What is the Gutenberg Bible?


What is the Gutenberg Bible?


The history of the Gutenberg Bible (aka: the Mazarin Bible or the B42) begins with the making of the first moveable-type printing-press invented by Johann Gutenberg (aka: Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg). The first major book to be printed on the Gutenberg Press was the 42-Line Bible; the Latin Vulgate, now known as the Gutenberg Bible.

Prior to the publishing of Gutenberg Bible between 1450-1455, the Bible was either stamped from a single block of carved wood or hand-copied. These were expensive to make and own. Gutenberg's invention used metal letters and an improved ink. His Bible was first printed in 3 volumes, most consisting of 1286 pages each. Some were printed on paper, and others using vellum, a parchment made from calfskin. These could be mass produced.

The Gutenberg Press changed the world. While there may have only been 180-200 copies of the Gutenberg Bible printed during the early 1450s, in the grand scheme of things there were only around 30,000 books in all of Europe, and these were owned by the wealthy. Now not only was the Bible being printed, but other Christian books and tracts as well. The common man was given the opportunity to read more and increase his literacy concerning God!

Less than a century after the invention of the Gutenberg Press, the Protestant Reformation was birthed. Wittenberg, Germany was the home of Martin Luther. The first Wittenberg printer was Johann Grunenberg, from Erfurt, Germany. The second, Melchior Lotther, including his sons Michael and Melchior the Younger, were from Leipzig, Germany. Michael married one of Luther's cousins. Many of Luther's tracts and other assorted materials were published on a Gutenberg Press. The Reformation of the church was enlivened by the increasing literacy of the people. Much like the internet today is changing the way the Gospel in being shared and communicated, the Gutenberg Bible brought "light" to the world (Psa. 119:130), forever changing it. "For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen" (Rom. 11:36).

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).