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2/4/2014 English Bible Translations Produced by Lutherans

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English Bible Translations Produced by Lutherans
by Daniel W. Decker
(Bible Editions & Versions – Jan.-Mar. 2005)

This article examines twenty-three Lutheran scholars who have translated the Bible, or portions of it, into English since the 16th century. This
author is deeply indebted to two ISBC members for their help in preparing this manuscript: Mark Mage and William E. Paul, especially the
latter’s book, English Language Bible Translators (McFarland, 2003).

The Bible has always had a central place in the lives of Lutherans, both in their personal lives and in their worship and liturgy. This is evident by
Martin Luther, early in the Reformation, translating the Bible into German in 1534. Many of Luther’s spiritual descendants, of course, emigrated
to the United States, primarily from Germany and Scandinavia, and brought their faith and their Bibles with them. It was common for these folk
to read their Bibles and conduct their church services in their native language for decades after their arrival. This writer’s German forbearers, for
example, did not hold their worship services in English until the beginning of World War I. When the immigrants did begin reading an English
Bible, it was the King James Version, the same as the majority of other Americans.

Miles (or Myles) Coverdale (1488-1569) was the first Lutheran on a team that translated the Bible into English. He was the key individual
responsible for producing the first printed Bible in the English language, titled The Bible, that is, the Holy Scripture of the Old and New
Testament, faithfully and truly translated out of the Douche and Latin into English (1535). A Lutheran pastor and schoolmaster from 1543 to
1547, he became an assistant to William Tyndale in Hamburg, Germany. Coverdale acknowledged the use of other language sources in the
preparation of his Bible: Tyndale (English); Luther and Zwingli (German); and the Latin Vulgate. A second edition (1537) was published “with
the King’s most gracious license,” making it the first expressly “authorized” version of the Bible to appear in English. In 1539, Coverdale
became editor of The Great Bible, which contained revisions of his own translation. He was also involved in producing the Geneva Bible

Franz Julius Delitzsch (1813-1890), a professor of theology at Leipzig, was a Lutheran scholar who wrote a prestigious commentary, Biblical
Commentary on the Old Testament, which contained his own Old Testament translation into German. This was then translated into English by
James Martin (1865). It is used to this day.

In the twentieth century, the German-born Richard Charles Henry Lenski (1864-1936) similarly produced a commentary, in English, which had
embedded in it an extensive translation of most New Testament verses. This twelve-volume set of commentaries of the entire New Testament
bore the title A New Commentary on the New Testament, Interpretation and Translation (1931 -1946).

Olaf M. Norlie (1876-1962) was a highly educated and respected Lutheran scholar who, as early as 1943, translated and published, with the
help of students from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, a mimeographed edition of The Gospel of John. By 1951 he had completed a
translation of the entire New Testament titled The New Testament in Modem English. Ten years later, Zondervan published this work as
Norlie’s Simplified New Testament in Plain English for Today’s Reader, A New Translation from the Greek (1961). His version followed the
readings of the King James Version but sought to make it “more interesting and intelligible, especially for today’s young people.” He made
every effort to “make this translation readable, while at the same time making it meaningful— combining clarity and simplicity with a pleasing
English style.” 1/3

Iowa. Another translation contained in a commentary is Revelation: The Distant Triumph Song (1985).” There is a preface by Reynolds Price. “The translation . Minnesota. Roth compared fourteen other translations in both English and German. Karris. Roth (b. In producing his translation. He self published a translation of the books of Luke and Acts as The New Testament. Philadelphia.biblecollectors. a copy was placed in the Luther House at Wittenberg. Complete Bible. A feature of the translation is the use of an asterisk beside numerous words. professor (1916) and later dean (1928-1949) of Yale Divinity School.” titled The Concise Gospels and the Acts (1973). David Rhoads. Hoerber also served as the general editor of The Concordia Self-Study Bible (1986). Vincent T. Anderson then produced a complete New Testament. John F. 1994). revised edition was produced in 1963. Revised editions appeared in 1989 and 1990. Wisconsin. Hanson. and Donald Michie. a Lutheran revision of The NIV Study Bible. which contains new translations of select passages scattered in no particular order throughout the study. Hoerber (1918-1996) was a professor of exegetical theology at (Lutheran) Concordia Seminary in St. He self-published a translation of ten apostolic letters under the title Saint Paul’s Shorter Letters (1954). titled What’s Happening Now by Brother Mark (1977). the books are arranged in their presumed chronological order. Mequon. containing further revisions and corrections. Becker (1914-1984) who was chairman of the New Testament department at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary.” A second. Lima.2/4/2014 English Bible Translations Produced by Lutherans A prominent scholar. New Jersey. Christianson has been both a pastor and author. Roth was a postal clerk in Cleveland. a member of the faculty of Luther College. Others provided some changes and it was finally published in 1976 as The Holy Bible in the Language of Today. Hazel. Professor of English at Carthage College. Paul. . Translated from the Simple Greek of the New Testament (1975). Professor of New Testament at Lutheran School of Theology. a native of Hightstown. published by C. 1946. Louis (1974-1989). Hanson said he aimed to capture the rhythms of the ancient Hebrew poetry in his translation. Hazel translated the Gospel of Mark. titled A New Accurate Translation of the Greek New Testament into Simple Everyday American English (1984). Germany on January 1. Luther A.htm 2/3 . is set out like a short story so that the reader may experience the story as a whole. http://www.S. An American Translation. was produced in 1960 on a mimeograph machine as “a desire to get a better understanding and insight of the original language. Weigle was originally ordained a Lutheran minister and served as pastor of a Lutheran church in Bridgeport. Weigle (1880-1976). served as the first chairman of the translation committee for the Revised Standard Version Bible (New Testament. Olaf College and Luther Seminary. Saxony. Chicago. By 1966. Christopher J. Beck’s translation has the distinction of being the first complete English translation of the Bible by an individual Lutheran. 1916) was a Lutheran pastor and seminary professor. Robert O. He was a translator both of his own version and as a committee member for the Holy Bible: New King James Version (1979). Julian G Anderson (b. published by Fortress Press. Also. William F. 1892). A second edition was issued that same year. It was published by Northwestern Publishing House in Milwaukee. was a graduate of Muhlenberg College and was a student at Lutheran Theological Seminary. Minneapolis. The authors say. Switzerland. Richard S. by Siegbert W.” a popular nationally broadcast radio program of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Wisconsin. translated from the German by Helmut Koester. A translation called A Critical Emphatic Paraphrase of the New Testament by a lay-member of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Another translation embedded in a commentary is A Commentary on the Epistle to the Colossians and to Philemon (1971) by William R. A graduate of St. Marcus Barth (d. Decorah. St. To commemorate that achievement. produced Mark As Story (1982). Publishing Company. Wipf and Stock later produced a reprint of the 1963 edition in 2000.S. It includes a translation of Mark along with discussions of settings and plot. published The Broken Wall: A Study of the Epistle to the Ephesians (1959). His version does not deviate very far from the King James Version. But in 1916 he transferred to the ministry of the Congregational Church. published by Augsburg Publishing House. Mr. Beck (1904-1966) published in 1963 The New Testament in the Language of Today that gained a rather wide circulation because it was offered without cost to listeners of “The Lutheran Hour. which sends the reader to a 150-page commentary section at the end of the book. Everyday American English. produced The Psalms in Modem Speech for Public and Private Use (1968). After twenty-five years of study. Beck had translated the Old Testament. . 1952). Connecticut (1903-1904). Weigle was appointed president of the Federal Council of Churches in 1940. Ohio. 1976. Philadelphia. Christianson produced “a continuous narrative harmonizing the four Gospels and the Acts. but died before its final editing and publication. Ohio. Massey Hamilton Shepherd translated the Biblical text of Psalms in his A Liturgical Psalter for the Christian (1976). also on the mimeograph. Poehlmann and Robert J. son of Karl Barth and chair of New Testament studies at the University of Basil.

