Luther Altered the Bible?

I’m currently considering a conversion to Catholicism(currently non-denominational), and as such I have been reading many books on the faith. In one of the books I’ve read it says that Luther altered the Bible to suit his ideas about the church/theology. Is this true? If so, are there any unaltered Bible translations that survived to the present?

Luther tried to omit certain books and add wording that suited his theology. Overall, he did not succeed.

That’s why Protestant Bibles are missing seven books in the OT. Luther also wanted to get rid of Hebrews, James, and Revelation, but it ended up not catching on. Likewise, in his personal translation, he added the word alone to a verse to make it say we are saved by “faith alone” (I forget which one).When in reality the only place “faith alone” is found is in James when it says we are not saved by faith alone–that’s why Luther called James an epistle of straw.

Here are the books he removed from the OT, basically because they support purgatory, indulgences, and the intercession of saints:

Wisdom, Sirach, 1 & 2 Maccabbees, Baruch, Tobit, and Judith.

Catholic and Orthodox Bibles still contain these books.

Some Catholic Bibles are the RSV-CE, Douay-Rheims, and NAB.

Here’s the NAB online
usccb.org/nab/bible/

And heres the DR (it’s written in a similar style as the KJV; also, some of the books have different names in case it looks like there are weird books in there or missing books–for example, instead of 1 & 2 Samual there are 4 Kings or Revelation is called Apocalypse, etc.)
drbo.org

[quote=Little Mary]Luther tried to omit certain books and add wording that suited his theology. Overall, he did not succeed.
[/quote]

Well, actually he DID succeed: Protestant Bibles lack seven books. Genesis315’s answer is correct.

[quote=ladylinguist]I’m currently considering a conversion to Catholicism(currently non-denominational), and as such I have been reading many books on the faith. In one of the books I’ve read it says that Luther altered the Bible to suit his ideas about the church/theology. Is this true? If so, are there any unaltered Bible translations that survived to the present?
[/quote]

One thing to consider as you think about this: most Protestants recognize 66 books in the Bible. As used in the Bible, the number six represents imperfection, (i.e. 666 in Revelation is used to represent the anti-Christ.) Why would God choose a number like 66 for His Word?

Catholics recognize 73 books in our Bible. The difference the Catholic Bible and Protestant Bible is 7–that number represents perfection.

Also, as I understand, Luther also considered getting rid of the book of Revelation and the letter of James, but others around him prevented that.

As a matter of fact there are!

Y’see, Luther tinkered with his German translation, leaving out the 7 Deuterocanonical books. (See 5 Myths About 7 Books ) he outright added the word “alone” to his text of Romans 3:28 in order to support his new doctrine of Sola Fide.

Praise God that the rest of the reformers weren’t quite so willing to alter the Word of God as Luther was. They retained the original in most of their translations and very few have that fault today, though most non-Catholic versions exclude the DCs. :frowning:

Are there versions today that include all the text. Douay-Rheims Version ,Revised Standard Version (w/DCs) , The New American Bible

There are others…The Jerusalem Bible, & a few others, but the three I’ve offered links to are the ones that I use.

If you want a really good study on the Bible, I recommend Booklet 7 of the Beginning Apologetics Series from San Juan Catholic Seminars and Where We Got the Bible. Both are VERY good!
Pax tecum,

The verse he added “alone” to was Romans 3:28. Here’s what he wrote concerning that:

tentmaker.org/tracts/LutherLetter.html

“Returning to the issue at hand, if your Papist wishes to make a great fuss about the word “alone” (sola), say this to him: “Dr. Martin Luther will have it so and he says that a papist and an *** are the same thing.” Sic volo, sic iubeo, sit pro ratione voluntas. (I will it, command it; my will is reason enough) For we are not going to become students and followers of the papists. Rather we will become their judge and master.”

(haha, Luther got censored on this forum, the *** is another word for donkey :stuck_out_tongue: ).

%between%

ladylinguist,

In answer to your other question: yes, unaltered versions have always survived—they survive with the Catholic Church. Look for Catholic Bibles, as they will contain the seven books that were taken out. There are a number of translations: the RSV-Catholic Edition happens to be my favorite, but the others that Church Militant mentioned are good too—just a personal preference thing, at a certain level.

