The Wartburg Project

October 18th, 2016

25. Has anyone proposed the idea of having Lutherans work toward producing a Bible translation before the Wartburg Project?

Yes, there have been many who proposed that idea. Of course, Martin Luther was the first one to propose having “Lutherans” work together to produce a Bible translation for German-speaking people. Martin Luther’s Bible translation served as the most used German translation for many years, even for many non-Lutherans. “His Bible has been read by countless generations of German-speaking peoples, and it has exerted its influence on the translations of the Bible into many other languages as well—to the inestimable benefit of the Lutheran Church in particular and of Christendom in general” (Armin Panning, “Luther as Bible Translator” in Luther Lives, NPH, 1983, p. 83).

Luther first translated the New Testament by himself. Then he sought the help of those with whom he was in church fellowship (Philip Melanchthon, for example). Luther did not translate the Old Testament alone. He formed a translation team that he called his “Sanhedrin.” These were all men who were in confessional agreement with him. According to Mathesius, this group consisted of his fellow professors at Wittenberg: Johann Bugenhagen, Justus Jonas, Caspar Creuziger, Philip Melanchthon, and Mattheus Aurogallus. Georg Roerer, the Korrektor, was also present. Frequently other friends, doctors, and learned men came to take part in this important work, such as Bernhard Ziegler and Johann Forster. (See E. G. Schwiebert, Luther and His Times, p. 649).

In essence, Luther’s entire team was comprised of what we would call “Lutherans” today.

Luther’s translation of the Bible was accepted by German speaking people for centuries as “the Bible” they went to first. There were other German translations before and after Luther’s. But, without controversy, Luther’s was the most used German Bible translation, and it was made entirely by Lutherans.

Luther also had significant influence on English Bible translators. William Tyndale was certainly influenced by Martin Luther. He even went to Wittenberg to learn and to translate. Tyndale’s influence on the King James Version leads some to say that Luther had significant influence on the KJV. Miles Coverdale was a Lutheran pastor from 1543-1547 and was an assistant to Tyndale. He also worked on several translations of the Bible into English.

Many Lutherans in the United States of America continued to read and hear the Bible in German until the time of World War I. In that time period, many American Lutherans were making the transition from German to English. There was some concern about the English Bible translation, which was the KJV.

Has anyone proposed the idea of having Lutherans work toward producing a Bible translation before the Wartburg Project? Yes, of course. Over the years, there have been many who proposed such an idea. And some Lutherans have produced translations, the best known being Martin Luther and his team of Lutheran translators.

For balance in answering this question, please also see:
FAQ #8 Is the Wartburg Project sectarian? Will the Bible it produces be sectarian?

We thank God for the gift of his saving Word. We seek to offer it to all people for their eternal benefit. We pray for God’s blessings on our efforts to share his saving Word with as many people as possible all over the world.