Luther's Bible found after 200 years

IMRE KARACS

Bonn

The Bible that broke the monopoly of the Catholic Church and consigned Latin to antiquity has been discovered on the musty shelves of a provincial German library. Missing for 200 years, the book on which Martin Luther based his historic translation into German was found in Stuttgart's Wurttemberg State Museum by a Portuguese researcher.

Manuel Santos-Noya came upon Luther's Vulgate, the 4th-century Latin version of the scriptures, while cataloguing the museum's vast collection. Brushing aside the dust, the pages came alive with teeming hand-written words in the margins that seemed to be attempts to render the text into early Hochdeutsch, the language that was to evolve into modern literary German.

There were also autobiographical annotations that soon gave the identity of this 16th-century vandal away: "DML - I was born in the year of 1483 ... In the year of 1518 did D Staupitz relieve me of my religious order ... In the year of 1519 did Pope Leo excommunicate me from his Church ... In the year of 1521 did Kaiser Karl expel me from his empire. Thus was I thrice shunned. But the Lord took me into His care."

A check by handwriting experts established that the author of these scrawlings - DML - was indeed Doctor Martin Luther. Historians believe the book was the template for Luther's first Protestant Bible, prepared in the years 1521-22 in Wartburg castle. After the famous 95 Theses, which Luther nailed to the door of Wittenberg cathedral in 1517, the first German Bible is the most important Protestant relic.

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