With my fondness for things in Bible study and teaching which are related to printing, I listened today to the latest podcast from 5 Minutes in Church History with more than usual interest. Dr. Stephen Nichols spoke about the coming of Reformation ideas (Lutheran) from Germany to Iceland around 1533. Soon, many of the Catholic churches in Iceland were converted to Lutheran churches.
One of the most influential native reformers was Oddur Gottskalksson. He had become a reformer while studying at university in Germany. He returned home in 1535 at about age 20 and dedicated himself to translating the New Testament into the Icelandic language. In 1540, his finished work was printed on the first printing press brought to the island nation. His New Testament was the first book printed in Iceland.
Forty-four years later, the Old Testament was finished under the Icelandic Lutheran bishop Gudbrand Thorlakssøn and a first edition of 500 copies printed on the same press in 1584. Each church in Iceland was required to purchase one copy of the 600+ page Bible for use in their services. According to Dr. Nichols, a few of those original 1584 Bibles can still be found in some of the churches in Iceland!
To learn more about getting the Bible into the Icelandic language and similar topics, here are a few links to read more:
- “Bible Translations into Icelandic” on Wikipedia.
- “A Tale of Two Presses: Printing comes to Iceland” on the American Book Binders Museum website.
- More about the “Icelandic Language” and the “Icelandic Alphabet” (which has 32 letters instead 26 like English) on Wikipedia.
- The entire text of the 1540 New Testament is available online here – though I cannot read Icelandic!
- Here is an article about early Icelandic Bibles on display in Iceland.
Our images are both from Wikipedia. The larger photo at top is a copy of the 1584 entire Bible in Icelandic. The smaller image just above is the first page of the Gospel of John in the 1540 New Testament in Icelandic.