The New Testament in Hebrew
Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 31 March 2014; Revised 5 February 2016
Terminology: In order to emphasize the Jewish nature of the apostolic writings (New Testament) and message I use the terms Yeshua (Jesus), Messiah (Christ), Tanakh (Old Testament) and Besekh (New Testament).
Composition of the New Testament
There are over 5,000 extant MSS of the New Testament in Greek and the earliest manuscript is dated at c. 200. No original MS of the Besekh exists in Hebrew. Since the Besekh was written by Jews and heavily dependent on the LXX, then not surprisingly the Besekh bears the same vocabulary and approach to grammatical construction as the LXX, making the Besekh also Jewish Greek. See my web article The Jewish New Testament.
According to the Church Fathers some apostolic writings were originally written in Hebrew and then later translated into Greek. Irenaeus (120-202 A.D.) said that Matthew wrote his narrative originally in Hebrew (Eusebius, Church History, V, 8:2-4 ) and Clement of Alexandria said that Paul wrote the letter to the Hebrews in Hebrew and Luke translated it into Greek (Eusebius, Church History, VI, 14.2). The Hebraic syntax of the letters of Jacob ("James"), 2 Peter, and Judah ("Jude") and the book of Revelation also points to an original Hebrew composition.
Hebrew Versions of the New Testament
Many scholars over the centuries have labored to translate portions of the Greek New Testament into Hebrew. Only a few have translated the entire body of apostolic writings, and fortunately these works are available on the Internet. The ease of translation into Hebrew, the language of the apostolic writers, was emphasized by Robert L. Lindsey (1917-1995), a Baptist pastor in Jerusalem who worked on translating the Synoptic Narratives into Hebrew. He found that the Greek text could be easily translated word by word into Hebrew, something only translated Greek materials usually demonstrate (Jesus Rabbi & Lord: The Hebrew Story of Jesus Behind our Gospels, Cornerstone Publishing, 1990; p. iv). Four Hebrew versions of the Besekh are available.
Franz Delitzsch, Hebrew New Testament. Leipzig, 1877. Online. (Biblical Hebrew)
Franz Delitzsch (1813-1890), was a German Lutheran theologian and Hebraist. Born in Leipzig, he held the professorship of theology at the University of Rostock from 1846 to 1850, at the University of Erlangen until 1867, and after that at the University of Leipzig until his death. Delitzsch wrote many commentaries on books of the Bible, as well as translating the New Testament into Hebrew. He publicly defended the Jewish community against anti-Judaic attacks. In 1880 he established the Institutum Judaicum in Leipzig for the training of missionary workers among Jews. Click here for more of his biography. The four apostolic narratives of his Hebrew New Testament are available in book form and published by First Fruits of Zion.
Ezekiel Margoliuth, HaB'rit HaChadashah al pi Mashiach [New Covenant of the Messiah] Public Domain, 1927. Online.
Ezekiel Margoliouth (1816-1894) was a Christian Hebraist, born to a Jewish family in Suwalki, Poland. He went to the rabbinical seminary at Warsaw, were he first met missionaries of the London Jews Society. At the age of twenty-seven he confessed faith in Yeshua as his Saviour. In 1852 he was appointed a missionary of the LJS in London, and worked in Bethnal Green as a missionary to the Jews almost to the end of his life. His translation of the New Testament in Hebrew in 1865 is based on the 1599 Hutter Polyglot, which can be viewed at Bibles-Online. His translation is the only one that included cantillation marks for singing.
Isaac E. Salkinson, HaB'rit HaChadashah. British Missionary Society, 1886. Online. Produced by the Society For Distributing Hebrew Scriptures, Middlesex, England.
Isaac E. Salkinson (1820-1883) was a Christian Hebraist, born to a Jewish family in Wilna, Russia. As a youth, Isaac set out for America with the intention of entering a rabbinical seminary there. While in London he met with missionaries from the London Missionary Society and came to faith. He was baptized ca. 1849. After graduating from the LJS training college he was appointed as a missionary to the Jews at Edinburgh, where he became a student at Divinity Hall. He was ordained a minister of the Presbyterian Church at Glasgow in 1859. He served his church as a missionary in various towns and finally settled in Vienna (1876). Isaac's Hebrew translation of the New Testament was undertaken for the British Missionary Society in 1877 and published posthumously, under the supervision of C. D. Ginsburg, also a Christian Hebraist, at Vienna in 1886.
Bible Society in Israel
HaB'rit HaChadashah [New Covenant]: Tirgum Chadash. [New Translation]. Bible Society in Israel, 1991. Online. (Modern Hebrew) The Bible Society in Israel is an independent organization, originally an agency of the British and Foreign Bible Society, and now associated with the United Bible Societies. Go to their website for more information.
The Tirgum Chadash has also been published in book form in the Hebrew-English Bible, The Bible Society in Israel and the Israel Association for the Dissemination of Biblical Writings, 1996. (Modern Hebrew with English NKJV)
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