Quite often I am asked about the best English translation of the Hebrew Bible. I prefer the The Jerusalem Bible Edition of the Koren Tanakh for. Jewish English Bible translations are English translations of the Hebrew Bible ( Tanakh) . The Koren Jerusalem Bible is sometimes referred to as The Jerusalem Bible, Koren Bible, the Koren Tanakh, or Tanakh Yerushalayim ( Hebrew for. The Koren Tanakh was the first Jewish Bible edited, designed, produced and bound by Jews in nearly years. Its creator, master typographer Eliyahu Koren .
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The following is a written summary of our video review featuring excerpts, historical snapshots, and discussions of key issues, and is part of our Bible review series. Do you recommend it? The Hebrew-only version gets two thumbs up and comes in first place in our recommendations for Hebrew Bibles!
The English translation gets a thumbs up but it wouldn’t be our first choice. Read on to learn why. Who’s this Bible best for? The Koren Tanakh will be a good fit for you if you’re looking for a Hebrew Bible that’s beautiful and sturdy, traditionally Jewish and historically Israeli, and that comes with an optional Tana,h translation that’s very literal and uses the original pronunciation of Hebrew names. Would you suggest this as a primary or a secondary Bible?
It depends what you’re looking for. See the end of this review for a list of formats, and links to purchase. How’s this version’s relationship with the Jewish people, and with Judaism? Not only was it produced by religious Jewish editors, type designers, printers, binders, and translators, but it was developed with a high degree of sensitivity to the Masoretic tradition, and was the first Jewish Bible to use the original pronunciation of Hebrew names in the English text.
The Koren Tanakh isn’t only religiously Jewish, either. It’s also distinctively Israeli.
Produced by Israelis, published in the holy city of Jerusalem, given to every soldier upon their swearing in, and used in the oath of office taken by members of the Knesset, this Bible is a central character in the story of modern Israel.
We have been governed by a Provisional State Council, a Provisional Government and even now sit in the temporary Knesset building. To date, Israeli presidents have been sworn in using a temporary edition of the Bible. This occasion symbolizes our overcoming of foreign heritage and return to our origins.
Who’s the publisher, and when did it come out? To tell the story of Koren Publishers Jerusalem one must start with Eliyahu Koren, the artist who left biblical fingerprints all over the story of modern Israel. He was a gifted artist from an early age, and completed a six-year graphic and applied arts course in only three years. In news reached the young Eliyahu that Bavarian Jews were being required to carry special secret police travel permits to travel abroad. He later said, “I saw by this verdict divestiture of the freedom of the Jewish individual, and decided to leave Germany at the earliest possible hour.
He worked as a graphic artist in Tel Aviv before serving as head of the graphics department of Keren Kayemet, the Jewish National Fund, from to In he designed the Emblem of Jerusalem, which continues to be used today.
He chaired the university’s Bible Committee for several years, but along with other scholars on the committee became dissatisfied with the direction of the project. So in the late 50s he set out to do it himself. He created a new font which he named the Koren Bible Type, developed a graphic layout, and gathered a team to proofread and correct a previous edition of the Hebrew text to ensure complete agreement with Masoretic tradition.
Inat the age of 44, Korngold changed his last name to Koren and founded Koren Publishers Jerusalem. In the Koren edition of the Torah was released during the patriotic holiday of Chanukah, with the complete Tanakh following two years later.
As a master typographer and graphic artist, Koren was a shining example of the power that artists have to create culture and steer society.
In he was awarded the Jerusalem Prize, the city’s most prestigious award. He died three years later at the age of 94, but the story of Koren Publishers continued. Under the leadership of Matthew Miller, who bought the company inKoren has continued to release significant works, including the colourful Steinsaltz edition of the Talmud and the Koren Sacks Siddur, which is the only Orthodox prayerbook that includes prayers for the state of Israel, its soldiers, and its national holidays.
Of it Miller said “In our hashkafa Zionism is important, the state of Israel is important, and engaging the world is important. Watch the video review for dozens of vintage pictures of the Koren story and for a discussion of the Israeli phenomenon of taking a Hebrew name. Who translated it, and what’s their story? The story of Harold Fisch, who furnished the English translation of the Koren Jerusalem Bible, is likewise a shining chapter in the story of modern Israel.
