More news on the TBS Revised Hebrew New Testament follows below.
(While, I support their work on this new revision of speakers of Modern Hebrew I hope that they will continue to re-print the 10th or the 11th edition of Franz Delitzsch Hebrew NT that has already become a classic.)
Trinitarian Bible Society – Quarterly Record Issue Number: 596 – July to September 2011
by Philip J. D. Hopkins
As mentioned briefly in the article on Israel and the Hebrew New Testament by Peter Hallihan later in this Quarterly Record, the Society is currently undertaking a revision of the edition of the Delitzsch Hebrew New Testament that was corrected to the Textus Receptus and published in the late 19th century. This revision work is being carried out almost entirely in Israel and involves a sizable group of people, each contributing an area of expertise to the work. Some might wonder if such a major undertaking is necessary. By way of answer, I would like to set out first of all the need for a new edition of the Hebrew New Testament, and then to explain the aims of the current revision, the complex nature of the work and the present status of this project.
Declining use of the Delitzsch New Testament
In the years following its publication in the late 1800s, the Delitzsch translation was used by most Christians in Israel. Sadly, in recent years most believers are instead using a modern translation published by the Bible Society in Israel. To a significant extent, this situation has arisen because most new believers in Israel are ethnic Jews from Russia who generally do not know Hebrew well—they tend only to use a colloquial form of Hebrew, known as street Hebrew—and the modern version uses a colloquial, everyday type of the language which is often inappropriate for conveying the Word of God(Endnote 1). An additional major difficulty is that the modern version omits so many verses and words, because it has been produced using the corrupted Critical Greek Text. This trend has highlighted the need for a sound edition of the New Testament in the Hebrew language, one which retains the excellent qualities of the Delitzsch edition, but which will also encourage more people to return to a formal equivalence, literary Hebrew version more in tune with the Hebrew Old Testament. Furthermore, as recorded in Peter Hallihan’s article, Delitzsch first of all produced his Hebrew New Testament based on the Critical Text of the Greek New Testament and then later revised it to bring it into conformity to the Received Text. This fundamental alteration was not always made in an entirely satisfactory manner: some changes to represent the Received Text were left in brackets, a number of alterations to represent the Received Text correctly were not made, and in some instances the changes were made without ensuring that the alterations flowed nicely with the rest of the text. These points indicate that a thorough revision to ensure better conformity to the Received Text has been long overdue.
The main aims of the revision project
The principal aims of the project are first of all to produce an edition of the Hebrew New Testament that retains the beauty of the Delitzsch Hebrew, whilst improving its conformance to the Greek Textus Receptus, and secondly to amend words that have changed their meaning significantly and to replace any other words that are difficult for Hebrew-speaking people of today to understand. Where possible, words that are being changed are being replaced with words from the Hebrew Old Testament so that there is increased uniformity in the style and language between the Old and New Testaments. As hinted earlier, Delitzsch used a particular form of Hebrew which, whilst possessing great literary beauty and reverence, is not necessarily accessible to a good number of those using Hebrew today(Endnote 2). The end result, we trust, will provide the Hebrew-speaking peoples with a trustworthy, reverent and more widely accessible copy of the New Testament.
The complex nature of the project
Before we take a look at how far the work has progressed, it is helpful to understand the breadth of the project, which is in part occasioned by the complex nature of the Hebrew language. The present team, which began its work on revising the Gospel according to John in May 2010, has been headed by a minister of the Gospel who up until recently was living in Israel and had done so for a number of years. The core of the team—working under his guidance, and all living in Israel—includes one of the Society’s Editorial Consultants with specialist New Testament Greek knowledge; an American missionary with a good working knowledge of Hebrew and New Testament Greek, who works on the alignment between the Greek and Hebrew; and a literary Hebrew consultant, an expert in Biblical and literary Hebrew who is very familiar with Delitzsch’s style and thus able to help preserve his eloquence whilst providing important guidance on the nuances of the Hebrew language. These core team members are also in close touch with a number of other reviewers who supply valuable additional expertise. The first of these is a long-time believer and user of the Delitzsch Hebrew New Testament who reads through and comments on the faithfulness of the revised text to the style of Delitzsch. The second reviewer is a nikkud specialist: someone with expertise in the pointing of the Hebrew language—the marks closely associated with the Hebrew vowel letters. The pointing of the language is extremely important, not only in conveying the correct punctuation of the Hebrew, but also the verb tenses and such aspects as personal pronouns. A slight repositioning of one of these pointing marks can alter the meaning of the associated word; thus it is necessary to ensure (as far as possible) that every one of these little marks is in the right place.
The current status and future goals
The team has made good progress in the Gospel according to John, which is the first book they are working on as part of a revision of the entire New Testament. It is gratifying to report that at the time of writing (23rd May) the core team has very recently completed its main review of the entire book. However, the chapters from ten onward still need to be reviewed by the nikkud specialist, and by the long-time Delitzsch reader. Subject to the Lord’s will, we anticipate publication of the Hebrew John sometime towards the end of this year, with the intention to publish it in a diglot format with the English text of the Authorized (King James) Version. It is foreseen that the revision of the entire New Testament will take some five to seven years in total. Nevertheless the Society has made a firm commitment, under God, to seeing the revision through to completion, recognizing the privilege of being able to work in this language and its Scriptural importance.
Your prayers for all those working on this project are greatly coveted—that they might enjoy health and strength for their labors and receive God-given wisdom and discernment for the difficult choices which they frequently have to make, as they seek to give the Hebrew-speaking peoples a faithful and accurate edition of the New Testament in language that is accessible to many and also consistent with the Hebrew Old Testament(Endnote 3). Certainly, it is the pre-eminent desire of those associated with this particular project that the Lord will use the eventual publication and circulation of the revised Delitzsch Hebrew New Testament to bring many of the Jewish people to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ for the glory of His worthy name.
1. It has been suggested by my colleague Al Hembd (who is currently based in Israel and
working on this project) that the decreased use of the Delitzsch New Testament among
Jewish Christians may mean an increasing number of them are not able to read their own Old
Testament—a lamentable situation.
2. It is also worth pointing out that the Delitzsch New Testament is to a large extent written in
the style of the Old Testament and thus provides an excellent basis from which to work.
3. This is important as it demonstrates to the discerning reader the truth that the Old and New
Testaments together comprise the canon of Holy Scripture and are to be considered as one
entity—the Word of God.
Last edited by bkMitchell; 07-30-2011 at 04:13 AM.
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Thanks for providing that article, Brian. It was very informative. It answers some of the questions we wrestled with earlier in this thread. It seems Delitzsch himself produced several versions, the first in line with the critical text. Later, he produced another version that conformed - although not perfectly in the words of the author - to the Textus Receptus.
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