In Tanakh, God laid out His purposes for humanity, for Israel, and for "Messiah". The Messianic Writings present Yeshua as the prophesied Messiah of Israel, the way those being trained by him (i.e. his disciples) should live, and how this age will end. This translation is an attempt to give a faithful rendering of these first century Jewish-Greek writings in their own context.
These texts — like the Septuagint, the writings of Josephus, Philo, and others — are written in a kind of Greek that had its own peculiarities. As Jewish-Greek writings, they were written in a way that reflected concepts and definitions which could only be found, in their wholeness, in the Hebrew Biblical world. Without reference to that world, both the concepts and the definitions remain obscure. The concepts and definitions remained Hebrew even though the translated appearance of the language was Greek. Isidore of Pelasium commented in the 5th century that, "The Greeks... despise the divine Scripture as barbarous language, and composed of foreign-sounding words, abandoning necessary conjunctions, and confusing the mind with the addition of extraordinary words." (4Epistle 4. 28, in Migne, Patrologia Graeca, cited in Semitic Interference in Marcan Syntax, Elliott C. Maloney, Scholars Press, Chico, CA, 1981, P. 5) That was because the Scriptures use Greek words in ways that the Greeks did not, and also use words which the Greeks did not know.
Consequently, the Septuagint Greek translation of Tanakh, begun in about 250 B.C.E. is an indispensable bridge for understanding the ways in which words are used in the Messianic Writings. These were the Greek Scriptures referred to more often than any others by the authors of the Messianic Writings. The authors of the classic Bauer/Arndt-Gingrich Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature [sic] noted that, "As for the influence of the Septuagint, every page of this lexicon shows that it outweighs all other influences in our literature." (Second Edition, 1979, P. xxi)
Though the Septuagint — signified by "LXX" — often diverges from the Hebrew text, and sometimes quite significantly, it still generally enables us to locate the way in which original Hebrew concepts and definitions were put into a particular Greek form. (See the ADDITIONAL NOTE on "The Septuagint".) It is that same peculiar Greek — which is neither "classical" nor "common" — that appears in the Messianic Writings. Because of this, the Septuagint Greek text of Tanakh can be used to indicate how a particular word, phrase, or text should be translated.
These Messianic Writings are universally, erroneously called "The New Testament". This is an error of immense magnitude, leading to serious theological distortions, some of which have had disastrous historical consequences. There is no "testament" spoken of in these texts. There are references to the "old covenant," i.e. the one God made with Israel at Sinai, and the "new covenant," i.e. the one God promised to Israel in Jer. 31:31-34, and confirmed in Yeshua. These, however, are covenants, not testaments or books of the Bible. "Christianity" and the "Church" have been built upon "Christian" interpretations of "Christian" translations of these Jewish documents. Though often a great amount of good scholarship has gone into those translations, they are marred by traditional, theological renderings which cannot be supported from the text. They create the image of a world, a religious world, that is not presented in the text. Additionally, they foster the illusion that God’s purpose for humanity has departed from Israel and from the earth itself. The Messianic Writings do not mention Christianity, Christians, or the Church.
The Jewish translators of the Septuagint used christos to represent mashiakh, i.e. the Anointed One. For Greeks, the word only meant rubbed or smeared with oil or ointment; it did not refer to a person. The Greeks had no concept of God’s Anointed One, the Messiah, and so the LXX translators used christos as a linguistic marker to point to mashiakh. Christian translations speak of "Christ" only because the translators choose not to translate christos.
Notes on Translation
MANUSCRIPTS: We do not have any of the original manuscripts. We have numerous copies of copies. Some of these copies show "family" resemblances to one another. Within the different manuscript families, however, there are still numerous differences in text. Among all these manuscript copies, there are thousands of different readings — sometimes a single letter, sometimes a word, sometimes much more.
The Scriptures present themselves as being inspired by God and, therefore, without error. They do not make any such claim for the people who made copies or for those who combined and compiled a full Greek text from the fregments of various copies. Nor do they make any such claims for any translation, including this one. Every reader should know and understand that scribes, textual critics, linguists, and translators are all fallible human beings, and therefore subject to making mistakes. All claims for the infallibility of particular human efforts do a disservice to both man and God.
