News Articles

Bible translations formed Dutch, English and German

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

JERUSALEM A South African Israeli linguist, who studied the subject for her degree, notes that the Reformation and Bible translations significantly shaped modern European languages. According to Hanna Haustein, Protestantism furthered people to read the Bible in the own languages while the Roman Catholic Church kept using Latin. She also found that there were different levels of literacy in Europe but that in the seventeenth century the Dutch had already had reached the highest literacy level in Europe with nearly half the population able to read. This contrasted with the situation in France where Protestants circumvented literacy by learning to sing the psalms by heart as a method of teaching important doctrines. The French language was already standardized before the Reformation, but English (King James translation), Dutch (Statenvertaling or States translation) and German (Luther translation) were standardized through the translations. Haustein also suggests that the Dutch and the German translations influenced the rise of linguistic borders, moving the Calvinist Dutch away from the use of low German. She also paid attention to the early influence of rhetorical chambers (rederijkerskamers) where members read poetry and watched theatre. The Spanish regime attempted to force the Dutch to learn both French and Latin, another reason for the Dutch Revolt (or the Tachtig-jarige Oorlog), she notes. The protestant drive to read, says Haustein, stimulated them to develop education. The Bible was often used as a textbook and helped to develop a cultural and national identity in which a nation could develop and grow. The Israeli woman hopes to turn her study into a dissertation.