A song: a psalm of Asaph.
God, do not keep silent.
Do not hold Your peace, O God.
Do not be still.
For look, Your enemies make an uproar.
Those who hate You lift up their head.
They make a shrewd plot against Your people,
conspiring against Your treasured ones.
“Come,” they say, “let’s wipe them out as a nation!
Let Israel’s name be remembered no more!”
For with one mind they plot together.
Against You do they make a covenant.
Psalm 83: 1-5
Are you looking for a brand-new Bible experience? Are you searching for a translation of the Bible that restores some of the Hebrew names and terminology found in the original manuscripts? Perhaps you are looking for a Bible that will help you rekindle an interest in the sacred words of Scripture seen from a Messianic Jewish perspective? If so, I have just the recommendation for you; enter the Tree of Life Vesion(TLV).
The brain child of this ambitious project was Daniah Greenberg and her Rabbi husband, Mark Greenberg, who assembled a cadre of Messianic Jewish Bible scholars to create an all-new translation of the Holy Scriptures that gives the reader a solid flavour of the original Hebraic overtones of the Bible, with a decidely Jewish accent. But it was no small feat, given the proliferation of English Bible versions flooding the global market. Daniah had the courage and conviction to raise the funds to pay for soild scholarship within the Jewish cultural tradition, which culminated with the first edition of the TLV Bible in 2011. Daniah Greenberg now serves as President of the Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society. Greenberg is also CEO of the newly established TLV Bible Society.
It pays to remember that all the Biblical writers, with the possible exception of the author of the Book of Job, were Jews. Jesus Christ was Jewish. The earliest Christian meetings took place in synagogues and despite the attendant evils of anti-semitism throughout history, and its giving rise to unbiblical ideas such as replacement theology, it is undoubtedly the case that unique insights into much of the Biblical narrative has come from the Jewish mindset. Seen in this light, it is not at all surprising that a new Bible translation made by the original people to which the Lord of all Creation first appeared should find a place on the bookshelves of many Christians in the 21st century.
The first thing you will notice about the TLV is the unfamiliar ordering of the books of the Bible, which have been re-presented in the order rendered in the Jewish tradition, which Christians refer to as the Old Testament. In Jewish parlance, these are the books of the Tanakh.
As you can see from the table of contents below, the Tanakh is further divided into three sections; the Torah (Law of Moses or Pentateuch), the Neviim (The Prophets) and the Ketuvim (The Writings).
The books of the New Testament(Good News) are presented in their traditional order. The reader will note that the Book of James is titled ‘Jacob,’ and Jude is titled ‘Judah, which represent their transliterated Jewish names.
A sizeable number of words are presented in the original Hebrew. For example, YHWH God’s covenant name, is often referred to as Adonai, but also as Elohim (Creator). Jesus is denoted as Yeshua, Mary(the mother of Jesus) is given her original name, Miriam; Spirit is presented as Ruach, the Levitical priests, Kohanim, the children of Israel, B’nei-Israel and Sabbath is translated as Shabbat. All Hebrew terminology can be referenced at the back of the Bible in the form of a tidy glossary. There is even a section which helps the reader pronounce these Hebrew words correctly. That said, once you get into the TLV, most of the terms sink in very easily and naturally and so provide the reader with an education in basic Hebrew religious terminology. The addition of original Hebrew words also adds to the poetic beauty of the language of the Scriptures, which are readily appreciated while reading through.
Each book of the Holy Scriptures is accompanied by a short introduction written by Messianic Jewish scholars, which provides a concise overview of the most important ideas developed in the texts. The translators intentionally chose to produce a translation that is at once respectful to more traditional translations of the Bible such as the Authorized King James Version (KJV), and more modern translations such as the English Standard Version (ESV) and New American Standard Bible (NASB), retaining some classic Biblical terminology such as “Behold“, “lovingkindness” and “Chaldeans.” For example, in the opening verses of the Book of Esther, the TLV refers to the Babylonian King as Ahasuerus and not Xerxes ,as you will find in looser translations such as the NIV and NLT.
This is what happened in the days of Ahasuerus, the Ahasuerus who reigned over 127 provinces from India to Ethiopia.
