Book Review: Jewish New Testament

Jewish New Testament, translated by David H. Stern

Although from time to time I have commented on the large number of Bibles that exist, many of which I have found a way to review [1], this is one Bible I have long desired to have as a part of my library and one whose existence is certainly noteworthy and praiseworthy. In many ways, looking through this volume, I am reminded of my AENT, except this version is in English, albeit with a strong Hebrew flavor, rather than in being an Aramaic-English diglot as the other Bible is, and without the sort of large body of supporting material. What this book does, very simply and very straightforwardly, is to show the Jewishness of the New Testament in ways that are not obvious in many other translations. This Jewishness is expressed very ably in this Bible, in the way that the text renders words in a way that is unfamiliar and striking—The Holy Spirit is called the Ruach Ha Kodesh, as a way of pointing out its nature, the many cross-references with the Hebrew scriptures are duly noted, and names are given a Jewish rendering, so that Jerusalem becomes Yrushalayim, Jesus because Yeshua, Isiaiah becomes Yesha’yahu, John becomes Yochanan, and so on. If this is unusual to readers who have been bred on the Vulgate-based Bibles that are so familiar in Christendom, it is a worthwhile achievement in showing the Bible’s essential origin as part of the community of faith present within the complex of second temple Judaism [2].

As far as Bibles are concerned, this New Testament is a straightforward one whose only notes are to provide a description of unfamiliar renderings, like Rosh Chodesh for “New Moons” at the beginning of the month, such as in Colossians 2:16, where Paul tells believers not to let others judge them for following God’s commanded assemblies, and to avoid following man-made rules and teachings (a reference to Isaiah 29:13) that are often popular with those who reject God’s ways. The Bible is refreshingly blunt and even at times bracing, but it manages to convey to the reader the fact that Jesus Christ and the apostles and core of the early Church of God sprang from a culture deeply steeped in Hebrew ways. It should be noted, of course, that even those Gentile believers who were told in the aftermath of the Jerusalem Conference that circumcision was not a requirement for entering into the fellowship with other believers were told to go to the synagogue to hear the Law expounded from Sabbath to Sabbath [3]. It is a great shame that so many people would consider themselves to be familiar with, or even experts in, the New Testament would be surprised at how Jewish it is. This book does a great deal of work in making that connection plain to the reader, and that is useful and even necessary work.

Fortunately, for those who come to this Bible with a familiarity with other New Testaments, the book is organized in such a fashion as to present no unnecessary barriers to finding scriptural references. Where different names for a book of the Bible are used from the ordinary one, like Y’Hudah for Jude, the ordinary English rendering is at least included in parentheses, to make it easy to find. The translator seeks to make this work Jewish in at least three ways: cosmetically through the use of Jewish names and neutral terms free of certain biases, culturally by highlighting features of Jewish law and custom, and theologically by correcting biased translations, such as the mistaken way that Jesus Christ as the telos of the law (in the koine Greek of Romans 10:4) has been viewed as an end rather than as a goal. These efforts appear to have been largely successful, as those who appreciate a Bible that takes the Hebraic origin of Christianity seriously and who are willing to engage in the somewhat unfamiliar task of reading accurate renderings of various names whose English transliterations are usually at significant variant from their original forms are likely to find much in this slim New Testament volume to appreciate in Bible Study, and in occasional other use as well. About this book, it may be said what Jochanan said in 2 John, verse 12: “Although I have much to write you people, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to come and see you and to talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.”

[1] See, for example:

[2] See also:

[3] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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