Sunday, June 05, 2011

Luther Added Books to his Bible?

Luther added books to the Bible? The common charge is Luther removed books from the Bible. Here though may be an addition to Luther's Bible, at least in terms of adding apocrypha to the apocrypha, if judged by today's generally accepted list of the apocrypha, that is.

Some readers may have been surprised when I mentioned above that Luther's Bible even has a bit more than the Catholic one. What I mean by that is that he includes The Prayer of Manasses, with the OT Apocrypha, a writing which you will not generally find in Catholic Bibles. [source]

The Prayer of Manasseh was actually included in Luther's 1529 edition of his Personal Prayer Book (See LW 43:8) and in A Discussion on How Confession Should Be Made (1520) (LW 39:46). Apparently, (at least) the 1534 edition of Luther's Bible contains a translation of The Prayer of Manasseh with the Apocrypha, but it is not listed in the table of contents (pictured above). F.F. Bruce says, "Luther’s friend George Spalatin had translated the Prayer of Manasseh into German in 1519; another translation was included in the complete German Bible of 1534" (The Canon of Scripture, p. 102). Did this short apocryphal writing continue in subsequent editions of Luther's Bible? I don't know.

A footnote in LW 43 says,"Luther regarded this apocryphal book highly" (p.272). I've done one other blog entry related to Luther and the Prayer of Manasseh. While he valued it, he did not hold it to be canonical.

On the other hand, according to Phillip Schaff, "the third and fourth books of Ezra and the third book of the Maccabees [were] added to the Apocrypha" in Luther's Bible. Schaff though does not provide a date for this edition, and curiously mentions this fact in between dates of editions published after Luther's death. The editors of Luther's Works state, "Because they were not in the Septuagint, Luther omitted III and IV Maccabees as well as III and IV Esdras"(LW 35:232). It does appear from Schaff's comment the editions which contain these books were inserted after Luther's death. F.F. Bruce states, "As for 3 and 4 Esdras and 3 Maccabees, they were not included in Luther’s Bible; they were added to later editions from about 1570 onward" (The Canon of Scripture, p. 102).

In an obscure Table Talk, Luther is purported to have stated, "The third book of Esdras I throw into the Elbe; there are, in the fourth, pretty knacks enough; as, “The wine is strong, the king is stronger, women strongest of all; but the truth is stronger than all these....". In his preface to Baruch, Luther states,

Whoever the good Baruch may be, this book is very skimpy. It is hardly credible that the servant of St. Jeremiah, whose name is also Baruch (and to whom this letter is attributed), should not be richer and loftier in spirit than this Baruch. Furthermore, the book’s chronology does not agree with the [accepted] histories. Thus I very nearly let it go with the third and fourth books of Esdras, books which we did not wish to translate into German because they contain nothing that one could not find better in Aesop or in still slighter works[LW 35:349].

If a Roman Catholic ever states that Luther added books to the Bible, note this fact from F.F. Bruce:

The ruling that the ‘ancient and vulgate edition’ (the Latin Vulgate) be treated as the authoritative text of holy scripture required the provision of an accurate edition of this text. After the abortive attempt to make this provision in the Sixtine edition of 1590, the need was adequately met (for the next three centuries, at least) by the Clementine Vulgate of 1592. In this edition 3 and 4 Esdras and the Prayer of Manasseh were added as an appendix: they formed no part of the canon of Trent and were not included in the Sixtine Vulgate. It was the Clementine edition of the Old Testament that formed the basis of the English Douay version of 1609–10" [The Canon of Scripture, p. 104].


The Prayer of Manasseh, King of Judah Among the Captives in Babylon [LW 39:46-47]O Lord Almighty,
God of our fathers,
of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob
and of their righteous posterity;
you who have made heaven and earth
with all their ornament;
who have shackled the sea by your word of command,
who have confined the deep
and sealed it with your terrible and glorious name;
at whom all things shudder
and tremble before your power,
for your glorious splendor cannot be borne,
and the wrath of your threat to sinners is irresistible;
yet immeasurable and unsearchable is your promised mercy,
for you are the Lord Most High,
of great compassion, long-suffering, and very merciful,
and repent over the evils of men.
You, O Lord, according to your great goodness
have promised repentance and forgiveness.
Therefore you, O Lord, God of the righteous,
have not appointed repentance for the righteous,
for Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, who did not sin against you,
but you have appointed repentance for me, who am a sinner.
For the sins I have committed are more in number than the sand of the sea;
my transgressions are multiplied!
I am weighted down with many an iron fetter,
so that I am rejected because of my sins,
and I have no relief:
for I have provoked your wrath
and have done what is evil in your sight,
setting up abominations and multiplying offenses.
And now I bend the knee for your goodness.
I have sinned, O Lord, I have sinned,
and I know my transgressions.
I earnestly beseech you,
forgive me, O Lord, forgive me!
Do not destroy me with my transgressions, or lay up evil for me;
For, unworthy as I am, you will save me in your great mercy,
and I will praise you continually all the days of my life.
For all the host of heaven sings your praise,
and yours is the glory for ever. Amen.

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