
- That they add as few words as possible to complete the meaning of a sentence if it is not expressed fully, and that these words be distinguished from the text with a different font and placed between brackets.
- That they formulate a short and clear summary for each book and chapter and write this in the margin at the respective locations in the Holy Scriptures.
- That they add a brief explanation providing insight to the translation of unclear passages; but the addition of lessons learnt is neither necessary nor advisable.
Regarding the Biblical apocrypha, the synod decided to translate these books but not to make them part of the canon. They were placed after the books of the New Testament and preceded with a "warning for the reader".
Translation of God's name
In the Hebrew Bible, God's name is written with the four consonants JHWH (as seen on the very top of the title page in Hebrew characters), and would not be pronounced by the Jews. During the 12th session the synod decided to translate God's name with "HEERE" ("LORD"). In the margin where God's name first appears, the following note is given:
Na de voleyndinge van het werck der scheppinge/ wort hier aldereerst Gode de naem van IEHOVAH gegeven/ beteeckenende de selfstandigen/ selfwesenden/ van hem selven zijnde van eeuwicheyt tot eeuwicheyt/ ende den oorspronck ofte oorsake van het wesen aller dinge; daerom oock dese naem de ware Godt alleen toecomt. Onthoudt dit eens voor al; waer ghy voortae het woort HEERE met groote letteren geschreven vindt/ dat aldaer in 't Hebr. het woort IEHOVAH, oft korter/ IAH staet.
(After the completion of the works of creation/ here for the first time God is given the name IEHOVAH/ meaning the independent/ self being/ being the same from eternity to eternity/ and the origin or cause of existence of all things; that is why this name only belongs to God. Remember for all time; wherever you from now on see the word LORD written in capital letters/ that there in Hebr. the word IEHOVAH, or shorter/ IAH is stated.)
The translators and overseers were appointed during the 13th session on 26 November 1618. Translators were Johannes Bogerman, Willem Baudartius, and Gerson Bucerus for the Old Testament, and Jakobus Rolandus, Herman Faukelius, and Petrus Cornelisz for the New Testament and apocrypha.
Besides its influence in religious matters, the Statenvertaling also had a large effect on the Dutch language and politics. The language, choice of words, and expressions used in the Bible formed the basis of the accepted form of standardized Dutch, which formulated in the 17th century. It acted as a cultural unification of the Netherlands.
Because of its influence, the Statenbijbel has been included in the "Canon of Dutch History". This canon is a list of 50 required subjects which should not be omitted from history classes in the Netherlands.
- "Statenvertaling (1637)" (in Dutch). Nederlands Bijbel Genootschap BijbelsDigitaal.nl. Retrieved 2010-06-04.
- Paul Arblaster, Gergely Juhász, Guido Latré (eds) Tyndale's Testament, Brepols 2002, ISBN 2-503-51411-1, p. 120.
- Acta, Dordtse Synode, Eighth Session, 20 november 1618.
- "Waarschuwing aan de lezers van de apocriefe boeken, uit de 1637-editie" (in Dutch). Statenvertaling online - bijbel en kunst. Retrieved 2007-11-02.
- Statenvertaling, Gen. 1:4 at the Digital Library for Dutch Literature
- Statenvertaling (pdf)
-  Original Statenvertaling from 1637 in JPEG format from the Dutch Bible Society
-  Original Statenvertaling from 1637 in JPEG format with transcription from the Dutch Bible Society
-  Original Statenvertaling 1637, digital edition
-  Original Statenvertaling 1637, digital edition