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WHY ANOTHER TRANSLATION?
There have been many fine translations of the Scriptures which, over the years, have been such a wonderful source of blessing to so many. Yet the multitude of choices between available translations is in itself a source of confusion for many. Which translation is truly the Word of the Most High? Don’t some translations appear to outrightly contradict the reading of certain other translations? Is it really necessary, one may ask, to add yet another one?
The reality is that the inspired Word of the Almighty is not represented adequately in any translation or version made by human beings (including this one!), for the best translation only represents the sincere and prayerful attempt by human beings to render the Word of the Creator into a receptor language which ultimately has its origins at the Tower of Baḇel, and words in one language do not have a one-to-one correspondence with words in any other language. The Scriptures are, after all, those words which were originally breathed out by the very Creator Himself. While we definitely believe in the overriding hand of Providence in the transmission of the Scriptures (Rom. 3:2; 9:4,5), no sincere translator (or board of translators) would ever be so pompous as to assert that his or her translation is the very Word of the Almighty himself!
Approaching the task of Scripture translation from different backgrounds, environments, cultural mindsets, etc. inevitably affects the end result. Those with no access to the original language of Scripture become entirely dependent on whichever translations are in their hands. Apart from taking steps to get to grips with the original languages of the Scriptures (something that we would earnestly encourage every genuine student of the Scriptures to do), the only other recourse they have is to acquire and compare as many translations/versions of the Scriptures as possible. This way something, however small, may be grasped, of the multifaceted depth of the original. Thus there remains a real need for further translations which will help to bring forth yet further elements from the original tongue that are not adequately reflected in other translations.
This is precisely where “The Scriptures - 2009 Edition (ISR)” comes into the picture. This edition of the Scriptures, while attempting to be an accurate translation, seeks at the same time to introduce the reader to something of the Hebraic mindset and culture which are very much a part of the original. Indeed, we see this is as absolutely necessary for the serious student of Scripture. The events of Scripture did not occur in the modern western world, with its Anglo-Hellenist mindset, but within the very different world of the ancient middle-east, and the Semitic mindset of the People of Yisra’ĕl. While we have sought to accurately translate rather than to interpret, aiming at producing a literal translation rather than a paraphrase, we have tried to provide the student of Scripture with a tool which in some way helps him or her to “experience” the Scriptures as Semitic rather than Hellenistic. In so doing we have taken much further the work of the 1993 and 1998 editions of the ISR “Scriptures” toward this end.
As in the earlier editions, our aims have included:
“A translation of the Scriptures which:
First, The Torah - Law
We have rendered it by the Hebrew word itself, Torah, i.e. the five books of Mosheh (Moses), also known as the Ḥumash, or (The Pentateuch), Law or Teaching. They consist of the following 5 books:
Then, The Neḇi’im - Prophets
These books are known as The Prophets, not because of the element of prediction (a considerable amount of their content is historical rather than predictive!), but because of being written by prophets. They are divided into two categories, the Former Prophets, and the Latter Prophets, referring to their time of writing. The Latter Prophets were further divided into Major Prophets, and Minor Prophets (known as Shnĕm Asar, i.e. The Twelve).
Please note that we have restored the book of Dani’ĕl to its rightful place among the Prophets*, as also did Josephus. We have placed it between Yeḥezqĕl / Ezekiel (the third of the Latter Prophets), and Shnĕm Asar / The Twelve (the fourth of the Latter Prophets), instead of including it among The Kethuḇim (Writings), as is usually done. They consist of the following 9 books, i.e. 8 books, plus* Dani’ĕl:
The Former Prophets (4 books)
Shemu’ĕl (Aleph & Bĕt) (Samuel)
Melaḵim (Aleph & Bĕt) (Kings)
The Latter Prophets (4 books, plus Dani’ĕl)
Shnĕm Asar (The Twelve)
[Shnĕm Asar is one book, containing the works of twelve prophets:
Then, The Kethuḇim - Writings
They are the remaining books of the Tanaḵ, (10 books, i.e. 11 less Dani’ĕl)
Shir haShirim (Song of Songs)
Qoheleth (Ecclesiastes, Convener)
Ezra - Neḥemyah (Nehemiah)
Diḇre haYamim (Aleph & Bĕt) (Chronicles, Annals)
Thus, the Torah, Neḇi’im and Kethuḇim go to make up the Tanaḵ, which is commonly known as the “Old Testament”. There are 24 books in all, according to the Hebraic reckoning (as given above), although the same books are reckoned by others to add up to 39, by counting the individual segments (such as Shemu’ĕl Aleph, Shemu’ĕl Bĕt, Ezra, Neḥemyah, etc.)
