The writer of Koholet (Ecclesiastes) reminds us "Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh" (Ecc. 12:12, ESV ). Not all books are helpful or necessary. But occasionally, a book comes along that needed to be written, one for whom many will have occasion to rejoice.
The Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels: A Hebrew/English Translation (Vine of David, 2011), hereafter DHE, is one of those necessary books, something that needed to be done, and something that has been done very well indeed. Four words summarize my commendation of this book: its excellence, its scholarship, its beauty, and its usefulness.
The Excellence of the DHE - The DHE exhibits excellence because of the Delitzsch Hebrew translation itself. A month before I received a copy of this text for review, I discussed the Delitzsch translation with one of its champions, who for fifty years has published and distributed Hebrew translations of Hebrew-Christian literature in Israel. He reported a conversation he had with David Flusser, who at that time was Professor of Early Christianity and Judaism of the Second Temple Period at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. When Flusser heard that another translation of the New Testament into Hebrew was being done, besides that previously done by Delitzsch, he reacted with outrage and disdain, considering any new translation into Hebrew to be redundant and foolish. He proclaimed his confidence that not only was the Delitzsch translation the best translation imaginable into Hebrew, but also, in his view, the best translation ever done of the New Testament into any language.
While one may suspect Flusser of hyperbole here, one must not dismiss his verdict on the quality of the translation. Flusser was an Orthodox Jew, and a world class expert in his field. For him the Delitzsch translation was literally without parallel. Of this we should take note even if we might beg to differ.
Vine of David takes the unusual step of translating Delitzsch's Hebrew translation into English, making the English version a translation of a translation, one that appears to be done consistently and with due diligence. They argue that this process affords us an opportunity to appreciate the Jewish nuances Delitzsch detected in the Greek New Testament. It is a fascinating enterprise, for here we not only touch the hem of Yeshua's garment through reading the gospel texts: we also touch the mind of a world-renowned scholar. In a sense, through the English translation of his Hebrew, Delitzsch discusses the New Testament text with us, with a stress upon its Jewishness. Quite exciting. It should be noted that the text comes very close to endorsing the perspective of the Jerusalem School of thought on the gospels which holds that Greek gospels are based on Hebrew originals. However, while coming close to endorsing this controversial view, the editors and translators of the DHE do not in fact endorse the view but instead stress the benefit of considering the Jewish thought forms likely behind the Greek text, holding that in the gospels, we have Jews thinking like Jews, even when they spoke or wrote in Greek.
The scholarship of the DHE - The Translator's Preface alone is, for lovers of books, worth the price of the book. For both the neophyte layman and the interested scholarly reader it provides a fascinating summary of the influences, personalities, and decisions that helped shape Delitzsch's translation, making mention of scholarly Jews who believed in Yeshua, inhabitants of another time and place. The Translator, Aaron Eby, is also to be commended for being candid about the limitations of Delitzsch's work, especially in view of the discoveries of later scholarship. He demonstrates similar scholarly integrity in his comments on in a number of areas where the newer translation currently in vogue in Israel, gets things right where Delitzsch got them wrong. The Translators admit that the Delitzsch translation is not perfect, and even that it has some faults. Nevertheless, they strive to preserve it, even in the English translation, because it surely is fascinating!
The scholarly touch is also evident in the Introduction to the Gospels as a whole provided in the book, and in the introductions provided for each gospel in turn. In all cases, homage is paid to rabbinic and Hebrew Christian scholars of the past, producing a document commendably free of the trendiness and superficiality which too often sells nowadays.
Accessible scholarship is also evident in the lean marginal notes and footnotes provided throughout the text, enough light to illumine, but not to dazzle. Just the right touch.
The beauty of the DHE - The book provides wide margins, clear text in a readable size, and plenty of white space per page making the book easier on the eyes. This is due in part to the layout decision to paragraph the text, double spacing between paragraphs and indenting quoted material. All of this creates visual air to breathe while reading the text. Apart from introductory materials and provided glossaries, maps and charts following the text, there are no illustrations in the book, although each chapter gospel introduction is decorated with a subdued and tasteful floral pattern. While not ostentatious in any manner, the layout and graphic elements accompanying the text are a delight to the eyes, making the text much more readable than it would otherwise be.
