Luther’s Translation of the New Testament
IN DECEMBER, 1521, LUTHER HAD SECRETLY LEFT the Wartburg for a short sojourn in Wittenberg, where he wanted to check the turbulent innovations that had been introduced and work toward moderation. Upon his return to his quiet asylum he embarked on a momentous undertaking, which his friends had earnestly enjoined upon his conscience: the translation of the Bible. It was self-evident that he, as an individual and with the few aids at his disposal at the Wartburg, could consider only the translation of the New Testament, not that of the entire Bible. Yes, if he could live in hiding in Wittenberg and there enjoy the assistance of his friends, he would come at once and begin with the Old Testament! He asks the Wittenbergers to consider this thought “that it may result in a translation worthy of being read by Christians. I hope we shall present our Germany with a better one than that of the Latins.” 1 It was the love for his people that pressed the pen into his hand for this great work. This was the motive he also mentioned in a letter, dated November i, to the Strasbourg humanist Gerbel for the German essays written at the Wartburg: “I have been born for my Germans; them I also want to serve.”2
KeywordsGerman Language Latin Translation Greek Text German Dialect Scholastic Tradition
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