In keeping with the original customs of the first Christians, the word ‘baptism‘ does not appear in the TLV, being replaced by the more appropriate term, ‘immersion.’ This is entirely justified as infant baptism was not practiced by the earliest followers of Yeshua. Consider this passage from Acts 2;
Peter said to them, “Repent, and let each of you be immersed in the name of Messiah Yeshua for the removal of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Ruach ha-Kodesh.
John the Baptist is likewise referred to as “John the Immerser”
Unlike virtually all other Bibles in the English language, the Adversary’s name is presented in lower case, ‘the satan‘; a most appropriate demotion to honour the ‘father of lies.’ Consider, for example, the opening passages of the Book of Job:
One day the sons of God came to present themselves before Adonai, and the satan also came with them. Adonai said to the satan, “Where have you come from?”
The satan responded to Adonai and said, “From roaming the earth and from walking on it.
Adonai said to the satan, “Did you notice my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth—a blameless and upright man, who fears God and spurns evil.”
Another interesting aspect of the TLV is that it quite often departs from the usual preterite, or imperfect tense one normally experiences in traditional translations. Consider this passage from the Gospel of Matthew Chapter 4 in the NASB:
Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and *showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory;
Now consider the same passage in the TLV:
Again, the devil takes Him to a very high mountain and shows Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.
These occasional departures add to the immediacy of the situation as if it were happening right now! This is a powerful linguistic tool that the TLV scholars used to evince the poignancy of certain passages of Holy Scripture.
The poetic books of the Holy Scriptures, such as the Psalms, are most beautifully rendered and retain traditional terms like Selah (an uncertain word thought to refer to an interlude in a musical performance). Consider, for example, Psalm 24 in the TLV:
A psalm of David.
The earth is Adonai’s and all that fills it—
the world, and those dwelling on it.
For He founded it upon the seas,
and established it upon the rivers.
Who may go up on the mountain of Adonai?
Who may stand in His holy place?
One with clean hands and a pure heart,
who has not lifted his soul in vain,
nor sworn deceitfully.
He will receive a blessing from Adonai,
righteousness from God his salvation.
Such is the generation seeking Him,
seeking Your face, even Jacob! Selah
Lift up your heads, O gates,
and be lifted up, you everlasting doors:
that the King of glory may come in.
“Who is this King of glory?”
Adonai strong and mighty,
Adonai mighty in battle!
Lift up your heads, O gates,
and lift them up, you everlasting doors:
that the King of glory may come in.
“Who is this King of glory?”
Adonai-Tzva’ot—He is the King of glory! Selah
The reader of the TLV Holy Scriptures will note that the word “church” does not appear in this translation. Instead, the scholars chose to use the words “Messiah’s community.” This is an acceptable change, as the word they were probably translating was the Greek term ecclesia, which appears in the New Testament 115 times and was often associated with a civil body or council summoned for a particular purpose. The nearest the Greek language gets to “church” is kuriakos, which is best understood as “pertaining to the Lord,” which probably morphed into the Germanic “Kirche” or “Kirk,” which is still used in northern England and Scotland to this day.
An amusing aside: Has anyone ever referred to Kirk Douglas as ‘Church Douglas’, who just happens to be an orthodox Jew?
These translative nuances matter little in the scheme of things however. Acts 11 provides a good illustration of these translation choices:
Then Barnabas left for Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met together with Messiah’s community and taught a large number. Now it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called “Christianoi.”
Note also that the TLV translation team used the Greek term for Christians, ‘Christianoi‘. This is also perfectly acceptable, as there was no Hebrew word for ‘Christian’ in those early days.
The scholars who created the TLV chose to use the latest manuscript evidence, which included much older texts found in the modern era compared with the King James or New King James, for example(which are based on the Textus Receptus). It thus follows a similar translation ethos to other popular Bibles in the English language such as the NIV and ESV. On the spectrum of modern English Bible translations, which vary from the highly literal, so-called ‘word for word’ renderings, through the less literal ‘thought to thought’ translations, I would categorise the TLV as adopting a ‘middle of the road’ approach. Perhaps the best way to illustrate this is to look at the same passage of Scripture in a few translations. Consider, for example, the highly literal NASB rendition of Matthew 9, verses 1 through 8:
Getting into a boat, Jesus crossed over the sea and came to His own city. And they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, “Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven.” And some of the scribes said to themselves, “This fellow blasphemes.” And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, “Why are you thinking evil in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—then He said to the paralytic, “Get up, pick up your bed and go home.” And he got up and went home. But when the crowds saw this, they were awestruck, and glorified God, who had given such authority to men.
