Commonwealth & World

Luther’s German Bible

This year marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation marking the schism within the Roman Catholic Church which led to the formation of the Protestant faith. As part of the events planned for the anniversary, Germany issued a single stamp on the theme of Luther’s German Bible on 2 January. A German stamp to commemorate the Reformation itself is planned for later in the year, along with stamps from a number of other postal administrators such as Lithuania, Austria and the Vatican.

Martin Luther (1483–1546) was an Augustinian friar and professor of theology. After visiting Rome in 1510, he became increasingly angry with the Roman Catholic Church. In particular, he objected to the selling of indulgences, to the living and relatives of the dead, which promised remission from the punishment for sin. The Reformation is dated specifically to 31 October 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his ‘95 Thesis’ to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany. In this document, he debated and criticised the Church and the Papacy. Gutenberg’s printing press ensured his ideas were widely disseminated and very soon his work was known not only in Germany but throughout Europe.
One of Luther’s key achievements was the translation of the Bible from Latin into German because he believed people should be able to read the Bible in their own language. Published in 1534, it increased the Bible’s accessibility to the laity and also helped unify the German language.

The German stamp, valued at €2.60, shows a detail from a revised German edition of 1541 with handwritten annotations made by Luther. A comprehensive revision, Revised Lutheran Bible 2017, has just been published for the 500th anniversary commemorations

To find out more, see the latest GSM.

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