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  • Luther in Portuguese, in Brazil
  • Ricardo W. Rieth

The introduction of Martin Luther’s literary legacy in Brazil started with the immigration of German Protestants in 1824 and the subsequent establishment of their religious communities, schools, and synods. For over a century, German was the main language for the Reformer’s writings as well as for worship, other church activities, and schools. His hymns, prayers, and the Small Catechism were the most widespread texts. From the 1940s, a harsh nationalization program against ethnic minorities, the so-called “Estado Novo” (New State), accelerated the transition from German to Portuguese among Protestants related to the Lutheran Reformation. Liturgical, religious, and pedagogical texts were the first to be translated into the Brazilian state’s official language. Interestingly, members of other denominations, like the Methodists and Roman Catholics, published Portuguese translations of Luther’s writings before Lutherans started doing it in a systematic way.1

A list of writings translated and published separately in Portuguese until the 1970s includes: The 95 Theses, The Large Catechism, The Smalcald Articles, the Treatise on Christian Freedom, On Secular Authority, On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church, and The Magnificat Translated and Explained. Two collections with excerpts from the Reformer’s works were also published. Celebrations related to the anniversaries of the Augsburg Confession, the Book of Concord, and Luther’s birthday in 1983 induced the publishing houses of the Igreja Evangélica de Confissão Luterana no Brasil (Evangelical Church of the Lutheran Confession in Brazil; affiliated with the Lutheran World Federation, hereafter IECLB) and the Igreja Evangélica Luterana do Brasil (Evangelical Lutheran Church [End Page 430] of Brazil; affiliated with the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, hereafter IELB) to promote collaborative translation and editorial projects. Organized originally by families and congregations from European background, these two church bodies kept their distance for many decades. The ongoing question of Lutheran identity in a multicultural and multireligious context brought both churches to search for historical and theological differences, and also to be convinced about their similarities. In this context, translating the literary legacy of the Lutheran Reformation, especially Luther’s works, was an objective and practical way to work out their own and common Lutheran identity.2

Since 1966, the “Comissão Interluterana de Literatura” (Inter-Lutheran Publishing Commission; hereafter CIL),3 comprised of representatives of IECLB and IELB, has sponsored the publication of Martinho Lutero: Obras Selecionadas, the major resource presented here. In addition to a yearly prayer book, entitled “Castelo Forte” (A Mighty Fortress), this Commission has been in charge of “Luther’s Selected Works,” delegating its implementation to the Comissão Editorial de Obras Selecionadas de Martinho Lutero (The Editorial Commission of Martin Luther’s Selected Works; hereafter CEOL). From the beginning, the publishing houses of IECLB and IELB, respectively, Editora Sinodal (São Leopoldo) and Editora Concórdia (Porto Alegre), have been indispensable in this process. They were joined later by the publishing house of the Universidade Luterana do Brasil (the Lutheran University of Brazil in Canoas). The church bodies are responsible for financial support, applying their own resources and raising funds from sister churches and foundations in North America and Europe. A substantial part of the editorial work depends on volunteer labor, for example, the reviewing and editing of historical introductions and footnotes.

Martinho Lutero: Obras Selecionadas has a general editor, who oversees all the publishing stages of each volume. Luís Marcos Sander was the first to hold this position and was succeeded by Ilson Kayser, Darci Drehmer, and then Yedo Brandenburg, the current general editor. The general editor works closely with the aforementioned Editorial Commission, populated by specialists in Reformation history and Luther’s theology. They define the thematic concept for [End Page 431] each volume, select the writings, check the translations, write historical introductions to each text and assist the editor in the preparation of explanatory notes. Currently, the Editorial Commission members are Claus Schwambach, Clóvis Jair Prunzel, Mário Francisco Tessmann, Paulo Wille Buss, Wilhelm Wachholz and Ricardo Willy Rieth, president. Former members were Joachim Fischer, Donaldo Schüler, Martim Warth, Nestor Beck, Mário Rehfeldt, Martin Dreher, Albérico Baeske, Osmar Witt, Silfredo Dalferth and Paulo Nerbas...


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