Spelling of biblical names in German

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The spelling of biblical names has developed in the German-speaking area within the different denominations on the basis of different templates. It was not until the 1960s that work on a uniform naming scheme began. Today churches , publishers, academic institutions and libraries orient themselves for the place names and proper names of the Christian Bible on the ecumenical directory of biblical proper names according to the Loccumer guidelines (ÖVBE). The traditional names , some from the Greco-Latin tradition and some from the Luther Bible , continue to determine everyday life in many places.

Development of the notation

Greek and Latin models

The Greek Septuagint , insofar as it did not translate Hebrew names, often added Greek endings to it. She has largely uniformly transcribed the Hebrew consonants. As a rule:

  • Most of the throat sounds (aleph, he, chet, and ajin when it corresponds to Arabic ain) are omitted; Chet also turns into chi on occasion. Ajin, which corresponds to Arabic Ghain, becomes gamma.
  • All voiceless s and sh sounds (Samech, Zade, Sin, Schin) become sigma; Sajin to Zeta, Taw to Theta, Tet to Tau.
  • Pe without Dagesch becomes Phi, Pe with Dagesch becomes Pi. Bet and Kaf with or without Dagesch become Beta and Chi. Qof becomes Kappa.
  • Consonant iodine and waw usually become iota and ypsilon.
  • The remaining consonants (g, d, l, m, n, r) have direct Greek equivalents.

The Greek New Testament adopts the scriptures from the Septuagint. New names of Hebrew and Aramaic origin appearing there are not always transcribed according to these rules (e.g. Kephas and Capernaum with Kappa despite Kaf in the Hebrew / Aramaic word).

The Vulgate largely adopts the Greek spelling, using -z- for zeta, -c- (rarely -ch-) for kappa, -ch- (sometimes -c-) for chi, -th- for theta and -ph - for Phi. In Greek she occasionally reinserts Hebrew Chet, Ajin, He or Alef as -h-, but very often not (Bethleem, Naum, Baal, Chanaan). In addition, h- is often prefixed with names that begin with iodine and iota in Hebrew and Greek. Here are some examples of spellings with -h- (the usual German spelling before the colon):

  • Abraham: Abraham <Αβρααμ (Abraam) <אַבְרָהָם (Avraham)
  • Kedor-Laomer: Chodorlahomor <Χοδολλογομορ (Chodollogomor) <כְּדָרְלָעֹמֶר (Kedorla`omer)
  • Israel: Israhel <Ισραηλ (Israēl) <יִשְׂרָאֵל (Jisra'el)
  • Eva: Hava <Ευα (Eua) <חַוָּה (Chawwa)
  • Hebron: Hebron <Χεβρων (Chebrōn) <חֶבְרֹון (Chevron)
  • Jeremiah: Hieremias <Ιερεμιας (Ieremias) <יִרְמְיָה (Jirmeja)
  • Ezekiel: Hiezecihel <Ιεζεκιηλ (Iezekiēl) <יְחֶזְקֵאל (Jechesqel)
  • Jehu: Hieu <Ιου (Iou) <יֵהוּא (Jehu ')

A more precise representation including the vowels can be found in Könnecke for the Septuagint and in Krašovec also for the Vulgate.


In the Catholic Church , the uniform ancient Greek or Latin forms of the Septuagint and Vulgate usually applied to the Old and New Testament names . There was no distinction between the same names between the Old Testament (Hebrew and Greek source texts) and the New Testament (Greek source texts). In 1962, the German Catholic bishops decided to translate the Holy Scriptures for ecclesiastical use (the uniform translation later developed from this project ). For the New Testament, a spelling of biblical names was developed by the end of 1963 and revised by 1966.


On the other hand, the Protestant section followed Martin Luther , who used the Hebrew original sounding in his translation of the Bible and the Greek original sounding for the New Testament and tried to transcribe them. This resulted in different spellings of the names in the Old and New Testament. Some of the spellings chosen by Martin Luther were changed in the so-called "Buchdrucker-Revisionen", i.e. H. in the revisions of the Luther text made over the centuries on the private initiative of book printers. So was z. B. from “Hebrews” “Hebrews”, see Gen 40.15  EU . Changes were also made through the three church official revisions: the first in 1892, the second in 1912 and the third church official revision in 1956 (NT), 1964 (AT) and 1970 (late publications). As the NT was revised before the OT, the Greek transcriptions were adopted for the OT.

During the revisions, care was taken to adapt the names to German speaking habits. This is why the Hebrew “sh” is replaced by “s” in the case of well-known names, as in “Mose” instead of “Moshe”. Furthermore, instead of the fricative (fricative) “v”, the corresponding plosive (closing sound) “b” appears, as in “Abraham” instead of “Avraham” analogous to the Greek model.