The usefulness of the DHE - Anyone familiar with religious Jewish life knows there is something holy about a sefer. While the term means literally "a book," it is commonly used to denote a particular kind of book, a holy book. Such books are in all respects labors of love in their thought, their content, their layout, their binding, and their look. Happily, the DHE is a sefer, not the kind of book one will easily treat in a careless manner. It's thought, content, layout, binding, and look all contribute to making it so.
For those of us who especially delight in the prospect of reading this text with other Jews, these factors are crucial. Any Jew opening this text, seeing Hebrew on one side, and English on the other will immediately be drawn into the ethos of Jewish holy discourse. The very look of the page brings us into Jewish space, and this is crucial to the usefulness of the DHE.
Yeshua of Nazareth is widely regarded as alien to or even antagonistic to Jewish religious life and communal well-being. It is not enough that we who are Messianic believers and sympathetic Christians know this to be a falsehood: the true persona of Yeshua must be felt, displayed, and made known. Everything about this book, including its look and feel, in orthography, layout and production contributes to revealing Yeshua as Jewish and his world as being Jewish space.
The DHE will do much to gain a hearing among my people for the One who said, "One who hears my words and believes the one who sent me has eternal life and does not come into judgment, for he has passed from death to life" (John 5:21, DHE). And this too is cause for rejoicing.
Bravo, or as we say in our synagogues, "Hazak! Hazak! V'nitchazek! - Be strengthened! Be strengthened! And may we all be strengthened!"
The Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels, published recently by Vine of David, constitutes a major milestone in Messianic Jewish publishing. It features the classic Hebrew translation of the Gospels by Franz Delitzsch, one of the great biblical scholars of the 19th century. Delitzsch attempted to fashion a Hebrew version of the Gospels that would have been understandable to a first-century Jew in the land of Israel. In the process, he illuminated the rich Jewish texture of these books, and showed why they should be considered part of the Jewish cultural and spiritual inheritance.
This new publication makes the Delitzsch classic available to contemporary English readers who need assistance in grappling with its Hebrew. It provides such assistance in abundance - including a literal English translation, marginal explanations, footnotes, book introductions, and a glossary of idioms and key terms. Moreover, this Vine of David volume presents all of this in an elegant and readable format that combines practicality with genuine beauty.
I am personally grateful for the labor of love that went into the production of this volume, and I congratulate Vine of David on its publication. May it bear much fruit within the House of Israel and beyond.
The Keil-Delitzsch commentary on the Old Testament remains a classic in the industry, given (1) the authors interest in exploring the biblical texts within their Jewish contexts, and (2) through their employment of traditional Jewish sources to aid them in the process of so doing.
Because their deep-felt commitment to Jewish roots was way ahead of its time, I am pleased that Boaz Michael has seen fit, at this time, to bring to the public's eye a related fruit of Professor Delitzsch's endeavors: a Gospel reconstruction in and from the Hebrew that is reader-friendly in the English.
Seeing a Messianic Jew a someone who is game to wrestle with the question of what it means to participate in the Jesus story on the one hand (and thus be "messianic") and still participate in the Jewish story on the other (and thus be a "Jew"), I am pleased to commend this version to you given how it does both--and in a meaningful and masterful way.
The Gospels are Jewish. We owe a debt of gratitude to those who preserved them and transmitted them through the centuries, but the time has come for us to reclaim what is ours. The Gospels belong to the Jewish people, as does the central character in the Gospel story.
These words introduce a new translation of the four Gospels, not from the Greek of its oldest and best original manuscripts, but from Hebrew. Still, we might ask why we need another Jewish-oriented translation of the Gospels. And even if we do, why base it on a text that is itself a translation?
The answer lies with the Hebrew Gospel text itself, which was translated by the renowned 19th century biblical scholar, Franz Delitzsch. Delitzsch was a prolific scholar, whose extensive commentary on the Old Testament, co-authored with C.F. Keil, remains in wide use today, but he considered the Hebrew New Testament his crowning achievement. It went through eleven editions, and enjoyed a circulation of 60,000 copies--not a bestseller, of course, but an impressive number for a translation of the iconic Christian book into the language of the Jewish people. Speaking of this work, Delitzsch said, "Far from priding myself, I acknowledge, on the contrary, the merits of my fellow-labourers, among whom are not a small number of Jewish friends. We have cause to say, that our new translation has contributed somewhat to bring the New Testament nearer to the Jews, as a prominent work of their literature."
