English Bible Versions and Today’s Messianic Movement


originally posted 12 May, 2013
reproduced from Confronting Critical Issues

What English Bible version should you use as a contemporary Believer? This is a topic that can not only be rather confusing, but is something that can also evoke some rather strong emotions. Very few English Bible readers, who are committed to a steadfast faith in God, ever stick with one single Bible version or translation to employ in their studies. At the same time, though, it might also be said that various Bible readers can get a bit too comfortable examining a particular version, because they just get too familiar with it, or they are too stuck reading a particular Bible with their personal notes in it, or they get too acclimated to a particular version for some other sentimental reason.

Given both the changing dynamics and components of modern English speech, as well as the immense publishing venue of English Bible translation,[1] we cannot hope to probe all of the pros and cons of various contemporary English versions. We can, though, have a much better idea about the kind of English versions we should be employing, and most especially what to do when we encounter various verses or passages of importance.

Today’s Messianic people are widely astute and aware of how each English Bible version, whether it be Jewish or Christian, is going to have some kind of translation bias to it. Jewish versions of the Tanach in English are not likely to translate various Messianic passages in support of the Messiahship of Yeshua of Nazareth, whereas Christian versions will. Various Christian versions of the Apostolic Scriptures, or New Testament, will not typically translate various passages about the Torah or Law of Moses in favor of its continued validity in the post-resurrection era. Yet, both Jewish and Christian Bible versions are used and employed by the broad Messianic movement. And, the Messianic movement itself has produced several Bible versions of its own which are employed within its ranks. Today’s Messianic versions tend to widely uphold the Messiahship of Yeshua and the validity of the Torah, but may have other limitations.

This article will attempt to explore some of the key details which today’s Messianic people need to be aware of when they encounter various English Bible versions. We will be reviewing some of the contemporary Jewish and Christian versions which are used in sectors of the Messianic movement. Also important will be a review of some Messianic Bible versions, particularly of the Apostolic Scriptures, which tend to be encountered.

Some Principles to be Aware of for English Bible Translation

The sheer plethora of English Bible versions that can be encountered today (as well as associated study Bibles)—whether one finds them at a local Christian bookstore or Judaica shop, a secular bookstore, or via an online retailer like Amazon.com—reveal that there are some distinctive perspectives present when it comes to transmitting the Holy Scriptures into the English language. On the whole, whether it is a Jewish version of the Tanach or a Christian version of the Old and New Testaments, most of today’s major Bible versions have been produced by major teams and committees of scholars.

Readers of various English Bible versions will encounter more commonality than not among a selection of passages. The main, noticeable differences, are likely to be seen in how various passages of controversy are transmitted into English (i.e., Isaiah 7:14). Many new English Bible versions are produced, as scholars gain access to older and more reliable Biblical manuscripts, and learn new things about Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek from the Biblical period, as well as associated issues. Yet, perhaps the more decisive factor, in seeing more and more English Bible versions produced in our time, is that there is an impetus to make some translations easier to read than others. Bruce M. Metzger summarizes in his book The Bible in Translation,

“An obvious reason why English versions differ from one another is the slow, ongoing modification of the English language. Another is the adoption of a particular style and level of English diction suited to a particular age-group or reading public. Beyond such considerations, however, versions of the Bible differ from one another because of several kinds of basic problems—textual, lexical, literary, and grammatical…”[2]

Michael J. Gorman offers some additional thoughts in his work Elements of Biblical Exegesis, that we need to keep in mind not only for English Bible translation but for all Bible translation:

“A [major] factor is the limitation inherent in all translation. The ‘target’ language may not have a word or phrase to render accurately the meaning of a word or phrase in the ‘source’ language. Even if appropriate lexical items exist in the target language, the resulting combination of words may be awkward, even to the point of being misleading. Good Hebrew syntax may yield horrible English syntax, and a good, literal English rendering may destroy the poetry or other artistic form and beauty of a Hebrew text. Furthermore, the target languages themselves evolve; for instance, the English spoken in the United States today differs markedly from that spoken in seventeenth-century England. Add to all of this the fact that frequently the translator and/or potential readers of the translation have no comparable cultural phenomenon to something mentioned or described in the text. For instance, how would one render the word snow for people who have never experienced it in person or via the media?”[3]

A major amount of importance is often given in modern English Bible translation to what has commonly been called literal-equivalent versus a thought-for-thought style of translation. Gorman notes how “Linguists now prefer the terms formal equivalence and functional equivalence to literal and dynamic equivalence for defining the spectrum,”[4] and proceeds to describe some of the advantages and disadvantages of both styles of English Bible translation:

“a translation based on the theory of formal equivalence is best for two main reasons: (1) it allows more of the original ambiguities in the text to stand, and thus to be noticed, investigated, and interpreted by the exegete; and (2) it generally renders a recurring key word in the original biblical text with the same English word in the translation. Formal-equivalence translations are sometimes guilty, however, of creating odd, wooden renderings that do not sound much like English and that may even misinterpret the original text by giving precedence to form over function (meaning). But functional-equivalence translations, on the other hand, frequently (1) oversimplify complex or ambiguous texts and (2) substitute contemporary idiom for ancient biblical idiom, often resulting in inconsistent and misleading translation of key items. No matter how skillful the translators, the effect of these strategies on the exegete is prejudicial: one interpretation is given preference over another. This may be fine for the casual reader, but not for the serious exegete.”[5]

On the whole, it has been my ministry experience that today’s Messianic people tend to prefer a more formal equivalence style of English Bible transmission, rather than the functional equivalence style. However, not enough are aware of how it is necessary to sort through both formal and functional equivalence modes of translation. If a person, for example, prefers to read from an English Bible version that has been produced from a formal equivalence style of translation—this same person will likely fellowship with others who employ a functional equivalence Bible version, and will read teachings and encounter teachers who also use a functional equivalence Bible version. How is one to be aware of some of these factors when studying the Scriptures, or encountering various teachings on the Scriptures?

Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart offer a fair compilation of the different components to be aware of in their book How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, when you may encounter different Bible versions, and some of the varied translations of passages:

…To understand what various theories underlie our modern translations, you will need to become acquainted with the following technical terms:

Original language: the language that one is translating from; in our case, Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek.

Receptor language: the language that one is translating into; in our case, English.

Historical distance: has to do with the differences that exist between the original language and the receptor language, both in matters of words, grammar, and idioms as well as in matters of culture and history.

Formal equivalence: the attempt to keep as close to the “form” of the Hebrew or Greek, both words and grammar, as can be conveniently put into understandable English. The closer one stays to Hebrew or Greek idiom, the closer one moves toward a theory of translation often described as “literal.” Translations based on formal equivalence will keep historical distance intact at all points.

Functional equivalence: the attempt to keep the meaning of the Hebrew or Greek but to put their words and idioms into what would be the normal way of saying the same thing in English. The more one is willing to forego formal equivalence for functional equivalence, the closer one moves toward a theory of translation frequently described as “dynamic equivalent.” Such translations keep historical distance on all historical and factual matters, but “update” matters of language, grammar, and style.

Theory of translation has basically to do with whether one puts primary emphasis on formal or on functional equivalency, that is, the degree to which one is willing to go in order to bridge the gap between the two languages, either in use of words and grammar or in bridging the historical distance by offering a modern equivalent. For example, should “lamp” be translated as “flashlight” or “torch” in cultures where these serve the purpose a lamp once did? Or should one translate it “lamp,” and let readers bridge the gap for themselves? Should “holy kiss” be translated “the handshake of Christian love” in cultures where public kissing is offensive? Should “coals of fire” become “burning embers/coals,” since this is more normal English? Should “endurance of hope” (1 Thess 1:3), a formal equivalent that is almost meaningless in English, be rendered “your endurance inspired by hope,” which is what Paul’s Greek actually means?[6]

A wide variety of English Bible readers are likely to use a formal equivalence version as their main Bible translation, and then use a functional equivalence version as a secondary reading Bible or reference source. It is not uncommon among evangelical Christians, for example, for them to employ a formal equivalence version like the New American Standard as their main Bible, and then a slightly less formal equivalence translation like the English Standard Version, as well as a functional equivalence Bible like the New International Version. Without going into the original language texts sitting behind modern English Bibles, using three translations like the NASB, ESV, and NIV will actually answer many questions about context and original authorial intent.[7]

Generally speaking, in matters of some theological controversy, it needs to be stressed how for most modern English Bible versions, purposefully ambiguous renderings are chosen. An excellent example of this is how Romans 10:4 says, “For Christ is the end of the law” (RSV/NRSV/NASU/ESV). Most English readers will take this as meaning that the Messiah has terminated the Mosaic Torah or Law. Not enough will be aware of the fact of how the Greek term telos, while meaning termination in some places, can also mean aim, purpose, or goal—and that these renderings have been favored by a wide minority of Romans’ examiners. Likewise, the English term end can mean end-goal in certain contexts. And, given the changing contours of modern English, there has been a preference seen toward rendering telos as something like “culmination” (TNIV), and even “goal” (Common English Bible), which today’s Messianics would obviously consider more favorable to the validity of the Torah in the post-resurrection era.[8]

One verse that demonstrates some of the theological complexities Messianic Believers need to be aware of between a formal equivalence versus a functional equivalence style of translation, could be in the different available renderings present for Romans 7:6. A formal equivalence version like the NASU has, “we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter,” offering a fairly literal rendering for the clause ou palaiotēti grammatos. A functional equivalence rendering might be something like “the old written code” (RSV/NRSV/ESV) or “the old way of the written code” (NIV). The functional equivalence translation likely reflects the value judgment that what has been nullified for the redeemed are God’s commandments in the Law of Moses; the formal equivalence translation of “oldness of the letter,” in contrast, allows for readers to detect that the pointed condemnation upon unredeemed sinners as specified in the Torah is instead likely in view.[9]

Another feature of modern English Bible translation, which has been seen in the past two to three decades, has been the inclusive language debate. More than anything else, where allowable, gender-neutral terms have been employed, particularly in a Bible translation like the New Revised Standard Version. Notable to keep in mind would be how,

  • The generic adam and anthrōpos, can be better rendered with “humanity” or “humankind,” rather than “man” or “mankind”; or in the case of individuals, “human being(s),” “mortal(s),” or “person(s).”
  • The specific ish and anēr, relates to a person who is a man or of the male gender, and can sometimes refer to a
  • The specific ishah and gunē, relates to a person who is a woman or of the female gender, and can sometimes refer to a

Obviously, some renderings of these Hebrew and Greek terms are largely dependent on their usage in a passage. But in general when people at large are described, it is probably safe to say that calling them “men” has become more than a bit out of place in normal, everyday English language across the world. So even if a Bible version might use “men” when “people” is intended, such as where Yeshua calls His disciples to be “fishers of men[10]” (Mark 1:17; cf. Matthew 4:19), we may need to be geared toward speaking on these sorts of passages relating to “fish for people” (NRSV/NLT/TNIV). A key passage, where an inclusive language rendering will convey a far better and clearer understanding for Messianics, is where Ephesians 2:15 speaks of kainon anthrōpon, the “one new humanity” (NRSV/CJB), as opposed to “one new man.” Obviously, what the Father has brought about via the magnanimous work of His Son is to influence far more than just those of the male gender.

