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.

  • 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
    Commented Jun 23, 2014 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. Commented Jul 4, 2014 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
    Commented May 8, 2015 at 12:27
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    As @curiousdannii alludes to, asking for the "most faithful" translation shows a misunderstanding of the nature of translation. ALL translations have to make choices about what words to use - language is not a 1:1 equivalence thing. And ALL translations seek to be the most faithful to their chosen translation rules. What is "more faithful" to the original language in one respect will inevitable be "less faithful" in another. The difference between one translation and another is what aspects of the original they are most interested in capturing.
    – ThaddeusB
    Commented Sep 14, 2015 at 15:00
  • " I want a translation with no Apocrypha ... and faithful to the original texts." This might be mutually exclusive. The oldest copies of the Old Testament that we have contain deuterocanonical books (what some call the "Apocrypha").
    – guest37
    Commented Feb 22, 2017 at 22:46

8 Answers 8


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.

  • 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. Commented Apr 17, 2014 at 20:57
  • I recommend the Schlachter 2000. Luther 1912 (TBS) is also a good translation (and it's not archaic...)
    – Anselm
    Commented Feb 27, 2018 at 16:24

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.

  • 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! Commented Apr 10, 2015 at 23:47

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 ;)

  • 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? Commented Apr 17, 2014 at 20:54
  • The Hoffnung für Alle is similar to the Good News. It's a very bad translation, full of doctrinal errors. As a German, I recommend the Schlachter 2000. Other acceptable alternatives are Luther 1912 (TBS) and NeueLuther 2009.
    – Anselm
    Commented Feb 27, 2018 at 16:22

The Einheitsübersetzung is a version that I haven't seen mentioned here. Due to copyright, it is not available on most sites where you can make comparisons, or free apps. But it still exists. I use it and think it is good, and easy enough to understand.

It is an attempt at an ecumenical version used by both catholic and protestant churches, not sure whether that succeeded. The New Testament translation in the Einheitsübersetzung is AFAIK a collaboration effort of catholic and protestant scholars, the Old Testament mostly catholic (and contains the deuterocanonic books).

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    Indeed the Einheitsübersetzung was revised in 2017 and is available for free e.g. at bibleserver.com and as an android app. On the other hand the OP explicitly asked for a non-catholic bible. Commented Feb 4, 2020 at 7:37
  • @DavidWoitkowski I read "no denominational version". In my eyes Einheitsübersetzung is (or is meant to be) ecumenical, but maybe I am wrong in that?
    – kutschkem
    Commented Feb 4, 2020 at 7:39
  • Your are correct, it is meant to be ecumenical. But only the NT and Psalms of the 1962/1980 where translated ecumenically. The Einheitsübersetzung ist used for catholic worship exclusively and I have yet to to encounter any use in protestant worship or private bible study. Commented Feb 4, 2020 at 7:41
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    And just to be clear: The Einheitsübersetzung is a great translation -- I use it myself. If you witness to Catholics you very much should read it (at least on the side) as that is the (probably only) translation they trust. It's one of the few German translation you can directly sing the psalms from. But if you witness to your protestant friends you might better use another translation ... Commented Feb 4, 2020 at 7:45

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;


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


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

  • 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
    Commented Apr 8, 2015 at 18:19
  • Ah, interesting, thanks for the input. Do you happen to know any specific instances of non-idiomatic phrases that occur? Commented Apr 9, 2015 at 13:50
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    I added an answer, since that comparison would exceed the limits of a comment.
    – hbarck
    Commented Apr 10, 2015 at 17:38

Just a tip for those who would like to alternate between some online translations, there is a website with 9 different German translations namely:

  • Schlachter 1951 (SCH51)
  • Schlachter 2000 (SCH2000)
  • Neue Genfer Übersetzung (NGU2011)
  • NeÜ bibel.heute (NBH)
  • Hoffnung für alle (HFA)
  • Albrecht NT und Psalmen (GANTP)
  • Elberfelder 1871 (ELB71)
  • Elberfelder 1905 (ELB)
  • Lutherbibel 1912 (DELUT)

Link to the site https://www.bible.com/ and they also have a handy mobile app version called "Bible"


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.

  • 1
    Your last sentence is wrong. The catholic church in Germany uses the Einheitsübersetzung within the liturgy and almost exclusively outside of the liturgy. In 2017 a revision was issued to which the liturgical use will eventually switch. The Elberfelder on contrast is a clearly protestant-used translation. Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 15:05

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