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Bible Societies.

1. The formal principle* of the Luth. Reformation brought about a renewed emphasis on Bible study, and the Prot. miss. activities of the 17th and 18th c. brought a philanthropic element into the distribution of Bibles which led to the organization of Bible societies in the 18th and 19th c..

2. Germany. K. H. von Canstein* felt that the low spirituality of his times revealed a need for a Bible in every home. The funds he received as a result of his pleas enabled him to est. the Canstein Bible Institute 1710, the earliest organization created for the distribution of Bibles. The first Nürnberg Bible Society, founded 1804 with aid from the BFBS, was absorbed 1806 by the Basel Bible Society (see Spittler, Christian Friedrich). In 1823 the Central Bible Society was est. in Nurnberg. The Berlin Bible Society was organized 1806 through the efforts of J. Jänicke for the purpose of providing Bibles for Bohemians in Berlin. Later it was expanded and called the Prussian Bible Society (1814). The Württemberg Bible Society was organized 1812 through the efforts of K. F. A. Steinkopf and others. Additional societies arose: Saxon Bible Society (1814), Bible Society of Schleswig-Holstein (1815), Berg Bible Society (1814), and others.

3. England. Various Christian organizations that included Bible distribution on their program arose out of the ev. movements of the 17th and 18th c. Among them: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge - 1698; Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts - 1701; Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge - 1709; Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge among the Poor 1750; Naval and Military Bible Society - 1780 (originally called Bible Society); French Bible Society 1792; Trinitarian Bible Society; Society for Distributing the Holy Scriptures to the Jews. The Canadian Bible Society, auxiliary to the BFBS, was formed 1904.

The suggestion to form the British and Foreign Bible Society was first made 1802; the soc. was founded March 7, 1804, at a large interdenominational meeting at the London Tavern. Its object was “to promote the circulation of Holy Scriptures, without note or comment, both at home and in foreign lands.” The first goal was to provide Wales with Bibles, but the soc. soon extended its activities to Eur., Asia, Afr., S. Am., Can., and elsewhere. It helped est. Bible societies in Ger., Scand., and other countries (often as branches). The controversy regarding the Apocrypha caused much difficulty; when the soc. decided 1826 to discontinue printing the Apocrypha, more than 50 branch organizations severed connections with it.

See also Brainerd, 1; Church Missionary Society; England, C 5; Evangelicals, 4; Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, The Board of Foreign Missions of the; Society for the Propagatic of the Gospel in New England.

4. Other Eur. Countries. In Scotland, the Edinburgh Bible Society (1809) and the Glasgow Bible Society (1812) withdrew from the BFBS as a result of the Apocrypha controversy and united 1861 to form the National Bible Society of Scotland. In Ireland the Hibernian Bible Society was organized 1806. The most important societies of France: Bible Society of France (1864) and the Bible Society of Paris (1818). The Netherlands Bible Society was organized 1814. In Swed. an ev. soc. was organized 1809, which included Bible distribution in its work; later the king became the patron of the Swedish Bible Society (1814). The Danish Bible Society was organized 1814; the Finnish Bible Society 1812; the Norwegian Bible Society 1816. In Switz. the Basel Bible Society was founded 1804 by C. G. Blumhardt* and C. F. Spittler* with aid from BFBS; it absorbed the first Nürnberg Bible Society 1806; other Bible socs. in Switz. have included one at Saint Gall (1813). In S Eur. the Malta Bible Society (1817) played an important role. The Russian Bible Society (representing Protestants and Catholics) was organized by an imperial ukase 1813; when it was suppressed 1826, the Evangelical Bible Society was organized; the Russian Bible Society was reest. 1863. See also Kraemer, Hendrik; Skovgaard-Petersen, Carl Axel; Spittler, Christian Friedrich; Williamson, Alexander.

5. In America the Philadelphia Bible Society was organized 1808 and the societies of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey in 1809, followed by many others.

