The Truth About Nazi Germany’s Very Different Version Of The Bible

Countless books have been written on the relationship between Naziism and Christianity, and not without cause. At the time of Hitler’s rise to power, nearly 100% of Germany’s 60 million citizens identified as Christian, including 40 million Protestants and 20 million Catholics (via the Holocaust Encyclopedia). The Nazi Party received only nominal public pushback from Germany’s main churches, with the exception of Lutheran pastors Martin Niemöller and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who faced prison and death, respectively, for their resistance.

Why was there so little opposition? Well, a lot of reasons. Number one: people just suck, in general, regardless of what ideals they claim to uphold. But the Nazis also straight-up rewrote the Bible into the “Third Reich Bible” using what they called “Positive Christianity.” It turns out that it’s pretty easy to manipulate a religion when you take the time to muck around in its sacred scriptures. 

The Nazi Bible: No Old Testament, 12 commandments

There’s a famous line from Edward Gibbon about how politicians consider all religions “equally useful”; in that regard, the Nazis were very much politicians. While Hitler’s antisemitism was mostly rooted in “scientific” eugenic ideas, he was more than happy to amplify Christianity’s long antisemitic streak (via Tablet). Accordingly, Hitler came up with a concept called “Positive Christianity,” which dialed down the “don’t kill” stuff and dialed the Jew-hatin’ stuff way up.

The so-called Third Reich Bible had no Old Testament and sought to remove all Jewish writers from the New Testament (which, taken on its face, is almost everyone). Jewish place names were removed, nearly all Old Testament quotations were excised, and Jesus’ dialog was rewritten to be chock-full of Nazi propaganda. Even more bizarrely, the Nazis rewrote the 10 Commandments into a list of 12 that surprisingly leaves out “Thou shalt not kill” and “Thou shalt not steal,” but helpfully includes lines like “Keep the blood pure” and “Honor your Führer” (via The Free Library).

Unshockingly, this sort of blatant sacrilege led to a pretty severe split in the German Evangelical Church between the “Deutsche Christians,” who were cool with Nazi Jesus, and “Confessing Christians,” who thought Hitler had no business dictating theology (via the Holocaust Encyclopedia). Hitler went on to turn himself into one of history’s biggest losers, though, rendering the whole debate mostly moot.

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