Ecumenical notation

Loccumer guidelines

In 1966, the German Bishops' Conference , the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany and the then Evangelical Biblical Works decided to jointly publish important biblical texts. The translation commission appointed for this purpose thereupon commissioned Pastor Klaus Dietrich Fricke and Father Benedikt Schwank OSB to create guidelines for the spelling of biblical proper names, which were based on the principles and rules developed by the Catholic and Protestant side in previous years. Their proposals were accepted by the commission in Loccum monastery in July 1967 and accepted in the following months by the translation commission of the standard translation and the general assembly of the Evangelical Biblical Works. Over the next three years, these guidelines were used in translation work and - where necessary - modified. In 1970 the revised version was completed and adopted in Braunshardt . In the same year the German Bishops' Conference, the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany and the Evangelical Biblical Work approved this version. In the following year (1971) the comprehensive first publication of the Ecumenical Directory of Biblical Proper Names according to the Loccumer Guidelines (ÖVBE) appeared. The list of names shows the “binding spelling”, the Hebrew and / or Greek “template”, “selected positions”, “spellings to be avoided”, the spelling of the “Luther Bible” or the “Vulgate” and other “remarks” next to each other in six columns ". This makes it possible to understand the decision for the binding spelling. After further minor changes in 1976 and 1979, the current version of the guidelines and the ÖVBE was finally adopted in 1979. The second edition, published in 1981 and revised by Joachim Lange on behalf of the Ecumenical Revision Commission, is considerably shorter than the first version. B. not the Hebrew and Greek spelling of the biblical names.

The Loccumer guidelines also contain a list of recommended spellings for the names of the biblical books and their abbreviations. These have largely prevailed in practice.

Ecumenical directory of biblical proper names

The ÖVBE is based on the Loccumer guidelines. The transcription requirements were not applied consistently to all names, for example, so as not to change familiar names such as Betlehem (according to the Loccumer guidelines, the spelling would be Bet-Lehem). In 1978, at the request of the Protestant side, at the final meeting of the Ecumenical Commission for the Revision of the New Testament of the Standardized Translation, it was decided to adopt the revised version of Luther's translation in the revised version of the standard translation in nine cases. In these Bible translations, contrary to the Loccum guidelines, nine names are written with “th” or “ph” instead of “t” or “f”: Alphäus, Arimathäa, Bartholomäus, Kajaphas, Kephas, Matthäus, Matthias, Thaddäus and Thomas. However, the ÖVBE also records the spellings with "t" or "f" as correct.

Strictly speaking, one does not speak of the Loccumer guidelines, which should be used in the Bible translations, but of the ÖVBE.


The ÖVBE is used in the standard translation and the Good News Bible . The guidelines are also used to a large extent in the Luther Bible of 1984, but there is also a list of around 150 exceptions.


The ÖVBE comes closer to the Hebrew spelling of names and places in many cases, while it is mostly further removed from the Greek forms of the New Testament and the Latin forms developed from them. All ÖVBE forms are a compromise between the traditional (confessionally different) writing and reading habits, the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek writing and pronunciation variants as well as the German characters and sounds.

