Spreading the Scriptures: The Reformation and TodayWritten by Hans Leaman
The Sattler community shares a passion for spreading knowledge of the original Biblical languages. But we are also passionate about the work of Bible translation. Many students who have been laboring hard at learning Biblical Greek and Hebrew at Sattler hope to use their studies to assist the work of Bible translators. So critical editions of the Bible in Hebrew and Greek are major learning tools for our students. Sattler students are enjoying access to the latest software that allows them to research the etymology of Biblical vocabulary and make connections in the use of words across ancient texts.
It is exciting, then, to know that we are living precisely 500 years after the first critical editions of the Bible in Hebrew and Greek were published. In their Core Humanities class, Sattler students learn about the Greek edition of the New Testament that Desiderius Erasmus published in 1516, and they read his preface to it – the Paraclesis – which sets out a vision to get the Bible in the hands of every Christian:
“I would to God, the plowman would sing a text of the scripture at his plowbeam, and the weaver at her loom, and with this would drive away the tediousness of time… Let all conversation between Christians draw from the Scripture, for almost all of us are as our daily conversation forms us.”
In a day when literacy was not widespread, this was a revolutionary vision!
This year marks the 500th anniversary of an even more remarkable “study Bible”: the Complutensian Polyglot Bible, published in 1522 by the faculty of a young university in Spain. As pictured here, the books of the Pentateuch featured on the same page the original Hebrew text, the Greek of the Septuagint, an Aramaic translation, the Latin Vulgate, and literal Latin translations. Other Old Testament books displayed the Hebrew alongside the Septuagint and Latin translations, while the New Testament allowed comparison of the Greek with the Latin Vulgate.
1522 was also a milestone for Biblical translation: it was in March of this year that Martin Luther emerged from the Wartburg Castle, where he had been in hiding for almost a year. As Sattler students learned in “Reformation” class, he used his time in hiding productively, translating the New Testament into German with the intent that the Bible would become understandable to the “plowman” and the “weaver” that Erasmus had in mind. When Luther returned to Wittenberg 500 years ago and put the German New Testament in print, the Scriptures indeed became the texts of countless popular songs and revolutionized the world.
To learn more about what Sattler students learned about the exciting Reformation period, click on this link to view a website of essays and multimedia presentations that the students produced as they reflected on remarkable Reformation texts.
1Image of Complutensian Polyglot Bible, Beginning of the Book of Exodus. Biblia Polyglotta. Academia Complutensi, Harvard Divinity School Library, Cambridge, Mass. [Safe folio 303 1514], uploaded by MaiDireLollo, Public Domain, https://commons.