As the clock ticks towards the start of the 500th year since Martin Luther helped to spark the Reformation movement in Europe, his greatest gift to the German people has been reborn. Martin Luther’s own Bible translation – which formed the German language in a similar way as the King James’ Bible did with English – has been updated for modern Germans to read. This updated translation combines ‘Lutherisms’ –his distinctive wordings – in a way that today’s Germans can read with relish.
The German Bible Society launched the new work during last week’s Frankfurt Book Fair, the world’s largest event of its kind. “As we unveil this revised translation here today, we want to make God’s Word accessible to all readers and to show that the Bible is still a book of hope and encouragement,” said Dr Christoph Rösel, General Secretary of the German Bible Society. “This is a very special day. This is the book of books, and we are bringing it into the centre of the book fair and the centre of people’s lives.’
Monday, October 31, is the 499th anniversary of Luther nailing up a poster in public which began a rebellion against the Pope. His “95 theses” sparked the Reformation which will be celebrated and debated throughout the next 12 months.
“The Luther Bible in particular, which symbolised freedom of speech, is an example of the power of books.”
It took six years for a team totalling 70 people (50 translators, revisers and advisers, along with administrative staff) to agree and implement some 15,000 amendments to Luther’s translation. These amendments were designed to strike a delicate balance between remaining true to Luther’s characteristic language, reflecting latest scholarship, and also making God’s Word accessible for readers. “People often think that Luther’s translation was rather ‘free’,” said Christopher Kahler, leader of the revision team. “But, in fact, he stuck quite closely to the Greek and Latin texts as they were understood at the time. We wanted to replicate that closeness, but we also wanted to retain the characteristic sound of his language. Luther himself constantly revised his text, so we felt making changes was justified, but we did not want change simply for the sake of aligning the text with modern usage of German. Indeed, in some cases, this latest revision is actually closer to Luther’s original text than previous revisions have been.”
The launch was a highlight of the Book Fair. “The Bible is the most important book ever,” said Heinrich Riethmüller, head of the German Book Trade Organisation. “The Luther Bible in particular, which symbolised freedom of speech, is an example of the power of books. My very best wishes to everybody who has been involved with this project. I am sure the new revision will be a great success!”
Amid the hundreds of stands at the fair, the Bible Society came up with some eye-catching ways of attracting attention. As well as offering free rides to and from Frankfurt’s main station in a branded bicycle taxi, it also had special Luther beer brewed for the event.
Some prayer points to help
Pray that people in Germany, and across the world, will be powerfully impacted by this new edition of Luther’s Bible translation.