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What is the best English translation of the Hebrew Bible?


Rabbi Barry Dov Lerner

Rabbi Barry Dov Lerner

Question: What is the best English translation of the Hebrew Bible?

Dear Rabbi,
You said the best and most reliable English translation of the Hebrew Bible is the TaNaKH, published by the Jewish Publication Society of America. I would like you to please expound upon your feelings on the Stone Edition Tanakh in terms of its bias toward Orthodox Judaism, specifically with respect to its accuracy in translating the Hebrew into English and please share with me your feelings on The Jerusalem Bible by Koren.
Thank you,

Answer: Dear Daniel,

Shabbat Shalom and Hag Sameah. Almost Shabbat here and I hasten to write.

I prefer the result of both traditional and modern scholarship, rather than only traditional scholarship. I want a committee under editorial review which is familiar with all of the languages that lend themselves to Bible translation and also are familiar with the anthropology, history, culture, society, etc. of that world in which the Bible was formed. It may turn out that the traditional translation may ultimately be preferred - for whatever reason - for a word, a phrase or even a verse. However, given my predisposition to an evolving, edited Bible that the TaNaKH represents, I would be less happy with an Orthodox translation and commentary.

Let me add that the Stone Bible and Koren Bible are invaluable additions to Jewish study, that the commentaries and cross-references are wonderful and I would urge that they be used in a serious study of the Bible/Hebrew Scriptures/TaNaKh.

It would ill behoove me to critique Orthodox publications in a public arena. I would urge that you speak or write to an Orthodox Rabbi to ask which he prefers and why. In addition, check out the book reviews for each.

Best wishes,
Rabbi Dov

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