The New Testament in Modern Hebrew

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In this series Dr. Ray Pritz, head of the Bible Society in Israel, describes the challenges faced by the Society’s translation committee in rendering the synoptic Gospels into modern Hebrew, and some of the solutions it found.

In this article Dr. Ray Pritz, head of the Bible Society in Israel, describes the challenges faced by the Society’s translation committee in rendering the synoptic Gospels into modern Hebrew, and some of the solutions the committee found.

Vernacular Hebrew was resurrected in Israel at the beginning of this century, primarily through the efforts of Eliezer Ben Yehudah. While modern Hebrew uses the same alphabet (or alef-bet) and basic vocabulary as Biblical Hebrew, it is a hybrid of old and new.

On the one hand, for example, an Israeli would very naturally say of someone who hesitates to make a decision that he פּוֹסֵחַ עַל שְׁתֵּי הַסְּעִפִּים (poseakh al shte hase’ipim, hops on two branches), without being fully aware that he is quoting the prophet Elijah (1 Kings 18:21). On the other hand, modern Hebrew contains many words borrowed or adapted from European languages, for example טֶלֶפוֹן (telefon, telephone).

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The Bible Society in Israel has produced trial translations of several portions of the Hebrew Scriptures into modern Hebrew, and has published an edition of the Peshitta (Aramaic) New Testament in Hebrew letters with a translation in modern Hebrew on facing pages. It is now working on an edition of the Bible in Hebrew and Russian for new immigrants to Israel.


  • Ray Pritz

    Ray Pritz

    Ray Pritz writes and teaches study material at the Caspari Center for Biblical and Jewish Studies. He is the former director of the Bible Society in Israel. He is currently assigned to the Translations Department of the United Bible Societies preparing resource material for Bible…
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