Delitzsch maintained this same understated approach in his witness to Jewish friends. Believing that "Only God's word does it," he sought to produce a translation that would convey the message of Messiah Yeshua with sensitivity and regard toward the Jewish people he loved. Delitzsch also sought to recapture the Jewish context of the Gospels, rendering them into classical Hebrew that reconnected them to the matrix of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) and rabbinic literature.
A hundred and twenty years after Delitzsch's death, Vine of David, a branch of First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ), has produced an English translation of his Gospels that captures its rich Jewish flavor and deep connection to the Tanakh. For years, FFOZ was known for promoting Torah observance as an obligation for all believers, Gentiles as well as Jews. Eventually, however, as Director Boaz Michael comments, "We realized that we couldn't force our Gentile-obligation theology through the grid of Acts 21, where the apostles clearly distinguish between what's expected of Jewish and Gentile believers." FFOZ shifted its terminology from obligation to invitation for Gentiles, believing that this preserves a significant place for Gentiles within the wider Messianic movement without diminishing the unique covenant responsibility of the Jewish people. This shift led FFOZ to launch Vine of David specifically to publish materials for Jewish people, while maintaining its extensive teaching ministry primarily focused on Gentile believers. "Damage was done to the name of Yeshua among the Jewish people by taking him outside of his Jewish context," Michael explains, "and Vine of David seeks to repair that damage." He continues, "In Messianic Judaism, we need to be devoted to the study of the words and teachings of Messiah. I am confident that some have shied away from Gospel studies because, as people become more familiar with Torah, the Christian presentation of the Gospels feels less authentic. The DHE [Delitzsch Gospels] will change that, and give people the opportunity to study the Gospels within authentic Jewish space, bringing depth to the Gospels from a Jewish perspective."
Examples of this depth abound, including some cited in the DHE Introduction. One example, Matthew 6:34, says, "Sufficient for the day is its own trouble" (ESV). Delitzsch, according to the Introduction, "recognized this phrase as a rabbinic proverb. Not only does it appear in the Talmud (b.Brachot 9b), it remains a common figure of speech even today in modern Hebrew. By including this proverb verbatim, Delitzsch produces an authentically and intrinsically Jewish representation of Yeshua and quite likely approximates Yeshua's actual spoken words." As another example, Mark concludes his description of Yeshua's temptation in the wilderness, "he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him" (Mark 1:13 ESV). Delitzsch translates "wild animals" as chayot, a term also used in Ezekiel 1 to describe the "living creatures" surrounding the throne of God. This suggests that Yeshua, like Moses and the prophets, was granted a vision of the heavenly court at the culmination of his testing.
Much of the DHE translation will sound familiar to most English readers, but gems like these make it a valuable resource for students, especially those with a background in Hebrew and the Tanakh. At the same time, the hope that it will be an effective resource for outreach seems well-founded. The book is physically beautiful, and resembles other Jewish editions of Scripture, such as the familiar Artscroll Chumash (Pentateuch). Vine of David is publishing an edition in honor of Levy Hirsch, Delitzsch's Jewish godfather and mentor, which will be distributed in cooperation with Messianic Jewish groups active in reaching out with the message of Messiah.
In preparing this review, I had access to an electronic version and found myself longing to have a real copy in my hands, just to touch it and turn the pages. It is a beautiful volume, in line with the Jewish tradition of hiddur mitzvah, or beautifying an object used to fulfill a mitzvah.
For it was taught: "This is my God, and I will adorn him"--that is, adorn yourself before him in the fulfillment of commandments: make a beautiful sukkah in his honor, a beautiful lulav, a beautiful shofar, beautiful fringes, and a beautiful scroll of the Torah... (Talmud, Shabbat 133b)
The physical beauty of the Vine of David Gospels reflects the One who inspired the text, and the One of whom it speaks. It reflects well the hope expressed by the translators: May those who study his words take up his yoke and find peace for their souls, for the words of eternal life are with him. (from the Introduction)
We are in an era where serious scholarship has emerged to reclaim the words of Yeshua and the Gospel writings from a first century linguistic and cultural context. It is in this environment that Vine of David has broken into the field with a valuable addition through its Delitzsch, Hebrew Gospels, Hebrew/English translation.