THE SECOND WRITINGS (variously called The Netzarim Writings, The Messianic Writings, The New Covenant, haBrit haḤadasha, The New Testament, etc.)
The ‘correct’ order of the books has been debated by some. The traditional order since Jerome is a roughly chronologiocal arrangement, and there is much to be said for this approach.In Western Christianity since the time of Jerome the letters of Ya’aqoḇ, Kĕpha, Yoḥanan and Yehuḏah have been placed after those of Sha’ul/Paul. An earlier arrangement (still preferred by Eastern Christianity) is to place these letters before Sha’ul/Paul. Others contend that a more consistent approach is to follow a topical arrangement, as in the traditional Hebraic arrangement of the Tanaḵ.
Each arrangement have its merits, but the reality is that there is no ‘original’ arrangement for the simple but obvious reason that the Second writings were not written as one book! Instead, they came about over time through the careful collation of those documents which had been preserved by various persons and congregations of individual ‘books’, letters, etc. written by those whom יהושע Rabbeinu appointed as his ‘personal representatives’ (shliḥim = ‘apostles’.)
These writings of men inspired by יהוה had been written under different circumstances in different places, at different times, yet were regarded all along as inspired documents because of the anointing on their authors. Each shaliaḥ / ‘apostle’ was writing as a personal representative of יהושע, and therefore also of יהוה, the anointing was on the very Writings themselves, from the vey beginning.
However, they still had to be collected into a single collection, before they became what we today know as the Second Writings (or ‘New Testament’), and that took place over time, with many collations of these Writings not having all the books we have today, and as could be expected, differing in their ordering of the books. Let us not forget that the original “Second-Writings-Believers” had no copy of the Second Writings. They wrote it! Naturally then, different ones in different places had only parts of the Second Writings until all those parts which we now have had been collected, and bound together. Thus, there is no ‘correct’ order of the books of the Second Writings.
Are the Second Writings then really necessary? Absolutely! That is why יהוה Eloheinu inspired them to be written, and anointed the Shliḥim (personal representatives) of יהושע to the task. These works are unique in their guidance concerning how those who follow יהושע the Messiah are to apply יהוה’s Torah to their lives. Truly, we are to live by “every Word of יהוה“, as Torah and יהושע Rabbeinu both exhort us to do (Deḇ. 8:3; Mt. 4:4), and that includes all of the Second Writings Kĕpha Bĕt 3:15, 16; Tim. Bĕt 3:16, 17).
Since there is no correct order of the books, we have decided to stay with the traditional Western order that we have followed in previous editions of The Scriptures until further consideration more strongly motivates our change to a different order of books. Thus there is a total of 27 books in all, or if reckoned Hebraically (e.g. counting Kĕpha Aleph & Kĕpha Bĕt as one book consisting of two letters, etc.), a total of 21.
THE RESTORATION OF THE NAME
The restoration of the Name of the Almighty to any translation of the Scriptures should require no justification. After all it was the Almighty Himself who originally placed His name in the Scriptures at least 6 823 times! It was human beings who decided, for reasons that made sense to them, to delete His Name and to replace it with something “more appropriate” in their view. This, in spite of the Creator’s own statement to and through Mosheh (Moses) that: “This is My Name forever, and this is My remembrance to all generations.” (Shemoth / Exodus 3:15, The Scriptures - 2009 Edition (ISR).
The reference in this passage is to the Name which, in Hebrew, consists of four letters Yod, Hey, Waw, Hey, and which is frequently referred to as ‘The Tetragrammaton’. These letters are often brought across into English characters by the use of the four letters, YHWH (or as YHVH). This has been variously pronounced as YaHWeH, YaHoWeH, YaHuWeH, YaHVeH, etc. We have chosen not to enter the pronunciation debate, but rather give the Name exactly as it appears in the unpointed Hebrew text, i.e. יהוה.