Major English Versions Employed by Today’s Messianic Movement

Because of the widescale proliferation of new English Bible versions, across the theological and publishing spectrum, it would be impossible to review every single English Bible version. Instead, my focus for this section is to consider some of the major English Christian and Jewish Bible versions of note, as widely employed by leaders, teachers, and people within today’s broad Messianic movement.[11] I have taken a number of cues from a useful 2005 article in Bible Review by Leonard J. Greenspoon, “The Holy Bible: A Buyer’s Guide.”[12] In commemoration of this publication’s twentieth anniversary, Greenspoon proceeded to review twenty-one Christian and Jewish English Bible versions of note. In this section, I will only be reviewing six families of versions:

  1. The King James Version (KJV) and New King James Version (NKJV)
  2. The New American Standard (NASB) and New American Standard, Updated Edition (NASU)
  3. The Revised Standard Version (RSV), New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), and English Standard Version (ESV)
  4. The New International Version (NIV)
  5. The New Jewish Press Society Tanakh (NJPS)
  6. The ArtScroll Tanach (ATS)

I have taken the liberty to make some excerpts from Greenspoon’s article, as his reviews are rather fair-minded. While in his reviews he only chose to only quote from Genesis 1:1-2, the examination following will quote from: Genesis 1:1; Isaiah 7:14; Psalm 23:1; John 1:1; and Matthew 5:17.

King James Version (KJV)
New King James Version (NKJV)

Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (KJV/NKJV).

Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (KJV); “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (NKJV).

Psalm 23:1: “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want” (KJV/NKJV).

John 1:1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (KJV/NKJV).

Matthew 5:17: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil” (KJV); “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill” (NKJV).

Greenspoon Bible Buyer’s Guide: In my opinion, a copy of the King James Version belongs in every household. And this holds true not only for Protestants, but also for Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians, Jews, adherents of other religions, and believers in none. The KJV is not just an English classic; it is the English classic, and everyone should have easy access to its elegant diction and cadence. With its frequent “and …and … and” structure (as in “And God saw the light … and God called the light Day”) and such expressions as “It came to pass,” the KJV replicates in English many of the characteristic features of biblical Hebrew, thereby qualifying it as a literal translation.

But the KJV translators entertained no illusions that their work was timeless or immutable…[T]he NKJV…provide[s] today’s readers with a relatively light reworking of the 17th-century King James Version.


The NKJV is a lovingly realized updating of the KJV that will appeal to those who find many of the KJV’s archaic features (such as the use of “thee” and “thy”) off-putting, but nonetheless draw strength from its overall style and structure. It is surely easier for modern readers to comprehend than its almost 400-year-old predecessor.[13]

There is no question that the King James Version of the Holy Scriptures stands as one of the great masterpieces, indeed in the estimation of Greenspoon, as the great masterpiece, of the English language. The 1611 Authorised Version received royal consent, given King James I of England’s personal interest in studying the Holy Scriptures, and incorporated some of the best academic minds of the time.[14] The KJV translators did consult preceding English works such as the 1568 Bishop’s Bible. This Authorised Version does represent some of the best work of Seventeenth Century Bible scholarship, and given the King James Version’s significant place in both British and later colonial American culture, it has a valued place in the hearts and minds of many Christian people the world over.

The King James Version certainly stands as a literary masterpiece, and is an edition of the Holy Scriptures which every Believer does need to be familiar with in many ways. Given its longevity among English Bible translations—in fact it might be said that up until the early Twentieth Century the King James was the English Bible for most English-speaking people—the KJV has helped set many of the interpretive standards and terms used by many Bible expositors. It is true, however, that the King James Version is no longer recommended to be used as a principal Bible translation for exegetical work. As Gorman summarizes below, this largely pertains to much of its archaic and outdated Elizabethan period English, in addition to how the KJV was based on younger and less reliable Hebrew and Greek sources:

The King James Version (KJV), or Authorized Version (AV), was produced in 1611 by a team of translators. They generally followed an implicit theory of formal equivalence, but, unfortunately, they worked with generally late and less reliable biblical manuscripts. Since 1611, many older and better manuscripts of the Bible have been discovered, and modern research in the area of textual criticism (which includes comparing and contrasting manuscripts to produce a “critical edition” of the original text) has given us a different basis of original texts to translate than that used by the KJV translators. This means that an exegesis using the KJV may sometimes be analyzing one or more words, phrases, or verses that did not actually appear in the original biblical text.

In addition, biblical scholarship and linguistics have both progressed significantly during the last four hundred years, providing countless pieces of data and perspectives for translating the text more accurately. Moreover, the English language has changed enormously in the same four-hundred-year period, rendering much of the KJV’s language obsolete. Taken together, these factors mean that the King James Version is completely unacceptable as the basis for serious, study of the Bible. The New King James Version (NKJV), released in 1979 (NT) and 1982 (OT), updates obsolete language and attempts to be a more linguistically sophisticated translation than the KJV. However, because it is based on the same problematic manuscript tradition, it too is unacceptable for exegesis.[15]

Gorman might go a little too far here in suggesting that the KJV and NKJV basically have no place to be at all used in exegesis of the Bible. One will seldom encounter a technical commentary on the Scriptures where the King James Version is not referenced in some way. Likewise, if one is familiar with some of the basics of textual criticism, clauses and phrases from the KJV and NKJV can be employed in one’s exegesis. Alas, it is true that due to the younger age of the Hebrew and Greek source texts employed for the King James Version—even though a version to be highly respected—it should not be used by someone today as his or her principal Bible.[16] Serious Bible readers should make the effort to read through the KJV at least once in their lifetime, though.[17]

Today’s Messianic movement may have a somewhat elusive relationship with the King James Version. On occasion, you will find a congregational teacher or leader actually use the KJV or NKJV as a primary Bible. More generally, though, you are likely to find the KJV or NKJV employed by various people within the congregation as a primary Bible. If the limitations of the KJV and NKJV are recognized, this should not be an issue. However, the textual limitations of the KJV and NKJV have cropped up from time to time in various theological debates within our faith community.[18] Given how the King James Version, albeit one of the most important historical works in the English language, is significantly waning in its usage by contemporary Christians—a passing familiarity with both the KJV and NKJV is all that is probably needed by today’s Messianic Believers.

New American Standard Bible (NASB)
New American Standard, Updated Edition (NASU)

Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (NASB/NASU).

Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel” (NASB/NASU).

Psalm 23:1: “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want” (NASB/NASU).

John 1:1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (NASB/NASU).

Matthew 5:17: “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill” (NASB/NASU).

Greenspoon Bible Buyer’s Guide: By the late 19th century it had become apparent that the King James Version was in need of substantive and substantial revision. In 1870, the Church of England commissioned 50 British and American clerics and scholars to revise and correct the text. Their improved translation was published in the 1880s as the English Revised Version. An American edition, containing the preferences of the American scholars involved in the project, appeared in 1901. It was called the American Standard Version. The NASB is an update of this American Standard Version, and is thus firmly rooted in the KJV family. As such, it tends toward the literal representation of the Hebrew and Greek originals in vocabulary and grammar that conform to American usage. The most recent revision (in 1995) has added a bit more grace and fluidity to its style, while in no way detracting from its usefulness as a trustworthy guide to the ancient text.[19]

The 1977 NASB and 1995 NASU probably have the distinction of being the most widely read, used, and employed Christian Bible version within today’s broad Messianic movement. The NASU is the main Bible version employed for the teachings and writings of Outreach Israel Ministries and Messianic Apologetics.

Some of the main features of the New American Standard include a continuity between it and the preceding American Standard Version[20] and the King James Version before it. The somewhat literal KJV and ASV come through in much more modern style, with consideration for new Hebrew and Greek manuscript discoveries and language studies present in the mid-Twentieth Century.[21] The original NASB 1977 edition did continue to use a variety of archaic, Elizabethan period terms in various passages, particularly in relation to various prayers issued to God (i.e., Thee, Thy, etc.). The 1995 Updated Edition eliminated all of these terms, providing uniformity with simply You and Yours,[22] as well as eliminating a wide number of usages of the redundant conjunction “and,”[23] to make the English a bit more readable. The NASB and NASU have had a widespread reputation of being the most literal, commonly accessible version among Christian Bibles today. As its Foreword states,

“The attempt has been made to render the grammar and terminology in contemporary English. When it was felt that the word-for-word literalness was unacceptable to the modern reader, a change was made in the direction of a more current English idiom. In instances where this has been done, the more literal rendering has been indicated in the notes.”[24]

Some of the main features of the New American Standard, which are often not present in other modern versions include:

  • the usage of italics to note words not present in the original Hebrew or Greek source text
  • the capitalization of pronouns and possessive pronouns relating to God
  • the presence of SMALL CAPITAL LETTERS in the New Testament, to indicate quotations or significant allusions from the Old Testament

These three reasons, alone, make the New American Standard very attractive to many Bible readers.

The New American Standard Bible is a resource that has been produced by and for conservative, evangelical Christians, and because of this, more liberal-leaning scholars will tend to deride it here or there, as somehow not being totally up to par with translations like the New Revised Standard Version.[25] The New American Standard does reflect very strongly in terms of the Messiahship of Yeshua in various prophecies in its translation of the Hebrew Scriptures.

The New American Standard is hardly a perfect version, but its relative literalness does allow Messianic Bible readers and interpreters the easy option to substitute alternative renderings, particularly in its translation of the Old Testament, much easier than for less formal equivalency versions. When a Messianic reader encounters Colossians 2:17, for example, “things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ,” it is fairly obvious that the term mere has been added not as a point of grammar, but as one of an improper theological value judgment. Similarly, the advantage of the NASU rendering of Galatians 3:24, “Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith,” comes through when one contrasts it to the RSV/NRSV/ESV translation of eis Christon, “until Christ came.” Because of the ease of being able to explain some of the challenges present from renderings like these, the NASU is notably the base English translation used for the Practical Messianic commentary series by Messianic Apologetics.

