on 9 February 2005
Prior to buying the Jewish Study Bible I had previously experienced the Hebrew Bible through the prism of traditional Orthodox Jewish scholarship and commentary at an advanced level. This edition expanded my intellectual and religious horizons significantly, explaining the different and complex academic perception of the Bible from familiar territory.
Each book and section of the Hebrew Bible is accorded a substantial introduction explaining the genesis of the text from both a traditional and academic perspective.
The main text of this edition is devoted to the fantastic modern JPS translation, surrounded by an in depth academic commentary with explanation, maps and diagrams plus many cross-references to other relevant passages. The academic commentary is specifically targeted to explain the various traditional Jewish understandings of the text as well. The commentary is lucid, readable and extremely helpful while also ensuring brevity. Where reference is being made to complex academic theories on the nature of the text, the reader is referred to the back of the book...
The REAL SELLING POINT of this edition, is the voluminous collection of 24 essays written by top academic scholars at the back of the book. It is these essays which explain in real depth the current, extremely complex, academic views on the composition of the Hebrew Bible, current scholarship on the nature of ancient Israelite religion and many more contemporary topics such as the "The Bible in Israeli Life and Society". Earlier traditional Jewish approaches to the Bible are discussed in depth, including "Classical Rabbinic Interpretation" and more.
I have two minor complaints about this volume.
Firstly, the Hebrew text could not be included; however, in terms of the target audience and size of commentary, this is very understandable. That is not to say that the commentary is at all basic, far from it, but I imagine the editors resolved that those with the skills to read the traditional Hebrew text could refer to it elsewhere.
Secondly, the pages are far too thin to make it properly durable. This is obviously a common complaint with Bibles; I'm hoping that the leather bound edition might have thicker pages.
I spent many years pouring over the Artscroll edition Tanach, trying to make head or tail of the biblical text; with its pathetic translation and inadequate fundamentalist commentary, I rarely understood what I was reading.
If you are a person who wants to THINK about the biblical text, with all of its problems, inconsistencies, soaring beauty and religious warmth, I would heartily suggest you get hold of this ASAP. I am only disappointed that I did not do so earlier.
The Tanakh, an edition of the Holy Scriptures of Judaism, put out by the Jewish Publication Society (JPS), now has a study-bible edition, which is incredibly helpful for scripture study.
The word Tanakh consists of the first letters of the words denoting the three sections of the text: the Torah (the Law), consisting of the first five books; the Nevi'im (the Prophets), which includes major and minor prophets, as well as some of the history books; and the Kethuvim (the Writings), which consists of poetry, wisdom literature, stories and eschatological literature, and some further history books.
The Tanakh is not simply a new translation of the Christian Old Testament. Indeed, most Christian readers would be surprised at the differences inherent in the Tanakh. For one thing, the ordering of the books in the Tanakh is different from the order in the Christian Old Testament. The intent behind the differing order demonstrates one of the key differences in focus of Judaism and Christianity. The ordering of the Old Testament, with the minor prophets, and their call to repentance and future deliverance of the people of Israel by God, is anticipatory of the Messianic age, and hence provide a 'run-up' to the New Testament. Obviously, Judaism does not have the same focus toward Jesus. Thus, the conclusion of the Tanakh leads to the return from exile, the restoration of the people of Israel to the land of promise, and the return of the worship of God to the appointed place, the Temple.
Also, the chapter/verse division is somewhat different. This can be seen in side-by-side comparison with other English Bible translations, but also becomes apparent in comparison with other Jewish editions.
The editors state that English translations usually list thirty-nine books of the Bible. Meanwhile, Hebrew Bibles classically have presented twenty-four books -- counting the following groups as one book each: the two part of Samuel; the two parts of Kings; the Twelve ('Minor') Prophets; Ezra and Nehemiah; and the two parts of Chronicles. Some aspects of our book design presume the thirty-nine-book division: the tables, book openings, and chapter numbers. But we ended only the conventional twenty-four books with a closing prayer and with the sum total of verses.
The Tanakh was originally translated and published in three sections, corresponding to the three divisions of the text. Begun in 1955, The Torah was completed in 1962; then there was a wait until The Nevi'im was released in 1978, and The Kethuvim in 1982. This edition of the Tanakh is the compilation of these efforts by JPS, with revisions, especially of the 1962 Torah translation.
This edition has as its intended readership the scholar or the general reader; it is not set up for liturgical use -- as the preface states: 'It meets only the traditional rabbinic standards (halakhah) for formatting a study Bible, which are less stringent than those for ritual texts.'
The introduction to the JPS Tanakh is quite frank about the difficulties that arise in working with ancient manuscripts. In a section entitled The Unbroken Chain of Uncertainty, the editors address the problem of which documentation and corrective (the masorah, which gives rise to the name masoretic text, meaning, authoritative and 'marked') is used, given the variances that arise in ancient manuscripts with fairly equal claim of authority. Drawing on the MCW (Michigan-Claremont-Westminster) electronic BHS (Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia), JPS has a text nearly identical with the Leningrad Codex (a 1000-year old volume of the text, the oldest nearly complete volume known). In using this documentation, JPS editors have also done the following in making the text accessible and authoritative:
- added chapter and verse numbers, all of which were added much later
- redivided the Psalms to 150 (the Codex has divisions into 149)
- inserted markings to show codex paragraphing as well as possible scribal errors
- filling in cross-references
These notes deal with textual anomalies, and are written in such a manner than a glossary helps decipher them.
