Era of Reform Luther's German Bible
(1522 - 1534)
Era of Reform

A German version of the Bible prepared by Martin Luther and several associates in Wittenberg.

Title page of Luther's German Bible, 1541

Although acquainted with earlier German versions of the Bible, Luther prepared his fresh German version of the New Testament on the basis of the Greek text of Erasmus. Luther's translation appeared in 1522. This was followed in 1534 by a German rendition of the Old Testament on the basis of the Hebrew text, prepared by Luther and several associates in Wittenberg, including Philip Melanchthon and Johannes Bugenhagen. Translated into a fresh and homely high German, this Bible helped shape both Lutheran piety and the German language for centuries to come. The translation itself was governed not only by prevailing knowledge of the ancient languages but by evangelical theology. Luther did not, for example, restrain himself from adding a controversial "alone" in his translation of Romans 3:28: "For we hold that a man is justified by faith alone apart from the works of the law." While Luther was aware that this was not a literal translation, he thought the message of the passage required the interpolation. Luther's prefaces to the Old and New Testaments as well as his introductions to the books of the Bible provided basic theological and devotional reading for Lutherans as long as his Bible remained in common use.

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