The New American Standard will likely continue to have a major place within the Bible reading and theological studies of the broad Messianic movement for quite some time into the Twenty-First Century, which means that every Messianic Believer needs to have a familiarity with it (including those outside North America). Even with a more formal equivalence Messianic version like the Tree of Life—Messianic Family Bible now in the works (2013), the New American Standard will still probably be a mainstay, particularly among those Messianic teachers and leaders who choose to employ a relatively literal Bible translation that a wide number of Christians have familiarity and comfort with.

Revised Standard Version (RSV)
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
English Standard Version (ESV)

Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (RSV/ESV); “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth” (NRSV).

Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (RSV); “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel” (NRSV); “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (ESV).

Psalm 23:1: “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want” (RSV/NRSV); “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want” (ESV).

John 1:1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (RSV/NRSV/ESV).

Matthew 5:17: “Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them” (RSV); “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill” (NRSV); “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (ESV).

Greenspoon Bible Buyer’s Guide: Almost every college student taking a Bible class has made use of the RSV or the NRSV, which are likely to remain the “gold standard” of the academic world for some time. This status is in large part derived from the fact that the RSV translation committee, and in its wake the NRSV translation committee, was the first (and still the only) major project to actively involve Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox Christian and Jewish scholars, thereby implementing a truly ecumenical, multireligious dialogue that, for example, produced the first Old Testament text with “young woman” rather than “virgin” at Isaiah 7:14.

The publication of the NRSV has not led to the “abandonment” of the RSV, as many had anticipated. Some prefer the “gender-specific” renderings of the earlier RSV translation, while other readers favor its overall tendency to provide more literal representations than does its “successor.”[26]

The translators of the ESV readily acknowledge their debt to the KJV and other earlier versions. It could be said that the ESV stands in the KJV tradition without being part of the family. Thus, for example, the KJV’s (and the Hebrew original’s) reliance on “and … and … and” is largely retained, while an effort is made to distinguish in English varying styles among Old and New Testament writers. In this way, its English style and vocabulary may be considered appropriately “biblical” and constitute a very sensible and sensitive balance between concern for the ancient originals and for modern readers.[27]

What may be described as the RSV / NRSV / ESV family is a sector of three English Bible versions that every Bible reader needs to be familiar with to some degree. Greenspoon’s remark about “Almost every college student taking a Bible class has made use of the RSV or the NRSV, which are likely to remain the ‘gold standard’ of the academic world for some time,” is entirely true. Even I myself, when choosing an English Bible version to use for various seminary papers, chose the 1952 RSV for the base version, and I have employed it in various articles here or there. Unless otherwise noted in Messianic Apologetics materials, the English version of the Apocrypha we quote from is the RSV.

The need for the Revised Standard Version was similar to the American Standard Version before it, although the RSV is actually a revision of the King James version, incorporating new manuscript evidence and linguistic studies, produced for a more modern English-speaking audience. The RSV preface indicates,

“A major reason for revision of the King James Version, which is valid for both the Old Testament and the New Testament, is the change since 1611 in English usage. Many forms of expression have become archaic, while still generally intelligible…Other words are obsolete and no longer understood by the common reader. The greatest problem, however, is presented by the English words which are still in constant use but now convey a different meaning from that which they had in 1611 and in the King James Version.”[28]

In terms of the actual translation philosophy of the Revised Standard Version, Gorman describes how “The RSV translators worked with a formal-equivalence approach to translation, in an age when functional equivalence was not a serious option. The result was an excellent formal-equivalence (self–styled ‘literal’) translation…”[29] While the RSV is highly readable and fairly literal in many places, the rendering of almah as “young woman” in Isaiah 7:14, as well as the more ecumenical nature of the Revised Standard Version’s translation committee, is one of the factors that helped a more conservative version like the New American Standard be published. A unique feature of the Revised Standard Version, which has not been followed by its successor the NRSV, was to render Ephesians 1:1 in line with manuscripts that do not include en Ephesō: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are also faithful in Christ Jesus.”

One of the main reasons for the release of the 1989 New Revised Standard Version, was not only to incorporate further Hebrew and Greek language studies into the generally well-favored RSV, but also to incorporate a wide degree of inclusive language into the text. As is detailed, “During the almost half a century since the publication of the RSV, many in the churches have become sensitive to the danger of linguistic sexism arising from the inherent bias of the English language towards the masculine gender, a bias that in the case of the Bible has often restricted or obscured the meaning of the original text…[I]n reference to men and women, masculine-oriented language should be eliminated as far as this can be done without altering passages that reflect the historical situation of ancient patriarchal culture.”[30] While this is one of the reasons why various conservatives have chosen to eschew the NRSV, a Messianic reader might be prone to admit that a rendering such as “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath” (Mark 2:27), might make things a bit clearer. The NRSV is to be surely commended on incorporating some worthwhile theological studies on the term harpagmos in Philippians 2:6: “who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited.”

Many of today’s ecumenical study Bibles, particularly those which include the Apocrypha, will either be from the Revised Standard Version or New Revised Standard Version. This most especially includes the different editions of the Oxford Annotated Bible, and most recently for Messianics’ attention, and although very liberal, The Jewish Annotated New Testament (2011). It is also true that even though not used as frequently by conservatives, that there is a huge array of literature compiled that will employ the RSV and NRSV. Some familiarity with these versions is useful.

The publication of the New Revised Standard Version, and its employment of inclusive language, was not entirely welcomed by many conservative Christians. Crossway Bibles acquired the right to use the original 1952 Revised Standard Version for the publication of its 2001 English Standard Version. As the ESV preface describes, “The ESV is an ‘essentially’ literal translation that seeks as much as possible to capture the precise wording of the original text and the personal style of each Bible writer. As such, its emphasis is on ‘word-for-word’ correspondence, at the same time taking into account differences of grammar, syntax, and idiom between current literary English and the original languages. Thus it seeks to be transparent to the original text, letting the reader see as directly as possible the structure and meaning of the original.”[31] Unlike the NRSV, the ESV follows a more masculine-centric rendering for people, but has advanced beyond some of the renderings of the NASB/NASU in this area. “For example, ‘anyone’ replaces ‘any man’ where there is no word corresponding to ‘man’ in the original languages, and ‘people’ rather than ‘men’ is regularly used where the original languages refer to both men and women.”[32] The English Standard Version is effectively a conservative revision of the Revised Standard Version, meaning that on the whole, one is not going to notice that many differences between them. Isaiah 7:14, though, is rendered with “virgin.”

Given the important place of the RSV / NRSV / ESV family of English editions within contemporary Bible scholarship, many of today’s Messianic people are likely to use them at one point or another in their Bible reading or studies. There are various Messianic Bible teachers and leaders of note who have written books and articles using one of these versions, so even if you do not choose to use it as your primary Bible, familiarity with these versions, and some of their pros and cons, is highly advised. All three of these versions are employed as secondary translations of note within the Practical Messianic commentary series by Messianic Apologetics.

New International Version (NIV)
Today’s New International Version (TNIV)

Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (NIV/TNIV).

Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (NIV); “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (TNIV).

Psalm 23:1: “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want” (NIV); “The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing” (TNIV).

John 1:1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (NIV/TNIV).

Matthew 5:17: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (NIV/TNIV).

Greenspoon Bible Buyer’s Guide: At least one out of every three Bibles sold today is an NIV, and major bookstores feature many more editions of the NIV than of any other modern translation of the Bible. And, I am sure, most customers who buy them are well satisfied. Produced by a solid translation committee with conservative theological beliefs and wide experience in academia and preaching, the NIV has been attractively packaged and marketed to a number of niche groups (moms, teens, sportsmen and soldiers [their cover is camouflage]) without in any way detracting from the readable and reliable text that is at its core.


The most recent NIV, appearing use a few months ago [2005], is the TNIV, marked by increased sensitivity to changes in the English language and in the way we view each other. So, for example, Psalm 1:1 now reads “blessed are those who do not walk in step with the wicked” rather than “blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked.”[33]

The New International Version, more commonly just called the NIV, is probably the most popular major version on the Christian market today, especially given the entire host of specialty or study Bibles which employ it (i.e., the venerable NIV Study Bible, the Archaeological Study Bible.) A great deal of the popularity of the New International Version relates to how Zondervan originally contracted to be the sole American publisher of the NIV,[34] which has obviously given it an exposure that other versions have not necessarily had. At the same time, the NIV does represent a project that involved people across the English-speaking world on multiple continents, who were involved in its production from the 1960s and into the 1980s.[35]

The NIV has the distinction of probably being the most widespread dynamic equivalency or functional equivalence Bible version. As stated in the preface to the original 1984 release, the NIV is to “be an accurate translation and one that would have clarity and literary quality so [sic] prove suitable for public and private reading, teaching, preaching, memorizing and liturgical use….[The translators] have striven for more than a word-for-word translation. Because thought patterns and syntax differ from language to language, faithful communication of the meaning of the writers of the Bible demands frequent modification in sentence structure and constant regard for the contextual meaning of words….Concern for clear and natural English—that the New International Version should be idiomatic but not idiosyncratic, contemporary but not dated—motivated the translators and consultants.”[36] While not as much as the New American Standard, the NIV does commonly get some criticism lodged against it from more liberal-leaning theologians.[37]

2005 witnessed the release of the Today’s New International Version, which while reading quite similar to the original 1984 NIV, did incorporate a wide degree of inclusive language,[38] similar in scope to the NRSV. The TNIV was not received as well as hoped by many of the conservatives who used the 1984 NIV, and so the new 2011 NIV ended up changing some things, particularly in terms of words like “humankind” changed to “mankind.”

Today’s Messianic people generally do not use the New International Version (NIV / TNIV / 2011 NIV) as their primary Bible, and many Messianics even have some disdain for it. Usually, this is when various Christian friends or acquaintances use some of its renderings of Pauline passages that are less-than-literal, and have some dynamic equivalency value judgments incorporated into them, lodged against them for their pro-Torah beliefs. Yet, the NIV as a reading Bible in many places is not at all bad, and many Messianic people will actually use the NIV as a secondary version to something more literal like the NASB/NASU. It is interesting that in 2011, a parallel Bible containing the New International Version and the Complete Jewish Bible was actually released.