This is one of those points that comes up every week or two on this forum. If you read Luther’s entire piece “On Translating,” not just the bit that Genesis 3:15 cited out of context, you will see that Luther gives a carefully thought-out rationale for his translation. Without expert knowledge of NT Greek and 16th-century German, I don’t see how anyone could argue with Luther. And that was the point of the bit that Genesis315 (rather disingenuously) quoted. Luther was saying very rudely that his Catholic critics didn’t have enough linguistic ability to debate the issue. I’m not going to defend Luther’s rhetoric. I’m not even going to defend his translation. But it was a translation (correct or incorrect), not simply an “addition.”

No one with any experience in translation would think that a translation must have exactly the same number of words as the original. If you think Luther mistranslated the text, then say so and give your reasons based on your knowledge of the Greek and of 16th-century German usage. I know both NT Greek and 16th-century German, but not well enough to have a strong opinion. I’m inclined to think that Luther snuck inappropriate theological bias into this passage, but I am in no position to be sure. All translations are affected by the bias of their translators.

As for the omission of the deuterocanonical books, Luther didn’t omit them. He put them in an appendix, as he did with certain NT books that (like the OT deuterocanonicals/apocrypha) had been subjects of debate in the early Church (and right through to his own time, especially in the OT case).

In both these cases, Catholic polemicists (not here “apologists” since they aren’t defending Catholicism but attacking Luther) use loaded language to make you think that Luther was cynically and unjustifiably tampering with the text. In fact, Luther was taking a position on the basis of his analysis of the text and the history of the canon. Yes, of course his theological views had a huge influence on his decision. But can you seriously claim that the same is not true of Catholics?

I have no problem with people saying that Luther was wrong. But the persistent attacks on him on this forum are a sad reminder that people tend to become like the enemies they are fighting. Catholic apologists set out originally to answer unfair, out-of-context caricatures of Catholicism by fundamentalists. And that was a worthy goal. But now we have forums like this where Catholics use the same tactics over and over against Protestantism. It seems that nothing will stem the tide of vitriol and ignorance. Instead of a respectful discussion of the issues, we have loaded language, out-of-context (even dishonest) quotations, and a persistent determination to believe the worst. Look in the mirror, folks. You are becoming what you most hate.

Edwin

[quote=Contarini]This is one of those points that comes up every week or two on this forum. If you read Luther’s entire piece “On Translating,” not just the bit that Genesis 3:15 cited out of context, you will see that Luther gives a carefully thought-out rationale for his translation. Without expert knowledge of NT Greek and 16th-century German, I don’t see how anyone could argue with Luther. And that was the point of the bit that Genesis315 (rather disingenuously) quoted. Luther was saying very rudely that his Catholic critics didn’t have enough linguistic ability to debate the issue. I’m not going to defend Luther’s rhetoric. I’m not even going to defend his translation. But it was a translation (correct or incorrect), not simply an “addition.”
[/quote]

Hey, I linked to the entire document. His well sought out reasoning is pretty much just as he explains it. Look in that letter also at his suggested translation of Luke 1:28, it’s not even close to the Greek or Latin. It’s like when he looks at these things he’s not even translating but simply writing his own ideas and claiming it’s just common German usage, when in fact it’s changing the meaning. He rejects the literalists because he can better fit his doctrines into a dynamic translation. He basically claims from his own authority what the verse intends to say, and then writes it as such.

You are right Contrarini he didn’t remove the books, he just moved them to the back. Which essentially lowered their percieved value enough so others would just cut them out.

You are also right in how we shouldn’t focus on Luther as someone to denigrate, but there are facts that need to be represented. Or elso people make things up to explain situations.

As an example,

There are some people who invent a history that the Catholic Church added books to the Bible 1500 years after Christ, when even if you look at Luther’s Bible it contained those books, in an appendix.

It is very common for non-catholic missionaries to claim that the Catholic Church changed the Bible to support it’s doctrines 1500 or so years after Christ. I personally know a missionary who was proud that is how he converted Catholics, by showing them his translation and the Catholic translation. He wouldn’t believe me when I said it was otherwise, and wont look into it as all he needs is the Bible.

So truth needs to be represented, but I agree also it must be done with charity and fairly.

God Bless
Scylla

[quote=scylla]You are right Contrarini he didn’t remove the books, he just moved them to the back. Which essentially lowered their percieved value enough so others would just cut them out.
[/quote]

He also declared them to not be divinely inspired. He removed them from the canon of Sacred Scripture, even if he included them in the back of the bound book.

I should have posted that also, thanks

God Bless
Scylla

Does anybody know of any objectively written books on the subject? Obviously, if I read a book by a Catholic, it’s going to speak badly of Luther. If I read a book by a Protestant, it’s going to give all the support it can for his actions. Is there any book out there which approaches the subject without bias? I just feel like I can’t make an informed decision about this subject unless I get an objective overview of the facts. If I decide to convert, I want my decision to be entirely based on the fact that Catholics are more in line with the original Church.

