When one recalls the men and women of the Protestant Reformation who, compelled by faith in the incarnate Logos, were foundational to its inception and the spreading of its ideas throughout Europe, it would be a surprise if the name Primoz Trubar were among them.
Primoz Trubar, however, played a key role in the spread of the Protestant vision in the small country of Slovenia. Slovenia is located to the east of Italy, the south of Austria, and to the west of Croatia and Hungary. Its southern border disappears into the northernmost “tip” of the Adriatic Sea, and the terrain is predominantly mountainous with the beautiful Julian Alps dominating the northwest portion.
Trubar was born in 1508 in the small town of Rasica, found in central Slovenia. He was educated in Austria and entered a tutorship in the Roman Catholic Church in the small city of Trieste, located in northeastern Italy. While in Trieste, he studied the Humanist writers and actually corresponded with Erasmus of Rotterdam (while not a Reformer, Erasmus was critical of the Catholic Church and called for reform while remaining faithful to the papacy). In 1527, the priest Pietro Bonomo sent him back to central Slovenia as a Catholic priest.
In 1528 he began studies at the University of Vienna, but did not complete them. In 1530 he returned to central Slovenia to become a preacher. While there, he began to gradually lean towards Protestantism and was eventually expelled from Ljubljiana, the largest city in Slovenia, in 1547. He was simultaneously excommunicated from the Catholic Church.
In 1550, while a Protestant preacher in Rothenburg, Germany (under the support of Veit Dietrich, a close friend of Martin Luther), he wrote his first two books in Slovene, his native tongue. Spurred on by fellow reformers located in Slovenia and Croatia, Trubar began to then translate the Bible into Slovene. He translated the Gospel of Matthew in 1555, and by 1577 had completed the entire New Testament. Towards the end of his life, he was the principle of South Slavic Bible Institute. Primoz Trubar died in 1586 in Derendingen, Germany, where he is also buried.
Today, Slovenia is predominantly Roman Catholic (58%) with a large percentage also identifying as irreligious. Only 0.8% of the population is Lutheran. However, while almost unknown in the U.S., Trubar remains a national hero there. Why? Faithful to the Protestant vision of educating the masses in their local vernacular, Trubar’s translation of the New Testament into Slovene literally founded the language and consolidated the local dialects of the region into a unified, written tongue. The unification and founding of the language, as naturally happens, gave rise to Slovene culture and tradition. While the Catholic counter-Reformation was swift, brutal, and lasting, Trubar’s contributions to Slovenia are not lost on the people. Sadly, however, Slovenia is still in need of a faithful Gospel presence.
In conclusion, we can and should praise God for His work through Primoz Trubar and his faithfulness in being a voice to his beloved Slovene people. There is, though, much work left to be done in that lovely, albeit spiritually desperate nation.