The Singularity of Aura and the Artistry of Translation: Luther’s Bible as Artwork

Will Hasty


The present essay argues that Martin Luther’s Bible translation is an important moment in the cultural history of aura as conceptualized by Walter Benjamin. Luther’s vernacular New Testament, along with the larger translation project of which it was the auspicious beginning, is one of the most important and influential of translations, and in his “Sendbrief vom Dolmetschen” (1530), Luther provides crucial information about how he approached his translation that is important for an appreciation of its distinctive aura. We shall see that, in the “Sendbrief,” Luther conceives of his Bible as a work of art, and of his translating activity in terms of a very individual kind of artistry. This view of Luther’s Bible within the context of Benjamin’s conception of aura contributes to the understanding both of the cultural importance of the early modern Bible translation and also of the influential early 20th century essay on the artwork in the age of its technical reproducibility. (WH)

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