Vine of David has taken an old and respected source, the Delitzsch translation of the Greek Gospels into Hebrew, and has translated that into English, giving more people more access to this extremely significant work. But it has done much more by adding the gloss of a translator's preface, an introduction to the Gospels, appropriate Jewish prayers and blessings, footnotes, reference material, maps and charts and an index, all explaining and enhancing Delitzsch's work.
But there is still more. One of the strong values of this work is the English translation itself, placing it squarely in the camp of those who characterize Yeshua as a Jew steeped in a cultural milieu consistent with a Jewish upbringing in the land of Israel during sectarian diversity. It is here that so many other translations pale in comparison to the Vine of David English translation, which makes it clear, true to Delitzsch's Hebrew translation, that Yeshua is thoroughly Jewish and everything he said must be examined through that understanding.
Quite interesting, Vine of David is not shy about correcting Delitzsch's translation when the translator feels it is warranted due to best scholarship and contextual considerations.
Kol haKavod to Vine of David. May this added contribution to a scholarly world growing in the recognition of the Jewishness of the Gospels be a blessing for generations to come.
Ever since the church father Origen wrote about the existence of a Hebrew Gospel of Matthew in 300 CE, Jewish believers in Yeshua have wondered where to find it. No one ever has, and despite the 'Jerusalem School' of thought, no one expects to.
On the other hand, courtesy of Franz Delitzsch's careful translation of the New Testament into Rabbinic Hebrew over a century ago we have something that is half way there. That's why Delitzsch's careful translation of the Greek into Hebrew has been taken to the next step and re-translated into English.
At this the scholars will raise their eyebrows. Scepticism granted! Carefully and methodically done, however, this translation puts the Gospels back into their Jewish context in a way that enables their Truth to shine. Complete with marginal notes, footnotes, textual comments, maps and far more, The Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels is magnificently produced and typeset.
This is less a critical review than a recommendation for individuals and congregations. The Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels is designed to be a blessing to the believer, putting Jesus back into his Jewish context. For those who are not believers in Yeshua as our Messiah - this is a tremendous eye opener. No Jewish reader could ever read this without seeing the thorough Jewishness of our Saviour and being faced by the fact that He is one of 'us' - Divine Lord that He is.
(Printed in BMJA Chai magazine)
I'm studying with Rabbi Joseph (may he rest in peace) in his office in Corsicana, Texas. It is Wednesday, in the middle of our weekly study time about 11am, when he reaches into his bookshelf and pulls down a Hebrew New Testament. R. Joseph was a ba'al korah (one learned in the various trope of the Torah and other biblical books) and obtained his degree in Hebrew grammar. At the age of 5 in 1939 his parents had sent him to live within the Haredi community of Singapore until conditions improved in Germany (which we know they never would). There he received the finest of Jewish educations. R. Joseph (his family name) was the most humble of men, and a lifetime student. To finish our story, he takes down the Hebrew New Testament and says to me, "It makes so much more sense in the original" followed by a wink. What did he know?
My point in relating this story is to illustrate the treasure which is being made available in this reprinting of The Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels.
It is an invaluable resource, not only as a witnessing tool, but also to be used as a gift for the learned Jewish seeker of the truth. As a resource in preparing sermons or smaller Bible studies, it has so much more than just the Hebrew text and translation. The cross-references and footnotes add yet another dimension to the text. If only for the reference materials and maps and charts, this volume is a must have for anyone seeking to truly understand the Gospels in their originally written Jewish milieu.
Language is more than the use of words, it is the expression of a culture. That expression is best done in the language that is indigenous to that culture. Everything else is translation and every translation loses something. In The Delitzsch, we find a four dimensional picture (length, height, width and breadth (see Eph 3:18) of the culture into which Yeshua inserted Himself. May you be blessed in your study of the Scriptures and may The Delitzsch only add to your blessing.
Almost two thousand years ago, the most influential person in history taught, worked miracles, and attracted a small group of followers in a remote, rural area called the Galil. He was reputed to be of questionable birth. After only a few years of teaching, he died a seditionist's death. Nevertheless, in those few years, he changed the face of history.
His name was Yeshua HaNotzri and he was a Jewish rabbi.
He spoke Hebrew and practiced Judaism.
His legacy was carried forward by his students, who were also Jewish and who also practiced Judaism.