While there has been some debate over what is the most accurate and precise pronunciation, three things are clear however:
Firstly, the word Jehovah is definitely an erroneous pronunciation. This is so because it derives from a combination of the letters JHVH and Hebrew vowel points belonging to an altogether different word. Incidentally, the J was originally pronounced as a capital I (or Y), and thus the term Jehovah would have been read by early readers of the King James Version as Iehovah (or Yehovah.)
Secondly, any one of the various attempts to pronounce the Name is infinitely superior to the actual removal of the Name, and its substitution by an altogether different term! Substitution by a ‘good’ term does not alter the fact that it is a substitution, a replacement word. Further, some of the terms traditionally substituted for the Name are actually the names of pagan deities! This is true, not only in English, but also in the other languages of the world!
Thirdly, in spite of the above facts, many translations perpetuate a “tradition” of substituting “LORD” or “GOD”, all in capital letters, for our heavenly Father’s chosen Name, יהוה. Why? Many, and varied are the reasons which have been given, amongst both Christian and Jewish communities, for this serious error. Nevertheless, the fact remains that a translation purporting to be literal, yet resorting to the “device”, however well intentioned, of adding and subtracting from our heavenly Father’s own choice of Personal Name, would be doing a grave disservice to His cause. At best it would display ignorance, but at worst would show disrespect, or blatant disregard for the plain Word of the Almighty Himself!
This is a matter that the ISR has taken seriously from the very beginning. In the 1993 edition of “The Scriptures” we stated: “The Scriptures differs radically from most other translations in that it does not continue in the tradition of substituting the Name of the Father and of the Son with names ascribed to gentile (pagan) deities. All the names of deities which in the past have been ascribed to the Father, the Son, and even used when engaged in worship, have been avoided”. Our position has NOT changed. But surely He has many Names, one may ask? Not so! Men have called Him by many names, and indeed there are many titles by which He is known in Scripture (mistakenly called ‘names’ by some), but there is only ONE Name by which He urges us to remember Him to all generations! That is the Name יהוה! You may be surprised to find that the expression “I AM”, quoted by so many people from Shemoth /Ex. 3:14 as THE Name of the Almighty is NOT used even ONCE more in the Tanaḵ (Old Testament) after this verse. However, the Name יהוה is not only used in Shemoth /Ex. 3:15, but throughout the Tanaḵ, both before and after this passage, a total of 6 823 times in the Masoretic text of the Tanaḵ Alone. A rose, by any other name may smell just as sweet, but clearly this is not the case with יהוה! One may not simply substitute His Name with that of a pagan deity, be it God, Gott, Zeus, Theos, Pan, Allah, Lord, Lordo, Lard, Hlafweard, or any other. Nor can we refer to Him by even a generic Lord, referencing Krishna, Vishnu, or any other “Lord” of choice. Doing so is to attribute to another the work, power, esteem and wisdom which belongs only to יהוה Elohim (Yeshayahu /Is. 42:8). By His Name יהוה, He is to be distinguished from all “other deities”.
Many misguided individuals are under the false impression that, for instance, the words “Lord, LORD, God, GOD, Adonai or HaShem are “translations” of the Name of the Almighty. Nothing could be further from the truth! Consider once more the passage quoted above (Shemoth / Ex. 3:15) in which the ELOHIM (Heb. = “Mighty One”) of Aḇraham, Yitsḥaq and Ya’aqoḇ declares that his Name is יהוה and that this Name is to be His remembrance to all generations. Should this not then be the case in this generation also?
While names, especially in the Scriptures, frequently do have meanings, it is erroneous to think that we should call anyone or refer to anyone by the “translation” of his or her name. And the same holds true in Scripture. Giuseppe in Italian corresponds to Joseph in English; however, Giuseppe Verdi cannot be translated as Joseph Green in English, even if that is what it means in English! The proper name of any individual is not translated; it is always transliterated or transcribed in order to approximate its original pronunciation. We repeat: the proper name of any individual is simply not translated, more especially when we are dealing with the most important Ones: the Most High (יהוה) and His Son (יהושע)!
