The blogger appears to think he knows my alleged opinion on the extent that the general population of medieval Western society had access to the Bible (previous to Luther). To my recollection, I've never spent much time on this, if any. I do recall mentioning from time to time that indeed German translations of the Bible were available previous to Luther, but that most of these were written in high-German. Luther's translation gained immediate popularity due to its readability and the technological breakthrough of the printing press.
That being said, I did take a look at the link. The article suggests that previous to Luther, the elite and commoners did have personal Bibles. They state, "Luther also said that Rome did not allow common people to read the Bible." I then followed the link to the article this statement was based on, which is another on-line news web page. That article roughly says,
The idea that ordinary people only since the Reformation, six hundred years ago, independently of the Protestant Bible is a persistent myth, created by none other than Luther himself. So says research leader Sabrina Corbellini, "Luther himself has said so in one of his famous table discussions. He would throughout his childhood Bible have not seen. The church, as Luther suggested, would keep the book under the cap."Even though the above is a mechanical imprecise Google translation, I think the gist of it is clear: Luther himself invented the myth that few previous to his work had a Bible. What does research leader Sabrina Corbellini base her conclusions on? Luther's Table Talk. What Ms. Corbellini has uncovered as "myth" though has long been known in Luther research. I'm not sure exactly which Table Talk entry Ms. Corbellini is referring to. There are only three (that I'm aware of) that are usually behind such assertions.
The story has many different variants, but the basic outline is that a very young Martin Luther discovered a Bible while a student at Erfurt in the University Library, before his entering the Augustinian monastery (sometime between May, 1501 and July, 1505). The story has variants about the Bible being chained, or hidden out of sight. Sometimes this Bible is said to be so forgotten it was dust covered. Sometimes the story adds that Luther could not be kept away from the Bible, and that his superiors actively sought to keep him from it. Versions of this story date as far back as the 16th Century, actually found in the introductions of editions of Luther's Bible.
Some place the story in the Augustinian monastery. But there, Bible reading held an important place. When Luther entered the monastery, he was presented with his very own Latin Bible and instructed to read and study it.
The older version of this story places the incident previous to Luther entering the monastery during his earlier university studies. This version comes from one of Luther's earliest biographers (and acquaintances), Johannes Mathesius. In this version, Luther visited the University library. While carefully searching through the books he discovered a copy of the Latin Bible, a book he had never seen previously. He discovers that the Bible had much more in it than the traditional lectionaries of the day. He then hopes that one day God would give him his own Bible. This version finds its genesis in a few Table Talk comments.
No. 116 (Between November 9 and 30, 1531) Once when he was a young man he [Martin Luther] happened upon a Bible. In it he read by chance the story about Samuel’s mother in the Books of the Kings. The book pleased him immensely, and he thought that he would be happy if he could ever possess such a book. Shortly thereafter he bought a postil; it also pleased him greatly, for it contained more Gospels than it was customary to preach on in the course of a year. [LW 54:13]
No. 3767 (1538) "Until I was twenty years old I had not yet seen a Bible. I supposed that there was nothing more in the Gospels and Epistles than the portions which form Sunday lections. Finally I found a Bible in the library and immediately took it to the cloister where I began to read, to reread, and to read once again, to the great amazement of Dr. Staupitz." [WA , TR 3, No. 3767].
One can easily see the differences in these entries. Since different authors wrote these accounts, determining what Luther actually said isn't quite difficult. Perhaps they wrote down what he said incorrectly. Perhaps Luther's memory wasn't always dependable. Perhaps both. The second entry (3767) certainly is inaccurate: Twenty-year old Luther had nothing to do with von Staupitz. As to Luther's Bible discovery in the Erfurt University Library, scholars point out that the rules forbid students to snoop through the books. Perhaps though one of Luther's teachers took him in. Others think Luther was actually in the Library reading room. Luther scholar Willem Jan Kooiman points out, "It is almost beyond understanding that Luther should not have seen a complete Bible before he entered the University. An estimated twenty to twenty-seven thousand copies of the Vulgate, the official Latin Bible, were printed in Germany before 1520" [Luther and the Bible (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1961), p. 5].
No. 5346 (1540) "In my youth I saw a Bible in the University library and I read part of the story of Samuel, but then it was time to attend a lecture. I would have very gladly read the whole book, but at that time I had no opportunity to do so. But when I had forsaken everything to go into the cloister I once asked again for a Bible, since I had lost hope in myself." [WA, TR 5, No. 5346].
Kooiman also points out that twelve year-old Martin Luther most certainly would have come across a Bible at the Cathedral School of Magdeburg with his interaction with the Brothers of the Common Life. Some scholars therefore think that perhaps this is the actual origin of the story. Table Talk entry 116 translates the word puer as "young man" when in fact earlier versions of the Table Talk use the word "boy." Kooiman thinks this was done to bring the stories into agreement (pp. 6-7).
It is true that story in question has been a myth for quite some time. However, all this information has been readily available for years, so why the Dutch researchers have only now found it is quite perplexing. The success of Luther's Bible stands as a testament to a number of factors: his popularity, his translation work, and the printing press, to name a few.
Can Luther himself be blamed for the myth? Perhaps indirectly, based on his alleged Table Talk statements. This though requires one to base historical fact on hear-say. One has to assume non-writings of Luther's were intended to be (perhaps) deceptively inaccurate. Rather, I think the culprit wasn't Luther, but rather his zealous followers.
If by some chance someone knows of another Table Talk entry that I've overlooked, please let me know. I briefly tried to figure out which Table Talk Sabrina Corbellini was using by searching "zou het boek onder de pet houden" and similar phrases.