Christian History - July 14, 2017
THE BIBLE TRANSLATION THAT ROCKED THE WORLD
Luther's Bible introduced mass media, unified a nation, and set
the standard for future translations.
Henry Zecher July/August 2017 - Martin Luther was many things:
preacher, teacher, orator, translator, theologian, composer,
and family man. He came to symbolize everything the Protestant
Reformation stood for. But perhaps Luther's greatest achievement
was the German Bible. No other work has had as strong an impact
on a nation's development and heritage as has this Book.
In Luther's time, the German language consisted of several regional
dialects (all similar to the tongue spoken in the courts of the
Hapsburg and Luxemburg emperors). How were these scattered dialects
united into one modern language? The rise of the middle class,
the growth of trade, and the invention of the printing press
all played a part. But the key factor was Luther's Bible.
The Wartburg Wonder
Following the Diet of Worms in 1521, Luther's territorial
ruler, Frederick the Wise, had Luther hidden away for safekeeping
in the castle at Wartburg. Luther settled down and translated
Erasmus's Greek New Testament in only eleven weeks. This is a
phenomenal feat under any circumstances, but Luther contended
with darkened days, poor lighting, and his own generally poor
Das Neue Testament Deutzsch was published in September 1522.
A typographical masterpiece, containing woodcuts from Lucas Cranach's
workshop and selections from Albrecht Durer's famous Apocalypse
series, the September Bibel sold an estimated five thousand copies
in the first two months alone.
Luther then turned his attention to the Old Testament. Though
well taught in both Greek and Hebrew, he would not attempt it
alone. "Translators must never work by themselves,"
he wrote. "When one is alone, the best and most suitable
words do not always occur to him." Luther thus formed a
translation committee, which he dubbed his "Sanhedrin."
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