For all of these reasons, we have returned these Most Set Apart Names to their rightful place in our translation of the Scriptures, and have done so by using the Hebrew characters rather than any English rendering. Such a rendering has solid historical precedent in the earliest copies of the Septuagint (LXX), and has the merit of being true to the text, neither adding nor subtracting by means of substitutions (however well-intended).
It has also the additional merit of allowing the individual reader to progress in his own quest for accuracy of pronunciation, as he seeks to obey the scriptural injunctions to call on the Name (Shemoth / Ex. 3:15; Yeshayahu / Isa.12:4; Yirmeyahu / Jer. 10:25; Tehillim / Ps. 105:1,3), to make it known (Shemoth / Ex. 9:16; Yeshayahu / Is. 64:1,2; Yeḥezqĕl / Ez. 39:7), and to not obliterate or forget it (Deḇarim / Dt. 12:3,4; Yeshayahu / Isa. 65:11; Yirmeyahu / Jer. 23:27; Tehillim / Ps. 44:20)!
In the same way the Messiah’s Name in Hebrew, יהושע, was chosen in order to avoid controversy. All the available authoritative sources and references are in agreement and clearly admit that our Messiah’s Name was יהושע (see for instance Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, under Iesous). While the short form “Yeshua” (ישוע) is popular with many (indeed the Shem Toḇ Hebrew text of Mattithyahu renders it as such, as also the Hebrew translation of the “New Testament” by F. Delitzch), Dr. Solomon Zeitlin refutes this form as the Name of our Messiah, favouring instead the form יהושע (see The Jewish Quarterly Review, Jan. 1970, p.195). At this stage we need to explain the word “Elohim” used in this translation. English translations have traditionally rendered it as “God” or as “god(s)” in most instances. However, the Hebrew word “elohim” is the plural form of “eloah”, which has the basic meaning of “mighty one”. This word is not only used for deity, but is used in Scripture for judges, angels and idols (Shemoth / Ex. 7:1; 9:28; 12:12; 22:8, 9; Tehillim / Ps. 8:5; 82:1, 6) besides being used frequently for the Almighty. The shorter forms, “el” and “elim” have the same basic meaning and similar usage. (Needless to say, the same would apply to the Aramaic equivalents, such as “elah” and “elahin”). By transliterating these expressions instead of translating them as “Mighty One” something of the richness of the Hebrew is communicated, and we therefore retained them, with the exception of a few instances, such as Bereshith / Gen. 10:8; 31:30,32; 35:2,4; Shemoth / Ex. 12:12; 15:11; 18:11; 20:3,23; 23:13,24, where the translation of “mighty one” or “mighty ones” seemed more appropriate.
THE TEXT OF THE TANAḴ AND SECOND WRITINGS
THE Tanaḵ (Pre-Second Writings Scripture, commonly called The Old Testament):
The Tanaḵ in this translation is based on the Masoretic Hebrew and Aramaic text of the Scriptures, printed in the 1937 edition of Rudolph Kittel’s Biblia Hebraica. This is based on the ben Asher text of Leningrad, B 19a. Generally speaking, there are few problems with the Masoretic text, because the Masoretes copied the Scriptures in great fear of making mistakes and altering the text. They used the device of the Kethuḇim and Qerĕ by means of which they indicated in the margins their preferred readings. However, they did make a few changes in the text itself which have been recorded for us, but unfortunately not all in one manuscript. In 134 places the Sopherim (Scribes) removed the Name יהוה and substituted the term Adonai. In a further 8 places the Name יהוה was substituted by the term Elohim. These have been collected by Dr. C.D. Ginsberg in his Introduction to the Massoretico-Critical Edition of the Hebrew Bible, (Ktav Publishing House Inc. New York).
We have accordingly restored the text to its original readings in these 142 places, and have also restored the text in accordance with the “Eighteen emendations of the Sopherim”, which are also recorded for us by Dr. C.D. Ginsberg. A list of these 160 places is provided in the Explanatory Notes for your convenience.