Sample list

Table of the spellings of biblical names
ÖVBE Catholic evangelical Hebrew form Greek form (NT / LXX)
Bethlehem Bethlehem Bethlehem בֵּית לֶחֶם( bêṯ leḥem ) Βηθλέεμ ( Bēthléem )
Elijah Elias Elijah אֵלִיָּהוּ( 'ēliyyā́hû ),אֵלִיָּה( 'ēliyyāh ) Ἠλίας ( Ēlías )
Elisha Eliseus Elisa אֱלִישָׁע( 'ĕlîšā' ) Ἐλισαῖος ( Elisaîos )
Gennesaret Genesareth Galilee כִּנֶּרֶת( kinnereṯ ) Γεννησαρέτ ( Gennēsarét )
Gethsemane Gethsemane gethsemane גַּת שְׁמָנִים( gaṯ šəmānîm ) Γεθσημανί ( Gethsēmaní )
Golgotha Golgotha Golgotha גּוֹלְגּוֹלְתָא( aram. ) ( gôlgôlṯā ' ) Γολγοθᾶ ( Golgothâ )
Ezekiel Ezekiel Ezekiel יְחֶזְקֵאל( yəḥezqêl ) Ιεζεκιηλ ( Iezekiēl ; LXX)
Isaiah Isaias Isaiah יְשַׁעְיָהוּ( yəša'yā́hû ) Ἠσαΐας ( Ēsaḯas )
Jeremiah Jeremiah Jeremiah יִרְמְיָהוּ( yirməyā́hû ),יִרְמְיָה( yirməyāh ) Ἰερεμίας ( Ieremías )
Isai Jesse Isai יִשַׁי( yišay ) Ἰεσσαί ( Iessaí )
Job job Job אִיּוֹב( 'iyyôḇ ) Ἰώβ ( Iṓb )
Jonah Jonas Jonah יוֹנָה( yônāh ) Ἰωνᾶς ( Iōnâs )
Jonathan Jonathan Jonathan
( New International Version : Jonatan)
יְהוֹנָתָן( yəhônāṯān ),יוֹנָתָן( yônāṯān ) Ιωναθαν ( Iōnathan ; LXX)
Joschiah Josias Josiah יֹאשִׁיָּהוּ( yôšiyyā́hû ) Ἰωσίας ( Iōsías )
Capernaum Capernaum Capernaum כְּפַר נָחוּם( kəp̄ar nāḥûm ) Καφαρναούμ ( Kapharnaoúm )
Cunt Moses Cunt מֹשֶׁה( mōšeh ) Μωϋσῆς ( Mōÿsē̂s )
Nazareth Nazareth Nazareth נַצֶּרֶת( naṣṣereṯ ) Ναζαρέτ ( Nazarét )
Noah Noe Noah נֹחַ( nṓaḥ ) Νῶε ( Nō̂e )
Pasha Pasha Passover
( Lutheran Bible 2017 : Passover )
פֶּסַח( pesaḥ )
פַּסְחָא(aram., pasḥā ' )
πάσχα ( páscha )
Zebaot Sabaoth Zebaoth צְבָאוֹת( ṣəḇā'ôṯ ) σαβαώθ ( sabaṓth )
Zion Sion Zion צִיּוֹן( ṣiyyôn ) Σιών ( Siṓn )
Zechariah ( AT ), Zacharias ( NT ) Zacharias (AT / NT) Zechariah (AT), Zacharias (NT) זְכַרְיָה( zəḵaryāh ) Ζαχαρίας ( Zacharías )
Joshua Joshua Joshua יְהוֹשֻׁעַ( Yehoshua ) Ἰησοῦς ( Iēsûs )

For the usual abbreviations of the books, see Books of the Bible .


The revision of the Luther Bible had not come closer to the ÖVBE; As chairman of the steering committee, former Bishop Christoph Kähler said at an event organized by the Katholisches Bibelwerk in 2017: “After more than 40 years, however, there are open problems that should be solved ecumenically: There are nonsensical spellings according to Loccum (Seleuzia for Seleukeia), inconsistent spellings“ according to Loccum ”and old forms, conjectures or individual solutions without Loccum. Suggestion: An ecumenical working group updates "Loccum" and also creates a common database on the Internet for those interested. "

See also


  • Hellmut Haug (ed.): Names and Places of the Bible . With the “Loccumer Guidelines” for the writing of biblical proper names in the appendix. German Bibelges., Stuttgart 2002, ISBN 3-438-06208-9 .
  • Ecumenical directory of biblical proper names according to the Loccumer guidelines . Edited by the German Bishops, the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany and the Evangelical Biblical Works. 1st edition. Developed according to the instructions of the Ecumenical Translation Commission by Klaus Dietrich Fricke and Benedikt Schwank. Stuttgart 1971, ISBN 3-920609-09-3 .
  • Ecumenical directory of biblical proper names according to the Loccumer guidelines . Edited by the Catholic Bishops of Germany, the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany and the German Biblical Society - Evangelical Biblical Works. 2nd Edition. edited by Joachim Lange on behalf of the Ecumenical Revision Commission. Stuttgart 1981, ISBN 3-438-06009-4 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. The examples use the scripts for the Septuagint and Vulgate as published on the Blue Letter Bible website. But you can also find different modernized spellings, e.g. B. on the web server bibleserver.com .
  2. Clemens Könnecke: The treatment of the Hebrew names in the Septuagint. in: Program of the Royal and Gröning High School in Stargard in Pomerania , Stargard 1885. Online PDF (1863 kB)
  3. Jože Krašovec: Phonetic Factors in Transliteration of Biblical Proper Names into Greek and Latin . In: Textus: Studies of the Hebrew University Bible Project . tape 24 , 2009, ISSN  0082-3767 , p. 15–36 (English, PDF [accessed April 5, 2018]).
  4. On the "Buchdrucker-Revisionen": Christian Zippert: My love story with the Luther Bible . In: Evangelical Responsibility , year 1985, issue 1, pp. 1–2, here p. 1.
  5. Joachim Lange (edit.): Ecumenical directory of biblical proper names according to the Loccumer guidelines . German Biblical Society and Catholic Biblical Work, Stuttgart, 2nd ed. 1981, pp. 13–31.
  6. Ecumenical Bible Conference on Standardized Translation and Luther Bible: Presentation by Bishop Kähler. (PDF) February 9, 2017, accessed November 25, 2017 .