Why Is the Newest Bible Translation in Modern Hebrew?

Some say Israelis need a Hebrew translation of the Bible for the 21st century

Why Is the Newest Bible Translation in Modern Hebrew?

Reches Educational Projects in Israel recently published its modern Hebrew translation of the Bible. While some believe this newest Bible translation meets the linguistic reality of modern Israeli society, others believe it will deter younger people from learning Biblical Hebrew.

The Bible has been translated into more than 2,000 modern languages. Only one has been a matter of controversy in Israel—a recent modern Hebrew translation of the Bible.

According to an article in Hadassah Magazine, this newest Bible translation has been called scandalous, pernicious and even fraudulent. Some fear that if this modern Hebrew “translation” is used in schools, the children will grow estranged from the Biblical language.

The defenders of the newest Bible translation claim that Israelis speak Israeli modern Hebrew rather than Hebrew. Gil’ad Zuckermann, a professor of linguistics, maintains that Israeli modern Hebrew is a hybrid of ancient Hebrew, Yiddish, Russian, Polish, Romanian and other languages.

Regarding the need for a modern Hebrew translation of the Bible, Zuckermann asks: “How many Israelis know that an egla meshulleshet [Genesis 15:9] is not a triangular cow but ‘a heifer of three years old’? If they studied [the new translation] the RAM Bible, they would know because it is translated as such: egla bat shalosh.”

Another example Zuckermann cites: “Most Israelis misunderstand yeled sha’ashuim [Jeremiah 31:19] as ‘playboy’ rather than ‘pleasant child.’”

The new modern Hebrew “translation” of the Bible is the result of a four-a-half-year effort by 90-year-old kibbutznik Avraham Ahuvia, a retired Bible teacher. What he did, according to publisher Rafi Mozes of Reches Educational Projects, was “mediate between the Biblical language and the Hebrew spoken today.”

The religion section of most bookstores includes an amazing array of Bibles. In our free eBook The Holy Bible: A Buyer’s Guide, prominent Biblical scholars Leonard Greenspoon and Harvey Minkoff expertly guide you through 21 different Bible translations (or versions) and address their content, text, style and religious orientation.

The King James translation of the Bible begins, “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.” Ahuvia’s modern Hebrew translation starts with, “At the beginning of creation, when God created the world,” ending with a comma leading into the next verse.

“I didn’t say ‘heaven and earth’ but ‘the world,’” Ahuvia said, “because on the second day he created the firmament and called it heaven. In the Bible, the phrase ha-shamayim ve-ha’aretz means ‘the world.’”

Drora Halevy, national supervisor of Bible studies at the Ministry of Education, claims: “This translation cuts out the heart of the Bible. It reduces the Bible to just another book. In the Bible, form and content are bound together. The translation kills it.”

Translator Ahuvia admits that in the competition between the Bible and his newest Bible translation, “I lose. The Bible is much more beautiful than the text.”



Based on Strata, “Objectionable Bible Translation,” Biblical Archaeology Review, May/June 2012.

Posted in Bible Versions and Translations.

Tagged with , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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  • Kurt says

    Does God Have a Name?
    God has many titles, including Almighty, Creator, and Lord. (Job 34:12; Ecclesiastes 12:1; Daniel 2:47) But has he given himself a name? Select Your Language Languages,679.

  • Yochanan says

    For Saul, #3:
    “Saul says
    It would appear that the author of this new translation and/or the publisher itself is lacking a basic knowledge of the Hebrew language. Note that the title “TaNakh” has a ‘kamatz’ under the first letter ‘taf”. The vowel should be a ‘patach’ – check it out in the Ibn Shushan dictionary or the Alcalay dictionary. ”

    Ignorant criticism is the bane of the internet, and Saul exemplifies this well. First, he should know that unaccented open syllables prefer a qamats, just like the translation uses. Then, if he would actually look at Even-Shoshan, Dictionary, 2003, he would find tana”x spelled with two qamats. kore shaHat, bah yippol.

  • Saul says

    It would appear that the author of this new translation and/or the publisher itself is lacking a basic knowledge of the Hebrew language. Note that the title “TaNakh” has a ‘kamatz’ under the first letter ‘taf”. The vowel should be a ‘patach’ – check it out in the Ibn Shushan dictionary or the Alcalay dictionary. If the author cannot spell the title of the book correctly how much more (kal v”chomer) can we expect. One cannot have a proper translation if the vocalization is incorrect!
    Or is this translation like the one of Shakespear that is ‘verteitched und farbessered” – or visa versa.

  • DR says

    I’m ignorant of Hebrew. However, as to Gen 1:1 did it say God created the world, according to the new modern Hebrew translation?

    Plz tell what sort of ‘world’ the translator has in mind? The world of United Nations? of the fallen modern world? What’s wrong with ‘heavens and earth’? There is no phrase to express in modern Hebrew corresponding to this phrase?
    Someone must be doing a frivolous work on a serious task indeed.

  • Frantz says

    In the summer of 1989 while I was at Kibbutz Nachshon, I met some scholars. I proposed to them the need to translate (update) the ancient Biblical Hebrew/Aramaic text of the Tanakh to Modern Israeli Hebrew. Another proposal I made was to reconstruct the text used by the translators of the LXX back into the ancient Hebrew, as close as possible. Both proposals were ignored and some expressed that this was a useless task, meaningless they say. However, it seems that the reality of the current evolution of the Hebrew language has opened the eyes of Israelis to the need of this updated edition of the Bible. Someone, years ago, did an update into Modern Israeli Hebrew of the apocalyptic book of Daniel, but with sectarian purposes. If translating the ancient Hebrew text into Modern Israeli Hebrew is not the answer, then Israelis must do a better job teaching the ancient biblical Hebrew in schools, homes and synagogues etc. This would be ideal. Mizrachi Jews have done well in this area. Israelis have the great opportunity to master Biblical Hebrew, meaning the Hebrew of the biblical Jewish canon, since an early age. Yes, Biblical Hebrew has some differences from book to book, but there are some standard features in it that we could call Standard Biblical Hebrew Grammar, regardless of the diversity. Modern Israeli Hebrew is a further step in the evolution of Hebrew. Dr. Zuckerman has done a brilliant work in his essays and books to help us understand the reality of Israeli Hebrew (and the need for this new edition of the Tanakh); however, today’s Hebrew is experiencing just what the Hebrew language faced in Babylon or Persia. Therefore, there is not need to call Israeli Hebrew anything else than Hebrew. There is neither the need to panic by those who like me, would want to ensure the original text is always preserved and its language taught and mastered by every Israeli and Jewish people, and others, around the world. This new edition is a great step. The next step is a committee to ensure a revision of this translation (update) so it meets the needs of the Israeli communities and the accuracy of the text, faithful to the original. I hope someone or a team will take the idea on the LXX translation back into Hebrew.
    c/o POB 623
    Ephrata, PA 17522-0623 USA

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