Records in the niedersächsisches Landesarchiv show the mathematician Richard Dedekind was specific about how he wanted a certain aphorism of his reported. He had given it in 1878 and he wanted it reported as

„Wir sind göttlichen Geschlechtes und besitzen ohne jeden Zweifel schöpferische Kraft nicht blos in materiellen Dingen (Eisenbahnen, Telegraphen), sondern ganz besonders in geistigen Dingen."

He specifically objected to putting „Natur" in place of „Geschlechtes" but he gave no further reason for this.

The quote is an obvious alteration of Apostelgeschichte (Acts) 17:29 and I would like to figure out which other changes Dedekind made. You might think this is an easy question--just compare Dedekind's words to the original. But it is not easy because at least two relevantly different versions occurred in the Luther bible in the first place.

While the reference to railroads and telegraphs is obviously not in Luther it echoes what is in some but not all of Luther's translations. In the 1522 first version Luther wrote of „menschlichen kunst vnnd tichtung." His final 1545 bible version reduces that to „menschliche gedancken."

You can imagine the difference of „kunst vnnd tichtung" from „gedancken" would make a difference to German materialists in the line of Ludwig Feuerbach, for example.

It may be impossible to ever find what Dedekind had in mind, but who knows what further information may lurk in the niedersächsisches Landesarchiv? I would like some orientation on what sources were likely familiar to Dedekind in 1878.

To forestall misunderstanding I am not asking how Luther should have translated the passage or what it really means, or whether Dedekind was inspired by either the Holy Ghost or Feuerbach in making his changes. If anyone happens to know documentation showing Dedekind read Feuerbach that would be interesting but probably no one does.

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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this question belongs on another site in the Stack Exchange network: christianity.stackexchange.com Sep 17, 2016 at 14:58
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    @HubertSchölnast That site is for "for committed Christians, experts in Christianity and those interested in learning more." I am not trying to learn anything about Christianity, but about a noted piece of German literature. Sep 17, 2016 at 15:03
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    I don’t think this question is really on-topic on Christianity. However, I’m not sure whether it is on-topic here, either.
    – Jan
    Sep 17, 2016 at 15:30
  • You need to accept there were a pretty large amount of different versions / revisions of the original Luther translations around in the 19th century. Nearly every publisher had their own, and there were many of them. That was actually the main reason why there was a movement to replace those with an official version in the late 19th century. Apart from that, there were re-translations as pointed out in guidot's answer. I pretty much doubt your question can be answered with certainty. ...
    – tofro
    Sep 17, 2016 at 18:21
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    I'd say this is a question about historical text. The text being a Bible doesn't make it about Christianity. In this question, it's "just another old book".
    – Mast
    Sep 17, 2016 at 18:42

2 Answers 2


I have a Luther bible that belongs to my family, printed 1885 in Berlin (in Fraktur). It says

Stereotyp-Ausgabe der preußischen Haupt-Bibelgesellschaft. Berlin, Klosterstr. 71

I have no idea how representative this edition was for "university educated protestants".

Apostelgeschichte 17.29 reads:

So wir denn göttlichen Geschlechts sind; sollen wir nicht meinen, die Gottheit sei gleich den goldenen, silbernen und steinernen Bildern, durch menschliche Gedanken gemacht.

(There's really a semicolon after the first phrase.)

Personally, I'd consider "wir sind göttlichen Geschlechtes" to be a literal reference. The difference between "Geschlechtes" and "Geschlechts" is a matter of style and diction and isn't important in any way.

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    The Evangelische Haupt-Bibelgesellschaft Berlin goes back to the Preußische Haupt-Bibelgesellschaft in Berlin, and was officially recognized (landesherrliche Anerkennung erhielt) in Prussia in 1814. It was of course protestant. This history, plus the fact that it uses Luther's 1545 version with just minor reform to the spelling, suggests it was highly suitable for university educated people. Sep 18, 2016 at 14:42

Meyers Konversationslexikon from 1885-92 states under "Bibelübersetzung"

[ Die Lutherübersetzung hat sich ] bis heute fast unangefochten behauptet. Unter den Versuchen, dieselbe durch neue Arbeiten oder Umgestaltungen zu ersetzen, kommen besonders in Betracht die Leistungen von De Wette (Heidelb. 1809-12, 6 Bde.; 4. Aufl. 1858, 3 Bde.), Stier (nach dem berichtigten Text von J. F. v. Meyer; 3. Aufl., Bielef. 1869), Bunsen (fortgeführt von Kamphausen und Holtzmann, Leipz. 1858-65, 9 Bde.), bezüglich des Neuen Testaments insonderheit die Protestantenbibel, herausgegebenen P. W. Schmidt (Neues T., das. 1872-1873; 3. Aufl. 1879), und die Übersetzung von Weizsäcker (1875, 2. Aufl. 1882).

  • And Meyer on that page says the Bibelanstalt von Canstein, from 1845 to 1855, put out a 7 volume comparative text of Luther's many versions, because even Luther's final 1545 version was "kaum noch den Gelehrten bekannten." Sep 17, 2016 at 20:25

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