The Amish are known as a deeply devout community, living separately from modern society and putting their religion before all else. But what exactly is that religion, and what Bible do the Amish use?
Because of their seclusion from urban life, outsiders have developed some strange ideas about the religious beliefs of the Amish people. As with most things, it’s common to misinterpret things we don’t understand. So, we’ve put together an explanation of the Amish Bible and its role in their communities.
We’re certain you’ll learn a new thing or two, and maybe you’ll even develop a new appreciation for all things Amish.
What this article covers:
- How Does Amish Religion Differ from Christianity?
- What is the Amish Bible Called?
- What Role Does The Bible Play In Everyday Amish Life?
How Does Amish Religion Differ from Christianity?
Amish culture, and indeed all underlying Amish principles, was built on the foundation of their religious beliefs, but how does the Amish religion differ from Christianity?
First, we need to clear up this common misconception that the Amish religion differs from Christianity. The Amish religion isn’t separate at all. It’s a denomination of Christianity. The Amish believe in Jesus, the trinity, and that God created all that there is.
Amish religion differs greatly from other Christian denominations in the way it’s interpreted and expressed, although it’s built on the same core beliefs. The Bible, too, features prominently in religious observances, such as Church services, wedding ceremonies, and also Amish funeral traditions.
Amish Church Day
The Amish go to church on Sundays just like almost all Protestants and believe in baptism just like most denominations. However, they go to church on alternating Sundays, rather than consecutive Sundays. Other than those differences, Amish religious observance tends to follow a similar pattern.
Bible readings are done in church, and sermons are given. Hymns are sung, just like at other Christian gatherings. But they don’t use any old hymnals. They use the oldest one there is.
The Ausbund, the hymnal used in Amish communities, is the oldest Christian hymnal still in use today. It was first printed in the year 1564 and originally contained fifty-one hymns. This Old German treasure was the creative work of Anabaptists imprisoned in Passau, Germany.
Why were they imprisoned? What was their crime? They had ‘radical’ religious views that were in opposition to traditional Christian teachings of the time. The Amish are, in fact, a group that later splintered off from the Swiss German Anabaptists.
Their leader, Jakob Amman, was the origin of the name ‘Amish’ and, like a true religious leader, he brought his followers to their very own promised land. He led them in a wave of emigration that culminated in all the Amish people living in North America.
They also believe that baptism shouldn’t be performed on infants, but rather on people old enough to understand the step they’re taking. This baptism ritual is one of the biggest milestones in an Amish person’s life. It marks the start of a life devoted to God, family, and the Amish community.
What is the Amish Bible Called?
The Bible plays a central role in every Amish community, but just as there are no such things as an Amish religion, there’s no such thing as an Amish Bible. Religion, and the Bible, are both Christian. Therefore the Amish Bible is called the same thing the Christian Bible is called, for they are the same.
The only difference is that, unlike most American Christian societies, the Bible they most often use is written in an old form of German from centuries past, but that’s not the only Bible that they know and love.
Bible Versions the Amish Use
The Amish typically use the German version of the Martin Luther Bible. This is a High German dialect and is used by the Amish for Bible readings in church. Although they speak another dialect in their homes, called ‘Pennsylvania Dutch’, this isn’t a written language but more of a conversational one.
They’re also familiar with the King James Version, and New International Version, the two most popular Bibles in the English-speaking world. Children are taught English in school, and as they grow older, they retain their basic knowledge of English.
What Role Does the Bible Play in Everyday Amish Life?
The Amish believe that the Bible is the infallible Word of God. The Amish live their lives, and dedicate all they do, to following God’s Will. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the Bible plays such a big role in everyday Amish life, as a powerful Amish symbol of faith.
Scriptures Influenced the Development of the Ordnung
Many rules in the Ordnung, the Amish guide to life, are based either directly, or indirectly, on scriptural texts. The Old Testament is highly revered, perhaps more so than in most mainstream Christain denominations, which tend to focus on the New Testament.
Many of the rules in the Ordnung, especially those warning against displays of vanity and worldliness, are derived from biblical sources. For example, the Amish are forbidden to partake in activities that allow or glorify violence. This naturally includes a ban on military service, This can be traced to a biblical text in the Book of Proverbs. "A man of violence entices his neighbor and leads him in a way that is not good."
The rule forbidding the use of cameras is linked to a biblical text. "You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below." This is found in verse 4 in the twentieth chapter of the Book of Exodus, in the Old Testament.
However, this doesn’t mean that the Amish don’t value the New Testament. They do, and they see Jesus as the Son of God, just like in most Christian churches. They place just as much importance on the New Testament Gospels as they do on the Old Testament.
The Bible and Amish Dress Code
Many Amish norms develop around their interpretation of biblical texts. The most obvious examples are their dress code laws and rules related to physical appearance.
In the Bible, great importance is placed on dressing modestly, and practicing humility. That’s why the Amish do this at all times. The long dresses and bonnets of Amish women, and the simple clothes of Amish men, all find their origins in these biblical interpretations.
Even that well-known symbol of Amish masculinity, the beard, can be traced back to the Bible. “You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard”. That’s an admonition against shaving or cutting beards, which can be found in the book of Leviticus, chapter 19 verse 27.
Amish Mothers Read Bible Stories to Their Children
Amish children don’t attend formal Sunday school classes as other non-Amish Christian children do, but they have a thorough knowledge of the Bible and Christian morals. The way that this is taught to them is similar to mainstream Christianity.
Books of children's Bible stories are very popular in most Amish communities. They’re seen as teaching tools for children, and adults too. The simple parables and messages in these books are a great source of education. They teach the Christian morals on which Amish values and norms are based.
As the Amish have basic proficiency in English, they can easily understand these Bible stories. They translate them from English into their native Old German dialect, known as Pennsylvania Dutch.
Apocryphal Books Are Used for Ceremonies
The Amish are familiar with Apocrypha Bible books, too. These are scriptural texts that weren’t included in the Protestant biblical canon. They use an apocryphal book that is absent from other protestant Bibles, for wedding ceremonies.
This is the Book of Tobit, and it’s used as the basis for wedding ceremony sermons. Because it’s not part of the Protestant canon, it isn’t included in most Protestant Christian Bibles. It is, however, included in the
Apocryphal section of the Luther Bible which the Amish use.
The book of Tobit can be found in the Catholic Bible and certain Orthodox Christian sects also use it. It has been assigned to the Apocrypha, a collection of religious texts which aren’t seen on an equal footing as other recognized scriptures. They do, however, offer a rich source of context for biblical times.
The Bible and Work
To the spiritual person, work is seen as more than just a means of income. It’s a gift from God. In the very first book of the Old Testament, the Book of Genesis, there is a verse that says “ The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work and keep it” (Genesis 2:15).
Therefore, meaningful work has been part of God’s plan for humanity since the very beginning. And few people take joy in their work, like the Amish. The fruits of their labor benefit the community in two ways. They are used by the Amish themselves and are also sold to provide the community with income streams.
Like the first humans that God gave work to, the Amish are primarily farmers. They are also carpenters and practice traditional handicrafts. They raise barns to store grain and farm implements. They work their lands and fill their hand-woven vegetable harvest baskets with home-grown fresh produce.
Nowhere is this joy of work more evident than in the Amish Baskets range. Now you, too, can enjoy these gorgeous handwoven creations. The beauty of rustic wicker baskets is that they are natural, eco-friendly, and made with love and care.
In this way, they’re not all that different from the types of baskets that people used in ancient times, but these traditionally-styled baskets have an exciting twist. They’re designed to be equally at home in an Amish community as in non-Amish urban dwellings.
If you work from home and need storage solutions for your home and office, Amish Baskets are the ideal choice. You’ll find everything from decorative hanging file folders to handy under the bed baskets, and even toilet paper roll baskets. You’ll have a charming office nook and tidy store closet in no time.
Seven in ten Americans identify as Christians, making it the most represented religion in the US. Christians see the Bible as a book of religious guidance, and also a source of comfort during life's trials. As a Christian Protestant denomination, the Amish form a part of this Christian majority.
Although the Amish people practice their version of Protestantism differently from others, they rely on the same Christian Bible for guidance in life.
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