Wednesday, July 07, 2010

What About the Complete Jewish Bible? Is this a good version?

The Earth belongs to HaShem
"The Earth Belongs to HaShem and the Fullness Thereof."

What About the Complete Jewish Bible?

Is this a good version?

By Yochanan ben Avraham (John of AllFaith) 07.07.10

I've written extensively about my distaste for the New International Version of the Bible (NIV) and other modern versions. I've also discussed my views on the superiority of the Authorized King James Version (KJV) as a translation of the Textus Receptus source materials. Two of my previous studies on this topic may be of interest:

So it may come as a surprise that I like the Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). Here's why:

What makes this version unique is the intent of David Stern, the translator. Mr. Stern is a skilled and qualified translator with personal faith and intimate experience from within both Judaism and Christianity. He readily admits his personal biases and uses them to strengthen his version by deliberately translating the texts from a Jewish perspective and cultural context. This inclusion helps restore the cultural Jewish underpinning of the texts that has been undermined by Gentile cultural paradigms in other translations.

Mr. Stern's version sets the 66 Books of the Bible in a solidly Jewish cultural context without undermining their essential doctrines. This is its great strength. The CJB presents the Bible as the Jewish Scripture it was written and intended to be. This is especially apparent in the books of the B'rit Hadashah (New Testament) where Western paradigms have obscured the Jewish Moshiach and his message since the dawn of the Church age.

Its weakness is that like most other modern translations Mr. Stern draws from a wide array of non-Textus Receptus source materials, choosing those he feels best presents the authentic Jewishness of the text. These selections are not always harmonious with the Textus Receptus (from which the KJV was translated) and hence there are at times inconsistencies. His is therefore not a strict translation but an ethnically charged modern language paraphrase. However as all translations are impacted by the beliefs of the translators, biases in favor of the original culture need not be considered a negative.

And its very good overall!

So... I recommend this version for general reading and group religious services and the King James for deeper studies. There is no single perfect translation. Where the Complete Jewish Bible differs from the KJV I suggest in favor of the King James Version reading (unless the divergence is based on a poor or outdated translation of the Textus Receptus). For example:

KJV: II Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

CJB: II Timothy 2:15 Do all you can to present yourself to God as someone worthy of his approval, as a worker with no need to be ashamed, because he deals straightforwardly with the Word of the Truth.

The beginning of this verse provides an example of a difference based on an outdated translation in the King James: The word "study" here is spoudazo. The CJB translates this word as applying oneself diligently rather than as studying (generally understood in the KJV as Bible study). The meaning of the word has shifted from its meaning in the 1600's. The CJB is the better translation of what the word means today.

Another important point to consider is illustrated later in this verse where the KJV has "rightly dividing" (the Word of Truth). The word orthotomeo means "rightly dividing" (as the KJV has it) but it also carries the idea of being a "straight and true cut" or the "straightforward" understanding of the Word as in the CJB. Both are correct even though they may seem different when read in English. Many words carry more than a single meaning in context.

This again is a strength of the CJB in that it seeks to draw out the more Jewish/biblical meanings. We would not wish to lose sight of the idea of "rightly dividing" either of course. We must carefully study the significant words in our texts rather than assume any translation is all inclusive of the meanings. In this way the more deeply we delve into the Word of Truth the more spiritual "meat" we will discover.

As I discuss elsewhere no original copies or even direct translations of the original Scriptures exist. For this reason we can not be absolutely certain what the Bible originally said in specific verses (which is partly why we must "rightly divide." We must rely on copies of copies. This is more true for the books of the B'rit Hadashah (New Testament) than of the Tanakh -- which was much better preserved, due in part to the Rabbinic practice of keeping a carefully handwritten scroll of the Torah in every shul (congregational meeting place).

There are myriad sometimes conflicting versions of these copies of copies of copies used by modern scholars for their new versions of the Bible. Most new translations (including the Complete Jewish Bible) are taken from a much wider array of source materials than the King James Version was drawn from.

While the translation of the KJV is not perfect it has been the established foundation of the faith for a very long time. Shifting that foundation alters what resides upon it (i.e. ones doctrines).

The current cacophony of competing source materials calls ever more on the judgment of the translators to determine which readings are the best (or most likely harmonious with the originals). Therein resides my chief concern about the various versions now being circulated and accepted:

Since a shockingly large percentage of these modern translators are not Believers in God, do not accept the traditional Christian faith, nor even accept the divine inspiration of the Bible itself -- Westcott and Hort, the most influential of the modern scholarly translators were admittedly Agnostic humanists -- their judgments in these matters should at the very least be considered suspect. Many of these modern versions are based on their work and teach a fundamentally different religion than the King James Version. This does not in itself make their translations heretical but considering the doctrinal shifts they establish their philosophical views and anti-biblical beliefs should be considered. These two Secular Humanists have fundamentally altered the Christian faith and yet most Christians have never even heard of them.

The point is -- the theological beliefs of the translators directly impact the dependability and doctrinal content of their translations. How could it be otherwise?

It is human nature and unavoidable that ones beliefs will effect ones translation from one language to another (although it can be minimized by ethical translators) and yet these biases need to be understood.

Proponents of Universalism and Secular Humanism will (do) translate from that perspective as we see in the NIV.

The King James Version is not a perfect translation however its history and over-all integrity far surpasses most modern versions.

The Complete Jewish Bible aims at restoring Jewish culture to the context of the Bible that was lost by non-Jewish translators and the official Church ban on "Judaizing."

I am beginning to incorporate the CJB into some of my studies here because I believe it will be easier for people to understand and to sense the cultural implications of the various texts.

As you continue applying yourself to the Word of HaShem I pray the Ruach Hakodesh will guide you into ever deeper truth.


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