Saturday, February 25, 2017

Book Find: Lutherbibel 2017

The story of the Bible is tied up in not only what it says, but how it is read. It is extremely important that we read the Bible as it was intended. That we understand the message that is being conveyed. We should not merely use it as some other talisman that confirms what we want to hear; nor as just another book that contains great literature or cultural relics of history.

And a huge part of the way the Bible has been read throughout history (relatively recent history) is how it has been translated. The most important English translation—not just of the Bible, but of any book into English—the King James Version, recently celebrated its 400th anniversary. That’s impressive, but other languages preceded it. The first impactful Spanish translation, the Reina y Valera, came out in 1602, 9 years before the King James. And Luther’s translation into German, which influenced the King James, almost beat it by 100 years. The New Testament was published in 1522.

Luther’s Bible had an even greater impact on German language and culture than the King James did on the English. It unified and standardized German which then (and still, to a degree) was split into hundreds of regional dialects. It brought a unity to the many kingdoms and duchies through language.

This year, marking the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, the Luther translation has received an update. The latest revisions came in 1964 for the Old Testament and 1984 for the New. Interestingly, a lot of the revision this time around in a “pull back” from earlier work. “Corrections” and changes to the text that were intended to make the text clearer for modern audiences have been dialed back where they may have been unnecessary. There has been an attempt to get back to the essence of what Luther wrote.

This will prove an interesting read. There are places in Luther’s work where intentional deviations from the Hebrew and Greek were made. Luther would argue that his changes kept the meaning of the text, but such interpretive translations are usually unnecessary, and at times dangerous. Especially, getting back to where this train of thought started, if we want to read what was intended.

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