Letter To Our Children
by Pastor Joe | November 16, 2023 | Letters To Our Children
In our last letter, we asked the question if you could imagine a life without a Bible to read or if you had a Bible but could not understand the language it was written in.
We learned there was such a time and place when that happened. Europe was the place, and the 15th and 16th centuries was the time. Here, God enabled men like Martin Luther to become convinced of two things. One, all people should have a Bible they can read. Two, they can decide for themselves freely with the Bible in hand if what they were learning from the church is true.
Plain Ole’ Language
It may be hard for us to understand, but in the 15th and 16th centuries, a large language shift happened in Europe. Latin was the sophisticated language of Luther's day. However, Latin was a language that ordinary Germans could not read, understand, or speak.
The Bible was translated into Latin then and not the common language of the day. That meant ordinary citizens could not share in religious discussions, which the trained elites and clergy of that day could. One consequence was they had to trust what they heard from their Bible lessons and sermons was true. Protestant history tells us what they were learning was not true. This, as you would imagine, troubled Luther.
For there are many rebellious people, full of meaningless talk and deception…They must be silenced because they are disrupting whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain.
Therefore, Martin Luther chose to speak and write to the German people the native German language. Luther understood that language was the key to reaching a wider audience with the truth of the Gospel. Therefore, when he wrote, he did not write in Latin but in the native German tongue.
In the Providence of God, Luther's friend Erasmus produced an updated translation of the Latin New Testament based on the original Greek text. (Remember, each New Testament letter was first written in Greek.) Luther understood Erasmus's translation was a good thing. He then charged himself with taking Erasmus's Latin translation of the New Testament and would translate it into German.
His priority was making the Bible readable to the common German. It was not easy. It demanded incredible discipline, time, and patience. Nevertheless, He published his New Testament translation in September 1522 and the entire Bible in 1534.
It is hard not to think about how fundamental patience and hard work mark the Christian life. How training and scholarly learning are not always the enemies of Christianity. It reminds us life is a pilgrimage, a journey. There are pitfalls from within and without. There is our own fallenness. There are those long periods when change seems impossible. However, the Lord will stand at our side as He stood at Luther's side. He will give strength so that through you and me, the message might be fully proclaimed, as it was in Luther’s day and with God’s help in our own. (See 2 Timothy 4:17).
God bless you. Maybe some of you will consider being a Bible translator.