THE SECOND WRITINGS (variously called The Netzarim Writings, The Messianic Writings, The New Covenant, haBrit haḤadasha, The New Testament, etc.):
An issue that presents itself to anyone wanting to get to the “original” words behind those of the various translations available in any language is the matter of Primacy. In other words, in what language were the words of the Second Writings originally inspired? Unfortunately, we do not have the original text. Only very old copies are currently available, until the archaeologists give us something more. The oldest, but not necessarily the ‘best’ copies currently available are in Greek. Were these (ultimately) copies of Greek or Semitic (i.e. Hebrew / Aramaic) originals?
Positions vary on the matter of Primacy, most scholars opting for the more traditional view of Western Christianity, that they were originally written in Greek. However, there are various scholars who dispute this intensely, maintaining that at least part, if not all of the Second Writings are of Semitic origin. Indeed, this represents the position of Eastern Christianity, where for example, the ‘authorized version’ of the Church of the East is the Peshitta, in which the Second Writings are entirely in Aramaic. The Peshitta in its current form does not go back beyond the fourth century, but its advocates strongly maintain that it rests firmly upon Aramaic originals.
We are not going to go argue the case here, beyond stating that we believe that there is a very strong case to be made for the view that the originals were inspired in a Semitic language and not in Greek, as is commonly supposed. The Institute for Scripture Research is firmly of the persuasion that the originals were written in a Semitic tongue, and that they are intended by יהוה our Elohim to find their natural place in the Tanaḵ (Torah, Neḇi’im, Kethuḇim) as part of the Kethuḇim (Writings). This view, that the Scriptures in their entirety, consist of Semitic Writings, originally given to Semitic people, within a Semitic religious and cultural context should not seem so strange, against the background of Paul / Sha’ul’s statement concerning the Yehuḏim (Jews) that “they were entrusted with the Words of Elohim” (Rom.3:2). This is in no way to be seen as contradicting the commission of יהושע Rabbeinu, our Master the Messiah, to make talmidim (taught ones) of all the nations ( Mattityahu / Mat. 28:19,20; Luqas / Luke. 24:47; Ma`asei / Acts 1:8), for was it not He who taught that “deliverance/ salvation is of the Yehuḏim” (Yoḥanan / Jn. 4:22)?
In addition to the above, there is the matter of substituting the Name of the Father and the Son with other terms, especially in light of the scriptural prohibition against adding to or diminishing from the words of the Most High (Deḇarim / Dt. 4:2;12:32; Mishlĕ / Pr.30:4-6). And if it be further admitted (see for example, Explanatory Notes, under Jesus) that the Greek text uses terms that come direct from pagan deities for both the Father and the Son, then it becomes abundantly clear from Scripture itself (Shemoth / Ex. 23:13; Yehoshua / Jos. 23:7; etc.) that such texts could not possibly be the inspired originals, but rather they are translations, ultimately descending from the Semitic originals. This means of course, for the ISR, that we have to attempt to put before the reader an English text that truthfully and accurately reflects the inspired Semitic originals, when in fact the oldest and vast majority of texts we have available are Greek! A daunting task indeed. To the extent that we have succeeded in this, we can only give praise to the Most High. However we are well aware of our shortcomings, and the possibility, even the probability that we have fallen far short of our goal. In this respect, let it be said that we do not view our work as in any way final or definitive. Rather, we hope that it will encourage others to re-examine what they may have always taken for granted, and to research these matters for themselves. (We extend an ongoing invitation to any who can give input that will improve future editions of The Scriptures, especially in regard to the matter of Semitic originals).
What text then were we to use? Since the originals are no longer extant, there was no alternative but to make use of the existing Greek manuscripts, carefully considering the additional testimony of Semitic texts such as the Peshitta (Aramaic), the Shem Toḇ (Hebrew), etc. Even here, however there are problems, in that for each of the main streams of textual types (e.g. Byzantine / Textus Receptus vs. Alexandrinus, Sinaiticus, and Vaticanus) there are those who contend that a particular type and that one alone represents the true original.
