A JEWISH VERSION OF THE BIBLE
OUR great claim to the gratitude of mankind is that we gave to the world the word of God, the Bible. We have stormed heaven to snatch down this heavenly gift, as the Paitan16 puts it. We threw ourselves into the breach, and covered it with our bodies against every attack. We allowed ourselves to be slain in hundreds and thousands rather than become unfaithful to it, and we bore witness to its truth, and watched over its purity, in the face of a hostile world. The Bible is our sole raison d’être; and it is just this which the Higher Anti-Semitism, both within and without our ranks, is seeking to destroy, denying all our claims for the past and leaving us without hope for the future. This intellectual persecution can only be fought with intellectual weapons, and unless we make an effort to recover our Bible we are irrevocably lost from both worlds.
S. SCHECHTER, 1903.
THERE is an old tradition that the day on which, for the first time, the Pentateuch was translated into a foreign language—into Greek—was considered by Jews as a day of great national calamity. It was feared that the translation, being incorrect, might become the source of error instead of being the fountain of divine truths. The fear felt and expressed about two thousand years ago has been fully justified by the history of the several versions that have since been undertaken, and by the large number of false doctrines, supposed to be founded on the authority of Holy Writ, whilst really originating in mistakes made by translators.
M. FRIEDLÄNDER, 1886.
NEW translations of the Bible have appeared and are appearing in various languages; but none of them has made, or intends to make, a complete and exhaustive use of Jewish contributions to the subject. Great university professors who know much, very much, but who do not know Jewish literature, unconsciously assume that they do not know it because it is not worth knowing—a judgement that no man has a right to pronounce until he has studied it—and this they have not done.
M. SULZBERGER, 1898.
THE book, commonly known as the Authorized, or King James’s Version, has been so long looked upon with a deep veneration almost bordering on superstitious dread, that, to most persons, the very thought of furnishing an improved translation of the Divine records will be viewed as an impious assumption and a contempt of the wisdom of former ages. Since the time of King James, however, the world has progressed in biblical knowledge no less than in all other branches of science; and giant minds have laboured to make clear what formerly was obscure.
ISAAC LEESER, 1855.
IFULLY admit the great merits of the Revised Version of the Bible. It corrects many faults, amends many mistranslations of the so-called King James’s Version, without impairing the antique charm of the English Bible, without putting out of tune the music so dear to our ears. Yet even that great work, compiled by the most eminent scholars and learned theologians in the land, is disfigured by errors due to dogmatic preconceptions.
HERMANN ADLER, 1896.
THE present translation17 has a character of its own. It aims to combine the spirit of Jewish tradition with the results of biblical scholarship, ancient, mediaeval, and modern. It gives to the Jewish world a translation of the Scriptures done by men imbued with the Jewish consciousness, while the non-Jewish world, it is hoped, will welcome a translation that presents many passages from the Jewish traditional point of view.
The Jew cannot afford to have his own Bible translation prepared for him by others. He cannot have it as a gift, even as he cannot borrow his soul from others. If a new country and a new language metamorphose him into a new man, the duty of this new man is to prepare a new garb and a new method of expression for what is most sacred and most dear to him.
From TRANSLATORS’ PREFACE,
Jewish Version of the Bible, 1916.
SCRIPTURE must be interpreted according to its plain, natural sense, each word according to the context. Traditional exposition, however, may also be taken to heart, as it is said: ‘Is not My word like as fire?’—consisting of many sparks—‘and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?’—and therefore capable of various explanations.
THERE is none that hath ever made an end of learning it, and there is none that will ever find out all its mysteries. For its wisdom is richer than any sea, and its word deeper than any abyss.
ECCLESIASTICUS 24. 28, 29.