Jewish Bible Translations


Jewish Bible Translations

Personalities, Passions, Politics, Progress

Leonard Greenspoon

328 pages
2 Indexes


November 2020


$35.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

November 2020


$35.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

November 2020


$35.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

Jewish Bible Translations is the first book to examine Jewish Bible translations from the third century BCE to our day. It is an overdue corrective of an important story that has been regularly omitted or downgraded in other histories of Bible translation.

Examining a wide range of translations over twenty-four centuries, Leonard Greenspoon delves into the historical, cultural, linguistic, and religious contexts of versions in eleven languages: Arabic, Aramaic, English, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Russian, Spanish, and Yiddish. He profiles many Jewish translators, among them Buber, Hirsch, Kaplan, Leeser, Luzzatto, Mendelssohn, Orlinsky, and Saadiah Gaon, framing their aspirations within the Jewish and larger milieus in which they worked.

Greenspoon differentiates their principles, styles, and techniques—for example, their choice to emphasize either literal reflections of the Hebrew or distinctive elements of the vernacular language—and their underlying rationales. As he highlights distinctive features of Jewish Bible translations, he offers new insights regarding their shared characteristics and their limits. Additionally, Greenspoon shows how profoundly Jewish translators and interpreters influenced the style and diction of the King James Bible.

Accessible and authoritative for all from beginners to scholars, Jewish Bible Translations enables readers to make their own informed evaluations of individual translations and to holistically assess Bible translation within Judaism.


Author Bio

Leonard Greenspoon is Philip M. and Ethel Klutznick Chair in Jewish Civilization and a professor of theology and of classical and Near Eastern studies at Creighton University. He has authored or edited almost three dozen books.


"This is a very useful study, especially for rabbis, cantors, and other Jewish professionals; Christian clergy; lay readers; and in some cases scholars of the various Jewish communities treated here."—Marvin A. Sweeney, Review of Biblical Literature

"This important book is truly aimed at a wide audience. Written clearly and accessibly, the book will be of interest to scholars and students alike."—David Tesler, Association of Jewish Libraries

"Jewish Bible Translations . . . show[s] how altering the word order, leaving out a word or two, or adding a sentence greatly changes the meaning of the text. It also shows how differences in Jewish theology affect the way that one interprets the text, something those attending Torah study at their synagogue will understand. Anyone who wants to better understand the translation they use will definitely want to read Greenspoon’s work."—Rabbi Rachel Esserman, Reporter

“Translating their Bible has been a major cultural activity of Jewish communities for well over two thousand years and on several continents, and yet few Jews today know about this history or why it matters. This massively learned but accessible volume admirably fills that glaring gap. I highly recommend it to Jewish and Gentile readers alike!”—Jon D. Levenson, author of Inheriting Abraham: The Legacy of the Patriarch in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam

“This is an irresistible book. Greenspoon distills a lifetime of learning into a lively account of famous and not-so-famous versions of Hebrew scripture in diverse languages—even Chinese. Sages and eccentrics populate his pages.”—Ronald Hendel, author of The Book of Genesis: A Biography

“No one has more information at their fingertips than Greenspoon, and this book will inevitably become a resource for anyone working in translation. The book should also appear on course syllabi in Bible studies as well as the history of Bible translation and inform scholarship in translation studies as well.”—Naomi Seidman, University of Toronto Department for the Study of Religion

“The only comprehensive guide on the subject, from earliest times to the present, Jewish Bible Translations is a masterful work from a master craftsman. By marrying profound erudition with lucid explanations, provocative questions and comments, and a light, sometimes whimsical touch, Greenspoon is sure to engage both scholars and laity alike.”—Alan Levenson, Schusterman/Josey Chair in Judaic History, University of Oklahoma

“Do all Jews understand the Bible in the same way? The answer can be found in this fascinating and comprehensive volume that explains how and why Jews translated the Bible—from the earliest translation into Greek to contemporary English translations and, along the way, to Aramaic, Arabic, Yiddish, and European languages. We encounter the translators, their interpretive traditions, and the agendas that inform their decisions. This book is a wonderful entrée into the Jewish engagement with the Bible.”—Adele Berlin, Robert H. Smith Professor of Biblical Studies (Emerita), University of Maryland, and coeditor of The Jewish Study Bible

“A masterfully broad survey—both chronologically and geographically—in a wonderfully engaging work by the dean of Jewish Bible translation.”—Marc Zvi Brettler, Bernice and Morton Lerner Professor in Judaic Studies, Duke University, and author of How to Read the Bible

Table of Contents

1. The Septuagint    
2. The Targums    
3. Bible Translation into Arabic    
4. Bible Translation into Yiddish and German    
5. Translations into Other Selected Languages    
6. English-Language Versions    
7. Non-Jewish Translations with Jewish Features    
Subject Index    
Index of Bible Passages