The American Bible Society was organized in New York 1816 by 60 distinguished men. Invitations to the founding meeting had been sent out by the Bible Society of New Jersey at the suggestion of S. J. Mills.* The first pres. was E. Boudinot.* The object of the soc. was the circulation of the Holy Scriptures in the commonly received version (KJV) without note or comment. In 1822 the Bible House on Nassau Street was erected and in 1852 the Bible House on Astor Place. In 1835 Bap. missionaries tr. baptismos and baptizo with Burmese words meaning “to immerse.” When the ABS refused to print the version, the American and Foreign Bible Society (Bap.) was organized 1836. When this soc. agreed to use the KJV in the distribution of the Bible in the Eng. language, seceders organized the American Bible Union 1850.

The Christian Commercial Travelers' Association of Am., Internat.. (Christian Commercial Men's Assoc. of Am., Internat.; Christian Bus. Men's Assoc.; The Gideons Internat.; organized 1899) supplies hotels, hosp. rooms, and other pub. places with Bibles.

Bible Societies in Latin America (Sociedades Bíblicas en América Latina). Offices in Asunción, Bogotá, Buenos Aires, Caracas, Cochabamba, Cristóbal, Guatemala, Havana, Lima, Mexico, Montevideo, Quito, San Juan, Santiago.

See also Evangelicals, 5.

The German Evangelical Lutheran Central Bible Society for Missouri, Illinois, and Iowa, in St. Louis, Missouri was organized April 24, 1853, to promulgate Ger. Bibles and New Testaments.

6. Though Bible study was encouraged in some areas of the W Ch. before the Reformation (e.g., Spain), RC popes gen. opposed Bible reading in the vernacular because they held such action might lead to heretical views. Emphasis on Scripture by reformers led popes (Pius VII, Leo XII. Gregory XVI, Pius IX) to oppose Bible reading by laymen without theol. training. The principle that the Bible is not to be printed in the vernacular without explanation is still held. The first RC Bible institution was est. 1805 by G. M. Wittmann (1760–1833) at Ratisbon; dissolved 1817 by Pius VII. In It. the Compagnia di San Paolo (Community of St. Paul), founded 1563, encourages Bible reading. The Pia Società San Girolamo (Pious Society of St. Jerome), organized 1901 by Giacomo della Chiesa (later Benedict XV) prints and distributes the NT in Italian. The Pia Società San Paolo (Pious Society of St. Paul), founded at Alba, Cuneo, 1914, sponsors the Società Cattolica Biblica Internazionale (Catholic International Bible Society), which fosters reading and study of the Bible. After WW I, Bible movements became more gen. in the RC Ch., often connected with Catholic Action* and the liturgical revival. The Katholisches Bibelwerk (Germany 1933), Catholic Biblical Association (England 1940), and the Catholic Biblical Association of America (US 1936) are among leading RC Bible societies. Similar societies were organized in other countries of Eur. and Am. See also Bible Study.

7. Bible societies aid translators and publish and distribute Bibles and special books and phonograph records for the blind as widely as possible according to need. Bible societies and related agencies distribute ca. 25,000,000 Bibles or parts thereof annually.

8. United Bible Societies. Internat. fellowship of 23 Bible socs.; organized 1946. Its Council, to which each mem. soc. sends I representative, meets at least once in 3 yrs. Business of world organization conducted bet. Council sessions by Standing Com. The Secretariat: Gen. Secy.; Secy. for Promotion; two Study Secys.

E. Breest, “Bibelgesellschaften,” in Realencyklopädie für protestantische Theologie und Kirche, 3d ed. J. J. Herzog and A. Hauck, II (Leipzig, 1897), 691 to 699; H. O. Dwight, Centennial History of the American Bible Society (New York, 1916); The Bible in a Thousand Tongues, comp. O. M. Norlie (Minneapolis, 1935); The Book of a Thousand Tongues, ed. E. M. North (New York, 1938); reports of Bible societies. EL, LP


Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

Internet Version Produced by
The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod


Original Editions ©Copyright 1954, 1975, 2000
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Content Reproduced with Permission

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