Station: [938] The success of Luther's translation

  • Bibelhaus Erlebnis Museum

The German New Testament from Wartburg castle, which was the first complete translation of the New Testament from the Greek into German, has had great influence. Several reformers from all over Europe followed Luther’s example and translated the New Testament into their own native languages. First translations of that time, for example in Danish, Swedish, Finnish or English, not only followed the idea of the translations but also followed the text created by Luther, fitting it to their own languages.

In front of you, you can see in the middle an edition of the German New Testament from 1522. The first edition was published anonymously but, even so, it was out of print within a few weeks. The improved second edition appeared in December and is known as the “December Testament”.

The success of the German translation is demonstrated in particular in the immense number of reprints made of the Luther Bible – for example in Marburg 1529, where around 400 copies of the Luther New Testament were printed for all the churches in the Landgraviate of Hesse. In front of you lies a Bible which Philipp the Generous of Hesse had printed for the village of Hopfgarten.

In Frankfurt, too, Luther’s writings were banned but it seems as though the ban was not carried through since Frankfurt was to become the main transit point for reformatory writings until 1590. The Reformation made Frankfurt the world capital for printing culture for around 60 years.

Between the Diet in Worms and the translation of the Bible into German in Wartburg castle, Martin Luther visited Frankfurt. Two letters were sent in 1521 from the Buchgasse (“Book Street”).