Because of its widespread usage by many evangelical Christians, and it being the most frequently sold Bible, having a familiarity with the New International Version is necessary for today’s Messianic Believers. For my own part, I have recommended that for the Survey of the Tanach and Survey of the Apostolic Scriptures for the Practical Messianic workbooks by Messianic Apologetics, that when surveying each text of the Bible, an edition like the NIV be actually used. (And then when passages of note are considered, a more literal version like the NASU be employed.) I have also used the NIV for my many “Message of…” articles on books of the Bible, but not only for having a more contemporary feel—but so that there can be a place where some of the value judgments of the NIV, positive or negative, can be pointed out.

ArtScroll Tanach (ATS)

Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning of God’s creating the heavens and the earth—.”

Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore, my Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the maiden will become pregnant and bear a son, and she will name him Immanuel.”

Psalm 23:1: “HASHEM is my shepherd, I shall not lack.”

Greenspoon Bible Buyer’s Guide: The production values of this edition are extraordinarily high. The translators are steeped in Jewish exegetical traditions and make frequent use of them in both text and notes. The Hebrew and English texts are found on facing pages, thus facilitating comparison and thoughtful reading. Where the Hebrew text is difficult or ambiguous, the text reflects this. Thus, this is a version worthy of serious study not only by Jews, but by anyone interested in the Bible within the Jewish tradition.[39]

The most widespread Jewish translation of the Hebrew Tanach that one is likely to encounter in the broad Messianic movement is the ArtScroll Tanach. Not only is this because of the publication excellence of this printed Tanach, but also because the ArtScroll Tanach has been published in the style of Hebrew books, reading from right to left. The Hebrew text is listed right next to its English translation on the adjoining page.[40]

The ArtScroll Tanach is mainly a product of Orthodox Jewish Bible scholarship, which is likely to have more advantages than not for readers. Its English translation is not intended to be used isolated from the Hebrew, and while Jewish in orientation (meaning that various Messianic prophecies may not favor an association with Yeshua of Nazareth), on the whole there will be similarities with the evangelical NASB/NASU or more ecumenical RSV/NRSV. The ArtScroll Tanach is widely literal, pronouns and possessive pronouns relating to God are capitalized, and brackets [] are used for added words (much like italics are in the NASB/NASU). The ArtScroll Tanach does employ a selection of Hebrew terms in its English translation, notably the term Torah for the Hebrew [torah] in most places, although the transliteration of various Hebrew terms into English may conform to Ashkenazic Jewish pronunciation (i.e., using Koheles rather than Qohelet in Ecclesiastes 1:1, etc.). The ArtScroll Tanach also has the distinction of using HASHEM to represent the Divine Name of God, rather than the more common LORD. While more formal equivalence in its English translation than not, it cannot go overlooked that the ArtScroll Tanach uses an allegorical rendering for the Song of Songs, following Rashi,[41] and some inaccuracies can be detected from a verse like Exodus 21:1, which ATS has as, “If you buy a Jewish bondsman…,” when the source text clearly has Ivri or “Hebrew.”

The ArtScroll Tanach is a resource that many Messianic congregational leaders and teachers may not choose to employ as a primary Bible, but will be used as a close second or third. Those learning Hebrew in today’s Messianic movement, given high publication quality of the ArtScroll Tanach, are likely to use it as for much of their personal study and reflection. The ArtScroll Tanach is certainly a useful resource for today’s Messianic people to have in their library, if one is familiar with some of the Orthodox Jewish presuppositions and limitations of it.

New Jewish Publication Society Tanakh (NJPS)

Genesis 1:1: “When God began to create heaven and earth –.”

Isaiah 7:14: “Assuredly, my Lord will give you a sign of His own accord! Look, the young woman is with child and about to give birth to a son. Let her name him Immanuel.”

Psalm 23:1: “The LORD is my shepherd; I lack nothing.”

Greenspoon Bible Buyer’s Guide: The Jewish Publication Society (JPS) produced its first English version in 1917. This translation followed closely the Revised Version of 1885, itself a revision of the KJV; its most distinctive departures from the earlier version lay in its substitution of traditional Jewish renderings for Christological language such as “Spirit” (with a capital “s”) and “virgin” at Isaiah 7:14. In the mid-1950s, JPS initiated a new translation project that, while retaining distinctively Jewish exegesis and understandings, decisively departed from the KJV style in the direction of the more up-to-date English. The first publication of this new product, also known as the New Jewish Version or new JPS Version, was in the mid-1960s.

The 1999 edition of the JPS Tanakh is the first to have English and Hebrew texts on facing pages. This is especially desirable for a Jewish translation, which is intended to take its place alongside the Hebrew original rather than serving in its stead. The Tanakh reflects the richness of the Jewish exegetical traditions and the fact that there are a number of biblical passages whose meaning its ambiguous or uncertain. All of this is expressed is a decidedly modern-sounding and looking translation that is easily accessible to Jewish and non-Jewish readers alike.[42]

The NJPS Tanakh is a version that one will encounter, in part, within the Messianic movement, perhaps because that just as the NIV is the most frequently purchased Christian Bible version today, the NJPS Tanakh too is widely available from many commercial booksellers. The NJPS Tanakh is available in various editions, ranging from a hardcover with dustjacket to paperback, it is also available in a right-to-left Hebrew style, with the Hebrew text of the Tanakh present in one column and the NJPS English in the opposite column. The NJPS Tanakh is definitely a resource that Messianic people who know or are learning Hebrew will want in their library.

While the NJPS stands within the tradition of the 1917 JPS edition, it is not a revision but a new translation of the Hebrew that sits on its own, incorporating mostly Conservative and Reform Jewish scholarship from post-World War II to the present. As its preface describes, “The committee profited much from the work of previous translators; the present rendering, however, is essentially a new translation.” Namely, this “translation…reproduce[s] the Hebrew idiomatically and reflects contemporary scholarship, thus laying emphasis upon intelligibility and correctness. It…make[s] critical use of the early rabbinic and medieval Jewish commentators, grammarians, and philologians and would rely on the traditional Hebrew text, avoiding emendations.”[43] So, unlike various Christian Bibles, whose Old Testament translation may employ material from the Greek Septuagint or Dead Sea Scrolls, where the Hebrew is either vague or appears to be corrupt, the NJPS Tanakh notes these as uncertain renderings.

The NJPS, most unlike the 1917 JPS edition, is much closer to being a functional equivalence version than not. Readers of the NJPS Tanakh will encounter a less-than-literal rendering for some passages, which to a degree gives the NJPS Tanakh much more commonality to the Christian NIV. One interesting feature of the NJPS Tanakh is how it widely renders the term torah as “Teaching,” as Deuteronomy 4:44 reads, “This is the Teaching that Moses set before the Israelites.”[44]

Evaluating Some Messianic Versions

It is safe to say that within today’s broad Messianic movement, there will always be a place for well known, relatively mainline, Christian and Jewish Bible versions such as those previously reviewed, and various others. At the same time, it cannot go unnoticed that there have been several Messianic Bible versions, either of the entire Holy Scriptures, or of at least the Apostolic Scriptures or New Testament, which are used by people within our faith community. Generally speaking, these are versions which tend to employ some degree of Hebrew terminology for proper names and place names, Torah rather than “Law,” and reflect some Messianic theological presuppositions.

What are some of the important criteria by which to evaluate Messianic Bible versions on the market today? Given the relatively small size of our faith community, Messianic Bible versions do not tend to get reviewed by those on the outside. Likewise, while there are some more relatively reliable Messianic versions than not, the sheer number of Sacred Name Only Bibles—which do unfortunately make their way into Messianic assemblies and fellowships—are a testament to, at the very least, how people involved with or inclined toward Messianic things, are presently working through many theological issues. And so, as we proceed to evaluate some versions of note within the broad Messianic community, it is important that we keep the following question at the foremost of our minds: What does a Messianic Bible version intend to achieve by being read by a large number of people?

It is not my intention to review every single Bible version here that may have the label of “Messianic” or “Hebrew/Hebraic Roots” associated with it. Yet, here are four versions of note that have a wide distribution within the broad Messianic community, which one is likely to see carried by individual people, even at relatively established Messianic Jewish congregations. Some of these versions have a greater translation and/or theological integrity than others:

  1. The Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)
  2. The Tree of Life—Messianic Family Bible (TLV)
  3. The Scriptures (ISR)
  4. The Delitzsch Hebrew-English Gospels (DHE)

Many of the other “Messianic” Bible versions that one may encounter (more likely being versions produced by the Sacred Name Only movement), tend to be little more than modified editions of the King James Version, with the Elizabethan period English updated with more modern terminology—and then with selective edits here and there, sometimes with Hebraic terms subjectively inserted with no substantial theological justification. Furthermore, a few of those who produce Messianic Bible versions exhibit no formal training in the Biblical languages of Hebrew or Greek, and appear to be nothing more than eclectic re-writings of Scripture to fit some kind of (gross sectarian) bias. Interesting renderings of various controversial verses may be offered, but they are then not joined with any kind of strong theological or exegetical defense in the form of associated research papers or substantial commentary.[45]

Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)

Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore Adonai himself will give you people a sign: the young woman* will become pregnant, bear a son and name him ‘Immanu El [God is with us].”

Psalm 23:1:ADONAI is my shepherd; I lack nothing.”

John 1:1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Matthew 5:17: “Don’t think that I have come to abolish the Torah or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete.”

Metzger The Bible in Translation: According to information provided on the last page of the book,

David H. Stern was born in Los Angeles in 1935, the great-grandson of two of the city’s first twenty Jews. He earned a Ph.D. in economics at Princeton University and was a professor at UCLA, mountain-climber, co-author of a book on surfing, and owner of health-food stores.

In 1972 he came to faith in Yeshua as the Messiah, after which he received a Master of Divinity at Fuller Theological Seminary and did graduate work at the University of Judaism…

In 1979 the Stern family made aliyah (immigrated to Israel), where they live with their two children and are active in Israel’s Messianic Jewish community…

Dr. Stern’s translation of the New Testament, entitled the Jewish New Testament, was published in 1989 by Jewish New Testament Publications. The subtitle of the book succinctly states its purpose: “A translation of the New Testament that expresses its Jewishness.” One of the ways it does this is by providing a translation of several key words and phrases, all of which are explained in footnotes on the pages where they occur, as well as in the “Pronouncing Explanatory Glossary” at the end of the volume (pp. 358-78). There are 356 entries in the glossary, of which 279 are proper nouns (personal and place names), and only 77 are common nouns and phrases. The transliteration of some of the proper names is quite needless: “A ● dam” is Adam, “Ar ● ni” is Arni, “Da ● vid” is David, and so forth. Some are not so obvious: “Y’hu ● dah” is Judah, “Yitz ● chak” is Isaac, and “Ye ● shu ● a” is Jesus.

