In the year 1877, German Lutheran scholar and Hebraist Franz Delitzsch (1813-1890), translated the Greek New Testament into the Hebrew language because of his love for the Jewish people. He did this translation as a "reconstruction" of what he believed the Lord Jesus Christ (haAdon Yeshua haMashiyach
) would have said if He spoke in Hebrew. Unlike most scholars, Delitzsch believed that the Palestinian Jews of the 1st century spoke Hebrew. In order to maintain continuity between the Old and New Covenants, Delitzsch used Biblical Hebrew and (if necessary) Mishnaic Hebrew. To this day, the Delitzsch Hebrew New Testament is the standard for Hebrew translations of the New Testament.
In 2011, a Messianic Jewish ministry called Vine of David completed a translation of Delitzsch's Hebrew Gospels into English. This translation is a monumental work and a valuable study tool to those who wish to understand Jewish culture, which is the culture in which Messiah made His first coming. It is a literal translation, even maintaining and explaining some Hebrew idioms and words. In the back of the translation, a glossary of transliterated Hebrew terms (like tzedakah
/righteousness/charity) and a list of the idioms of the Hebrew language used in the translation, giving detailed explanations of both. For example, see what they say about the Hebrew davar
'A message; report; statement; saying; prophecy.
The Aramaic term meimar
meaning "word" is inserted by the Targums (Aramaic translations of the Hebrew Scriptures) to provide distance in passages that imply anthropomorphism or other objectionable conceptions of God. As a result, the "word of God" is personified and associated with God's interaction with the world. In Rabbinic literature, a similar concept is expressed by the Hebrew term dibbur
, which has the sense of "utterance."
The Hellenistic Jewish philosopher Philo spoke of the logos
in comparable terms as an emanation of God that interacts with the world.'
The Hebrew text of Delitzsch's translation is also used in the publication. So you can compare Delitzsch's translation with Vine of David's English translation of the text. Both are definitely worthwhile. I have read through the translation and have been blessed by it tremendously. Seeing the words of the Jewish Messiah Yeshua haNotzri
(Jesus the Nazarene) in a Jewish context is very enlightening and allows us to see Him through the eyes of those who heard Him speak with their ears and saw Him with their own eyes. Here is my transliterated form of Delitzsch's text and their translation of John 1:1:
B'reshit haya haDavar v'haDavar hya et haElohim v'Elohim haya haDavar
"In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God."
In this translation, many Hebrew terms (like Shabbat
for "Sabbath") and names (like Yeshua
for Jesus) are transliterated. The name of God (YHWH) is translated with a circumlocution: HaShem
(Hebrew for "The Name"). For the benefit of those who are not familiar with this terminology, they are explained. I find the Hebrew terminology beautiful. If they did not transliterate these terms, it would be easy to disconnect Jesus from His 1st century Jewish context.
The introduction to the translation includes a lot of fascinating material. They explain, in detail, the process in which they did the translation and why they translated certain passages like they did. They also discuss some flaws in Delitzsch's translation and also why his translation is important today. Each of the Gospels have their own introduction written by Messianic Jewish Rabbi Yechiel Tzvi Lichtenstein, who wrote a commentary on the New Testament using the Delitzsch Hebrew translation.
All in all, this translation comes highly recommended. I can hardly stand not taking it with me wherever I go. If you love Jewish culture, or if you are a Jew wanting to view the Messiah as the 1st century Jewish Rabbi that He is, then you definitely should purchase this translation.
- This is Vine of David's website, where you can purchase The Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels