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4, 1486, a prohibition of all unauthorized printing of sacred and learned books, especially the German Bible, within his diocese, giving as a reason that the German language was incapable of correctly rendering the profound sense of Greek and Latin works, and that laymen and women could not understand the Bible.
Even Geiler of Kaisersberg, who sharply criticised the follies of the world and abuses of the Church, thought it "an evil thing to print the Bible in German." Besides the whole Bible, there were numerous German editions of the Gospels and Epistles (Plenaria), and the Psalter, all made from the Vulgate.
He acquired the knowledge of the original languages for the purpose of its better understanding.
He liked to call himself a "Doctor of the Sacred Scriptures." He made his first attempt as translator with the seven Penitential Psalms, which he published in March, 1517, six months before the outbreak of the Reformation.
He found for the first time a complete copy of the Latin Bible in the University Library at Erfurt, to his great delight, and made it his chief study.
But this fact does not diminish his merit in the least; for his version was made from the original Hebrew and Greek, and was so far superior in every respect that the older version entirely disappeared. Luther had a rare combination of gifts for a Bible translator: familiarity with the original languages, perfect mastery over the vernacular, faith in the revealed word of God, enthusiasm for the gospel, unction of the Holy Spirit.
No less than seventeen or eighteen editions appeared between 14, at Strassburg, Augsburg, Nürnberg, Cöln, Lübeck, and Halberstadt (fourteen in the High, three or four in the Low German dialect).
Most of them are in large folio, in two volumes, and illustrated by wood-cuts.
He listened, as he says, to the speech of the mother at home, the children in the street, the men and women in the market, the butcher and various tradesmen in their shops, and, "looked them on the mouth," in pursuit of the most intelligible terms.
His genius for poetry and music enabled him to reproduce the rhythm and melody, the parallelism and symmetry, of Hebrew poetry and prose.
Luther was not the first, but by far the greatest translator of the German Bible, and is as inseparably connected with it as Jerome is with the Latin Vulgate.