What happened to the original Bible?

The Luther Bible

The Old Testament in twelve years

The actual translation of the Bible into the German language was done by Martin Luther. The work of the reformer began with the New Testament, which the belligerent cleric wrote in just four months in 1521/22.

Luther not only had an excellent knowledge of Greek and Hebrew, but also saw himself as a child of the people. He was inspired by the idea of ​​translating the Holy Scriptures for the needs of the simple, less educated people of his time who had no access to the Greek and Latin texts. Through his translation work, Luther wanted to create a Bible for the whole people.

After the successful translation of the New Testament, it took Luther twelve years to translate the Old Testament. Luther compared his work with his highly educated friend Philipp Melanchthon, professor of the Greek language, before having his work printed. Finally, Luther was able to complete his work in 1534.

Powerful transmission

The work was groundbreaking and to this day no interpretation of the Holy Scriptures in German can avoid Luther's linguistic power. But what makes a translation of the Holy Scriptures into German so spectacular? There are several factors that made Luther's translation of the Bible both famous and indispensable from the start.

First there is the bare fact of the translation of the Greek and Latin models into German. Because until Luther there had never been a closed, generally understandable and freely accessible translation of the Bible into German. The texts of the Holy Scriptures were written in Greek and Latin. It has always been like this, it corresponded to the official languages ​​of the Catholic Church and according to the Church's will it should always stay that way.

Under no circumstances should the Bible texts considered dangerous by the Church be read unfiltered by Christians of that time. What misunderstandings and idiosyncratic interpretations could not be read into the texts. The holy texts should only be passed on to the people through the ordering, directing guidance of the cleric who conforms to the doctrinal opinion of the Church.

Watch the people in the mouth

Luther could not gain anything from this. On the contrary. In Luther's eyes, everyone should have access to the Bible; everyone should be able to read the words of God in the holy scriptures. But it was not only Luther's liberal view of the simple and uneducated people's access to the scriptures that was revolutionary.

Luther not only translated the Bible, he interpreted it in his translation, interpreted it into the everyday life of the people of his time. "Watching the people in the mouth," Luther called it.

He wasn't interested in translating the text into vulgar German, as it was spoken in the alleys of his time. But Luther was very much interested in finding a form of expression whose words and imagery could be understood by every German, regardless of personal education.

That is why he transferred difficult-to-understand comparisons and images of the Holy Scriptures, which had their origins in the world of the Bedouins and the Israeli people, into the realities of the people of his time.

Luther and the invention of High German

And something else is remarkable: Luther did not write the Bible in written German, he chose an orally spoken German. The text of the Bible is not intended to be read in silence, but to be read aloud, to be presented.

The linguistic power of the Luther Bible cannot be overestimated for the German language and culture: With his translation of the Bible, Luther marked nothing less than the basis of High German, which starts from here.

The Luther Bible has been revised and linguistically adjusted several times since the first edition in 1534. Nevertheless, it is still the official Bible edition of the Protestant Church.

In addition, Luther's literary legacy is enormous. Not only was he a reformer, he is also one of the most important German authors of all time. His literary work is enormous, his importance for the Germanists is comparable to that of Goethe or Thomas Mann.