In 1998 Stern issued through Jewish New Testament Publications his Complete Jewish Bible. For the Old Testament, he adopted and adapted the 1917 translation issued by the Jewish Publication Society of America…Its somewhat archaic English style was modified to agree with the translation in his Jewish New Testament. Occasionally, when Stern questioned the rendering of the Hebrew in the JPS’s version, he translated the Hebrew of the Masoretic Text himself. Consequently, his version of the Old Testament is something between a translation and a paraphrase.

The books of the Old Testament, of course, stand in the order of the Masoretic text. For the same reason, the initial descriptive phrase beginning many of the Psalms is numbered as verse 1. What is numbered verse 1 in other Bibles is verse 2 in Stern’s text.

The following are several examples in Stern’s version. (Italicized words are explained in the glossary.)

2God spoke to Moshe; he said to him, “I am ADONAI. 3I appeared to Avraham, Yitz’chak and Ya’akov as El Shaddai, although I did not make myself known to them by my name, Yud-Heh-Vav-Heh [ADONAI]. 4Also with them I established my covenant to give them the land of Kena’an, the land where they wandered about and lived as foreigners. (Sh’mot [Exodus] 6:2-4)

The words of ‘Amos, one of the sheep owners in T’koa, which he saw concerning Isra’el in the days of ‘Uziyah king of Y’hudah and Yarov’am the son of Yo’ash, king of Isra’el, two years before the earthquake. (‘Amos [Amos] 1:1)

1When Yeshua learned that the P’rushim had heard he was making and immersing more talmidim than Yochanan 2(although it was not Yeshua himself who immersed but his talmidim), 3Yeshua left Y’hudah and set out again for the Galil. 4This meant that he had to pass through Shomron. (Yochanan [John] 4:1-4)

11And now, brothers, shalom! Put yourselves in order, pay attention to my advice, be of one mind, live in shalom—and the God of love and shalom will be with you.
12 Greet one another with a holy kiss.
13 All God’s people send greetings to you.
14 The grace of the Lord Yeshua the Messiah,
the love of God
and the fellowship of the Ruach HaKodesh be with you all.
(2 Corinthians 13:11-14)

In addition to transliterating various Hebrew words, Stern rather unexpectedly also includes the transliteration of ten or a dozen Yiddish words. For example, in Luke 18:4-5 when the determined widow perseveres in her argument to the judge, he says to himself, “I don’t fear God, and I don’t respect other people; but because this widow is such a nudnik, I will see to it that she gets justice—otherwise, she’ll keep coming and pestering me till she wears me out!” The context clearly indicates that the meaning is something like “pest” or “bore.” In 1 Timothy 4:7, the neophyte pastor is advised to “refuse godless bubbe-meises.” The glossary tells the non-Yiddish reader that this means “old wives’ tales”; literally, “grandmothers’ stories.” The Seventy disciples (talmidim) are sent out with the admonition, “Don’t carry a money-belt or a pack, and don’t stop to shmoose with people on the road” (Luke 10:4). The glossary informs the reader that shmoose means “engage in friendly gossipy chit-chat.”

An interesting typographical innovation is the use of a dramatic change in the type font when the translator wishes to show a change in the actual writer. A script font is used in 1 Corinthians 16:21-24, Galatians 6:11-18, Colossians 4:18, 2 Thessalonians 3:17-18, and Philemon 19a to indicate that Paul himself took the pen in hand to write the words presented in this way.

All in all, Stern’s Complete Jewish Bible will certainly give the Gentile Christian reader a new perspective. It may be hoped that it will also be appreciated by its target audience, those who refer to themselves as Messianic Jews.[46]

The most commonly encountered Messianic Bible version today, used within a great deal of Messianic Judaism and many sectors of the independent Messianic movement, has to be the Complete Jewish Bible produced by David H. Stern. In many ways the Complete Jewish Bible or CJB is “the Bible” of the Messianic Jewish movement, with some congregations and assemblies actually placing a copy of it alongside of the scroll within their Torah ark. The Complete Jewish Bible uses a wide array of Hebrew and Jewish terms, including personal names of Biblical characters, place names, and terms used for ritual objects and practices. “Torah” is most often used for “Law.” The Hebrew ADONAI, as would be canted in the traditional Synagogue, is used for the Divine Name of God, and is commonly employed in the New Testament in a number of Tanakh quotations.[47]

While the Complete Jewish Bible is widely used throughout the Messianic community, it is nevertheless a paraphrased version, and is not as literal as Christian versions like the NASB/NASU, RSV/NRSV/ESV, or even NIV/TNIV. As noted in its introduction, “the Complete Jewish Bible tends toward the dynamic equivalent end of the scale. And at certain points especially related to Jewish issues, the New Covenant portion becomes militantly so. For example, the Greek phrase upo nomon (literally, ‘under law’) is usually rendered ‘under the law.’ But because this phrase has become a buzzword in anti-Torah Christian theology, the Jewish New Testament and now the Complete Jewish Bible spell out the meaning of these two Greek words into thirteen English words: ‘in subjection to the system which results from perverting the Torah into legalism.’”[48] The Tanakh of the Complete Jewish Bible, obviously includes the books listed in their traditional Jewish order,[49] although the Tanakh rendering itself is widely based on David H. Stern’s paraphrase of the English 1917 JPS Tanakh.[50] The original Jewish New Testament in English is based on the United Bible Societies Greek New Testament, as well as Stern’s consultation of various modern Hebrew New Testament versions.[51]

The Complete Jewish Bible has been the first widely received and acclaimed Messianic Bible version, which more often than not represents a pro-Torah position within its rendering of the Apostolic Scriptures or New Testament.[52] It does interject a high amount of Hebrew terms, though, which can be viewed as going a bit too far for English Bible comprehension. The relative paraphrase of some verses (particularly within the Pauline letters), and the inclusion of Yiddish, do more to subtract from the value of the CJB than add to it. Our ministry, for the most part, has only used the Complete Jewish Bible in a secondary capacity,[53] and we would not recommend it as a primary reading Bible, nor would we recommend it as a Bible to use as a first line of defense in favor of various Messianic beliefs, particularly as they relate to the validity of the Torah because it is a paraphrase.

It is most appreciated, though, that the reasons for some of Stern’s renderings are offered in his valuable companion, the Jewish New Testament Commentary (Clarksville, MD: Jewish New Testament Publications, 1995). But, even this resource has been lacking in some areas, not in terms of it being a one-volume commentary, but that no effort has been made to offer an appropriate introduction to any of the books of the New Testament—hence we have little idea as to what Stern thinks about their date of composition, intended audience, etc.

According to Jewish New Testament Publications, the imprimatur for the Complete Jewish Bible, a Complete Jewish Study Bible—New Testament was supposed to be released in 2011.[54] One can only assume that it has been delayed due to the incorporation of various articles and explanatory notes to be provided by various Messianic Jewish leaders. As of 2013, it can “be noted that a new version of Dr. Stern’s New Testament, not replacing the first, will be published in the near future. It will feature copious notes. The revision will eliminate some of the Yiddish anachronisms that tend to be unnatural to some readers.”[55] Certainly, this will be a publication that will gain the attention and interest of many people within the broad Messianic community.

Tree of Life—Messianic Family Bible (TLV)

Psalm 23:1:ADONAI is my shepherd, I shall not want.”

John 1:1: “In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Matthew 5:17: “Do not think that I came to abolish the Torah or the Prophets! I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill.”

The Tree of Life—New Covenant hit the Messianic Jewish movement in the Summer of 2011, but not to a huge degree of fanfare as other versions might have. The main reason for the Messianic Jewish Family Bible Project, involving the Tree of Life—New Covenant, as stated in its acknowledgments, is that this “was inspired by the lifelong experiences and calling of a group of Rabbi’s wives who recognized the desperate need for an updated Messianic translation for the children of our unique synagogues.”[56] While some acknowledgments are given to the contribution of David H. Stern and the release of his Complete Jewish Bible, it is obvious that as a widely dynamic equivalency version, that the CJB cannot suffice as the only Messianic Jewish Bible. The TLV owes much of its existence to the previous work of the World English Bible, Hebrew Names Version, which is a public domain Bible version available in electronic format, based on the public domain 1901 American Standard Version. Other versions acknowledged as guiding the Tree of Life project include the NKJV, NASB, and NIV, among others.[57]

One of the main claims for the Tree of Life edition of the Apostolic Scriptures, at least, is that it is a professionally vetted text by both Messianic Jewish and Christian leaders,[58] involving scholars of the caliber of Michael Brown and Craig Keener. For a Bible version that is intending to reach the Messianic Jewish movement, and many others, this is something to be commended, as most Messianic versions to date have been involved with only one translator or editor.[59]

The Tree of Life—New Covenant is up front about its affirmation as Yeshua being God in the flesh,[60] and its renderings are relatively pro-Torah (i.e., Romans 10:4 says “For Messiah is the goal of the Torah…”), while not being paraphrased (i.e., Galatians 3:5 has the more literal “deeds based on Torah,” than the more subjective offering by the CJB). While more on the formal equivalency style than not, the Tree of Life—The New Covenant does not, though, employ italics for words added like the NASB/NASU. The Tree of Life—The New Covenant does employ a higher degree of inclusive language than the Christian Bibles referenced to have inspired it, notably the frequent rendering of adelphoi as “brothers and sisters.” A definite and welcomed advantage that the TLV has over any other Messianic version to date, is that there are actual introductions written for each of the books of the New Testament, including some preliminary information on the author, the date of composition, and the contents of the text.

The TLV uses far less Hebrew and Jewish terms than the CJB, sticking primarily to Yeshua, Messiah, Torah, and various ritual items. Other than that, more customary English forms like Jacob (for James), Peter, John, Paul, and Moses are used. Those Bible readers who are used to a relatively literal version like the NASB/NASU, or even a dynamic equivalency version like the NIV, will very much appreciate the TLV. The TLV can be easily used as a close second version, alongside of the more well known Bible versions employed today. In fact, if you prefer to read entire books of the Bible in a single sitting, this should be the Messianic version that you use.

