The Bible in History
(Bible Editions & Versions – April/Sept.
fifth century A.D. the church in the west used the Latin Bible.
There were so many different copies of both the Old Latin and
the modern Latin that confusion resulted. This bothered Pope
Damasus, so he asked Jerome to make a new translation of the
entire Bible in Latin.
Jerome was born to a Christian family in A.D. 329 at Stridon, in
Dalmatia. The family was wealthy, making it possible for Jerome
to pursue an extensive education. He learned Latin, Hebrew,
Greek, Aramaic and some Arabic. He became a brilliant scholar
and was one of very few with qualifications to produce a version
of the Scriptures for the use of the Latin church.
Gospels were his first installment in A.D. 383. The next twenty
years were spent in working on the project. He was dissatisfied
with the Septuagint version of the Old Testament, so he used the
original Hebrew. During his work his eyesight became so bad he
had to have help from assistants to continue.
did not accept the Apocryphal books as part of the canon. The
Catholic Church included them in their canon at the Council of
Trent in 1546.
first there was much opposition to the new translation because
it came from the Hebrew instead of the Septuagint. But as time
went on it was accepted and became the official Bible of the
Catholic Church. It was known as the Latin Vulgate because it
was in the language of the common people.
influence of this Bible on Christianity was profound. It was the
Bible read by the great reformers of the Reformation period. A
number of our ecclesiastical terms came from the Vulgate, e.g.,
predestination, justification, regeneration, revelation,
propitiation, reconciliation, sanctification, mediation,
was the first Bible printed by Gutenberg from moveable type and
was the forerunner of all vernacular translations during the
work was finally completed about A.D. 405. Jerome died on
September 30, 420.
Discontent in the Christian religious world had been brewing for
over a century. New leaders were needed to give new direction.
Who could have realized that the boy born in Eisledben, Germany
to Hans and Margaretta Luther on November 10, 1483 would one day
shake the entire Christian world? Few have made so far-reaching
an impact on modern Christianity.
Luther grew up in a very strict family. He was beaten for any
infraction of the high standards set by his parents. Undoubtedly
this influenced his tendency to be intolerant of those who did
not hold to his understanding of the Scriptures. During his
college years he wrote that he was often discontent with his own
Christian life. He felt completely unworthy. He finally came to
the conviction that only through faith in Christ could one be
justified in God’s sight, not by good works.
felt the Catholic Church and its leaders fell far short of what
God expected of them. The Bible was the standard by which all
should live, not the teachings of the church. 0n October 31,
1517 he posted ninety-five theses, items for debate, on the door
of the Castle church building in Whitten, Germany. These
statements were an attack on the practices of the Catholic
Church. Events following this action led to Luther’s
excommunication from the church.
Luther’s burning desire was for every person to have the Bible
available in his own language. Then each one would be able to
read for themselves how God wanted them to live, and what
practices should be carried on in the church.
fled to Wartburg to escape arrest by church authorities. There
he began the great work of translating the Scriptures into the
common German language. It was not that the Bible was completely
unavailable to the German speaking people. There were fourteen
translations printed in High German and four in Low German. But
these must not have been readily available to the common people,
and the translation was not the best.
began translating the New Testament and did a complete rendering
in the first three months. The first publication was in
September, 1522. He had the problems of the typical translator.
He was never quite satisfied with his renderings, and kept
revising until the day of his death in 1546.
The second publication of the
New Testament was in December, 1522. The first is referred to as
SeptemberbibIe; the second
called the Decemberbible.
The New Testament was printed several times before he published
the whole Bible in 1534.
used Erasmus’ Greek New Testament, second edition (1518-19) as
his original text. His great burden was to put the Bible into
the German language so Germans could understand it. He conferred
with a number of his friends on different passages and once
stated “I endeavored to make Moses so German that no one would
suspect he was a Jew.” He struggled with the names of animals
and birds. He insisted that idioms of one language must be
translated into the other language so it made sense to people.
used many woodcut illustrations in his Bible. Some of his
woodcuts resembled contemporary people, and more often than not,
the faces of individuals Luther wasn’t getting along with were
used for the Bible’s more unsavory characters.
language Luther used played an important part in shaping the
German language in future years, as his translation was
reprinted numerous times. Even the first German Bibles and
Testaments printed in early America were based on Luther’s
renderings. We owe a great debt to Luther for his work.