It is not an easy task reviewing a Jewish oriented Bible, as our Western culture has influenced our view of Jewish culture. But we must never forget the Bible was shaped, written and composed in a Jewish background. For this reason, the main purpose of The Complete Jewish Bible is “Illuminating the Jewishness of God’s Word”, following the principle that the Bible was a Jewish book, primarily about Jews and for Jews and Gentiles.
Hendrickson Bibles and Messianic Jewish Publishers and Resources bring a Bible focused in Jewish aspects that “will open [our] eyes to the Bible as never before”.
It is that kind of Bible you will enjoy for many reasons:
Its outer design
Three presentations: hardcover, imitation leather dark blue, original calfskin. You can read the detailed review for the hardcover one at www.biblebuyingguide.com. As you can see in the pictures, the imitation leather one brings a double golden line around the cover, together with title and two olive branches. Engraved in the front and in the back you will find another olive branch. For those of us who live surrounded by olive trees this is simply wonderful!
Three navy blue ribbons; golden headbands; Smyth sewn and glued. The imitation leather edition offers nice flexibility as you can see here, with the limitations of this kind of leather:
The beautiful idea of using Jewish motives for the cover page and the slip case is explained by their designer, Karol Bailey:
The intent of The Complete Jewish Study Bible hardcover and flexisoft cover designs was to show the complexity of the Jewishness of God’s Word yet have it appear accessible to both Jew and Gentile readers. The traditional color palette derives from the blue and gold used on Jewish prayer shawls or tallits. Another relatable feature of the hardcover design is a portion of the ornate design which adorns the ceiling of the Cetate Synagogue in Timisoara, Romania. The gold and impressed olive branches on both covers are symbolic of peace and reconciliation between God and man through Christ Jesus. (As seen at https://hendricksonpublishers.wordpress.com/category/blog-posts/cover-design-series/)
Its inner design
Open this Bible et voilà… you will be immersed in Jewish manners, customs, names. You’ll hear Avraham speaking to Yitz’chak; you’ll hear Yimeryahu crying to the people of Yerushalayim and Y’hudah; or Yeshua calling His talmidim. Yes! If you want to be immersed in a Jewish background this Bible is for you. People names have been kept in their Hebrew transliterations (Kefa instead of Peter; Yohanan instead of John; talmid instead of disciples, among others). This is more a cosmetic philosophy of maintaining the Hebrew “spirit”.
Every bolded word you find in the New Testament is a reference to an Old Testament passage or concept, as you can see in this chapter of Galatians.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry once wrote:
Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.
The amazing layout is the first aspect you will love in this Bible. Single-column paragraph, no titles, 8 points typos, blue chapter numbers, golden lines as header, book name in Hebrew transcription and English… And what about verse numbers? Well, this is another story… is all you want from a Bible edition: small enough to not interrupt the narrative style of the paragraphs themselves. And why no titles? Because they are not inspired words! Titles are mere artifacts editors have added to the Bible, complicating the natural reading. Text, just text! For my own delight this Bible is almost just text. In case this is not enough for you, look:
Yes, it is a handwriting font to represent Paul’s handwriting in Galatians (6.11ff) and in Colossians 4.18; 2 Thessalonians 6.17…
Is it poetry? Write as poetry, even keeping the Hebrew parallelism system.
Is it an explanation of OT passages? This is the style:
Is there any list? Written as a list.
Few notes, just only the necessary ones: cultural, background, explanations… Short book introductions with a basic outline preceding each book with a beautiful design. What else?
This is simply amazing: Hebrew words in NT passages. Yes, Jesus spoke Hebrew. And in Hebrew must be written to give force to the meaning of the text.
One artifact you will find is a number of themes, each one colored:
Anti-Jewish scriptural interpretations; Covenants; Jewish Customs; Jewish-Gentile relations; Messianic Prophecy; The Names of God; Shabbat; Salvation and Atonement; The Holy Days of Israel; The Land of Israel; Torah; The Tabernacle.
Other features included in this Bible are:
Colorful Maps; A Brief summary of Rabbinic Literature; Biographies of Rabbis and Sages; a helpful Glossary of Hebrew words with pronunciation into English… everything you can ask from a Study Bible oriented to people interested in knowing the Jewish background of our faith.
Translation or version?
Regarding the translation, read these words in Bible Buying Guide:
The translator, David H. Stern, calls the CJB a version rather than a translation or paraphrase because it is partially both. He originally completed his translation of a Jewish focused New Testament in 1989. Many fans of it requested a complete Bible which he resisted the idea of at first. Feeling his understanding of Hebrew (particularly Biblical Hebrew) inadequate for the task he tried various routes to get a modern English Tanakh all of which fell through or didn’t feel right. He finally settled on the idea of paraphrasing the newly released from copyright 1917 JPS Tanakh (which had a somewhat Elizabethan English style). He did read other modern English translations and refer to the Masoretic texts to actually translate some passages that differed in the various versions. The Complete Jewish Bible was first published in 1998.
He is the sole translator of this version. He admits that a team might of done a better job (using peer review and discussion of problematic texts) but he has done the best he could. His first purpose was to restore the unified Jewishness of the Bible. He suggests that any reader wanting to check whether a scripture means what the CJB says is means look at other translations, Bible tools including concordances, and the original languages.
And for Spanish people, you can have The Jewish New Testament. El Nuevo Testamento Judío. Se trata de la versión traducida del NT desde la versión de David Stern, y que sigue el mismo patrón que la CJSB. Presenta el texto a doble columna, y da la impresión de que es más una obra divulgativa o de consulta que un libro para usar de manera cotidiana.
En esta versión se han mantenido también los nombres en judío de personas y sustantivos más representativos. Sin duda, una herramienta útil para mostrar a judíos acerca de la salvación en el Mesías.
More information at:
This review is my sole opinion and I have not been required to write a positive review by publishers.