[quote=Contarini]As for the omission of the deuterocanonical books, Luther didn’t omit them. He put them in an appendix, as he did with certain NT books that (like the OT deuterocanonicals/apocrypha) had been subjects of debate in the early Church (and right through to his own time, especially in the OT case).
…It seems that nothing will stem the tide of vitriol and ignorance. Instead of a respectful discussion of the issues, we have loaded language, out-of-context (even dishonest) quotations, and a persistent determination to believe the worst.
[/quote]

Thank you for this clarification, but I intended no vitriolic attack on Protestants. I realize that not all Protestant use the same Bible, which is why I originally posted the word “most”. An Anglican Bible I own placed the disputed OT books, (along with a few others) in a mid-section. But I did not realize that Luther had placed also them in an appendix–and I had significant involvement with the Lutheran church for several years. My husband’s old Lutheran church gave him a typical 66 book Protestant Bible for his confirmation. The information I posted that Luther wanted to get rid of Revelation and James came to me via one of his old Lutheran pastors.

That said, if Luther had wanted the disputed books placed in an appendix, who got rid of that appendix in most Protestant Bibles? I’m not trying to stir controversy, but how did those books get removed entirely from the majority of Protestant Bibles?

Edwin,

As for the omission of the deuterocanonical books, Luther didn’t omit them. He put them in an appendix, as he did with certain NT books that (like the OT deuterocanonicals/apocrypha) had been subjects of debate in the early Church (and right through to his own time, especially in the OT case).

I agree that Luther didn’t take out the dueterocanonicals in that he didn’t omit them, he put them in the appendix as did the reformers (although I’ve read they in some cases put them in the index also) up until I think it was 1830 when the British Bible society first omitted them completely, but I could be wrong on the name and date. The 1611 KJV does have the deutero’s in it (also in the appendix) as I just recently heard a priest say he received one as a gift. :slight_smile:

As far as the canon in general being a subject of debate up until Luthers time, I’d have to disagree with that assertion. It most certainly was a subject of debate in the early Church. Some books were considered acknowledged some spurious and some disputed. The council of Rome (or synod) 382 AD under pope Damasus was the first council to cite the canon in its entirety, with the 27 New Testament books including the duetero’s. The canon the council of Rome cited is what the Church used up, through and beyond the reformation and uses to this day.

In both these cases, Catholic polemicists (not here “apologists” since they aren’t defending Catholicism but attacking Luther) use loaded language to make you think that Luther was cynically and unjustifiably tampering with the text.

Well Luther was unjustifiably tampering with the text. He knew very well that he didn’t have the authority to dictate what the Scriptures meant. Being an Augustinian monk, well educated and a skillfull exegete didn’t allow him to dictate Catholic Church theology. He had to have known the structure and authoritative hiearchy of the Catholic Church and that he beyond all else he was to submit to the authority of the bishops and the pope. He eventually defied that and went on his own polemic rampage against the “papists.”

In fact, Luther was taking a position on the basis of his analysis of the text and the history of the canon. Yes, of course his theological views had a huge influence on his decision. But can you seriously claim that the same is not true of Catholics?

I will admit that Martin Luther’s original demands and anger seemed to have justification to it because there were abuses of indulgences and at time utter mayhem and he was correct for his anger. However, Luther eventually went to far and by his own analysis of the text created his “own version” of sola fide and coined sola Scriptura, two theological doctrines NEVER taught in Christian salvific history. Sola fide wasn’t taught by the fathers the way Luther taught it and sola Scriptura was NEVER a teaching of Catholic theology. That’ what Catholics get angry at Luther for doing.

I have no problem with people saying that Luther was wrong. But the persistent attacks on him on this forum are a sad reminder that people tend to become like the enemies they are fighting. Catholic apologists set out originally to answer unfair, out-of-context caricatures of Catholicism by fundamentalists. And that was a worthy goal. But now we have forums like this where Catholics use the same tactics over and over against Protestantism. It seems that nothing will stem the tide of vitriol and ignorance. Instead of a respectful discussion of the issues, we have loaded language, out-of-context (even dishonest) quotations, and a persistent determination to believe the worst. Look in the mirror, folks. You are becoming what you most hate.

Edwin you have engaged in the very “vitriol” you have condemned. You are also guilty of not engaging in “respectful discussion” for you in earlier posts on “Imputed Righteousness” thread #25 accused me of being “nervous” as though you can know through my typed words what are my phyical emotions! Typed and written words don’t fully convey emotion, inflection nor intination, so you really made a huge assumption without proof.