It is likely that there have not been more reviews of the Tree of Life—Messianic Family Bible project because the complete Bible has not yet been released (as of Spring 2013). In 2012, though, an edition of the TLV Psalms with Commentary was released in paperback, which includes some reflective paragraphs on each of the 150 Psalms. Also released in 2012 was the Messianic Jewish Shared Heritage Bible, which includes the Tree of Life—New Covenant for the New Testament, as well as the 1917 JPS public domain Tanakh for the Old Testament.

While there will never be a perfect English Bible translation for our Messianic faith community, The Tree of Life—Messianic Family Bible project will be something important to see develop. The TLV is a version to be much preferred over the CJB, and it deserves to be in the personal library of every Messianic person. The TLV will doubtlessly be employed as a version frequently quoted in future Messianic Apologetics publications, especially including our Practical Messianic commentaries.

The Scriptures (ISR)

Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning Elohim created the heavens and the earth.”

Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore [YHWH] Himself gives you a sign: Look, the ‘almah’ conceives and gives birth to a son, and shall call His Name Immanu’ēl.”

Psalm 23:1: “[YHWH] is my shepherd; I do not lack.”

John 1:1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with Elohim, and the Word was Elohim.”

Matthew 5:17: “Do not think that I came to destroy the Torah or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to complete.”

One version which has made its way around the broad Messianic movement, but understandably more of the independent sectors, has been The Scriptures, published by an organization called the Institute for Scripture Research of Northriding, South Africa (Greater Johannesburg). It should be noted that the ISR Scriptures has both a 1998 second edition and 2009 third edition, with some changes made in the third edition. Unlike Messianic versions such as the CJB or TLV, the ISR Scriptures represents a Sacred Name theology,[61] seen by their usage of  in Hebrew letters for the Divine Name YHWH/YHVH, instead of either “the LORD,” “ADONAI” (CJB), or “HASHEM” (ATS) per the widescale Jewish practice of not speaking God’s proper name. The Hebrew title Elohim is used instead of “God.” Hebrew character and place names, as witnessed in versions like the CJB, are also used in the ISR Scriptures (even though the exact transliterations might differ). The amount of Hebrew terms employed by the 2009 ISR Scriptures may be said to exceed the CJB, as Greek and Roman place names too might be labeled by some Hebrew equivalent (i.e., the title Romiyim for the Epistle to the Romans). The ISR Scriptures also does use a British-style of English spelling, which might not be too familiar for some American readers.

A significant reason why usage of the ISR Scriptures has grown is because of how other versions in the Messianic movement, like the 1998 Complete Jewish Bible, were paraphrased, and the 1998 ISR Scriptures was far more literal. When its preface (2009) states, “This edition of the Scriptures, while attempting to be an accurate translation, seeks at the same time to introduce the reader to some of the Hebraic mindset and culture which are very much a part of the original,”[62] Messianic people can assume that this Bible version is likely to be something worthy of their consideration. The Tanach translation of the ISR Scriptures is stated to widely originate from the Rudolph Kittel’s Biblia Hebraica,[63] but its rendering of the Apostolic Scriptures (labeled the “Second Writings”) widely originates from the Textus Receptus (the source text for the King James Version), and is then selectively altered with data seen in the more critical United Bible Societies versions, as well as the so-called Shem-Tov Hebrew Matthew.[64] Like a variety of Messianics, the publishers of the ISR Scriptures inappropriately “believe that there is a very strong case to be made for the view that the originals [of the New Testament] were inspired in a Semitic language, and not in Greek.”[65] Their main reason for this is rooted within their Sacred Name theology of believing that the Hebrew language is presumably “pure” or “clean,” and all other languages are hence unclean—not in any objective analysis of Biblical history. The original 1993 ISR Scriptures actually includes a section of several hundred words (including the article “the”!) which they have determined via their presumed research as being entirely pagan, and completely prohibited from audibly speaking.[66]

The main deficiency of the ISR Scriptures, more than anything, is that its publisher has not been forthright in saying who served on its translation or editorial team, nor what their credentials are as an “institute.” They have also stated on their website (isr-messianic.org), “The ISR will not respond to doctrinal questions.” This means that there is no real way of knowing why certain things in the ISR Scriptures are rendered the way they are. Both the 1993 and 1998 editions of the ISR Scriptures included a vertical line along the side of various passages, indicating an opinion that particular prophetic texts had been unfulfilled—something that is very clearly a theological value judgment—but which was appreciably removed from the 2009 edition. While it is also agreeable that other than expressing a Sacred Name Only theology, the publishers of the ISR Scriptures have tried to remain neutral in terms of doctrine,[67] this is something quite impossible. It is not comforting, for instance, to see in the 1993 ISR Scriptures’ Bibliography, a reference made to the Jehovah’s Witnesses New World Translation,[68] which may have influenced this publication in various ways. When it comes to the issues of the nature of the Messiah, the ISR Scriptures broadly represents a low Christology.[69]

Because of the Institute for Scripture Research not holding to any definite doctrinal views, and not knowing who they are or what their qualifications are, we must each demonstrate a high level of caution when we encounter it. This is not really a version that today’s Messianic people should at all be using.

The Delitzsch Hebrew-English Gospels (DHE)

John 1:1: “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God.”

Matthew 5:17: “Do not imagine that I have come to violate the Torah or the words of the prophets. I have not come to violate but to fulfill.”

There are a variety of eclectic English Bible versions on the market, particularly English translations of ancient translations like the Greek Septuagint, Latin Vulgate, and Aramaic Peshitta. These can, at times, have a place within one’s exploration of the Holy Scriptures, interjecting an interesting or useful perspective. They certainly can belong in a Bible collector’s library—provided that their place as a third or fourth witness is recognized.

One resource that is highly valued by many Bible scholars, and certainly by many native Hebrew speakers, is the Hebrew New Testament translation produced by German Hebraist Franz Delitzsch (1813-1890), also co-author of an entire series of Old Testament commentaries. The Delitzsch Hebrew New Testament, produced in the late Nineteenth Century, was a valuable part of the early Hebrew Christian movement, and continues to be used today by many in Israel. In 2011, the widely popular Messianic ministry First Fruits of Zion, via their Vine of David publishing wing, released an English translation of the four Gospels excerpted from the Delitzsch Hebrew New Testament. This publication, appearing in four editions, is certainly aesthetically impressive, and is easily compared to the ArtScroll Chumash.

It is not at all inappropriate to consider providing today’s Messianic people with a specialty English translation of the Delitzsch Hebrew, especially for those involved in ministry work in Israel. This could be a resource for those who are not that well versed in either Biblical or later Rabbinical Hebrew, as a kind of “crutch” for them to more easily access the material. The Delitzsch Hebrew-English Gospels, for example, present some interesting renderings, such as Luke 1:41 reading, “When Elisheva heard Miryam’s brachah [blessing], the child danced inside of her and Elisheva was filled with the Holy Spirit.” The Publisher’s Preface to the DHE includes the imperative of how Delitzsch’s “Hebrew translation of the original Greek text does not undermine their authority or composition, but we believe that he accomplished his goal of restoring the Hebrew voice in a beautiful and authentic manner.”[70]

More to the point, while restoring the Hebraic culture and background to the Gospel tradition is a worthwhile goal, the publishers of the DHE take the position of how “The Greek Gospels were written in poor-quality Greek, [and] as Franz Delitzsch demonstrated with his Hebrew translation, the Greek text fits naturally back into Hebrew.”[71] Such assertions have been widely contested by those involved in both New Testament and Gospel studies, as the Greek composition of the four Gospels is no more or less a problem than the Greek composition style of the Septuagint. While it is true “the authors that composed the Gospels were” largely “native speakers of Semitic languages,”[72] one does not have to (subjectively) retranslate entire verses or passages into a hypothetical Hebrew for them to finally “make sense.” The way that the Delitzsch Hebrew-English Gospels have been marketed is so that the words of Yeshua can finally be “reclaimed,” as it were, by the Jewish people in the Hebrew language.[73] Yet in some ways, denying the canonical, written Greek Gospels as legitimate Jewish literature, is not only like denying the Greek Septuagint, or various Greek writings in the Psuedepigrapha, Apocrypha, the philosopher Philo, or histories of Josephus as being Jewish religious literature from the broad Biblical period—but is like denying how Jewish literature exists in modern European languages like Russian, German, French, and even English. No one should have to think, for example, that Theodor Herzl’s The Jewish State must be translated into Hebrew from German, in order for it to be an authentically Jewish work.

Many well known teachers and leaders from across the Messianic Jewish community, some of whom have weighty credentials, have issued favorable words about the Delitzsch Hebrew-English Gospels and have promoted it heavily to Messianic Jewish congregations.[74] Yet, it is ironic how the main translator of the DHE, Aaron Eby, has no under-graduate or post-graduate degrees referenced. By far, the most important thing for readers of the Delitzsch Hebrew-English Gospels to be aware of, is that it scores very low in important Christological passages, particularly in terms of devotion being issued to Yeshua, with the English term “worship” decisively absent.[75] That none of the Messianic Jewish leaders, who have positively reviewed the Delitzsch Hebrew-English Gospels (as of Spring 2013), have expressed any concern over what it has for Yeshua’s statement in John 8:58, “before the existence of Avraham, I was,” is quite disconcerting.[76]

A major question, about the 2011 release of the Delitzsch Hebrew-English Gospels, is whether or not we should expect Vine of David to release a complete DHE New Testament in the future. At the very least, if this were a resource produced for Messianic Judaism, it would not be unlike how the Douay-Rheims translation of the Latin Vulgate is authoritative for many Roman Catholics.[77] What it would do to the future exegesis of Holy Scripture for contemporary Messianic people, of course, presents some daunting questions of credibility. The Delitzsch Hebrew-English Gospels is not at all going to help stop the current deficiency many Messianic congregational leaders have at possessing any Greek competency.

While the Delitzsch Hebrew-English Gospels has received great praise and accolades from many in the Messianic Jewish movement, in the long run this publication is likely to cause more confusion than clarity for Messianic Biblical Studies.

Verses Today’s Messianics Need to be Aware of

Even though there are a selection of Messianic Bible versions of note, such as the Complete Jewish Bible or Tree of Life Version—a wide number of today’s Messianic people are still likely to use a Christian Bible version like the New American Standard or English Standard Version, as their main Bible. Some of this might be because of past attachment to a Bible that has personal notes written in the margins, or a preference to principally use a version that has had a wide number of scholars included in the translation process. Messianic readers of Christian Bibles, when speaking or quoting verses out loud, are in the habit of commonly changing “Jesus Christ” to “Yeshua the Messiah,” and/or employing “Torah” for “Law.”

