Questions on the Amish and Holy Scripture
- In which language is the Bible Amish use?
- Which version of the Bible do Amish use?
- Are Amish allowed to read the Bible?
- Do the Amish use both Old and New Testament?
- Which Scriptures do Amish most frequently use?
- Do Amish use the Apocrypha?
Back to FAQ main page
In which language is the Bible Amish use? Amish read the Bible in both English and German. The bilingual split Bible is common, with English text on one side and German on the facing page.
Which version of the Bible do the Amish use? The Amish use the German Martin Luther Bible for church and home Bible readings. For an English Bible, they traditionally use the King James version, though some may use other translations including the NIV (New International Version) Bible.
Are Amish allowed to read the Bible? It’s sometimes suggested that Amish are restricted from owning or reading Bibles, in effect dependent upon church ministry to impart the word of God.
It’s likely this idea originates from the value Amish place on community and their apprehension of the type of Bible study popular in other Christian churches. The concern is that an individualistic approach to Bible study may foster self-serving personal interpretations which conflict with established traditional beliefs and church values.
Contrary to this perception, many if not all Amish homes contain Bibles. Holy Scripture is used as source material for daily devotionals carried out by Amish families. Amish also discuss passages from Scripture and may own additional books to help aid in their understanding, such as concordances or Bible encyclopedias.
Amish are also apt to refer to sermons that they remember from church delivered by ministers as a point of reference in such discussion. However the willingness to discuss passages from Scripture and use of the Bible outside a church setting may vary across Amish groups.
Do the Amish read the Old and New Testament? Yes, Amish read from both Testaments, and both serve as source material for sermons at church service, though the New Testament is emphasized.
Which are the most popular sections of the Bible in Amish church? Though readings come from both the Old and New Testament, Amish worship leans heavily on the New Testament and the Gospels. As described in The Amish Way: Patient Faith in a Perilous World, “Preachers make frequent allusions to Old Testament stories and psalms, but sermons are mostly based on New Testament texts” (see The Amish Way, Appendix II: Amish Lectionary, p. 205).
On the Gospels, “there is an obvious preference for texts from the Gospels of Matthew, Luke, and John, all of which present the teachings of Jesus. Of these Gospels, Matthew receives the highest priority” (The Amish Way, Appendix II: Amish Lectionary, p. 205).
The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) also plays an important role in Amish Christianity, as Amish derive their beliefs and practices of forgiveness, nonresistance and non-violence from the Scripture. An Amish minister quoted in Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy observes: “Forgiveness is all about Matthew 5 and the Sermon on the Mount and loving our enemies” (Amish Grace, p. 88).
Do the Amish use the Apocrypha? The Apocrypha consists of a collection of additional books used in some Christian churches and included in some editions of the Bible. The Apocrypha does occupy a place in Amish society.
For example, the Martin Luther German Bible which Amish use contains the books of the Apocrypha (Luther described them as not equal to other books of the Bible, but “useful and good to read.”)
John Hostetler also notes that the Apocrypha plays a role in Amish wedding ceremonies, “which [include] the retelling of the marriage of Tobias and Sarah in the Apocrypha” (see Hostetler, John A., Amish Roots: A Treasury of History, Wisdom, and Lore, p. 117). Furthermore, in Amish Society, he recounts an Amish wedding service that includes readings from the Book of Tobit (Hostetler, John A., Amish Society, p. 195). Additionally, the Gospel of Nicodemus is also reportedly used by Amish.
- Kraybill, Donald B., Steven M. Nolt, and David Weaver-Zercher. The Amish Way: Patient Faith in a Perilous World. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2010.
- Kraybill, Donald B, Steven M. Nolt, and David Weaver-Zercher. Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2007.
- Hostetler, John A. Amish Roots: A Treasury of History, Wisdom, and Lore. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989.
- Hostetler, John A. Amish Society. 4th ed. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993.
- Bender, Harold S. and Nanne van der Zijpp. “Apocrypha.” Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1953. Web. 25 Mar 2015. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Apocrypha&oldid=119941
- “Luther’s Bible Translations: 1534. Martin Luther: The Complete German Bible 1534.” lstc.edu/gruber/. Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, n.d. Web. Accessed 6 Apr. 2015. <http://www.lstc.edu/gruber/luthers_bible/1534.php>.
To Cite this Page: Wesner, Erik J. “The Bible.” Amish America. 8 Apr. 2015. Web. [Date Accessed]. <http://amishamerica.com/bible/>.
Images: Bible- Matthew Kirkland/flickr