Their memorized accounts of Yeshua's life, death, and resurrection were passed down for decades in Hebrew. However, the earliest records of this Good News - the Four Gospels - are written in Greek. The Hebrew traditions which lie behind the Gospels are lost. The legacy of the greatest Rabbi who ever lived was recorded and passed down through history in a language and culture that would have been foreign to him.
Such was the plan of God - to miraculously preserve the record of Jesus' life and teachings in a form that was largely unrecognizable to his own people. To this day, the Greek manuscripts remain the authoritative source of the Gospel tradition. But the prophetic destiny of Israel is to know and accept her Messiah. For this reason, the translation of the New Testament into Hebrew by Franz Delitzsch in the late 1800's was an event marked with prophetic significance.
The timing couldn't have been better. Delitzsch consulted with some of the greatest Messianic Jewish minds of the century - men like Biesenthal and Lichtenstein, whose expertise in Jewish tradition and Biblical Hebrew helped Delitzsch accomplish the unprecedented. The teachings and deeds of Jesus were finally available in Hebrew, with all the obscure Hebrew idioms and cultural and religious references brought back to the surface, for the first time in untold centuries.
Delitzsch's Hebrew New Testament had a remarkable influence on the Jewish community; however, the non-Hebrew-reader benefited little. The newly rediscovered and manifestly Jewish Jesus still lay hidden in a language and culture inaccessible to the uninitiated. It was left to the translators at Messianic Jewish publisher Vine of David to take Delitzsch's work and make it accessible to the English speaking world. More than a translation of the Hebrew into English, the Delitzsch Hebrew/English Gospels are a complete package designed to bring the English reader into the Jewish thought-world in which Jesus lived, and in which the New Testament was birthed.
Why is this resource so important? I can think of at least two reasons. First, Western Christianity has lost the Jewish Jesus. Just look at any portrait of Jesus in any church in America. An attractive Caucasian with a short beard, long hair, no head covering, no tefillin, and no tzitzit - this Jesus looks more like a fashion model than a Jewish Rabbi. The deeper problem, though, is that the church's theological paradigm has been built on a certain understanding of the New Testament which has pitted Jesus against Judaism. Rather than seeing Jesus' polemic against the Pharisees or his specific halachic decisions as intra-Jewish matters, Jesus is perceived as the ultimate repudiator of Judaism. This is a serious error that has devastated both the church's understanding of Jesus and her relationship with the Jewish people.
Second, Judaism has lost the Jewish Jesus. The Jews of Jesus' day rejected him for a variety of reasons - political, polemic, prophetic. Paul suggests that this rejection was a critical part of God's mysterious plan to provide salvation to the Gentiles (Romans 11:25ff). However, later generations of Jews didn't even have the opportunity to consider Jesus seriously. The Jesus presented by the Gentile-dominated church couldn't have been the Messiah - he came to destroy everything the Messiah was prophesied to establish! His followers hated and repudiated his own people! Perhaps this is why Jesus reserved his condemnation for the generation of Jews that actually had an opportunity to encounter him as he truly was (Matt. 12:41-42).
The DHE has the potential to restore the image of Jesus in both Christianity and Judaism. English-speaking Jews and Christians can now encounter the Jewish Jesus in his own words and in his own context. The translation team at Vine of David has peeled away centuries of accumulated traditions and theological speculation like so much yellowed varnish from a Renaissance painting, revealing the long-lost depth and spectrum of color that characterized the original Gospel works.
Several aspects of the Delitzsch Hebrew/English Gospels make them uniquely suited to this task. First, the translation itself has a different character than translations from the Greek MSS, because the underlying text is different. The sentence structure and vocabulary reflect a Semitic original. While this fact may seem obvious, the character and quality of the DHE's translation must be experienced to be truly appreciated.
Modern Bible translation committees have gone to great lengths to make the Scripture more "readable," with the result that the text is often bland and uninteresting. But truly great literature doesn't have to be simplified to appeal to the reader. For example, it would be a travesty to try to make Jane Austen more readable by simplifying her English. Though her vocabulary and sentence structure are antiquated, women everywhere continue to read and fall in love with her works because she had the ability to draw the reader into her world - a world of courtesy, etiquette, and eloquence.
The Gospels are truly great literature, and the DHE preserves that greatness, as manifested by its ability to draw the reader into the world of Second Temple Judaism - the world of Jesus' culture, language, and religion. It is enough to make one fall in love with the Gospels all over again.
