Bible Translations

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Mennonites have commonly used the standard Bible translations as used in their countries, German—Martin Luther, English—King James, Netherlands—the Statenvertaling, etc. They did not use distinctive translations or make or publish their own translations, with certain exceptions as follows:

  1. In 1527 Hans Denck and Ludwig Haetzer, spiritualistic Anabaptists, translated the Old Testament Prophets out of the Hebrew, first edition 1527 in Worms (12 editions in rapid succession at Worms, Augsburg, and Hagenau) which antedated Luther’s Old Testament translation and was used by him and the Zürich translators (see Worms Prophets).
  2. The Zürich complete Bible translation (1524-1529) printed by the Zürich firm of Froschauer, originally the Luther text with slight divergence except for the Prophets which used the Denck-Haetzer translation, gradually became more divergent from the Luther Bible and thus more distinctive. Strangely the Froschauer Bibles and New Testaments became very popular with the Swiss Brethren and continued to be used by them after they went out of use in the Swiss Reformed Church. Beginning in 1588 repeated reprints of the older editions were made in Basel for the Swiss Anabaptists, which became known as Täufertestamente, and were even forbidden by the Bernese authorities, who did their best to destroy them and prevent their reprinting. A reprint of the Froschauer New Testament was made in 1787 at Ephrata, Pennsylvania, for the Mennonites of that region.
  3. The Biestkens Bible so called after the Mennonite printer of Emden, Nicolaes Biestkens, though not a Mennonite translation, was actually published for Mennonites beginning in 1560 and up to 1723 reprinted at least 27 times, with 64 New Testament editions, a total of almost 100 editions. Previously in 1556 the Mennonites used, in opposition to the new translation provided by the Reformed Church, the Bible printed by Mierdemans and the New Testament of Mattheus Jacobssoon of 1556 (reprinted 1558, 1559, 1562). Before 1554 an Anabaptist printer published in Lübeck a Bible which was a combination of the Luther and Dutch translations with a concordance from the Zürich Bible. The printer continued his work at Wüstenfelde (see C. Krahn, Menno Simons, Karlsruhe, 1936, 84ff.). The Statenvertaling displaced the Biestkens Bible among the Mennonites in the first half of the 18th century. For the West Prussian Mennonites a special edition of the Biestkens Bible was published in Schottland, a suburb of Danzig, in 1598, called the Schottland Bible. It was, however, printed in Haarlem, Holland, by Gilles Rooman.
  4. Modern Mennonites have not taken part in Bible translation work except in a few cases on mission fields. The greatest of these is the translation of the entire Bible into Javanese (1888-1892) on commission of the British and Foreign Bible Society by the Mennonite missionary Pieter Jansz, which has become the most widely used Javanese translation, and resulted in a decoration for Jansz by the Dutch government.

Portions of the New Testament were translated into the Hopi Indian language by General Conference Mennonite Church missionaries. The entire New Testament, published by the American Bible Society in 1934, and parts of the Old Testament (printed in 1926) were translated into the Cheyenne Indian language by Rodolphe Petter (General Conference Mennonite mission field in Montana). Agnes Sprunger, a Mennonite missionary under the Congo Inland Mission, an American Mennonite Mission Board, translated the New Testament into the Kipende language (a tribe in the Congo), which was published in 1935. Mennonite missionaries collaborated in the translation of the New Testament into the Kikwango language (a tribe in the Congo), the major part of this work having been done by Ernestina Janzen (Mennonite Brethren). This translation was published by the American Bible Society in 1950. Missionary G. B. Giesbrecht of the "Light to the Indians" Mission (Mennonite Brethren) in the Paraguayan Chaco, has translated the Gospel of Matthew and portions of other Gospels into the Lengua Indian dialect of that region.

A modern Dutch translation of the New Testament was made by the Mennonite minister G. Vissering (Amsterdam, 1854), of the Psalms and Lamentations by the Mennonite minister Johannes Dyserinck, but neither has been widely used. The modern translation of the New Testament by H. Bakels (Amsterdam, 1908), however, has gone through three editions.

See also Bibelstunde, Bible, Bible Study, Biblical Interpretation, Gespauwde Klauw, Old Testament, New Testament


Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe; Schneider, 1913-1967: v. I, 217.

Krahn, Cornelius. Menno Simons (1496-1561) ein beitrag zur geschichte und theologie der taufgesinnten. Karlsruhe i.B.: H. Schnieder, 1936: 84 ff.

Author(s) Harold S. Bender
Nanne van der Zijpp
Date Published 1953

Cite This Article

MLA style

Bender, Harold S. and Nanne van der Zijpp. "Bible Translations." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1953. Web. 8 Aug 2022.

APA style

Bender, Harold S. and Nanne van der Zijpp. (1953). Bible Translations. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 8 August 2022, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, pp. 333-334. All rights reserved.

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