The new inclusive bible translation in the context of (post)modern Germany

Marie-Theres Wacker

“Secularization that does not destroy takes place in the mode of translation,” Jürgen Habermas asserted in his often-quoted speech when he received the peace award of the German book traders in October 2001.[1] His statement indicates the frame into which I want to set my presentation of the Bible in inclusive German, Die Bibel in gerechter Sprache (BigS)…

… For Jürgen Habermas a Christian frame to understand the semantic potential of the Bible has broken away. He talks about “translation” in his Frankfurt speech, but he really means the transformation of religious contents into language that secular society can understand. He also explains that the boundaries between secular and religious reasoning are fluid. Both sides have therefore to contribute to negotiating these boundaries, and both sides have to take seriously the other side.[13] The translators and editors of the German inclusive Bible translation responded to this insight and demonstrated in many different ways that biblical content has to be newly articulated within the context of modernity. The new translation provides the opportunity to create conversations with both the secular and the religious proponents in society. The German inclusive translation introduces issues prevalent in modern society, such as the gender and marriage debates, to the churches that lean towards traditional positions and find it easy to exclude new ideas and lifestyles.

Yet the new translation also offers an opportunity to the larger public to participate in conversations that play an important role in the churches. For instance, the debate about the Jewish heritage of Christianity is particularly important in Germany as well as elsewhere. Finally, the inclusive translation helps clarifying religious ideas that a straightforward deconstruction of religious truth might miss because religious truths are already abstract articulations of religious experience lived in concrete historical contexts. The new inclusive German Bible translation should be appreciated as an important contribution to issues central for the future of our society because it gives renewed attention to those religious traditions that are founded on the Bible.

aus: SBL Forum, 1st April 2008, Die Bibel in gerechter Sprache (The Bible in Inclusive Language).
SBL Forum is an online journal of the Society of Biblical Literature. It features essays of general and professional interest to SBL members. Its mission is to provide short, useful articles to inform, educate, and address the professional needs of biblical scholars, as well as those interested in biblical studies.)