Consider this excerpt from the English Standard Version (Lk. 21:25-28): "And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."
Now compare it with the same passage as rendered in the DHE: "There will be signs in the sun and the moon and the stars and over the land, anguish for the Gentiles and confusion due to the rumbling of the sea and its breaking waves. Sons of men will melt from fright and terror of what is coming on all the land, for the troops of Heaven will be shaken. Then they will see the son of man coming in the cloud, with power and with great glory. And when these things begin coming, rise up and lift up your heads, for your redemption has come near!"
Note the figures of speech in the DHE that are rendered in plainer language in the ESV: "over the land," "melt from fright," "troops of Heaven." It could be said that figurative language makes a text more difficult; on the other hand, it gives color and depth to a text that in turn becomes more interesting and more meaningful.
In other places, the DHE translators chose more commonly understood words - "confusion" instead of "perplexity," "terror" instead of "foreboding." This helps restore to the text more of the rhetorical power it originally had, and the result is truer to the original source as well. Jesus, after all, was speaking to fishermen and tradesmen - common people, not educated intellectuals. His language was simple, yet colorful, and layered with meaning; this straightforward yet nuanced speaking style comes through more clearly in the DHE than in any other translation I have encountered.
The high quality of the translation sets the DHE apart and makes it such a joy to read. I don't see myself returning to the ESV for my devotional reading. For purposes of comparison and study, the Greek NT and a few other English translations will forever remain a part of my library, but when I just want to read the Gospels, I'll be reading the DHE.
If all Vine of David had done was publish a great translation of Delitzsch's Hebrew Gospels, dayenu! - it would have been enough. But there is much more to the DHE than the text of the Gospels. Several other features of this publication make it stand out as an invaluable contribution to the Jewish and Christian communities. Perhaps the most valuable features of the DHE are the comprehensive glosses of key Hebrew words and idioms.
The translators at Vine of David wisely elected to leave a large number of Hebrew words untranslated. This was wise because the words they chose were, for the most part, untranslatable. Some of them, like issar or kor, are units of measurement. Others, like mitzvah (commandment) and teshuvah (repentance), are technical terms with hundreds of parallel uses in Rabbinic literature. Still others are words that all other Bibles also leave untranslated, but which are restored to their original Semitic form, such as Prushim and Tzaddukim (Pharisees and Sadducees).
Seeing these words in a different form is disarming; the emotional and theological baggage that has been attached to them for millennia falls away immediately. The reader is invited to the index of transliterated Hebrew terms, where he is given the opportunity to recapture the original meaning and context of the unrecognized word. For example, a "Pharisee" is commonly understood as a hypocrite and an enemy. A Parush, though, is defined as a devout Torah-observant Jew with the same basic theological paradigm as Jesus and the Apostles. How different a light this sheds on the arguments between Jesus and the Prushim!
Similarly, "repentance" is a fuzzy concept in some Christian communities. Years of speculation and attempts to reconcile the Biblical text with prevailing theology have led to some horrible definitions of repentance, from "saying you're sorry" to "changing your mind about Jesus." Having to look up a definition for teshuvah is a fantastic way to bypass two thousand years of misunderstanding. It turns out that repentance is a cessation of sinful behavior and a return to observance of God's commandments.
Nearly twice as long as the DHE's index of transliterated Hebrew words is its index of idioms and key terms. These idioms have been translated into English, but would have remained opaque without further explanation. "Kingdom of Heaven," for example, is an extremely common idiom in the Gospels. However, the commonly understood meaning of this phrase in Jesus' time and culture is lost to the modern reader without special helps - which the DHE provides.
Many such idioms elude the modern reader due to their obscure nature. However, more subtle are those errors which derive from the misinterpretation of idioms with which the reader mistakenly believes he is familiar. Consider, for example, D. A. Carson's interpretation of Jesus' statement that he is the "light of the world," as found in the Pillar New Testament Commentary on John's gospel (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990): "As the light of the world (8:12), Jesus is the revelation of God and the objectification of Divine holiness and purity" (207). To Carson, Jesus is pitting his authority against Judaism, not acting in any way compatible with it (338-40). While Carson mentions offhand that Jewish tradition metaphorically described the Torah as "light" (118), he does not develop this idea further; he appears to treat the phrase "light of the world" as a unique claim to Divinity or to Messianic identity.