Generally speaking, if today’s Messianic Believers can be aware of some specific places within mainline Christian versions like the NASB/NASU or the RSV/ESV—which tend to reflect an anti-Torah bias—then they should be able to get by for most reading fairly well. Verses to definitely be aware of in the Apostolic Scriptures or New Testament, do include:

  • Mark 7:19, where “Thus He declared all foods clean” (NASU) appears, but where the clause katharizōn panta ta brōmata can be legitimately rendered as “cleansing all food” (TLV) or “purging all the foods” (my translation), referring to the process of excretion.[78]
  • Romans 10:4, where the word telos is often rendered as “end,” in “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness” (NASU), has widely been recognized in theological studies as also meaning “goal” (CJB, Common English Bible, TLV), or at the very least something akin to “culmination” (TNIV), and not necessarily “end” equaling “termination.”[79]
  • Romans 14:14, where Paul says, “I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean” (NASU), the term rendered as “unclean” is koinos, which “ to being of little value because of being common, common, ordinary, profane” (BDAG).[80] In the food lists of Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14, the Hebrew tamei or “unclean” is rendered as akathartos in the Septuagint, which is obviously not the term that appears in Romans 14:14. Food that is koinos, then, should be regarded as either “unholy” (TLV) or “common” (LITV), which may be viewed as “that which ordinary people eat, in contrast to those of more refined tastes” (BDAG).[81] The situation in view would then pertain to various human judgments about what is acceptable for eating, but not have to do with the validity or abrogation of the kosher dietary laws.[82]
  • Ephesians 2:15, for most Bible readers, says that the work of the Messiah has been responsible for “abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances” (NASU). Much of how one approaches what ton nomon tōn entolōn en dogmasin actually is, is in recognizing how nomos or “law” does not always mean the Mosaic Torah or Pentateuch, and how dogma can relate to “that which seems to one, an opinion, dogma” (LS),[83] or “something that is taught as an established tenet or statement of belief, doctrine, dogma” (BDAG).[84] With the barrier wall of the Jerusalem Temple in view (Ephesians 2:14), and with this not at all specified by the Mosaic Torah, extra-Biblical regulations are instead targeted here. It would not at all be inappropriate to then render ton nomon tōn entolōn en dogmasin as “the religious Law of commandments in dogmas” (my translation), with an italic “religious” specifying that man-made religious law and not Biblical law is in view.[85]

Other areas of potential disagreement among English Bible translations, in either the Tanach or Apostolic Scriptures, would then be those places where a spectrum of all interpreters and expositors—including Messianic teachers—do not necessarily see eye-to-eye. This is why it is not uncommon in Bible commentaries, for example, to see a commentator provide his or her own translation of the Biblical book or passage being elaborated upon.

Will Messianic Apologetics ever release its own Bible version?

Our ministry has been asked many, many times, if we would ever consider publishing its own Bible version. In the past, we have been involved with a few projects to produce a Messianic edition of the Apostolic Writings, which have come to naught. Given the wide number of English Bible versions produced in the past twenty years, including around half-a-dozen or so Messianic or Hebrew/Hebraic Roots versions, it would not be our preference to add to what is an increasingly crowded field.

A mistake made, within the sector of Messianic Bible versions on the market, has been to offer a rendering or translation of a controversial passage, and then leave the Bible reader with no explanation of why the translator(s) chose it, in either associated books or articles. David H. Stern was gracious enough to release his Jewish New Testament Commentary, which does defend a wide number of his renderings in the New Testament part of his Complete Jewish Bible. Other than this, though, while it is appreciable that a new Messianic version like the Tree of Life—Messianic Family Bible has a wide review board, not enough Bible commentaries (or at least articles and books accessible to the layperson) have been written from a Messianic perspective, to adequately explain (or even explore) some of the passages of importance to our faith community—particularly as they concern the validity of the Torah and various Torah practices.

Because of the current, tense state, of the theology and spirituality of today’s Messianic world—we are in far greater need of Bible commentaries, books, and articles to be produced on a wide array of issues in the shorter term, than we are of yet another English version produced for Messianic people. It is shortsighted for any of us to think that another translation of the Scriptures into English will answer all of our theological and spiritual questions. Frequently, the answer we need about a controversial verse or passage is found in the historical setting, background material, simply making better observations from a wider reading of the text, and/or considering some of the proposals present in Biblical Studies. Yet, finding qualified Messianic leaders and teachers, with some post-graduate credentials, who are willing to commit the time and energy to produce commentaries on books of the Bible (or at least the Apostolic Scriptures), has been most difficult.

Since 2005, I have been doing my part to write commentaries for the Practical Messianic series by Messianic Apologetics. As things stand in 2013, volumes have been released on: James, Hebrews, Philippians, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians and Philemon, Acts 15, the Pastoral Epistles of 1&2 Timothy and Titus, and 1&2 Thessalonians. Also included are survey workbooks on the Tanach and Apostolic Scriptures. Added to this are a number of additional studies seen in my writings, such as the 430-page book The New Testament Validates Torah, and articles appearing in our Messianic Helper series. There are still new commentaries that need to be written, as well as further detailed studies as they concern a Messianic Torah obedient lifestyle, the nature of Yeshua and His Divinity, and the doctrine of salvation. What is needed far more than another Messianic Bible version, has been these sorts of studies. And it has to be observed, writing a series of commentaries on the entire Bible, can take a commentator a lifetime. Even just writing a series of commentaries on the Apostolic Scriptures or New Testament, can take a commentator half-a-lifetime.

Many theologians and commentators, if not working from a mainline English version like the RSV/NRSV or NIV, do tend to provide their own translation of the text they are commenting upon. In many cases, if there is a significant body of writing behind them (i.e., commentaries, books, articles of note), then some theologians have taken to produce their own specialized versions. This is widely seen in the significant number of specialty New Testament editions that are available, which have widely been released as supplementary publications for one’s reading of a widespread version like the RSV/NRSV or NIV. Most recently (2011), one of the most popularly known theologians of our day, N.T. Wright, released his Kingdom New Testament, which compiled the slightly functional equivalence translation he employed in his for Everyone commentary series. Given Wright’s prolific body of theological writing, there were no surprises that various renderings he has preferred and has defended elsewhere, appeared within this publication.[86]

Messianic Apologetics is not at all willing to release a complete Messianic Bible version. Nor, as things presently stand in 2013, would we be inclined to release a specialty Messianic edition of the Apostolic Scriptures anytime soon. I have, however, in the tradition of those commentators who have produced their own rendering of the Biblical text they comment upon, offered an Author’s Rendering appendix, in each full-book commentary released in our Practical Messianic series. Like previous Messianic Bible versions, such as the TLV, this Author’s Rendering is based on the 1901 American Standard Version, and incorporates the conclusions made and defended in the commentary. With some nuanced translations proposed in some of the volumes of the Practical Messianic series, it is useful that once readers finish reading the commentary, for them to see how such renderings might appear in the Biblical book as a whole.

For the long term future, after more Practical Messianic volumes have been released, in addition to a number of other planned books and articles, it is not impossible that a specialty version of the Apostolic Scriptures or New Testament could be published, as a supplementary part of the Practical Messianic series. We would have to determine whether or not the spiritual and theological climate of the Messianic community would be open to such a publication—but most importantly our ministry commentaries, books, and articles would have to reach a certain rate of threshold, with a much wider variety of issues addressed and positions defended. What might accelerate the need for such a publication, would be how some of the unique renderings we have defended, could need a wider reading by today’s Messianic people, outside of a commentary, book, or article.

There are already some proposed translations witnessed in the Author’s Rendering appendices of currently released Practical Messianic volumes, as well as some of the author’s other writings, which one is not too likely to see in any other Messianic Bible version (including the TLV). These include:

  • 1 Corinthians 7:17-24: “Only, as the Lord has assigned to each one, as God has called each, so let him walk. And so I direct in all the assemblies. Was anyone called being circumcised? Let him not practice epispasm. Has anyone been called in foreskin? Let him not be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing, and foreskin is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God. Let each one abide in the calling in which he was called. Were you called as a slave? Do not worry about it; but if you are able also to become free, rather use it. For he who was called in the Lord as a slave, is the Lord’s freed one; likewise he who was called while free, is Messiah’s slave. You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of human beings. Brothers and sisters, let each one, in that calling in which he was called, in this abide with God.”[87]
  • Galatians 3:12: “And the Torah is not of faith; yet, ‘HE WHO DOES THEM SHALL LIVE IN THEM’ [Leviticus 18:5].”[88]
  • Galatians 5:2-3: “Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Messiah will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every person who receives circumcision, that one is a debtor to do the whole Torah.”[89]
  • Ephesians 1:1 (following the RSV): “Paul, an apostle of Messiah Yeshua by the will of God, to the saints who are also faithful in Messiah Yeshua.”[90]
  • Ephesians 2:15: “[H]aving abolished in His flesh the enmity, the religious Law of commandments in dogmas, that He might create in Himself the two into one new humanity, so making peace.”[91]
  • Philippians 2:6: “[W]ho, existing in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited.”[92]
  • 1 Timothy 2:12-15: “But I do not permit a woman to teach or usurp authority of a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman, being deceived, fell into transgression. But she will be saved through the Child-Bearing, if they continue in faith and love and sanctification with sensibility.”[93]
  • Hebrews 7:11; 8:6: “Now if there was perfection through the Levitical priesthood (for upon it the people were legislated), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron?…But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been legislated upon better promises.”[94]
  • Hebrews 8:7, 13: “For if that first service had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second…In His saying, ‘A new service,’ he has made the first old. But that which is becoming old and ageing is close to vanish away.”[95]

Is is most unlikely that given the changing spiritual and theological dynamics of today’s Messianic movement, that similar to the diverse number of Christian specialty Bibles (and at least New Testament versions), that there will be any single, definitive Messianic version. For the future, it is probable that as a part of our Practical Messianic commentary series, an edition of the Apostolic Scriptures will be released. But unlike some of the Messianic versions that have been published in the past, we would want to make sure that verses and passages of some controversy have been explained elsewhere, should a nuanced rendering be offered. This would mean that it would be necessary to offer annotations derived from Messianic Apologetics materials, some of which are yet to be produced now in 2013, but which will be produced over the next several years.


[1] An excellent online resource to consider, which summarizes most of the English Bible versions that have been produced over the past several centuries, is Bible Researcher <http://www.bible-researcher.com>.

