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I want to buy a German Bible translation but am not sure which one is best. By "best" I mean one that takes the least amount of doctrinal liberties in translation, so no paraphrase versions (eg, "The Message"), no denominational versions (eg, the Catholic "Douay Rheims"), and so on. My preferred English translation is NKJV, but I also own ESV, NIV, and several others. My preferred Spanish translation is the Reina-Valera 1960, if that helps. I know of the following German versions: Schlachter2000, Neue Genfer, Luther 1545, Hoffnung Fuer Alle, Froschauer Bible, Zuercher Bibel, (among a few others) of which I heard the Zurich Bible was the best.

To be clear, I want a translation with no Apocrypha, that is easy to read (eg, NKJV is easy to read, where the KJV is not), and faithful to the original texts (I find that even the ESV makes certain doctrinal translation choices, which kind of bothers me). I don't mind the use of the Textus Receptus as a base text, as long as the translation points out where the TR diverges from the most reliable manuscripts (as most modern translations already do), but please do mention it if this is the case.

I would be extra grateful if you can include a link to buy a (cheap) soft-cover, portable version.

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I am looking for the answer to this as well. I am an American living in Germany and witnessing to my German neighbor. I need a good translation, just as you are looking for. All she knows is a little of what she read from her son's Catholic Bible. Is the "Hoffnung für alle" comparable to the Message?, because I don't want that at all. Or is the translation like the Luther's one, but just in modern language? Thank you! –  user13798 Jun 23 '14 at 8:35
    
Bible Gateway has five different German versions available, so you can use that to compare translations. For example: John 1:1. In that example, I compared different language translations, but you can do it with two or more different German translations too. –  El'endia Starman Jul 4 '14 at 20:13
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The ESV is entirely politically/theologically motivated... it was created because the NRSV was too liberal. There is no neutral translation, every one has bias and choices. –  curiousdannii May 8 at 12:27

6 Answers 6

If its for trying to learn German, you should probably buy a parallel. And probably the easiest to get your hands on would be the ESV-Luther 1984 Parallel from Crossway.

If you want a German Bible by itself, you can get the 1912 revision of Luther's translation from the Trinitarian Bible Society. That would be more archaic German, and its sold by TBS because they consider it to be the closest to the KJV.

Without actually knowing German it would probably be pretty hard to find any others. Although once you figure out you should search "Die Bibel" rather than "German Bible" it makes it easier.

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Kind of. I want to build my German proficiency for sure, but I don't want a simplified German translation where the language chosen obscures important doctrines. I also don't want an archaic translation like the KJV would be. So, something like the German equivalent of the NKJV or ESV would be perfect. I just don't know which one that would be. –  Raphael Rosch Apr 17 '14 at 20:57

I would suggest the "Hoffnung für alle" translation.
"Hoffnung für alle" is very commonly used in Germany (especially by young people, because it's easier to read than for example Luther's translation)

Greetings from Germany ;)

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Is that sort of like the German equivalent of the Good News Bible? My first Bible was the Spanish "Dios Habla Hoy" which seems to be for kids, complete with simple illustrations, which I think is what the Good News Bible is the equivalent of. However, in aiming to be "simple" it glosses over important doctrines which are lost in the choice of words. I want a German translation that doesn't do this, is "Hoffnung für Alle" this kind of translation? –  Raphael Rosch Apr 17 '14 at 20:54

Compare Elberfelder John 1 :

3 Alles wurde durch dasselbe, und ohne dasselbe wurde auch nicht eines, das geworden ist.

...

6 Da war ein Mensch, von Gott gesandt, sein Name: Johannes.

to Luther 1984 John 1 :

3 Alle Dinge sind durch dasselbe gemacht, und ohne dasselbe ist nichts gemacht, was gemacht ist.

...

6 Es war ein Mensch, von Gott gesandt, der hieß Johannes.

(my emphasis).

Normally, I wouldn't use "wurde" as it is used in the first example, Luther's expression is more natural. Also, Elberfelder has a change in tense in John 1:3, which would count as a mistake in a German exam. However, probably the reason that it is there is that it is there in the Greek, and Elberfelder wants to reflect that, since someone who knows Greek can find additional meaning in the Greek use of the tenses.

In the second example, John 1:6, again Elberfelder uses a phrase which is understood, but breaks the German sentence structure, which would expect a verb in the final clause.

This is, as far as I know, intentional. Elberfelder makes it a point to reveal the Greek grammatical structure and use of vocabulary. This makes it an ideal translation for people who know Greek, but have German as their mother tongue and want to understand the text easily without having to translate it themselves.

For someone who wants to read a German Bible in order to improve their German, it might be less than ideal, since it is more Greek written with German words than plain German, in places.

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I have been reading precisely John 1 over and over, and kept finding exactly these examples as really strange, but I just figured it was my weak grasp of German. I now wish I had bought a Luther 1984. If only you had answered earlier.. thanks again! –  Raphael Rosch Apr 10 at 23:47

If you would like to compare versions You might try downloading the following free Bible study program with which you can also download many German and multiple other language version and compare them side by side with the NKJV, however the NKJV version is a version which you must buy, but many others are free to download. The site for the download is;

www.theword.net

You might check it out and see whether you are interested or not.

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thanks for the many answers. In the end, I found a small Bible store on my trip and gave a few of them a quick read, and went with the "Elberfelder" (2006) translation because it was in the exact size format (travel size, 5 inches x 4 inches) I was looking for, and it seemed to not have any obvious translation problems. I had not heard of this version, so I looked it up and it seems it is the equivalent of the Darby Bible in English, which I am not familiar with, but what I did find about it sounded promising. If you have any feedback regarding my choice, I would love to hear it as a comment here.

Thanks again, and for the curious, here's a link to it on amazon for your convenience:

Elberfelder German Bible "mustard seed" edition on Amazon

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In my opinion (I am German), the Elberfelder is ok from a doctrinal point of view, but it's not written in very good German. Its main aim is a consistent rendering of the Greek text, even if it makes the the German translation unidiomatic. If you want an unbiased but fluent translation, I'd rather suggest Luther. –  hbarck Apr 8 at 18:19
    
Ah, interesting, thanks for the input. Do you happen to know any specific instances of non-idiomatic phrases that occur? –  Raphael Rosch Apr 9 at 13:50
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I added an answer, since that comparison would exceed the limits of a comment. –  hbarck Apr 10 at 17:38

As a German I know which is the best. Easy to read but not as accurate as Elberfelder to the basic-text is the Luther 2009.

The most accurate Version of German Bibles is the Elberfelder Bible.

The Elberfelder is the only German version that is accepted by the Catholic Church.

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