We determined however, not to become embroiled in such controversies, since our position advocates a Semitic original, true to the Tanaḵ / Old Testament. Hence whatever readings we have adopted will inevitably offend those contending for any one of the main textual types as the true original. We cannot therefore claim that our text represents a translation of any particular underlying text.
As a modus operandi then, we have started out using the Textus Receptus, modifying our rendering as seemed appropriate in light of those other texts which we consulted, such as the Nestle-Aland text and the Shem Toḇ Text, noting certain differences in the footnotes, where necessary.
In harmony therefore with the above principles, we restored the Names of the Father and of the Son, and the names of all the Hebrew individuals, in accordance with the Hebrew, especially as found in the Tanaḵ / Old Testament. We also restored the names of the places in Yisra’ĕl, for after all, we are dealing with a Jewish worship; we are dealing with the Elohim of Yisra’ĕl; we are dealing with יהושע haMashiach (the Messiah), Rabbeinu (our Rabbi - Mt.23:8), the Sovereign of the Yehuḏim - as He is called in no less than 23 places in the Second Writings (Messianic Writings, New Testament).
In rendering Hebrew names we tried to be as exact as possible. However, with a few names there was a problem, e.g. the name Dani’ĕl is spelled in three different ways, but all three of these spellings result in the same pronunciation. Therefore it was decided to strive for consistency and render such names according to a single spelling, in order to retain the original pronunciation as best we could. We departed from this, however, in two cases, viz. in those names containing part of the Name יהוה, where we felt compelled to add the suffix -yah or - yahu, exactly as it appears in the Hebrew text, and in the case of certain terms such as Ělohim, where we opted to use the form, Elohim, instead.
As in previous editions of The Scriptures, we stand in awe and fear before the Most High, knowing that account shall be given for every word rendered in this version, The Scriptures - 2009 Edition (ISR). Much is going to be required from those to whom much has been given (Luqas / Lk. 12:48). As previously stated, we do not offer our labours to the public as the “last word” on these matters, and welcome feedback and useful input from any who have insight or information relevant to the improvement of this translation.
With this new edition of The Scriptures, we continue to reach out a hand of love toward all Scripture-believers of all backgrounds, pleading that we join hands and turn back to יהוה who will then turn back to us (Zeḵaryah / Zec. 1:3 and Hoshĕa 6:1-3). Let us do so by turning to His Torah. This will lead to belief in יהושע and His Word (Yoḥanan / Jn. 5:45-47), and for those who come into the (re-)new(-d) covenant, this will result in reconciliation to his Father.
English letter - Ḇ and ḇ
Hebrew - ב
Hebrew name - Bĕt(h)
Pronunciation - bh , as -v in view
English letter - Ḏ and ḏ
Hebrew - ד
Hebrew name - Dalet(h)
Pronunciation - dh, as -th in this and that
English letter - Ḡ and ḡ
Hebrew - ג
Hebrew name - Gimel
Pronunciation - gh , a soft g
English letter - Ḥ and ḥ
Hebrew - ח
Hebrew name - Ḥet(h)
Pronunciation - ḥ as -ch in the Scottish loch
English letter - Ḳ and ḳ
Hebrew - כ
Hebrew name - Kaf
Pronunciation -kh , as -ch in the Scottish loch or g in Afrikaans gee
English letter - Q and q
Hebrew - ק
Hebrew name - Qof
Pronunciation - k in kitten
English letter - Ě and ĕ
Hebrew name - The vowel tsĕrĕ
Pronunciation - ey as in they
English letter - I and i
Hebrew name - The vowel ḇireq
Pronunciation - I as -ee in tree
Please note that the ’ within a Hebrew name represents an aleph, a smooth breathing, and for practical purposes may be considered a ‘silent’ letter.
Similarly, the ‛ represents the letter ayin, a rough breathing, and it too, may for practical purposes be considered a ‘silent’ letter. So ‛ Amorah (Gomorrah) may be read as Amorah, and in fact we have rendered it as such. Thus aleph and ayin take on the sound of the vowel that they ‘carry’.
Words in italics are not found in the original text but were added for context and/or readability.
Text in bold type face in the Second Writings (Messianic) reference allusions or quotations from the Tanaḵ.
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