Bible Society

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The Norwegian Bible Society, Bernhard Getz 'gate 3, Oslo

A Bible Society is a non-profit organization, foundation with the purpose of mass production of the Bible or biblical writings for free or inexpensive distribution. Many Bible societies also promote the translation of the Bible into languages in which the “Book of Books” is not yet or not fully available or revise existing versions due to changes in linguistic usage.

While the evangelical and non - denominational Bible organizations mostly use the term "Bible Society", Biblical Works is the name for Catholic Bible organizations. They were founded as a movement by lay people and theologians in German-speaking countries. They currently have about 50,000 members, also with institutes of biblical research connected and be regular publications or magazines out.

The Bible works form “a community of Christians who live from the Word of God and want to keep it alive in the Church.” Their goal is “to promote the dissemination of the Holy Scriptures and to give people access to the Bible , the 'Book of Life ', to open".


The Protestant Bible Societies emerged in the tradition of Pietism and the revival movement . Its roots can be found in England in the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, founded in 1698 , and the London Religious Tract Society in 1799.

In Germany, Baron Carl Hildebrand von Canstein founded the world's first Bible Institute in Halle / Saale with the publication of the NT in 1712 and the entire Bible in 1713, which has been operating under the name Cansteinsche Bibelanstalt since 1775 . His revolutionary measure: the lead letters for printing the Bible are no longer melted down, but remain as a standing sentence. This enabled faster and cheaper production.

In 1804 the British and Foreign Bible Society was founded, the forerunner of many other Bible Societies, including the Württembergische Bibelgesellschaft, which was founded in 1812 as the Privileged Württembergische Bibelanstalt and is the oldest still existing Bible Society in Germany.

In 1809 the International Bible Society was founded in New York with the aim of giving all immigrants a Bible in their mother tongue on their way to their new homeland.

Traditionally, the editions of the Bible Societies include the Protestant canon of scriptures without annotations or comments. In the meantime, this principle has been relaxed so that the editions are provided with comments on alternative translation options or with references to other manuscripts.

From 1824 to 1826, the printing of the Apocrypha by certain English Bible societies led to serious disputes known as the Apocrypha Controversy.

According to the Protestant principle of sola scriptura , many see this form of the freely distributed Bible as an effective method of evangelism . This makes the Bible societies attractive for joint activities with Protestants of different denominations.

According to the Catholic understanding, the Bible can only be interpreted in a binding manner with the help of tradition and church teaching. This form of evangelism would require more intensive personal contact, which could not be limited to a simple distribution of the Bible. The free distribution of the Bible could also lead to their profanation. Until the emergence of ecumenical Bible translations (by joint commissions of Catholic and Protestant translators) in the last few decades, Catholics suspected the Protestant Bible translations of falsification and inconsistency with the ecclesiastically approved translations of Catholic scholars. These reasons prompted Pope Leo XII. condemning the activity of the Protestant Bible Societies in the encyclical Ubi primum (1824). Gregory XVI also shared this opinion . in his encyclical Inter praecipuas (1844). Pope Pius IX repeated this judgment in the encyclical Qui pluribus (1846) and extended it to its predecessor. From 1902 ( Pious Society of St. Jerome for the Dissemination of the Holy Gospels ), Catholic Bible societies began to be active again. The Societa di San Geronimo , the Catholic Bible Society, published Italian Catholic translations of the Gospels.

The best-known Catholic institute that arose as a result of the Bible movement is the Catholic Bible Works in Stuttgart .

In the course of the development of ecumenical translation projects, collaboration between Catholics and Protestants with regard to the Bible societies is growing. Some Bible societies have recognized Catholic translations (with the Catholic canon) in their publishing programs. Catholic Biblical Works also have certain Protestant editions in their program.

The United Bible Societies is the umbrella organization for national non-denominational Bible societies in over 140 countries worldwide. The Catholic Church has its own Bible work. The International Bible Society is a missionary organization that is also not affiliated with this covenant.

The 28 Protestant regional Bible societies in Germany have had their own umbrella organization, the German Bible Society (church foundation under public law) , since 1980 .

Well-known Bible societies

Historical Bible Societies (work discontinued or reorganized):

Active Bible Societies in German-speaking countries:

Regional Bible Societies of the German Bible Society:

International Bible Societies (members of the United Bible Societies ):

Other organizations:


  • Werner Rautenberg: The historical roots of the German Bible Societies. A contribution to its 150-year history. Lecture at the theol. Week on October 22, 1964 in Greifswald . In: Official Journal of the Evangelical Consistory in Greifswald , No. 2/1965, pp. 18–22 ( online version ).
  • Wilhelm Gundert: History of the German Bible Societies in the 19th Century (texts and works on the Bible 3) , Bielefeld: Luther 1987 (with bibliography of the German Bible Societies , pp. 350–358).

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: Bible Society  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. An example of this is the new Yao Bible ( Memento from September 1, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) in Malawi
  2. Before the Canstein Bible Institute was founded, Heinrich Becker (1662–1720), pastor at the Jakobikirche in Rostock , obtained a cheap edition of the Bible in 1702, which was sold by the thousands for 17 schillings. (Gerhard Voss: The Bible work in Mecklenburg, its origin and its development , in: "The Bible in the World", Volume 11. Yearbook of the Association of Protestant Bible Societies in Germany , Witten and Berlin 1968, pp. 79–93, here p 82.)