Similarly, Leon Morris's NICNT volume on John (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971) eschews the possibility of finding any context for Jesus' statement outside the Old Testament itself (388). The DHE, however, illuminates the context of the idiom "light of the world" by providing specific examples of how it is used in other Jewish literature: "The 'light of the world' is anything that provides spiritual illumination, divine revelation, or guidance to the inhabitants of the world... including God, Yerushalayim, the Temple, and the teachers of Torah."
Scores of other Hebrew-specific idioms exist in the Gospels, from simple concepts such as the "heart" (an idiom for the mind, or the seat of the will) to obscure cultural references such as "sons of the wedding canopy." Vine of David's translators have preserved these idioms in English, identified them in the text with a subtle mark, and defined them as they would have been understood in the first century. In doing so, they have uncovered for the reader countless connections between the Gospels and other Jewish literature. More than that, they have placed Jesus firmly and obviously in his original Jewish context in a way that is both authentic and true to the witness of the Greek manuscripts.
The glosses of Hebrew words and idioms make the DHE an invaluable work of scholarship, and quite unique when compared to the incomplete concordances and theologically driven commentaries featured in many standard Bibles. But it doesn't end there. The other supplements to the DHE are helpful as well. I am usually the last one to gush over the maps in the back of a Bible, but I happened to notice that the DHE's Temple Mount floorplan bears heavy influence from the research of Joseph Good (Hatikva Minsitries), whose findings have gone so far as to influence the Temple Institute. Chaim Richman displays the same floorplan when he tours the U.S. Most renditions of the Temple are not so well researched; seeing this kind of attention to detail reinforces my confidence in the entire work.
It remains only to speak of the quality of the book itself. The DHE comes in four editions, only one of which (the Standard Edition) I have been privileged to inspect in person. Even this, the least expensive of the four, is elegant and sturdy, with extensive debossing on the cover and a wonderfully durable Smyth sewn binding. These bindings are the highest quality available, and are suitable for long-term archival.
The Deluxe editions and the Levy Hirsch Memorial Edition are all heirloom quality works of art, with gold gilding, foil-stamped covers, and gorgeous heat burnishing. In the tradition of the great Judaica publishing houses, Vine of David has spared no expense beautifying the words of our Master. Down to the last detail, these publications reestablish the Gospels as masterworks of Jewish literature.
Vine of David has raised the bar for Messianic Jewish publishing, forever. The existence of the Delitzsch Hebrew/English Gospels is a clear sign that the Messianic Jewish movement is maturing and, God willing, will continue to mature. I believe that the DHE has the potential to be a uniting force within the movement as well as a powerful witness to those outside, both Jewish and Christian. Most of all, though, I rejoice to see the life and teachings of Jesus portrayed in such a rich, respectful, authentic, and beautiful form.
I am delighted that Vine of David has brought out this new edition of Franz Delitzsch's pioneering Hebrew translation of the Gospels. The text and translation, together with the accompanying notes, glossary, explanations of idioms and transliteration, represent an important milestone in Messianic Jewish scholarship, publishing and presentation of the Good News of the Messiah.
Delitzsch's work combined deep sensitivity to the Jewish context of the New Testament, the linguistic qualities of koiné Greek and an authentic feel for the Hebrew language. His translation is not only academically respected but is also spiritually enriching and aesthetically pleasing. Although Delitzsch wrote more than a century ago, in the eyes of many, his translation is still unsurpassed, and this elegant new edition makes it accessible to a new generation of readers.
Anyone interested in the Jewish background of Yeshua (Jesus) and the New Testament will benefit from the careful and respectful way the text has been handled, and the resulting product, which is both a pleasure to read and an instructive help to the student of scripture. Boaz Michael and his team at First Fruits of Zion are to be congratulated on serving the Messianic movement, and anyone interested in the Jewish roots of their faith with such a valuable and important resource.
Imagine if Messianic Judaism had continued in an unbroken stream from the time of the Jerusalem congregation until now. Imagine if the four gospels had come to be treated, from a much earlier time, as holy books. Imagine if the records of the deeds and sayings of King Messiah had been treated from ancient times in a manner comparable to Sinai and the Torah. With the appearance of the DHE we are witnessing a reclamation of the glory that should have been accorded the gospels long ago.
