The first page of Genesis in Spanish. (LCMS/Erik M. Lunsford)

By Rev. Ruben Dominguez-Martinez

Hispanic Heritage Month will be observed by The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. As part of the observance, The LCMS is featuring a series of online articles about Lutheran Hispanic Ministry. View the collection

Casiodoro de Reina (ca. 1520–1594), a monk in the Seville area of Spain in the mid-16th century, was one of the first Spaniards to embrace the principles of the Protestant Reformation. Those principles are grounded solely in the text of the Bible. Aware of the importance of spreading the Bible among his fellow citizens, Reina set himself the goal of publishing it completely in Spanish.

After years of work, including challenges outside of Spain to gather, translate and revise various translations of the biblical text, Reina completed his project, whereupon he set about to find a printer — no easy task in those days.

The first printing of the complete Bible in Spanish was finished in 1569 in Basel, Switzerland. The original cover contained an illustration of a standing bear trying to eat honey from a honeycomb hidden in a tree trunk. For this reason, Reina’s Bible would come to be known as The Bear Bible.

When Reina’s Bible was introduced into Spain, the bear on the cover helped him conceal its contents from the Inquisition, an institution that had previously condemned him as a heresiarch (teacher of heretics) and burned him in effigy at the April 1562 auto-da-fé in the main plaza of Seville.

Reina wanted all of Spain to gain the benefits of the Gospel message, especially the teaching of justification by faith alone before God, thanks to the sacrifice and merits of Jesus Christ won on the cross. Reina died in Frankfurt, Germany, while serving as pastor of a Lutheran congregation of foreign refugees.

Reina’s translation and publication of the biblical text have made a significant impact among Spanish-speaking people. His legacy will surely live on because his version of the Scriptures, now commonly known as Reina-Valera, is the most widely read in evangelical churches and circles in the Spanish-speaking world.

Listen to an interview with the Rev. Ruben Dominguez-Martinez

Audio courtesy of KFUO Radio

The Rev. Ruben DominguezMartinez is a retired pastor in McAllen, Texas. He travels frequently to Latin America to assist Lutheran churches, missionaries and mission sites.