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Martin Luther and the Bible

Luther's time hiding away in Wartburg Castle soon dragged on and his frustration started to affect his state of mind. The fact that he was forced to remain inactive led him to search for a new task and he soon found one:

In autumn 1521, Philipp Melanchthon suggested that it would be a good idea to translate the New Testament into German. This is precisely what Luther did. After just eleven weeks and using nothing but a Greek Bible by Erasmus of Rotterdam, his Latin translation, the Vulgate and a couple of dictionaries, he completed the work that established what is probably an eternal connection between himself and the Reformation: the "September Testament", which was published in September 1522 and spread like wildfire. Just a few years later, there were over 20 authorised editions and 110 reprints of Luther's work.

Only one year after the completion of the New Testament, Luther produced his first translation of part of the Old Testament, which he went on to fully translate into German together with his professor colleagues by 1534.

Nowadays, the combination of the two large main parts of the translated Holy Scripture, including the Apocrypha, is known as the Luther Bible.

Luther was therefore the first person to provide ordinary people with direct access to the biblical texts. Unlike the existing translations of the Bible into High German, Luther made an effort to avoid "stilted German" in his work and instead aimed to "look at the crowd's mouth". He tried to avoid literal translations and instead attempted to translate biblical statements into German based on their meaning. Nevertheless, he did not reinterpret the Bible, but instead interpreted the passages of text based on his view of the "driving force behind Christianity", namely God's grace in Christ.

His language was powerful, full of imagery, contemporary and above all easy to understand. In fact, a large number of common expressions used nowadays were first introduced by Luther, who coined phrases such as "casting pearls before swine", "a book with seven seals", "gritting one's teeth", "to blazon out something", "to be in the dark", "a heart and a soul", "building on sand", "a wolf in sheep's clothing" and "the great unknown".

Luther's native East Central German dialect developed into what is now known as Standard German over the centuries. The Luther Bible (or at least revised editions) still forms the basis for church services and church music in many Protestant churches today.

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