Encyclopedia of Romantic Nationalism in Europe

Start Over

Bible / classics translations : Lithuanian

  • TranslationsLithuanian
  • Cultural Field:
    Texts and stories
  • Author:
    Sniečkutė, Marija
  • Text:

    By 1795, almost 40 Lithuanian translations of the Bible or parts of it had been published under Lutheran, Baltic-German auspices. In 1730, a Lutheran, Baltic-German clerical commission had been formed to prepare a first complete translation (published in 1735 and reprinted in 1755).

    A second edition, based on the Greek and Hebrew texts, was published in 1816 in Königsberg (reprinted in Tilsit, 1824) by Ludwig Rhesa, theology professor and head of the Lithuanian language seminar at the University of Königsberg. In order to facilitate this publication, Rhesa established the <em>Verein zur Förderung der Bibel bei der litauischen Nation</em>, sponsored by the Bible Society in London. In his introduction, Rhesa expressed gratitude to “a few diligent and linguistically knowledgeable men of the nation (<em>Nation</em>)” who translated the Bible; he also expressed his “sincere regret” to the “Lithuanian folk (<em>Volk</em>)” that the entire Bible had appeared only in the 18th century. Afterwards, Rhesa published an important philological commentary on the Bible in Lithuanian (<em>Philologisch-kritische Anmerkungen zur litauischen Bibel</em>, 2 vols, 1816-24; <em>Geschichte der litauischen Bibel</em>, 1816). Without significant changes, the same edition was re-published repeatedly (1853, 1858, 1865; supervised by the theology professor Friedrich Kurschat). Rhesa’s Bible was later revised by Klaipeda-based teacher Adomas Einaras (1842–1906) and others, and published by the British and Foreign Bible Society in 1897 (re-published in Berlin in 1905). Another Lithuanian philological version of the Bible (the New Testament edited by Kurschat, the Old Testament by the priest/philologist Kristupas Sturys) was published with the support of the <em>Preußische Haupt-Bibelgesellschaft</em> and, later, of the Canstein Bible Institute in Halle. It was re-published four times. Finally, a Bible translation printed in Latin letters by Einaras and others was published by the British and Foreign Bible Society in Tilsit in 1908 (with later reprints). While primarily aimed at readers outside Prussian-ruled “Lithuania Minor” (i.e. the emigrant communities in the USA as well as the Lithuanian lands under Russian rule, “Lithuania Major”), this version also gained popularity within Lithuania Minor. Overall, in 1808-1919, 3 versions of the Bible were made, totalling 14 editions. These various translations, often sponsored by Bible societies, are satirically invoked as the frame narrative of Prosper Mérimée’s supernatural tale <em>Lokis</em><em></em> (1869).

    In the Lithuanian lands under Russian rather than Prussian rule (“Lithuania Major”), parts of the Bible were also being translated in the course of the 19th century, in a Roman Catholic context (especially the Samogitian diocese). The Gospels appeared in Vilnius in 1806, in a translation probably by the theologian/priest Bonaventura Gailevičius (1752–1834). A complete New Testament, sponsored by the Russian Bible Society, was published in Vilnius in 1816 (probably translated by, again, Gailevičius); owing to its absence of commentaries it failed to obtain Church approval. Bishop Valančius translated the Psalms (Tilsit 1869 and 1872). Bishop Baranauskas translated substantial portions of both Testaments; Archbishop Juozapas Skvireckas’s translation was published by the Association of St Casimir in Kaunas between 1911 and 1935.

    Word Count: 522

  • Article version:
  • DOI:
  • Direct URL:
  • Citavičiūtė, Liucija; Karaliaučiaus universiteto Lietuvių kalbos seminaras: istorija ir reikšmė lietuvių kultūrai (Vilnius: Lietuvių literatūros ir tautosakos institutas, 2005).

    Gineitis, Leonas; Prūsiškasis patriotizmas ir lietuvių literatūra (Vilnius: Pradai, 1995).

    Girdzijauskas, Juozapas (ed.); Lietuvių literatūros istorija. XIX amžius (Vilnius: Lietuvių literatūros ir tautosakos institutas, 2001).

    Kaunas, Domas; Mažosios Lietuvos knyga (Vilnius: Baltos lankos, 1996).

    Kubilius, Vytautas; Rakauskas, Vytautas (eds.); Lietuvių literatūros enciklopedija (Vilnius: Lietuvių literatūros ir tautosakos institutas, 2001).

    Navickienė, Aušra; Besikeičianti knyga XIX amžiaus pirmosios pusės Lietuvoje (Vilnius: Vilniaus universiteto leidykla, 2010).

  • Creative Commons License
    All articles in the Encyclopedia of Romantic Nationalism in Europe edited by Joep Leerssen are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://www.spinnet.eu.

    © the author and SPIN. Cite as follows (or as adapted to your stylesheet of choice): Sniečkutė, Marija, 2022. "Bible / classics translations : Lithuanian", Encyclopedia of Romantic Nationalism in Europe, ed. Joep Leerssen (electronic version; Amsterdam: Study Platform on Interlocking Nationalisms, https://ernie.uva.nl/), article version, last changed 21-03-2022, consulted 07-12-2023.