Harold’s father was staunchly Orthodox, criticizing the British Chief Rabbinate as a “foreign plant in the vineyard of the House of Israel and modeled on the Anglican church” and blasting Liberal Reform Jews as “worse than Karaites”. Rather surprisingly, he enjoyed drinking from the waters of the Christian theology and poetry of the s and later wrote in his autobiography, “This deepening interest in seventeenth-century English divinity proceeded simultaneously with a growing Jewish awareness.
What I was discovering in the early seventeenth-century poets and preachers was a reflecting glass that made my Judaism clearer to me. I was constantly discovering matters that belonged to my own religious tradition, but presented in an unfamiliar and hence more interesting guise.
In Israel he served as professor of English literature and rector at Bar-Ilan – the only religious university in the country – and was awarded the Israel Prize for the Study of Literature in Fisch was an outspoken Zionist and was deeply involved in the Land of Israel movement after the war of He was also influential in Gush Emunim which became the settlers movement, and wrote The Zionist Revolution in which became that movement’s most comprehensive manifesto.
He died inthe same year as Eliyahu Koren.
Jewish English Bible translations
The Introduction to the Koren Tanakh notes that Fisch’s translation wasn’t entirely new, but rather was a modernized and “corrected” revision of several previous works. In that regard, the story of Koren’s Jerusalem Bible is also a window into the history of early Jewish Bible translation.
Koren’s preface ascribes to the Friedlander Bible “two important merits: Friedlander’s translation never became as popular as Isaac Leeser’s which we’ll discuss next but it did influence the translators of the first JPS edition. Michael Friedlander himself was born in Prussia in and went to both Catholic school and cheder. He served as the principal of the Talmud school in Berlin before moving to England in at the age of 32 to become principal of Jews’ College in London, a position which he held until three years before his death in Friedlander was the father-in-law of Moses Gaster, the “Hakham” or chief rabbi of the Sephardic Jewish community in London.
He was fluent in Arabic, and became well known not only for his Bible but also for his translation of the Rambam’s “Guide for the Perplexed”. Isaac Leeser Koren’s English translation also includes elements from Isaac Leeser’s Bible which came out in and was not only the first American Jewish Bible, but was also the most popular until the advent of the Jewish Publication Society’s version in The Leeser Bible was based on the King James Version, but was distinctively Jewish in at least four ways – it sided with traditional Jewish interpretation in key texts, carried over the Hebrew word order into the English, offered notes from Rashi and other rabbinic sources, and had the names of the Books of the Bible, along with the Torah and Haftorah portions, written in Hebrew.
You may want to download the English text of the Leeser Bible and see these features for yourself, compliments of Holy Language Institute. Leeser himself did more to shape American Jewry than any other figure in the s. When he emigrated from his native Germany in to live with his uncle Zalman in Richmond Virginia there weren’t more than 15, Jews in America out of a total population of roughly a million people.
The Jewish community didn’t have a single ordained rabbi, and no English translation of the Bible or prayerbook. Leeser himself was an orphan who had studied under the chief rabbi of Munster, and even though he was only 17 when he arrived in the new world it didn’t take long for him to become a public figure.
In the year-old Isaac wrote a reply to an antisemitic article being circulated in the colonies, which caught the attention of the Jewish community and culminated in him moving to Philadelphia in to become the cantor for Mikveh Israel, a Sephardic synagogue. Taking a cue from Conservative and Reform congregations in Germany, young Isaac started preaching sermons in English, which was a first for American Jewry.
And that was just the beginning! In he published a Sephardi prayerbook with his own English translation, and released a similar Ashkenazi prayerbook ten years later. In he launched “The Occident and American Jewish Advodate”, a monthly magazine which quickly became the grapevine of American Jewry and featured sermons, children’s sections, scholarly research, book reviews, and news items of Jewish interest such as obituaries, congregational tanxkh, and foreign happenings. Isaac Leeser became the Johnny Appleseed of American Judaism and was involved in the start of almost every Jewish institution in his lifetime, including America’s first rabbinical college koreen several Jewish day schools.