This is a rewarding volume for anyone who seeks to tap into the power of the Hebrew scriptures.
on 15 June 2010
I bought the paperback edition but immediately swapped it for the hardback, which does not cost much more. The paperback edition tries to house the same 2,000+ pages, of dense india paper, in a flimsy paper cover, and the physics just doesn't work. Unless you're absolutely certain that you're always going to use it on a flat surface, don't bother with the paperback. It is uncomfortable and difficult to hold open, being very 'floppy' - and a heavy floppy book you don't want. The paper cover itself is thin and will crease very quickly. Fine, perhaps, if you just intend using this for a short intense period, but for a keeper, pay the extra and get the much better behaved hardback, which makes the most of this superb piece of production.
on 7 April 2006
I own and read the following versions of the Old & New Testament: CEV, JPS, GNT, KJV, NKJV, NIV, NLT, & TNIV, but there is something really beautiful about the JPS that I keep coming back to it. The commentaries are really interesting, and I believe they tend to be more accurate and insightful in comparison with the NIV & NKJV study bibles. If you lean towards a fundamental approach to the reading of the bible the commentaries may not sit well with you. At the end of the book is a number of very interesting essays written by academics on rabbinical and biblical interpretation.
As a Christian Minister I have been for some time looking for a good translation of the Hebrew Scriptures. Only to find that I already has it on my bookshelf! The Jewish Study Bible is great - a good read with very helpful notes. I have enjoyed greatly the 24 essays that go with the Bible. Have found this book to enrich my personal study and the sermons that I write.
A very good buy.
Book is a bit heavy - but with so much information that may be expected.
on 21 November 2004
This book was recommended to me by a friend and (fortunately) I decided to buy it despite another reader's very negative review. Actually, this is a terrific Bible. Despite the fact that I have been a believer for over 30 years, the extensive commentary information means that I'm learning new facts about God's amazing Word on every page.
For sure, the commentaries are written by Jewish authorities who do not necessarily accept Yeshua (Jesus) as the Messiah. However, this does not detract from their value and at every level one's understanding of Scripture is greatly enhanced. As a trivial example, this morning I flipped randomly to a passage in Jeremiah and discovered that a place name mentioned in that chapter was actually a coded reference to Babylon. Why coded? Because during the rule of the Babylonians, it was considered dangerous to speak out against Babylon, and so Jeremiah used a cunning linguistic ploy to camouflage his comments in a way that would be understood only to Jews.
There's much more that I could say but the bottom line is that if you're serious about studying God's Word and spend more time scratching your head than understanding what's being read, then you need this book!
on 25 June 2005
This Jesish Study Bible is accessable to all and with its many articles on the development of the Hebrew scriptures and how the Bible is used in both the Jewish and Christian traditions and has develped over the years, it is a must for any student of the scriptures.
The commentary sets the text into its original setting and brings it to life with both source criticism and historical analysis. The text is rich and alive and easy to follow and something that I have found to be of great value as a student of the Hebrew scriptures in their original context. Many Jewish scholars have contributed to the work, and you will be surprised at how the pages give deep meaning to even the hardest of Old Testament sayings, making them as valuable for today as they were 3000 years ago.
There are differences in the order of the books, with the Torah being first and the prophets being brought together at the end of the text. However, it still includes the Writings and the histories and the Psalms and all of the other books that we are familiar with, but with perhaps a more meaningful and spiritual feeling as the words of the Lord spring of the pages into the lives of today's reader.
on 27 October 2008
I have gone through three different editions of the JPS translation of the Hebrew Bible. My first copy, the standard edition, was just too big and unwieldy, plus I wanted the original Hebrew text. I then got a copy of the Student edition with parallel text, but the format is so small that I, who have always had great eyesight, found it almost impossible to read the Hebrew text (especially the vowel markings). Finally I buckled and got myself a copy of the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (for the original text), and also this.
It's not just a good, plain, clear translation. It's also a fascinating encyclopedia of early Judaism. The commentaries are a miracle of compressing thousands of years of commentary into a very small space. The introductory essays to each book are also great, and there are over two hundred pages of supplementary essays at the end of the book, covering everything from the history of Biblical interpretation to "The Bible in Israeli life".
This is quite simply one of the greatest works of popular scholarship that the OUP has produced. I am an atheist who is interested in the Bible partly because of its intrinsic power and beauty as a piece of writing but also because of its enormous influence on the world we live in. This edition ought to be on the shelves of any literate person. Now, if they could just do the same for the Christian Bible...
on 23 May 2012
I have had a paperback edition of this book for about 3 years, and always been very impressed with the quality of the translation, introductions and footnotes, as well as the essays at the back putting this document into perspective. Imagine my dismay then, when, having acquired a kindle and thinking that it would be good to have this book on that, rather than carrying it around in a shopping bag, I found it is not available. So, the point of this contribution is to encourage everyone who values this work to click on the kindle recommendation button - actually I am not that partisan... any e-book edition securing all the qualities of this text would be welcome - so they can sell lots and lots more.
on 8 February 2014
I took the advice of a fellow reviewer who advised spending more and buying the hardback version rather than the paperback and I am glad I did. This book has over 2000 pages! I like the layout and the type is easy to read. Very good value for money.