Bible societies came into being 200 years ago. An international conference in London in 1804 founded the first Bible society there. Within 10 years, there were hundreds of such societies all around the world. Their goal is to translate the Holy Scripture into all languages of the world, thereby taking it to the people.
The Frankfurt Bible Society is one of these. It still exists today and is the supporting body of the Bibelhaus Erlebnis Museums. A group of Frankfurt citizens founded their Bible society on 4 January 1816 in the Römer town hall with the support of the parent organisation in London. On the occasion of the anniversary of the Reformation in 1817, a Bible was produced to be handed out to schools in Frankfurt on behalf of the new Bible society.
The anniversary of the Reformation in 1817 was against the background of the new national movement of the time. Martin Luther was hailed in those days as a hero who had given the nation a common language through his translation of the Bible. Religious differences faded into the background at the time of the anniversary and written on the commemorative gold coin minted in Frankfurt was “united evangelical Christians”. The difference between Lutheran Protestants and reformed Calvinists, in particular, did not appear to be in keeping with the times.
One of the founders of the Frankfurt Bible Society was Johann Friedrich von Meyer, later mayor of the city. He translated the Bible from the Hebrew and Greek into modern German for easier understanding. The Luther Bible was already 200 years old at this point.
An exchange of letters emerged from the conflict between the church and the Nazis in 1934. Hitler was making great efforts to form one church – a “Reichskirche” – loyal to himself out of the various evangelical churches in Germany in particular. Resistance to this notion arose in several evangelical churches in 1934 and resulted in an argument over a Bible event in the same year. The Frankfurt Bible Society, in the person of their chairman, Pastor Karl Goebels, refused to participate in the event, which was being regulated by Nazi leaders. Resistance on the part of the church was not huge; the pastors in Frankfurt are not known to have spoken up publicly against the persecution of the Jews.
As chairman of the Frankfurt Bible Society, Provost Dieter Trautwein therefore emphasised in the Bible exhibition of 1992 in Frankfurt the origin of Christianity in Judaism and its Holy Scriptures. A Tora roll was at the centre of the exhibition. Today, it is also part of the permanent exhibition in the Bibelhaus Erlebnis Museum. Please see the reference in the leaflet on the opening of the first Frankfurt Bible Centre in 1992.