It purported to be a translation into modern American English without the influence of two thousand years of Christian history. 1968). the resulting translation was titled The New Testament: God’s Word to the Nations (1988). Pennsylvania. several institutes of linguistics. Augsburg Publishing House. a new edition was published by World Publishing. Daniel Sindlinger (b.” The translation omits Mark 16:9-20. 1948) began work on The Biker Bible in 1999. Andy Gaus (b. published by Fortress Press in paperback. Mark 2:10 reads. Under the auspices of God’s Word to the Nations Bible Society. with slight revisions and a name change. “. published since 1988.2/4/2014 English Bible Translations Produced by Lutherans Phillip P Giessler. Grand Rapids.. produced a translation of the Gospels in 1988. which contained still a different title: The New Testament: New Evangelical Translation. Waetjen. produced A Reordering of Power: A Socio- Political Reading of Mark’s Gospel (1989). have surprised Luther himself. Herman C. no doubt.. even inept…” For example. He is also the author of Theology of the Psalms (1986). 1991). By this time. He describes his version as “a new translation for people ‘on the Move”’ and contains “a style you’ll understand. with work continuing on the balance of the New Testament. Certainly. published it as Psalms 1-59. it appeared in 1990 as God’s Word to the Nations: New Testament. Ann Arbor. which he titled The Unvarnished Gospels (Brattleboro. and received a B. New Evangelical Translation.Wayne. 1945). the variety and experimentation in translation since then have been great and would. Michigan (A. a Lutheran pastor from the Cleveland area.” Sindlinger was born in York. http://www. The introduction says. Finally. degree in missions at Taylor University. Home | Society News | Articles | Bible Collections | ISBC History | Membership | Conventions | Contact Us | Links Send mail to the webmaster with questions or comments about this web site. formed a committee in 1978 for the purpose of revising and updating the William F. Inc. Hans-Joachim Kraus in 1988 wrote a commentary containing his translation of some of the Psalms.S.A. Gaus describes the approach taken in his translation as “re-creating the original authors’ words. a “German-American Midwesterner” living in Boston. “Part two offers a translation of the Gospel that has undergone continuous revision since 1978…” The translator acknowledges that his work may seem “eccentric. Minneapolis. Beck translation (see above). have included from slight to radical revisions of the text. the heirs of Luther have carried on a great tradition that began when the great Reformer brought a vernacular Bible to the German people. Ft. Then. As we have seen. Professor of New Testament at San Francisco Theological Seminary. The Society then produced a major Bible revision in 1992. He attended Concordia College. All Rights Reserved.the Human Being has authority to forgive sins on earth. in 1995. It is said to have been based on a Greek text found by a friend of Gaus in a used bookstore! Gaus then produced a complete New Testament translation titled The Unvarnished New Testament (Grand Rapids. By 2001 he had self published (Better Life Publications) the New Testament books of Matthew and Mark. Indiana (1971). Copyright © 2003-2013 International Society of Bible Collectors. the work bore little resemblance to Beck’s original translation. and Goettingen. without stumbling over difficult terms or puzzling over the meaning…The translator has attempted to accurately convey the meaning of each book in a clear and natural manner. Most editions of this evolving Bible. Vermont).htm 3/3 .. and titled simply God’s He also studied literacy and Bible translation principles at the University of Liberia. strange. Hamburg.” There are no verse numberings. Kraus was an internationally respected Old Testament scholar and professor at the Universities of Bonn. Monrovia (1974).