Modern translations do not follow the order of the books that is found in the Greek manuscripts. They follow instead the order that appears in the Latin Vulgate translation, a translation which was begun by Jerome in the fifth century. I have chosen to follow the order that appears in the Greek manuscripts, an order which was essentially followed in the Peshitta Aramaic. The Peshitta differs in placing Hebrews right before Hazon/Revelation, and in not including some of the shorter letters. Some non-English translations follow this manuscript order. Russian translations, for example, uses the order presented in this translation, except they follow the Peshitta in the placement of Hebrews. Here is the order used in these Messianic Writings:
Starting from the public domain American Standard Version, a fairly literal translation, I worked through both major compilations of the Greek text, the Textus Receptus and the UBS. I considered the evidence and reasonings for the differences between the two. In all choices, my desire was to be faithful to the Jewish-Greek expression of Hebrew Biblical concepts.
APPROACH: There are two basic approaches to translation. One is to bring the text into the world of the reader. The other is to bring the reader into the world of the text. To some extent, both are necessary and neither is possible. Any translation is an approximation of meaning. My emphasis has been to try to bring the reader to the world of the text, believing that the meaning of the text is most accurately found in the world in which it was given; but recognizing that it is impossible for us to truly enter into that world. We are far removed from the time, culture, and mindset in which the texts were written. We do not think as the people of those times thought; nor do we know as they knew. Additionally, Greek and Hebrew grammar do not correspond exactly to each other; nor does either correspond exactly to English grammar. Consequently, the exact literal sense of a particular text can be both awkward and difficult to understand in English. Sometimes a word-for-word literal translation does not communicate what the text actually says. Words have a range of meaning, and there may not be one word in the target language that includes all the range of the word to be translated. Often the word order itself carries a meaning or emphasis that cannot be translated.
Given a divinely inspired original, the translator wants to translate each word, even if every word does not convey meaning in the secondary language. For example, hineh in Hebrew and idou in Greek call out to the reader or audience to pay close attention to what follows. But "behold" does not always do that in English. It is too old a word. Most often I have used "look," "listen," or something similar to try to convey a sense of expectation. Occasionally I have used "behold," and occasionally I have omitted the word altogether, or placed an exclamation mark at the end of the sentence.
Another difficulty is that a long sentence or thought in the text may extend over four, five, or more verses — let’s say from verse 8 to verse 12. But the most understandable translation of the text into English may not follow the verse numbers or divisions, which are not part of the text itself. The most faithful and true translation into English may put verse 10 after verse 8, and verse 9 between verses 11 and 12. I have kept the traditional verse numbering, but have occasionally presented the words in a different order.
ADDITIONAL CHOICES: Because of the violent, tragic events and teachings of many centuries, some English words that have been traditionally used in translating these Scriptures now actually obscure the meaning of the original text. I have not used these traditional words. Instead, I have tried to use more faithful English terms or, occasionally, equivalent Hebrew transliterations. The Hebrew terms are not numerous, and should present no more than initial difficulty for those unfamiliar with them.
The text says that Yeshua was put to death on a stauros, tzelav in Hebrew. The classical Greek lexicon of Liddell & Scott says that stauros meant "upright pale or stake... [also used of] piles driven in to serve as a foundation". Josephus, in referring to Esther 7:9, uses stauros for the Hebrew etz. (Antiquities of the Jews, 11:267) The Hebrew of Esther 7:9 has, "‘See the etz [i.e., tree/stake/gallows] which Haman prepared for Mordechai...’ Then the king said, "Hang him on it!" The LXX has, "‘See the xulon/tree/stake which Haman prepared for Mordechai...’ Then the king said, "Hang him on it/staurotheto!" (Mid. Esther 3.15 says nitzalav Haman, i.e. they hung him on a stake.) In translating stauros, I have used "stake," "deathstake," and "tree of death." depending upon whether the context emphasizes the physical or the metaphorical aspect.
I have tended to use the Hebrew form of names rather than the English transliteration of their Greek transliterations, but in some cases I have retained the traditional English transliteration of familiar names in Tanakh: Yosef rather than Joseph, but Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Otherwise, names and place names are (usually) transliterated from the Hebrew originals and not from the Greek transliterations. This introduces a measure of subjective "feel," rather than the automatic application of a strict rule, but "feel" is an indispensable part of literary translation. I have usually rendered the guttural "h" sound as "h", rather than as "ch", e.g. "Beit Lehem," but occasionally I have used "kh" where it seemed to be helpful, e.g. Pesakh.
Other commonly used transliterations of Greek words have been replaced by translation. Transliteration creates a new word without meaning, unless the meaning is already known. I have avoided it as much as possible.