I apologized in “Imputed righteousness” thread #38 post to you for NOT having or ever finding the Luther snow covered dunghill quote and I’ll never use it again. It doesn’t exist and I stand corrected by you, nevertheless you also engage in the same tactics you condemn without apologizing for them. You accused me of claiming Luther was a “Baptist” when I never ever said that. You have used polemic words against me i.e. “Catholic propogandist box” and “baptist box” in “Imputed righteousness” #25. Isn’t that engaging in polemics?

Perhaps you could abide by the golden rule first and foremost, and the lead all of us sinful and overzealous Catholics into more fruitful discussions :slight_smile:

[quote=Contarini]This is one of those points that comes up every week or two on this forum. …

I have no problem with people saying that Luther was wrong. But the persistent attacks on him on this forum are a sad reminder that people tend to become like the enemies they are fighting. Catholic apologists set out originally to answer unfair, out-of-context caricatures of Catholicism by fundamentalists. And that was a worthy goal. But now we have forums like this where Catholics use the same tactics over and over against Protestantism. It seems that nothing will stem the tide of vitriol and ignorance. Instead of a respectful discussion of the issues, we have loaded language, out-of-context (even dishonest) quotations, and a persistent determination to believe the worst. Look in the mirror, folks. You are becoming what you most hate.

Edwin
[/quote]

Look, you can dress it pretty much whatever way that you want, but when the man calls the letter from St. James “the epistle of straw” because it doesn’t jive with his fresh new doctrines, and then goes on to opine that he hates the book of Esther I have to go with the rule of thumb that he’s not all that cool, to say the least.

The fact is that in inserting the word “alone” into Romans 3:28, knowing full well as he did that there is not textual precedent to do so Luther proved that he was willing to manipulate his translation in order to mislead his readers into a doctrinal position that neither the passage nor the Christian church had ever before held.

It’s not about “believing the worst”, but about seeing the reality.

If you wanna feel all warm and fuzzy with Luther, that’s fine with me and most of the Catholics on here, but c’mon, let’s be honest here…Luther removed the books from the part of his Bible that he considered canon in spite of the fact that they’d been considered so since at least 382 by believers far closer to the issue than he was and in so doing offered a scandal to the Christain faith that has remained for 500 years and none of us have recovered from.

As for the idea that we have dripped vitriol on this discussion, I have looked over the whole thread and to be honest with you, the only vitriol that I’ve seen has been yours…directed at us.

I don’t think any of us are much in danger of falling into the error of becoming what we hate, but the quote from Nietzsche is well worth posting here, though it has wider applications than religious I think.

Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And when you look long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you. – Friedrich Nietzsche, 'Beyond Good and Evil’
Pax vobiscum,

It is going to be hard to find a book on Martin Luther which doesn’t at least have some bias in it, some make him out to be a hero some a villian to each extreme.

Since most protestants do not believe the same as Luther and are further removed in belief I suggest reading older stuff before him.

Check to see how the Church was before Martin Luther, in the year 1000AD 750AD 500AD 250AD, there you will see where the Bible came from.

I would read direct writings and not just quotes as everyone quotes things to their own beliefs, I had a Jehovah’s Witness offer me a book on Church history this morning, selectively quoted and paraphrased.

God Bless
Scylla

[quote=ladylinguist]Does anybody know of any objectively written books on the subject? Obviously, if I read a book by a Catholic, it’s going to speak badly of Luther. If I read a book by a Protestant, it’s going to give all the support it can for his actions. Is there any book out there which approaches the subject without bias? I just feel like I can’t make an informed decision about this subject unless I get an objective overview of the facts. If I decide to convert, I want my decision to be entirely based on the fact that Catholics are more in line with the original Church.
[/quote]

Are you looking for a book about the canon of the Bible, or a book about Luther? If it’s the latter, I don’t have any recommendation, but if it’s the former, there’s a good book called “Where We Got The Bible” from Henry Graham.

I wouldn’t assume that any book by a Catholic is going to be “unfair” on the subject of Luther. One can view Luther objectively while concluding he was wrong. What matters is history.

[quote=Sherlock]Well, actually he DID succeed: Protestant Bibles lack seven books. Genesis315’s answer is correct.
[/quote]

I stand corrected. I was thinking of his attempt to remove James, then he later put it back but called it an epistle of “straw” so my answer was grossly incomplete. I, too, agree with Genesis315…

Thanks

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