German Bible translations

German Bible translations

German translations of the Bible existed already in the Middle Ages. Nonetheless, due to their antiquated language, their uncritical revision, and sometimes childish glosses, none of them became so influential as Luther’s translation, which established High German as the literary language throughout Germany by the middle of the seventeenth century and which still continues to be most widely used in the Germanic world today.

Pre-Lutheran German Bibles

There are still approximately 1,000 manuscripts or manuscript fragments of Medieval German Bible translations extant. [Paul Arblaster, Gergely Juhász, Guido Latré (eds.), "Tyndale's Testament", Brepols 2002, ISBN 2-503-51411-1, p. 116] The earliest known and partly still available Germanic version of the Bible was the fourth century Gothic translation of Wulfila (ca. 311-380). This version, translated primarily from the Greek, established much of the Germanic Christian vocabulary that is still in use today. Later Charlemagne promoted Frankish biblical translations in the 9th century. There were Bible translations present in manuscript form at a considerable scale already in the thirteenth and the forteenth century (e.g. the New Testament in the Augsburger Bible of 1350 and the Old Testament in the Wenzel Bible of 1389). There is ample evidence for the general use of the entire vernacular German Bible in the fifteenth century. [Paul Arblaster, Gergely Juhász, Guido Latré (eds.), "Tyndale's Testament", Brepols 2002, ISBN 2-503-51411-1, p. 116] In 1466, before Martin Luther was even born, the Mentel Bible, a High-German vernacular Bible was printed at Strassburg. This edition was based on a no-longer-existing fourteenth-century manuscript translation of the Vulgate from the area of Nurenberg. Until 1518, it was reprinted at least 13 times. In 1478-1479, two Low German Bible editions were published in Cologne, one in the Niederrheinish or West-Westfalian dialect and another in the dialect of Lower Saxony or the East-Westfalian dialect. In 1494, another Low-German Bible was published in Lübeck, and in 1522, the last pre-Lutheran Bible, the Low-German Halberstaedter Bible was published. In total, there were at least eighteen complete German Bible editions, ninety editions in the vernacular of the Gospels and the readings of the Sundays and Holy Days, and some fourteen German Psalters by the time Luther first published his own New Testament translation. [Paul Arblaster, Gergely Juhász, Guido Latré (eds.), "Tyndale's Testament", Brepols 2002, ISBN 2-503-51411-1, p. 116]

Luther's Bible

:"Main article: Luther Bible"The most important and influential of translations of the Bible into German is the Luther Bible. The influence that Martin Luther's translation had on the development of the German language is often compared to the influence the King James Version had on English. The Luther Bible is currently used in a revised version from 1984. Despite the revisions, the language is still somewhat archaic and thus inadequate for non-native speakers who want to learn the German language using a German translation.

Later translations

Moses Mendelssohn (a.k.a. Moses ben Menahem-Mendel and Moses Dessau) (1729-1786) translated part of the Torah into German, which was published in Amsterdam in 1778. The translation was honored by some Jews and Protestants, while some Jews banned it. The whole Pentateuch and Psalms was published in 1783, and because of its excellence created a stir even in Christian circles. His version of the Song of Solomon was posthumously published in 1788.

Contemporary Bible Translations

A modern German translation is the Catholic _de. "Einheitsübersetzung" ("unified" or "unity translation"), so called because it was the first common translation used for all Catholic German-speaking dioceses. The text of the New Testament and the Psalms of the _de. "Einheitsübersetzung" was agreed on by a committee of Catholic and Protestant scholars, and therefore was intended to be used by both Roman Catholics and Protestants especially for ecumenical services, while the remainder of the Old Testament follows a Catholic tradition. However, the Protestant Church of Germany refused to continue the cooperation for the current revision of the _de. "Einheitsübersetzung".

Another modern version is the _de. "Neue Evangelische Übertragung" (New Evangelical Version). This translation project is an initiative of Karl-Heinz Vanheiden, who releases each of his translations of a new book of the Bible on his website in MS Word format, and welcomes corrections and suggestions for changes from the public. This particular version seeks to make the Bible understandable to non-Christians as well, and places great weight in clarity of language. So far, the New Testament has been completed, and the Old Testament is being translated. []

Other well known German language Bible versions are: Zürcher Bibel, Elberfelder, Schlachter, Buber-Rosenzweig (OT only), Pattloch, Herder, Hoffnung für Alle (Hope for All), Die Gute Nachricht (The Good News), Gute Nachricht Bibel (Good News Bible, revision of "Gute Nachricht").



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