We do not know exactly how to translate the tetragrammaton, the four letter Hebrew Name of the God of the Bible. It is often rendered in English as "LORD," following the choice of the LXX translators to use kurios. [The current Hebrew substitution of Adonai expresses the same.] However, the thousands of times that the Name appears in the Scriptures indicate that it is related to God’s eternal nature and His covenant relationship with Israel. It is clear that people pronounced this Name of God from the earliest times, as, for example, Havah did in Gen. 4:1.
However, a transliteration of the Name, even if it were correct, would not carry the meaning of the Name. Most translations say that God told Moses, "I am who I am." (Ex. 3:14) It would be just as correct to translate it as, "I will be who I will be." The LXX has "I am THE BEING." This meaning, not the sound, is what is important in the tetragrammaton. God does not change, all existence depends upon Him, and Israel’s security is found in Him. (cf. Mal. 3:6)
Calvin and other French translators used "l’Eternel" (the Eternal) to give the sense of God’s presence in all of time. The Rabbis sometimes used haMakom, i.e. "the place," to give the sense of God’s presence in every place. (e.g. Tal. Abot 5.4) In an attempt to give a sense of these different aspects of the Name, I have used "the Everpresent Lord" in the appropriate places where it appears. He is "the ever-living God" (e.g. 1Sam. 17:26, Ps. 42:3H, Jer. 10:10, Dan.6:21H, Mt. 16:16), who is everywhere. (cf. Ps. 139:7-12) The Hebrew goyim, Greek ethnoi, is somewhat problematic. Because the Gentiles/nations/people-groups existed before Israel did, it would be anachronistic and distorted to call them "non-Jews". They are the peoples who came into existence through God’s division at the Tower of Babel. Their existence and identity was not, and is not, dependent upon Israel, though the fulfillment of their identity and purpose is. Israel was created out of the nations to be a special nation and a community of nations. (e.g. Gen. 28:3, 48:4) Goyim expresses both the commonality of and difference between the nations/Gentiles and the holy nation/Israel. It also sometimes expresses the sense of the different groups and sometimes the multitude of individuals within those groups. Since we do not have one English word that does the same, I have used "nations" in some places and "Gentiles" in others.
In modern English, "you" and "your" can be either singular or plural. Hebrew, Greek, and many other languages distinguish between the singular and plural pronoun. Sometimes the correct understanding of a verse depends upon this distinction. In the text, I have added a plus sign (+) to signify the plural — "you+" and "your+".
Where quotations from Tanakh appear in the Messianic Writings, or where particular passages from Tanakh are relevant, they are cited in [brackets] following the phrase or sentence. In these citations, I have used the standard English abbreviations. In the common Jewish usage of the times, such quotations were given either to indicate the fulfillment of a specific prophecy, or to apply it in a particular way. Occasionally, references from the Apocrypha or other contemporary Jewish writings are also cited. Though these writings are not part of the Biblical text, they were well-known in the first century, and were sometimes used by the Biblical writers for illustration or example. Since verse numbering sometimes varies from language to language, in the citations, "1:1H" refers to the Hebrew text, "1:1E" to the English, "1:1LXX" to the Septuagint.
I have included some notes in which, in addition to explanatory comments, I have tried to give some relevant material from the Talmud, Midrash, and traditional liturgy, as well as from the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) of Qumran, and other sources. These are by no means either comprehensive or systematic. Nor do they indicate approval or disapproval, but rather an attempt to help illustrate the context. It should not, however, be assumed that the Rabbinic material is contemporary with the Messianic Writings. Usually it is later. Nor should it be assumed that the material presents the only rabbinic view. "Tal." indicates a Talmudic tractate, "Mid." the Midrash Rabbah.
Following the text of the Messianic Writings, there are some longer, explanatory notes, usually on selected problematic issues. Despite the current grammatical rule that all punctuation added to a quotation belongs within the quotation marks, I have not followed the rule with hard punctuation — question marks, exclamation marks, and periods — that changes the sense of the original.
I have greatly profited from: 1) other translations, especially Robert Young’s A Literal Translation, André Chouraqui’s La Bible, and David Stern’s Jewish New Testament and Commentary; 2) the Soncino Publishers translation of the Talmud and Midrash Rabbah, Jacob Neusner’s translation of the Tosefta , and William Braude’s Midrash on Psalms — though in all these cases, I have given my own slightly more literal renderings; 3) the proof-reading and critical comments of Jeff Green and David Stern; 4) the design and layout work of Sandy Kent and Rachel Wolf; and 5) the invaluable support of my family. All mistakes belong solely to me.