In simple terms, the printing of the four accounts of Messiah as a Jewish book is long overdue. And may Messiah's blessing be upon Vine of David for sacrificially laboring to bring such overdue glory to Mattai, Markos, Lukas, and Yochanan's besorot and, more importantly, to Messiah Yeshua who is revealed within these pages. In our congregational family in Atlanta, a new tradition of reading the besorot with a blessing upon hearing good news is about to begin.
Finally, together in one volume--a monumental Hebrew version of the Gospels alongside a fresh new English translation! This new version brings out the Jewishness of the Gospels in a way never before produced into English. Beautifully bound with useful tools and appendices, this edition is an absolute must for every person who wishes to better understand the Jewishness of the gospel message. This is a thoroughly Jewish text worthy of any Jewish bookshelf.
Every Bible Translation software package that I know of includes the Delitzsch Gospels (as part of the Delitzsch New Testament). Why? Because Bible translators have long noted this excellent version and still use it as a reference for how to render certain of the more difficult biblical passages. Now that same excellence is made available in English to the non-specialist via the DHE. Even New Testament translators, with a working knowledge of Greek but not Hebrew, will benefit from this new work!
Aside from the obvious, like the gorgeous layout of Vine of David's The Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels, this volume is worth experiencing. I believe it is destined to have an impact on the Jewish and Christian worlds. Why? Because of its powerful representation of the Jewishness of Jesus, both the Man and his message. When I read I am in "deep Jewish space." This is communicated primarily though the biblical idiom undergirding Dr. Delitzsch's translation. Reading the Hebrew text allows me to touch and smell the soil of ancient Israel. As a Jew who loves the Risen One, this is where I belong. This is where the Jewish and Christian worlds belong. Yasher coach! (May you have strength!), Vine of David. You have performed a mitzvah by publishing this important translation of the Gospels.
It is with gratitude for Vine of David that we now have a new reissuing of the Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels. This is a great classic. The language is high and classical in both the Hebrew and English. It is a wonderful resource and I hope it is widely used for study and outreach.
A truly redemptive work. The DHE is an invaluable resource to push Messianic Judaism to new levels of maturity and scholarship.
What a gift ... You have covered so many points--with a Jewish understanding of terms, rabbinic thought, etc. ... the work you have put into this is amazing ... thank you for this treasure!
The greatest handicap that a student of the Gospels and other New Testament writings faces is reading a text that has undergone countless translations, where the translators reflected their own cultures, times and understandings. Christendom, through this long period of translations, was at the best 'replacement' in their theology and anti-Semitic in expression. The New Testament, with its foundations in the Gospels, was transformed into a Gentile book, with a Gentile Savior, speaking to a Gentile world. The Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels strips all of this away, enabling the reader to see Yeshua as a Jewish Messiah and a Light to the Nations.
Yeshua and his talmadim (students or disciples) spoke Hebrew, not Greek. They were Jews existing in a Jewish Society. Very little of this comes through accurately in most renditions of the Gospels and other New Testament works. While others have translated from the Greek to Hebrew, their renderings were always lacking as they translated without knowledge of the Jewish world of the First Century. Professor Franz Delitzsch, not only a master of Biblical and Mishnaic Hebrew, but a noted scholar of the Jewish writings of this period and that immediately following the First Century C. E., transposes this knowledge in The Hebrew Gospels and gives the reader a true understanding of his reading. Professor Delitzsch's many works have received high acclaim from Jewish scholars since they were first published in the Nineteenth Century. Delitzsch is one of the few non-Jewish scholars that I feel free to use when presenting our research on the Holy Temple to the Rabbis in Jerusalem. I believe that this is the most accurate translation available anywhere.
This Publication by Vine of David does credit to this great work as it is beautifully bound and laid out. The Hebrew on one side with an informative sidebar explaining terminology, supplying references and explanatory notes is invaluable. Opposite from the Hebrew is the English, also with corresponding notes, allowing the reader to cross reference to the Hebrew with ease. Both English and Hebrew are in clear, easy to read type. The Introduction is excellent and prepares the reader for the text to maximize their experience. The helps in the back are some of the best to be found anywhere. The maps, diagram of the Temple, calendars, etc., are designed for quick reference and useful for detailed research. The other helps, such as the Transliterated Hebrew Terms and Glossary of Idioms, are references all can and should use. I believe every believer in Yeshua should have this Volume as a part of their Library and keep it with them wherever they go.