Citizens' Campus: "Big Bang Luther?" - Reformers and Bible translations before Martin Luther

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Fr. 17.03.2023
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All interested parties

The impression often arises that someone pressed the button and suddenly there stood a cheeky little Augustinian monk named Martin Luther, who was supposed to change the world with his 95 theses. Yet neither Luther's teachings nor his translation of the Bible can be described as revolutionary in themselves. His ideas and principles are hundreds of years older and before Luther's September Testament, there were no less than 18 printed Bibles in the German language; the first almost 50 years before Luther's theses.

The lecture illuminates precisely these 18 Bible translations and printings before Martin Luther and also points out contradictions that seem curious from today's perspective. For example, the Augsburg Jodocus Pflanzmann printed not only the 4th Bible print in German (1475), but also letters of indulgence. Before that, however, the reformers and their teachings before Martin Luther are presented in detail. Starting with the Cathars and Waldensians over Jon Wyclif to Jan Hus or the Pipers of Niklashausen. At the same time, it shows why Luther, unlike many other pre-reformers, has endured through the ages and has not become the 19th footnote in the history of German Bible translations.

We speak and write this way today because Martin Luther translated the Bible into German the way he did. Linguistically, Luther took a very different approach than translators before him. He did not translate word for word into the German language, but rather looked his contemporaries in the mouth in the truest sense of the word. The lecture will also discuss which words and phrases can be traced back to Luther's translation of the Bible.