New Bible Translation Project Under Way
By Gary Amirault
Dr. James Tabor, Professor of Biblical studies for the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, is well on his way to completing a new translation of the entire Christian Bible. He began the work in May of 1992 projecting a completion date of early 1998.
I had a telephone interview with him on October 30, 1995 to discuss his translation for the benefit of our readership. We will talk more about this translation in the future. In this short article, I just want to point out a few things which will make this translation unique.
49 Books instead of 66?
That's right! This translation will arrange the Old Testament in the same format as the traditional Jewish translations that consist of 22 books. The text will be the same. Books like 1Samuel and 2 Samuel will be combined.
Another major change will be the order of the New Testament epistles. To the Jew first and then to the Gentiles is the order of the earliest manuscripts. Therefore, Romans will have to take a back seat to James. The total number of books will be 49 instead of 66. That does have a better sound to it, doesn't it?
A well-done rough draft of Genesis has been sent to those who are supporting the project. The project is under the the title: The Original Bible Project.
Can we expect to receive any dramatic insights from this Bible that previous Bibles do not contain? One area in which we may receive some significant insight is the fact that Dr. Tabor has excellent connections with the work that has gone on with the Dead Sea Scrolls. Dr. Tabor spent a summer with some of the members of the Dead Sea Scrolls editorial team. Here are a couple of nuggets he dug up. He says:
"As most of you know, scholars were impressed with the amazing closeness between these copies of Scripture found in the Dead Sea caves and the traditional Hebrew text (called Masoretic), preserved by the Jewish scribes through the millennia. However, that is not to imply there were no differences whatever. Ulrich, Tov, and others have meticulously worked on this problem, painstakingly comparing every line, every letter, of all the various texts from the Dead Sea with the medieval Hebrew manuscripts. Their work has yielded some surprising and fascinating results. This summer I spent a week with Peter Flint, one of Professor Ulrich's students, who is now a mature scholar in his own right and also on the official Dead Sea Scrolls editorial team. Professor Flint works closely with Ulrich and Tov. We went over many of these readings. For example, take the text of Deuteronomy 32:8:
'When the most High divided the nations their inheritance, when He separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people, according to the number of the children of Israel.'
This is the standard reading of the traditional Hebrew text, which we refer to as the Masoretic (MT). It is the basic translation that will be found in the King James Version. However, scholars have known for centuries that in the Septuagint (LXX) version, which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible made in the 2nd century B.C., the last phrase reads quite differently.
'When the most High divided the nations their inheritance, when He separated the sons of Adam, He set the bounds of the people, according to the number of the sons of God.'
Obviously, the meaning is quite different, and might even have some important theological implications. As it turns out, to the surprise of us all, the Dead Sea texts of Deuteronomy, which date from before the time of Jesus, agree with the Greek Septuagint version, against the traditional Hebrew text (MT)! In fact, the exact Hebrew of the Dead Sea texts is most interesting, it reads literally, 'according to the sons of El.' This divergence from the traditional text is rare, but when it occurs it is surely significant. This means that Jesus and the other Jews of the first century read copies of Deuteronomy that read 'according to the sons of El,' rather than 'according to the number of the sons of Israel.' Since the whole idea behind the Original Bible Project is to be just that, as original as possible in terms of text, order of the books, and accuracy of translation, this reading should certainly appear in our Bible, either as an alternative, if not in the text itself.
Another example comes from the all-important Chapter 53 of Isaiah, dealing with the Suffering Servant. The first part of verse 11 reads in the traditional Hebrew text, as reflected in the King James Version and most older translation:
'He shall see of the travail of his soul, (and) shall be satisfied . . .'
Yet the literal Hebrew reads:
'From the travail of his soul he will see . . .'
Clearly, something is missing here. A word has dropped out, or has been taken out deliberately by the scribes. As in the previous example, the Greek Septuagint appears to have preserved the original reading, and supplies the missing word: light. This has now been confirmed by the priceless Great Isaiah Scroll, found in Cave 1 at Qumran, which also supplies the word 'light' in the Hebrew! This means that verse 11, in Hebrew, originally read in 1st century manuscripts:
'From the travail of his soul, he will see light..'
In the context, which speaks of the brutal death of this messianic figure, there is clearly a reference to his resurrection from the dead, a vindication that is already implied in the previous verse. (In another letter regarding this verse, Dr. Tabor writes, "I have speculated that the rabbis might have dropped this word in response to Christian polemics, since the Nazarenes would be trying to apply Isa 53 to Yeshua (Jesus) with the references to 'death,' 'grave,' and 'seeing light' as paralleling the 'death,' 'burial,' and 'resurrection' idea that Paul claims to find 'according to the Scriptures.)
I am not intending to give the impression that the traditional (Masoretic) Hebrew text is unreliable, or riddled with mistakes. It is certainly not, and the Dead Sea Scrolls have proven this. However, there are significant passages such as these which we surely will want to look at seriously in producing the Original Bible version."
I have seen a copy of the rough draft which Dr. Tabor has sent to those who want to support or follow the development of this work. It is loaded with interesting footnotes such as what we just covered.
In future issues of Dew, Father willing, we will write more about this project. Dr. Tabor invites those who feel that they have something to contribute to write him. There will be many other scholars working on this translation, once the skeleton has been finished.
Those of you who want to receive updated material on this project, or wish to support the work, are invited to write to:
Original Bible Project
408 South Pasadena Ave Suite A
Pasadena, CA. 91105
Oh, we live in such a fascinating time! There is just so much our Father is opening up to those who desire the things from above. Of course, if Hollywood, football, and End-time Any Day Rapture is your thing, you will probably not be interested in this kind of excitement. I feel greatly blessed to be able to look into these things. How about you?