Die Botschaft Gottes: A Translation of Introductory Material

In 1940, theologians from the Jena-based Institute for the Elimination of Jewish Influence on German Church Life published an edited version of New Testament titled Die Botschaft Gottes(The Message of God). [1] The purpose of the translation was to offer German Christians a way of reconciling Christian doctrine with the ideology of National Socialism. It was also important for political reasons, demonstrating to the leaders of the Nazi Party that Christianity could be made to reflect and endorse the anti-Semitism of the time. Die Botschaft Gottes drastically revised many of the texts within the traditional New Testament canon, with a particular emphasis in removing positive references to Judaism and Jesus’ Jewish background.

88930779_8148DieBotschaftGottesA key element of my doctoral research is to provide an in-depth exegetical and theological analysis of the content of Die Botschaft Gottes. As yet, there is no extant English translation of the work, despite some vital contributions by a number of influential scholars within the field. [2] My research hopes to make a contribution to this field of study by shedding some much-needed light on the content of this controversial work. I offer here a translation of the introductory notes written by the editorial team based at the Jena Institute. [3] This material assists in establishing the context and aims of Die Botschaft Gottes.

Foreword to Die Botschaft Gottes

 Many German people are deeply moved by questions of God and eternity, the underlying reasons for our life, and its purpose and meaning. Their questions are an indication that they long for a renewal of the religious life of Germans. This work is dedicated to them and represents a new translation of selected essential parts of the New Testament.

 When Luther published the New Testament translated by him on the Wartburg in 1522, the German people took hold of it in a flash, and it became the decisive step on the path to his Reformation – for with his translation of the New Testament, he opened up the source of his work to the German people. This act of Luther remains untouchable in its form and language.

However: How many German people can still relate to the New Testament in the language and form that Luther gave it? The treasure contained in it is in earthen vessels; these threaten to obscure it as times change. We present this work because we are convinced that there is an eternal treasure in the earthen vessels of the New Testament. The goal is to present the divine truth of the New Testament, the message of God, in a new language and in a new form to the questioning German man or woman. Thus, it contains the divine truthof the New Testament. The passages in which this divine truth has found a lasting expression are selected and translated; this expression can take hold of us, just as it has taken hold of the generations before us. This divine truth is extracted from the earthen vessels of a world view and an awareness of life that are no longer ours because God has placed us within a different history and has shaped us through it. Just as the divine truth of the New Testament, as the message of God, has “awakened and changed” the people of past generations in their worldview and in their awareness of life towards faith and love, it also wants to prove its liberating and blissful power to our hearts.

The selection and design of each section reveals that they have made use of the rich insights and knowledge that German theological studies and religious research have gained about the genesis and content of the New Testament. However, the aim of the work is not a scientific study but a religious contribution to the clarification of German religious questions, demonstrating how the New Testament’s divine truth and the message of God contained in it, are and can be “the power and wisdom of God.”

The material is divided into four parts: The first part contains the message and story of Jesus of Nazareth as presented in the first three Gospels. The second part is the fourth Gospel, which bears the name of John and presents a self-contained picture of Christ. The third part conveys the interpretation and testimony of the divine truth that appeared in Jesus Christ, as it grows – awakened by the apostles – out of the experience of the first Christian communities. Finally, the last part, through its connected text, offers an insight into the first decades of the Christian movement and represents an appendix to the actual work, which is dedicated to the “message of God.” These four parts are designed according to the aspects mentioned above. The individual considerations that guided our work are laid down in a document published by the same company, Das Volkstestament der Deutschen [The Testament for the German People or The People’s Testament for Germany].”

The work, created during the time of the decisive German struggle, aims to be a service to the soul of the German people. Our motto for the task that springs from our responsibility to our people and their life of piety is Martin Luther’s saying: “I have translated the New Testament into German to the best of my ability and conscience. In doing so, I have not forced anyone to read it; instead, I have left it free [to everyone] and have only done it as a service to those who could not do it better[themselves]. No-one is forbidden to come up with a better one” (open letter on translating). An inner connection to Luther’s work, who throughout his life worked on improving his Bible translation, has inspired us to our work.

While working on the translation, we have seen many sections in a new light. We can therefore only hope that those who read attentively also experience something of this. May it also shed some light into their lives and show them why we do not stop announcing the message of God in Jesus Christ.

So, we would ask you: Take it and read!

Learn with Jesus to believe in the Father and seek His eternal kingdom with Him!

Walter Grundmann                 Erich From

Wilhelm Büchner                    Heinz Hunger

                                                Heinrich Weinmann

 In the year of the decisive German struggle 1940

 

Notes:

[1]Institut zur Erforschung des Jüdischen Ein flusses auf das deutsche kirchliche Leben, Die Botschaft Gottes(Leipzig: G. Wigand, 1940)

[2]See Susannah Heschel, The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany(Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010), Robert P. Ericksen, Complicity in the Holocaust: Churches and Universities in Nazi Germany(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), Doris L. Bergen, Twisted Cross: The German Christian Movement in the Third Reich(Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1996)

[3]The editorial team included Walter Grundmann, Erich From, Wilhelm Büchner, Heinz Hunger Heinrich Weinmann

 

 

About Ryan Buesnel

Welcome to my page! I am a writer and musician from Sydney who enjoys reading philosophy, theology and military history. I am a Ph.D. Candidate through Charles Sturt University, with my thesis exploring the activities of the German State Church during the Third Reich-era.
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