He fought shoulder to shoulder with Seventh Day Baptists for freedoms for religious minorities, and President Lincoln’s appointment of the first Jewish military chaplain was in response to a written request from Leeser. By the time of Isaac Leeser’s death in he had done more to shape American Judaism than any other man, and while the Leeser Bible was probably his greatest achievement, it was the tip of the ice’berg’ of his influence on the American Tanzkh community, which by then had grown to overKoreh the video review for dozens of rare historical shots of the lives and Bibles of Harold Fisch, Michael Friedlander, and Isaac Leeser.
The Jerusalem Bible Edition of the Koren Tanakh – A Review
Is it more word for word, or thought for thought? The intro states that “the Koren translation remains perhaps the most accurate and true to the text”, and this Bible is indeed a very literal translation.
In order to understand just how literal this translation is, you need to understand one of the fundamental weaknesses of modern English – that there is no difference between second person singular and plural pronouns.
In other words, I can’t tell whether you’re talking to me or to me and everyone around me because in both cases you’d just say “you”. Of course, people in the South have rectified this problem by saying “y’all’ to an individual and “all y’all” to a group, and some folks in the Northeast have taken to saying “youse guys”, but these brilliant innovations have been slow to spread throughout the greater English-speaking world.
People in the olden days had this problem solved too by saying “thee” and thou” to an individual, and “you” to a group. Unfortunately no one ever waved the magic wand of evolution over the English language, so at some point we devolved to just saying “you” to everybody, probably around the same time that rap music became popular.
This smearing over of grammatical lines presents a challenge to Bible translators because Hebrew differentiates between the second person singular and plural, but there’s no way to communicate this without Moses saying “you guys”.
This is noted as a significant distinctive in the preface: Modern English has lost this critical distinction, as have many translations, to their detriment. For instance, how many English speakers today know that “thou” is used when addressing the subject of the sentence, “thee” when addressing tannakh object of the sentence, and “thy” and “thine” when referring to something owned by the addressee? How are Hebrew personal names written? Another distinctive of the Koren Tanakh is that the names of people and places aren’t translated, but tanaih are transliterated and retain their original Hebrew pronunciation.
The transliteration of Hebrew names was a revolutionary act in the s and was intentional on the part of Koren Publishers who declared, “By rejecting proper names and titles based on the Greek and Taanakh, the editors and publishers of this Hebrew-English addition signify their desire to return to a more authentic reading of the Jewish scriptures. The use of the Hebrew names transcribed into English is a marked contribution towards retaining the specifically Jewish tone of the literary bedrock of Judaism.
For instance, the Hebrew letter chet is written as an “h” with a dot under it, also known as the diacritical underdot. Similarly, tzade is transliterated with the diacritically underdotted “z”.
Hence the name Yizhaq for instance has dots under two of the letters, which can be formidable if you’re just getting started with Hebrew. Another drawback to this system is that it can’t be used in regular communication, unless you want to get a custom-made keyboard with the diacritical underdot forms of the letters.
A simpler and more popular way of transliterating these Hebrew letters today is to write tzade as “tz”, and to write “ch” for chet and the soft form of kaf. In this system Isaac, to use the same example, is Yitzchak.
The Koren Tanakh: The Authentic Biblical Experience – Beliefnet
Other examples would include common Jewish words such as bar mitzvah, chanukah, and l’chaim. In Koren’s system distinctions are made between similar letters, for instance aleph ranakh ayin. Same goes for the letters kaph and quph. Kaph is written with the letter “k”, therefore Caleb is Kalev and quph is written with the letter “q” as in the name Baraq. These distinctions are useful from a linguistic perspective, but it’s worth noting that in both cases these letters kkren pronounced exactly the same by most Hebrew speakers today.
Interestingly enough, when a Hebrew word ends with the letter hei which is commonly transliterated with “h”, the Koren system simply drops the letter. How are Hebrew place tahakh written? Geographical names likewise retain their original Hebrew pronunciation, which is also what they continue to be called in modern Hebrew in Israel today.