The Amish community has a reputation for its strict religious beliefs, religious customs, and traditional lifestyle that distinguishes them from the secular world.
They are also known for their aversion to modern technology including farm machinery, personal computers, use of automobiles, and modern medicine, among other things. Additionally, the Amish forbid their followers from participating in military service and holding government offices.
The topic of Amish culture has recently taken Tv shows like national geographic and TLC by storm. The Amish settled in the United States early in the 18th century.
After Amish settlement in the States, they divided into various groups including Old Order Amish, beachy Amish, swartzentruber Amish, and more recently, New Order Amish. Historically, Amish beliefs have put them at loggerheads with Christian groups.
Despite their differences, the Amish share one thing with Christians, the Bible. The Bible is the cornerstone of Amish life. Contrary to popular belief that there exists a sacred text of the Amish people, the Amish Bible is non-existent. In fact, the use of the Bible is one of the few similarities between the Amish, mainstream protestant denominations, and the catholic church.
The two common Bible options for Amish groups are the English king James version and the German Martin Luther Bible.
Some groups of Amish communities, like the New order Amish, use a combination of both the English version and the German Martin Luther Bible, commonly known as the German/English Bible. A few Amish use the New International Version Bible, which is popular in Christian churches.
Bibles used by church members in Amish church districts are generally bigger because they have a German version on one side and the English King James translation on the other side.
In this article, we will discuss the use of the King James Bible and German Bible by the Amish population. We will also look at how often the Amish read the Bible, scripture readings, and other publications read by the Amish.
The German Bible
According to the Amish, the German Bible is an original translation. They believe the German Bible is accurate since it is the ‘original version’. Therefore, the Amish place importance on reading the German Bible.
Unfortunately, most Amish people are not fluent in German. Although their native language is a Pennsylvania Dutch/ Pennsylvania German dialect, they can barely understand German.
This is mostly because, with time, they started reading and writing in English from an early age. Therefore it really difficult for them to understand the German Bible.
Although are some German language Bible translations in PA Dutch, the Bible is still hard to read.
What comes first? Traditions or the Bible?
The Amish are keen on following the Bible’s teachings, which explains why most of their rules are loosely based on their leader’s interpretation of the Bible.
That notwithstanding most rules followed by the Amish, including specific details of the Ordnung, are passed down from one generation to the next.
Usually, if a Bible verse contradicts their rules or spiritual practice, they dismiss it. They only focus on Bible verses that support their Amish faith. This is especially common with those in the Old Amish church.
It goes without saying that the Amish traditions take precedence over the Bible.
How often do the Amish read the Bible?
The Amish read the Bible, but they tend to stick to scriptures of the New Testament that they are familiar with i.e the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
It is notable that the Amish aren’t necessarily encouraged to read the Bible. According to them, reading the Bible too much will mislead you. They also believe that individuals who read the Bible on their own are likely to misinterpret the scriptures and become deceived.
Therefore, reading the Bible is often reserved for bishops or preachers. It is the church leaders’ sole responsibility to read the scriptures, interpret them, and spread the word. This explains why Bible study is almost unheard of among the Amish.
The main reason why the Amish discourage young people from reading the Bible is that most people who do become educated on God’s word, see the truth for what it is, and leave the church.
One of the reasons for the Amish separation of the church to form Old Order Amish and New Order Amish is that the latter were keen on studying the Bible because they figured there was more to it than what the preachers were letting on.
New Order Amish encourage all their members to study the Bible. In these churches, Bible reading is not reserved for church services. The New Order Amish mostly read the English King James version, but a few still use the German/English bible.
Scripture readings in Amish churches
Every Amish church has a set yearly schedule for scripture reading. This means that the Bible verses are selected beforehand, and the presiding deacon is just given scripture to read every Sunday.
The Amish tend to use the same schedule every year, so their focus is limited to approximately twenty six scriptures. These selected scriptures are mostly from the New Testament.
The Amish use a special songbook called the Ausbund which is used in Amish worship services. The Ausbund is arguably the oldest songbook that has been in continuous use to date. The hymns in this particular songbook date back to hundreds of years ago.
According to the Amish beliefs, the hymns were written by their forefathers, the Anabaptists. Since the Anabaptists were prosecuted for their beliefs, most of the hymns are about faith in God and human suffering.
There are no musical notes in the Ausbund. Therefore, the tunes are just passed down from generation to generation.
Other books and publications read by the Amish
The Amish do not restrict themselves to the Bible. Most Amish read the Martyrs Mirror, a historical book whose main focus is on Christian martyrs suffering in historical times.
The book has several stories of how members of the Christian anabaptist faith, who are believed to be Amish predecessors in Europe, were prosecuted. The Amish believe these stories to be true, and draw inspiration from them.
Spiritual-themed books and magazines are also common in Amish families. Religious authors that are popular include Rick Warren, John Maxwell, and Max Lucado. Fictional books are not too popular, but I’m pretty sure there are some Amish women and men that take an interest in fiction.
Amish children also read children's Bible storybooks. You are likely to find children's books like the Family Bible Library and Arthur Maxwell series in most Amish homes.
The Amish do not frequently interact with the outside world, but they still read local edition newspapers. They try to stay updated on what is happening around them.
Like most Christian groups, the Amish use the English King James version. Some Old Order Amish still use the German/English Bible, but they are currently more receptive to English translations.
Old Order Amish tend to follow the teachings of the Bible that align with Amish living, but New Order Amish are more keen on reading the Bible as a whole.
Old Order Amish discourage their followers from reading the Bible while New Order Amish encourage their followers to read the Bible.
In conclusion, the Amish have no specific Bible, they use the same Bibles that Christians do.