German Bible Revision Increases Protestant-Catholic Tensions

Mainz, Germany - German Protestants have rejected a joint project to revise the standard German translation of the Bible with the Roman Catholic Church last week, furthering tensions between Protestants and Catholics.

According to a Reuters report, the current dispute was provoked as the Vatican intended to revise the standard German Bible according to its official directive. Despite Protestants’ favour for original Biblical texts in ancient Hebrew and Greek, the Vatican requires the revision to conform to a Latin translation – traditionally the official language of reference in Catholicism.

"This directive has criteria that the Protestant side cannot accept," said Lutheran Bishop Wolfgang Huber, chairperson of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), according to Reuters.

German Catholics and Protestants produced the current standard German Bible in the 1980s and have long used it in ecumenical services.

A respected German newspaper, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung Daily, defended Protestants, saying they had made concessions to Catholics for years in the Bible project and could no longer let themselves be "dictated to by Rome," Reuters reported.

Cardinal Karl Lehmann, Bishop of Mainz, President of the Conference of German Catholic Bishops, lamented that Protestants did not trust the Catholics to produce an accurate translation, the report stated.

"Ecumenical cooperation in German-speaking countries has suffered a bitter when the dispute was first made public. setback," Radio Vatican commented last week.

The dispute added to a growing tension between the German Protestants and Catholics. Lehmann admitted that it placed a "considerable strain" on relations. The issue is very sensitive as Germany is the homeland of Pope Benedict XVI and also home to the Protestant Reformation initiated by Martin Luther.

As German and English versions of the Holy Bible are often used by other countries in the world as references when translating into their own languages, translation problems in these two versions can pose a great challenge for the Vatican.

Churches in countries whose languages are rooted in Latin – such as French, Italian and Spanish – have fewer problems with translations as well as smaller Protestant communities to collaborate with on projects, the report added.