Artwork: "Study_Last Standing" Artist: Kobe Sek
During my recent meditations, my wife (who is German) asked me: "Why did CPH (and presumably other American Lutheran publishing houses?) translate Luther's 'Was ist das?' from the Small Catechism as 'What does this mean?' If Luther had wanted to ask this question he would have written, 'Was bedeutet das?'"
Curiosity piqued, I did a search of Luther's Bible translation (1545) and found 'Was bedeutet das?' does not occur in his translation of Scripture anywhere;
'bedeutet' (the verb form) itself occurs 14x: almost exclusively in Daniel (once each in Genesis, Ezekiel, I Peter)—in all cases in connection to the Divinely-sourced interpretation of dreams, visions, and wonders worked by God;
'Bedeutung' (the noun form) occurs only twice: Joseph's interpretation of the the dreams of the butler and baker, and Paul's spiking (rightly) the value of tongue-speaking.
Alternatively, the exact phrase 'Was ist das' that Luther uses in the Catechism occurs 34x across both testaments in his translation:
most notably it is asked of Abraham by a prince of the Hittites (descended from Ham through Canaan) during the deed-transaction to buy the land nearby Hebron in which Abraham buries Sarah (and which the patriarchs and their families will use for their burial place);
is used by Jacob and Moses;
is part of key scenes in Judges, Samuel & the Kings, and Nehemiah;
is in all four of the Gospels (but especially John's) and used by the people discussing/recognizing among themselves the profound bearing of Jesus' words and miracles, and by Pharisees et al. confounded by the same;
in Acts it used by the Roman commander to learn (from Paul's nephew) of the assassination plot against Paul by the Jewish rulers.