Another translation controversy

The proper translation of sacred texts is a challenge for all people of faith. A new Bible translation has been called scandalous, pernicious and even fraudulent; one critic says “it cuts the heart out of the Bible.”

The translation at issue here is a translation of the Bible into modern Hebrew. The proponents of this new translation propose that Israelis do not speak Hebrew so much as Israeli modern Hebrew.  (Perhaps this is analogous to Microsoft’s oft-derided use of the term “U. S. English”?)

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

Read the full story here (courtesy of the Biblical Archaeology Society).

H/T: Tom Poelker.



  1. Drora Halevy, at the end of the article, makes the key point: “In the Bible, form and content are boung together.” Or, as I heard a rabbi/liturgist put it years ago: “We believe that God speaks Hebrew. You Catholics don’t believe that Jesus spoke Latin. That’s the difference in the way we approach our historic languages.”

  2. On a more serious note, I recall reading of a controversy over the selection of an official language for the new state of Israel. Many felt that Hebrew was too sacred to be used for the needs of daily life.

  3. My understanding is that some very Orthodox Jews opposed not only the creation of the modern state of Israel but also the recreation of Hebrew as a living language.

    Also I think Israel was founded by Jews who were very secular, but who understood the value of Israel, the Bible and Hebrew as “marketing devices” to create an acceptable place for Jews in a Christian world.

    In the local Jewish college, and I presume elsewhere, Classical Hebrew and Modern Hebrew are taught as different courses.

  4. On a related note, I once saw a YouTube video where a Greek Orthodox congregation was subjected to the reading of the Gospel in modern Greek. They were all absolutely scandalized and started yelling that it should be read in the “ancient language”.

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