Elberfeld Bible

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First edition of the New Testament from 1855
First edition of the Old Testament from 1871

The Elberfeld Bible is a German translation of the Bible that first appeared in 1855 ( New Testament ) and 1871 ( Old Testament ). Although it was never as popular as the Luther Bible , it has won many friends over the years because of its conceptual translation and its faithfulness to the text. The literal nature of the translation takes precedence over linguistic beauty. This made it the model for many other translations.

The name became established because a large part of the translation work took place in Elberfeld (a district of Wuppertal since August 1, 1929 ). The initiators of the translation were Julius Anton von Poseck , Carl Brockhaus and John Nelson Darby . Thus the Elberfeld Bible was initially closely related to the Brethren movement and dispensationalism .

Text basis

The Elberfeld translation was one of the first German Bible translations that fundamentally broke with the Textus receptus in the New Testament and reflected new findings in textual criticism. The codices of the Alexandrian line (e.g. Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus ), discovered in the 19th century or published for the first time, were immediately incorporated into the translation. Today's two versions use the text-critical edition of the Novum Testamentum Graece by Eberhard Nestle and Kurt Aland in the New Testament . The Old Testament is based on the Masoretic text , but differs from it in some places (unlike other translations such as the Schlachter Bible ).

Differences from other translations

The Elberfeld Bible is a source text-oriented translation of the Bible . The aim is to reproduce the original text of the biblical writings as unadulterated as possible and with as little theological interpretation as possible. The proximity to the languages ​​of the original texts ( Hebrew , Aramaic and Greek ) brings with it a certain distance from catchy German and led to linguistic hardship in the first editions. Since the revisions from 1960 onwards, the translators have tried to improve readability without giving up the claim to be faithful to the text.

The Elberfeld Bible is still considered to be the one of the widespread German translations that comes closest to the basic text - alongside the Concordant New Testament and some translations that are primarily intended as study aids, such as that by Fridolin Stier or the Munich New Testament . The aim of the translation was and is to "provide those who are ignorant of the original text ... with as faithful and accurate representation of the word of God in their own language as possible" (from the preface to the first edition). Words that have been inserted for better understanding but are not in the original text are marked in the Elberfeld Bible. In addition, alternative readings and instructions for understanding are provided in footnotes. Until the revision from 1960ff. The insertion of section headings has been dispensed with, as they are also not available in the basic texts.


Until the death of Carl Brockhaus ' son Rudolf Brockhaus (1932), the Elberfeld Bible was reviewed and corrected again and again from edition to edition (whereby Alfred Rochat was primarily responsible for the Old Testament, Emil Dönges for the New Testament). It then remained unchanged for almost 30 years, until in 1960 a commission from the circles of the Brethren movement began a radical revision that lasted a total of 25 years. Efforts were made, on the one hand, to improve readability and comprehensibility (although the linguistic euphoria remained subordinate to the faithfulness to the original), and on the other hand, new findings from biblical text criticism were taken into account. The result was published as a “Revised Elberfeld Translation” in 1975 (New Testament with Psalms) and 1985 (complete Bible).

Two particular problems arose during the revision, which the original translators had already considered:

“… The translation of the name ' Jehovah ' in the Old Testament and the word ' Ekklesia ' in the New Testament.
With 'Jehovah', the decision was not that difficult. The Israelites never said 'Jehovah', they probably said 'Yahweh'. Later, people no longer dared to pronounce the holy name of God and instead said ' Adonaj ' (= Lord). So that one was reminded to read 'Adonaj' and not inadvertently 'Yahweh' when reading the Bible aloud, the Jews in their Bible manuscripts added the vowels of the word 'Adonaj' (êoa , whereby the sign for ê can also stand for â), so that the uninitiated had to read 'Jehovah' from it. From this it follows logically that 'Jehovah' is not a name and therefore it should not be written or pronounced that way in our language either. […] During the revision, therefore, 'Jehovah' was replaced by 'LORD', with all letters capitalized so that the reader can see that the letters YHWH are used at this point in the basic text. [...]
When translating the Greek word 'Ekklesia', the decision was more difficult because the word 'assembly' well expressed the fact that the church is the multitude called together by Jesus Christ. There were two main reasons why the decision was made in favor of the word 'community'.
1. The church is not a temporarily assembled group, such as a works meeting, but a community, the body of Christ, whose members belong together permanently. This biblical fact is better expressed by the word 'church'.
2. Even the old translators of the Elberfeld Bible feared that the word “assembly” could acquire a special denominational meaning in the course of time, which then happened. In a magazine article it says: 'If the translators could have guessed what misinterpretations and assumptions the choice of that term would lead to over the years, they might want to have left the translation “community” despite their concerns ...' (Rudolf Brockhaus in ' Ambassador '1911). " (From the preface to the Rev. Elb. Bible.)

However, the revised version met with criticism in parts of the Brethren movement. In the 1980s, the “closed brothers” began their own revision of the old “Elberfelder”. In 1999 the first edition of the New Testament appeared with footnotes, in 2003 the first edition of the completely revised version (Elberfelder Bible, Edition CSV Hückeswagen). In contrast to the "Revised" version, headings and parallel passages were not inserted. In this edition, too, YHWH is represented as “LORD”, but ekklesia continues to be “assembly”.

There has been a concordance on the Elberfeld Bible since 1937 .

Timeline for the history of the Elberfeld Bible

1855 New translation of the second part of the Holy Scriptures called the New Testament. Translated from the original text by some Christians. Elberfeld: Self-published by the editors, printed by Sam. Lucas. first edition of the New Testament
1859 The psalms. Translated from the original text. Elberfeld: self-published by the editor. first edition of the Psalms
1871 The Holy Scriptures. First part called the Old Testament. Translated from the original text. Elberfeld: on commission from W. Langewiesche, formerly W. Hassel's bookstore. first edition of the Old Testament, together with: Second part called New Testament. Translated from the original text. Third revised edition
1885 The Holy Scriptures. Translated from the original text. Pocket edition. Elberfeld: C. Brockhaus. first pocket edition
1905 The Holy Scriptures. Translated from the original text. Elberfeld: R. Brockhaus. first edition in Latin script, so-called Pearl Bible
1927 The Holy Scriptures. Translated from the basic text. 2nd edition of the Pearl Bible. Elberfeld: R. Brockhaus. second edition in Latin script; still available today
1934 The Holy Scriptures. Translated from the basic text. Pocket edition. 10th edition. Wuppertal-Elberfeld: R. Brockhaus. last text of the “not revised” Elberfeld Bible; in Gothic script
1975 The Holy Scriptures. The New Testament and The Psalms. Revised Elberfeld translation. Wuppertal: R. Brockhaus. first edition of the revised New Testament
1985 The Holy Scriptures. Translated from the basic text. Revised Elberfeld Bible. Wuppertal: R. Brockhaus. first edition of the revised complete Bible
1999 The new Testament. The Holy Scriptures, Part 2. Translated from the basic text. Wuppertal / Hückeswagen: R. Brockhaus / Christian font distribution. More carefully revised edition of the "Closed Brothers" as an alternative to the revised Elberfeld translation
2003 The Holy Scriptures. Translated from the basic text. Hückeswagen: Christian scripture distribution. first complete edition of the "Revised Elberfeld Bible" (since 2005 "Elberfeld Translation, Edition CSV Hückeswagen")
2006 Elberfeld Bible. Wuppertal / Dillenburg: R. Brockhaus / Christian publishing company. Revised edition of the revised Elberfeld Bible, taking into account the new spelling

See also

Web links

Commons : Elberfelder Bible  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Bible text:

Historical background: