Do the Amish use a Bible?

Readers and audiences always ask questions about the Amish -- this complex American sub-culture that intrigues people around the globe. My blog readers are in Canada, Australia, Central and South America, and European countries.

Most people believe all Amish are godly, conservative Christians. Most believe all Amish read, study, and live the words of the Bible.

I was speaking recently when an audience member raised her hand and asked, "Do the Amish use a Bible?"

"Yes." But the explanation is as complex as the Amish.
Some higher (less restrictive) orders read an English-language Bible. 
Some moderate orders allow a German/English parallel Bible.
The Swartzentruber order, believe the German-language Bible is the "only true Bible!" Sorry to disappoint them but, original Biblical languages were Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament) - specifically Koine Greek. I'm perplexed why the Amish froze on German as the "only true" language.
John from the Old Order said, "My dad told me that if we read an English bible we will be misled." Yet, another Old Order man from Illinois said, "We had mostly English/German parallel bibles."

Harvey Z. - I posted about him last November - began reading the Bible in English while he was still Swartzentruber Amish. His practice was, of course, against the Ordnung rules! Nonetheless, he and his wife secretly read the Bible in their home. Once they began, a new door opened to their understanding.

Harvey - like others - realized, "If you happen to read your English Bible you will find things that the Lord Jesus commanded the church to do that the Amish DON'T do. The Bishop and Ministers want you to do as they say is the Amish custom, not what the Bible says, if it differs. One man says that he was personally instructed this way in his settlement.

Young Uriah - who has been in my home many times - related how he began reading an English language Bible. His Amish father discovered the breach of rules and promptly burned that Bible.

Likewise, as an Old Order Amish preacher, Lester began reading the Bible in English. He gained new understanding. Learned new truths. Discovered some discrepancies between the Bible and what the Amish taught. His Bishop discovered Lester's behavior and discouraged him from continuing the practice. "But I'm learning so much," protested Lester. Eventually, the settlement's bishop gave Lester and his wife an ultimatum: Read only in German or leave Amish! Lester and his wife left.

Along with the language insistence, most Amish adhere to the "only true" version - King James. I've seen several former-Amish struggle to accept AND ARGUE AGAINST any other translation including New International Version, The Living Bible, The Message, or The New King James Version.

Hey, I'm thrilled they want to read the Bible! But I point out that in 1611 King James - who was really Prince James VI of Scotland - ordered a written translation of sacred manuscripts. And that since 1611, several word meanings have changed. Some words in 1611 had meanings opposite of today's understanding. Besides, the king had quite the ego and his personal life was controversial. Look it up.

Didn't I tell you the answer was complex? Maybe TMI?

Your turn! Do you have a story about the Amish and the Bible? Leave your comment below.

(C)Copyright, 2015. Brenda Nixon.


  1. Question--but not really on subject of your current post. Do the Amish of each sub-group believe that all the other groups are headed for hell since there are differences in their beliefs? I'm mainline Protestant, but I sure don't think that everyone outside of my church community is doomed. Differences like the width of a hat brim stretch my understanding and make it difficult to see these groups as anything else but cult-like.

    1. Good question and one that I was just discussing with a former Amish from a Pennsylvania Old Order group. He told me that his group thought it was right, and other Amish were going to hell. Referring to his Old Order group, he said, "They're stuck up." Go figure.
      I rely on the Bible verse that says man looks on the outward, God looks at the heart. (I Samuel 15:7). So who can really know another's destiny but God?

    2. There is the feel that that is the case, and I would say yes, most of them do have that mentality. They may not say that, but that was the feel I got growing up. But the Swartzentrubers don't actually believe they them self are assured of their own salvation, but rather in "hope" of their salvation.

      I tried to post this yesterday, but it did not work.

  2. There are a lot of people with no Amish connections that believe the KJV is God's preserved Word for English speaking people. I agree. Especially after doing extensive research I can't see why anyone would want to use a different version.