[2] Bruce M. Metzger, The Bible in Translation: Ancient and English Versions (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001), 186.

[3] Michael J. Gorman, Elements of Biblical Exegesis: A Basic Guide for Students and Ministers (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2001), 42.

[4] Ibid., 43.

[5] Ibid., 44.

[6] Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), pp 40-41.

Ibid., pp 44-45 includes a further, useful discussion on how different English translations transmit various ancient measurements, either leaving particular numbers and systems in tact, or in transferring them to modern Imperial/U.S. Customary or metric units.

[7] For a further review, consult “The Text,” in Michael J. Gorman, Elements of Biblical Exegesis: A Basic Guide for Students and Ministers (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2001), pp 35-57; “The Basic Tool: A Good Translation,” in Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), pp 33-53.

[8] For a further review, consult the FAQ on the Messianic Apologetics website, “Romans 10:4.”

[9] Romans 7:4ff is addressed in further detail in the author’s book The New Testament Validates Torah.

[10] Grk. alieis anthrōpōn.

[11] Some of these versions are listed within the copyright page of the recent compilation David J. Rudolph and Joel Willitts, eds., Introduction to Messianic Judaism: Its Ecclesial Context and Biblical Foundations (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013).

[12] Leonard J. Greenspoon. “The Holy Bible: A Buyer’s Guide” Bible Review Volume XXI, Number 4, Fall 2005:37-44.

[13] Greenspoon. “The Holy Bible: A Buyer’s Guide,” 39.

[14] Metzger, The Bible in Translation, pp 70-80.

[15] Gorman, pp 51-52.

[16] Fee and Stuart, 40.

[17] It cannot go unmentioned that there is a sub-movement in much of fundamentalist Christianity commonly known as the King James Only movement. The KJV Only movement, in its more moderate wing, advocates that the KJV is the only acceptable English Bible translation for Believers today. In its more extreme sectors, the KJV Only movement may purport that the King James Version is the Word of God, superior to the Hebrew and Greek source texts behind it.

For a further analysis, consult D.A. Carson, The King James Version Debate: A Plea for Realism (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1979); James R. White, The King James Only Controversy: Can You Trust the Modern Translations? (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1995).

[18] Consult the examination of Acts 15:24, and the various textual witnesses, in the author’s commentary Acts 15 for the Practical Messianic.

[19] Greenspoon. “The Holy Bible: A Buyer’s Guide,” 39.

[20] Cf. Metzger, The Bible in Translation, pp 99-104.

[21] New American Standard, Updated Edition, text edition (Anaheim, CA: Foundation Publications, 1995), iii.

[22] Ibid., v.

[23] Ibid., iv.

[24] Ibid., iii.

[25] Gorman, pp 47-48.

[26] Greenspoon. “The Holy Bible: A Buyer’s Guide,” 39.

[27] Ibid., 40.

[28] Herbert G. May and Bruce M. Metzger, eds., The New Oxford Annotated Bible With the Apocrypha, RSV (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977), xv.

[29] Gorman, 46.

[30] Walter J. Harrelson, ed., et. al., New Interpreter’s Study Bible, NRSV (Nashville: Abingdon, 2003), xix.

[31] ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008), 19.

[32] Ibid., 20.

[33] Greenspoon. “The Holy Bible: A Buyer’s Guide,” 41.

[34] Metzger, The Bible In Translation, 139.

[35] Cf. Ibid., pp 138-141.

[36] Kenneth L. Barker, ed., et. al., NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), pp xi, xii.

[37] Gorman, pp 48-49.

[38] Today’s New International Version, text edition (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), xi.

[39] Greenspoon. “The Holy Bible: A Buyer’s Guide,” 42.

[40] Subsequent editions of the ArtScroll Tanach published since 1996, do only include its English translation without the Hebrew, and/or with the text size enlarged.

[41] Nosson Scherman and Meir Zlotowitz, eds., ArtScroll Tanach (Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 1996), pp 1681-1703.

[42] Greenspoon. “The Holy Bible: A Buyer’s Guide,” 40.

[43] JPS Hebrew-English Tanakh (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1999), xxiii.

[44] Some further useful thoughts on the NJPS appear in Metzger, The Bible in Translation, pp 142-144.

[45] Several versions which are not reviewed in this article, include James Scott Trimm, trans., The Hebraic-Roots Version Scriptures (Northriding, South Africa: Institute for Scripture Research, 2006); Andrew Gabriel Roth, trans., Aramaic English New Testament (Netzari Press, 2008); Daniel Gruber, trans., The Messianic Writings (Hanover, NH: Elijah Publishing, 2011).

For a review of these versions, consult Tim Hegg. (2011). What English Translation of the Apostolic Scriptures Should I Use? Torah Resource. Accessible via <http://torahresource.com>.

[46] Metzger, The Bible in Translation, pp 146-148.

[47] David H. Stern, trans., Complete Jewish Bible (Clarksville, MD: Jewish New Testament Publications, 1998), pp xxxiii-xxxiv.

[48] Ibid., xvi; defended in Ibid., pp xlii-xliii.

[49] Ibid., xxvii.

[50] Ibid., xiv.

[51] Ibid., xxxi.

[52] Some of the renderings of the CJB are understandably referenced in both the author’s book The New Testament Validates Torah and volumes of the for the Practical Messianic commentary series by Messianic Apologetics.

[53] An exception to this is how the CJB was employed as the main Bible version in the book Sayings of the Fathers: A Messianic Perspective on Pirkei Avot by Mark Huey.

[54] Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc. Home Page. Accessed 09 May, 2013 at <http://www.messianicjewish.net/jntp/>.

[55] Daniel Juster, Jewish Roots: Understanding Your Jewish Faith, revised edition (Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image, 2013), 16.

[56] Tree of Life Messianic Family Bible—New Covenant (Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image, 2011), 17.

[57] Ibid.

[58] Ibid., 19.

[59] While not stated in its introduction, the need to emphasize the TLV as being theologically vetted by both Messianic Jewish and Christian scholars, is likely due to the fact of some Sacred Name Only Bible versions that people in the Messianic community have used, whose translators (and credentials!) have remained widely anonymous.

[60] Ibid., pp 22-23.

[61] The Scriptures, third edition (Northriding, South Africa: Institute for Scripture Research, 2009), pp xv-xvii.

In particular is a marked failure seen in Ibid., pp 1223-1224 to recognize that the Greek Iēsous, from which the English Jesus is derived, was employed within the Greek Septuagint version of the Hebrew Tanach, and does not derive from paganism.

More on the Sacred Name presuppositions of the publishers can likely be seen in the book C.J. Koster, Come Out of Her, My People (Northriding, South Africa: Institute for Scripture Research, 1998).

[62] Ibid., xi.

[63] Ibid., xvii.

[64] Ibid., xix.

The legitimacy of the Shem Tov Hebrew Matthew is analyzed in the author’s article “Is the Hebrew Matthew an Authentic Document?” appearing in his publication The Hebrew New Testament Misunderstanding.

[65] Ibid, xviii.

[66] The Scriptures, first edition (Randburg, South Africa: Institute for Scripture Research, 1993), pp 1223-1231.

[67] The Scriptures, third edition, xii.

[68] The Scriptures, first edition, 1232.

[69] Cf. J.K. McKee, Confronting Yeshua’s Divinity and Messiahship (Kissimmee, FL: TNN Press, 2012), pp 24-25; J.K. McKee, Colossians and Philemon for the Practical Messianic (Kissimmee, FL: TNN Press, 2012), 55.

[70] Aaron Eby and Robert Morris, trans., et. al., The Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels: A Hebrew/English Translation (Marshfield, MO: Vine of David, 2011), vii.

[71] Ibid., xxix.

[72] Ibid.

[73] Ibid., xxxiv.

[74] Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels, Home Page. Accessed 10 May, 2013 at <http://vineofdavid.org/resources/dhe/index.html>

[75] Cf. McKee, Confronting Yeshua’s Divinity and Messiahship, pp 22-30.

[76] Cf. Ibid., pp 45-52.

See also Ibid., pp 54-55 for some further thoughts on Divine titles being used/not used to refer to the Messiah.

[77] Cf. Metzger, The Bible in Translation, pp 67-69.

[78] Consult the FAQ on the Messianic Apologetics website, “Mark 7:19,” as well as the forthcoming Messianic Kosher Helper by Messianic Apologetics.

[79] Consult the FAQ on the Messianic Apologetics website, “Romans 10:4.”

[80] BDAG, 552.

[81] Ibid.

[82] Consult the author’s article “To Eat or Not to Eat?”, as well as the forthcoming Messianic Kosher Helper by Messianic Apologetics.

[83] LS, 207.

[84] BDAG, 254.

[85] Consult the FAQ on the Messianic Apologetics website, “Ephesians 2:14-15.”

[86] This most notably included the employment of the subjective genitive, “faithfulness of…” rather than “faith in…,” for Romans 3:22; Galatians 2:16; 3:22; Ephesians 3:12; Philippians 3:9.

For a further evaluation, consult the author’s article “The Faithfulness of Yeshua the Messiah,” appearing in his book The New Testament Validates Torah.

[87] J.K. McKee, Are Non-Jewish Believers Really a Part of Israel? (Richardson, TX: TNN Press, 2013), 297; also consult the FAQ entry on the Messianic Apologetics website, “1 Corinthians 7:17-24.”

[88] J.K. McKee, Galatians for the Practical Messianic (Kissimmee, FL: TNN Press, 2012), 238.

[89] Ibid., 240.

[90] J.K. McKee, Ephesians for the Practical Messianic (Kissimmee, FL: TNN Press, 2012), 207.

[91] Ibid., 209.

[92] J.K. McKee, Philippians for the Practical Messianic (Kissimmee, FL: TNN Press, 2012), 117.

[93] J.K. McKee, The Pastoral Epistles for the Practical Messianic (Kissimmee, FL: TNN Press, 2012), 319.

[94] J.K. McKee, Hebrews for the Practical Messianic (Kissimmee, FL: TNN Press, 2012), pp 281, 282.

[95] Ibid., pp 282, 283.

About J.K. McKee 759 Articles
J.K. McKee (B.A., University of Oklahoma; M.A., Asbury Theological Seminary) is the editor of Messianic Apologetics (www.messianicapologetics.net), a division of Outreach Israel Ministries (www.outreachisrael.net). He is a 2009 recipient of the Zondervan Biblical Languages Award for Greek. He is author of numerous books and commentaries, dealing with a wide range of topics that are important for today’s Messianic Believers.

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