Next consider the TLV equivalent:
After getting into a boat, Yeshua crossed over and came to His own town. Just then, some people brought to Him a paralyzed man lying on a cot. And seeing their faith, Yeshua said to the paralyzed man, “Take courage, son! Your sins are forgiven.” Then some of the Torah scholars said among themselves, “This fellow blasphemes!” And knowing their thoughts, Yeshua said, “Why are you entertaining evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But so you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to pardon sins…” Then He tells the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your cot and go home.” And he got up and went home. When the crowd saw it, they were afraid and glorified God, who had given such authority to men.
Finally, consider the same passage from a thought for thought translation like the NIV:
Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!” Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” Then the man got up and went home. When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to man.
I think it is reasonable to conclude that the TLV is a good compromise between both translation philosophies, distinguishing itself by means of introducing some Hebrew words and names but also in the way that the translators have chosen to alter the tense of some passages, as discussed previosuly.
The TLV also follows many of the newer Bible versions in adopting a more gender neutral approach to terms such as ‘Brethern’ or ‘Brothers’. For example, the TLV renders Galatians 1:11 thus:
Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the Good News proclaimed by me is not man-made.
Galatians 1:11 (TLV)
Compare this to the more conservative ESV:
For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel.
Galatians 1:11 (ESV)
And the NIV:
I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin.
Some commentators have expressed concern that the Bible should never be altered so as to express political correctness, as in this case, where ‘brothers’ is altered for the sake of inclusiveness to read, ‘brothers and sisters.’ I understand their concerns but I have no strong opinion either way on this issue, so long as the context of the particular verse is not altered.
The TLV does have a couple of errors which I picked up while reading through the translation. The first appears in Jeremiah 34:14
At the end of seven years you are to set free every man his brother that is a Hebrew who has been sold to you and has served you six years; you are [to] let him go free from you.’ But your fathers did not obey Me, nor inclined their ear.
I have inserted the missing word in bold brackets that makes the sentence comprehensible.
In addition there is a printing error in my Large Print Personal Size TLV on page 902 and 903, the heading of which reads “Obadiah 9” and “Obadiah 1,” respectively. Since these headings are meant to illustrate the chapter numbers, they are clearly unecessary as the Book of Obadiah only has a single chapter.
The typographical error niggled me at first (as an avid reader, I’m very tolerant of typos in general but view Holy Scripture in a more exalted light), but I understand that these things happen. I have written to the TLV Bible Society informing them of these issues which I hope they will be able to resolve in due course.
Some comments on the physical presentation of the TLV Holy Scriptures
I was very impressed with the quality of the giant print personal size TLV that I acquired back in January 2018. It has a beautiful leathertex cover, which is soft and durable. Indeed, the current selection of faux leather Bibles(in many translations)are amazing value for money, and are superior to the cheap, bonded leather found on premium Bibles just a decade ago. The TLV also has a Smyth-sewn binding for greater durability even with prolonged use.
It has a paste-down liner, a highly readable 12.5 font size, beautiful gold gilded pages and comes with a single ribbon marker. I especially like the paper used by Baker Books(the publisher of the TLV), which is a more creamy white than the usual white pages seen n many other of my Bibles. As seen below, the text is presented in a double column format and has a generous number of cross-references. The text is line matched and shows minimal ghosting, which annoys some people more than others.
The back of the TLV has an extensive concordance, a short glossary explaining the Hebrew terms used in the translation, as well as a short section of prayers (including the Aaronic benediction and the Lord’s Prayer) and other blessings for those who wish to learn a little more Hebrew. A couple of maps show Yeshua’s travels in the 1st century AD as well as a modern map of Israel. Best of all, you can acquire all of this for a very modest price: I paid about £25 for my copy but you can also get it at discounted prices from smaller retailers. See here for just one example.
I would highly recommend the TLV to avid readers of the Bible. It will come in especially handy when witnessing to Jews but can be enjoyed by anyone who appreciates the deep Hebrew roots of the Christian faith.
Dr Neil English shows how the Christain faith has inspired visual astronomers over the centuries in his new historical work; Chronicling the Golden Age of Astronomy.
Post Scriptum: You can also read the TLV(or indeed any other Bible translation) online by visiting BibleGateway.com