The Story Behind the Modern NT

The story of the resurrection in the world’s only resurrected language

There is hope for a tree that has been cut down;
it can come back to life and sprout.
Even though its roots grow old,
and its stump dies in the ground,
with water it will sprout like a young plant.

(Job 14:7-9)

According to the information gathered by French scholar Jean Carmignac, there were translations to Hebrew of the New Testament made by individual scholars as far back as the fourteenth century. However, none of these was ever used by anyone as an everyday Bible.

Today any modern Hebrew speaker usually has three different translations to choose from. All three are relatively new translations - made later than 1850. But only the Bible Society's translation was written in ModernHebrew. The work was done right here in the land of Israel.

The two older translations (both in public domain) are those of Delitzsch and Zalkinson. Zalkinson’s translation was limited to biblical Hebrew and was published in London in 1885 by the Trinitarian Bible Society (an organization unrelated to modern national Bible Societies). Delitzsch’s translation was funded by the British and Foreign Bible Society. He attempted to render it into the Hebrew which might have been spoken at Jesus’ time. This meant using many words which are found in the Mishnah and other post-biblical documents. The Delitzsch translation was published for the first time in Germany in 1877.

In 1970 the Bible Society in Israel, then based in Haifa, began a project of translating the New Testament to Modern Hebrew; it took five years. The initiative was that of the Executive Secretary, Magne Solheim. Solheim visited retired Prime Minister David Ben Gurion in Sde Boker, and Ben Gurion expressed his excitement with the project.

The translation was made by a team of experts, the most notable ones being Joseph Atzmon and Yochanan Elichay. The translation process was somewhat complex, since Atzmon was the expert in Modern Hebrew, and Elichay was the expert in the Greek NT. Other members of the team included Bob Lindsay, Gabriel Grossman, Miriam and Yohanan Ronen and Yann de Waard. The translation was also reviewed twice a year by a team of eight experts in biblical languages. The result was a work faithful to the ancient Greek manuscripts.

In 1977 the first Modern Hebrew New Testament was printed in Jerusalem. A dedication service was held in the Old City of Jerusalem. Solheim, who had retired the year before, visited Israel for the occasion and delivered a beautiful speech in Hebrew. There were only a few hundred Messianic Jews in Israel at the time, but 6,000 copies of the New Testament were distributed.

The translation has been reviewed and has undergone changes several times since then (the latest one being in 2010). It is fully vowel-pointed, written in an easy-to-understand language, without compromising the linguistic correctness of the Hebrew.

Most Hebrew-speaking users (Messianic believers as well as scholars and others) prefer the modern translation.

In 2009 the Bible Society in Israel produced the first Dramatized Audio New Testament, making the Hebrew New Testament available to more people than ever before. It is the timeless message in the ancient language with the most modern technology.