Every now and then I am asked to comment on a new translation of the Bible. The latest is a new Messianic one called the Halleluyah Scriptures: Restored Paleo Hebrew Name Scriptures.
My first reaction was, I have to honestly say, to groan, not because I don't welcome new translations (I absolutely do), not because it is yet another 'Sacred Name' version (because I think honouring Yahweh's true Name is important), not because it isn't a good translation (I can't comment on that yet because I don't know) but because of the boast that it is a "superior version" and "the only version done according to [Yahweh's] Law".
Most of you know what I think about "one-and-onlyers" whether it be one-and-only-true-churches like the Mormons, Catholics, Armstrongite Churches of God, Seventh-Day Adventists, Churches of Christ, some Messianic Groups, and so on, or whether it be one-and-only-true-bible-translations like the Protestant 1611 King James Version (which doesn't by the way exist any more and is riddled with errors), the Mormon Inspired Version or Joseph Smith Translation (IV/JST), the Jehovah's Witnesse New World Translation (NWT) or some of the more recent messianic ones like the Hebraic Roots Version (HRV) or Restoration Scriptures True Name Edition (RSTNE). It seems that the new Halleluyah Scriptures (HS) is vying for a similar place of superiority.
So I am by default sceptical of "one and only true or superior translations" because I have read many other versions that make that claim  and while each has some advantage they are all defective or biased in something or another. I am led back each time to the KJV translators who said there is profit in many versions and who would have recoilled in horror that in our day a cult has been made around their work. That will always be my counsel to serious students of the Bible.
I ordered this new version some time ago but never received a copy so it would be wrong of me to comment on its contents today. However I have read and watched some of the materials on their website and in spite of all the pontificating I see that the Ruach has NOT revealed to them many on things including the gender of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) (to give but one example) which would have been plain if they had used NT Aramaic MSS (for example). Only the HRV has come anywhere near the truth in this regard though it stops just short of openly admitting She is a Person. So in that respect, at least, the HRV is superior.
One peculiar claim of the HS is the insistance that footnotes and commentaries are intrinsically bad because they are used to interpret the scriptures. They say that the Ruach (Spirit) must do all the interpreting and so include no footnotes whatsoever.
There are a number of fallacies with this position for in spite of the fact that footnote versions do indeed include the interpretations of the translators (and some very bad ones, like the Schofield Reference Bible which has done much damage in promulgating false doctrines like the 'rapture'), footnotes are essential to an honest translation for the simple reason that some words in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek have multiple shades of meaning and the translator is thereby forced to choose between them because of the limitations of his own languague - in other words, the translator is an interpreter whether he likes it or not - unless you try to cram in all the different shades of meaning as the Amplified Version does very skillfully.
However, the HS does not claim to do this and is therefore biased by default - a truly honest translation, recognising the limitations in accuracy in the transmission of the meaning of an ancient language to a modern one must include footnotes to explain why certain renditions were made and not others. I personally consider such versions that include footnote explanations to be the most honest and most desirable so that the Bible student can do his own independent research instead of trusting in the pretended scholarly infallibility or presumed inspiration of the translator. In this I have to say that the HS is a failure even before I have read it unless a detailed commentary is offered which goes into these questions. I am quite honestly not prepared to take the risk in taking the word of any translator(s) where a difficult choice of meanings has had to be made that may have an important doctrinal impact or where there is any element of doubt, however sincere or however spiritually-led they may feel that they are.
In addition to different shades of meaning there is also the problem of manuscript (MSS) variations. Most translators have to make a decision early on which MSS they are going to use, and why, and in particularly whether (in the case of the New Testament) they are going to make one of the Received (Byzantine) Majority Texts their standard or one of the numerous Alexandrian ones. The Jehovah's Witnesses NWT Bible admits that it uses some obscure Vatican MSS because these tend to support some of their doctrinal positions (e.g. that Yah'shua/Jesus is not fully Elohim/God) and they have indeed gone to the trouble to publish one of them (Benjamin Wilson's rendering of Vatican MS No.1209) under the title The Emphatic Diaglott, a recension of the late Dr.J.J.Griesbach. That's their privilege, of course, provided they make that clear (they too dislike footnotes, or at least in the versions which I own) .
So I have to say that on balance I think footnotes or a commentary are essential to integrity especially when a translator has to make a choice between two (or more) renderings of a Greek word which can give wholly different meanings. Three examples should suffice, the first an inconsequential detail doctrinally but the second and third seriously affecting theololgy and lifestyle:
I don't know know how the HS renders these words into English (though I have the E-book version, the Gospel of Matthew doesn't work where many of these critical passages are) so I obviously can't comment on its accuracy right now but I am going to predict that it probably misses them altogether. A second devotional will appear on this subject later...if I can persuade them to send me a copy which so far they have refused even though I have offered to be a distributor in the interests of Bible scholarship. But perhaps that's the problem...maybe they want unconditional acceptance from me in their translation abilities and inspiration, something I am not willing to give to any fallible man or woman. For I intend to test it like I have all other versions.
- 1. Did Yah'shua (Jesus) claim that it was as hard for a rich man to be saved as it was for a camel or for a rope passing through the eye of a needle? Actually, it was a rope and not a camel - find out why in Camels, Ropes and Needles: Elements of the Hebrew Language;
- 2. Did Yah'shua (Jesus) praise the virtue of being a castrated single (eunuch) over being married or was He in fact talking about the advantage of being a believer? Actually, He wasn't talking about eunuchs at all - find out why in Celibacy Revisited: Beware of Radical Religious Agendas
- 3. Is the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) a Male Person (as classical Trinitarians maintain), a neutral Force, or a Female Person and therefore our Heavenly Mother? And following from that, is Elohim (God) some unintelligible 3-in-1 and 1-in-3 mystery or is He a Family? And if He is a Family, is human marriage eternal too? (Dozens of important questions arise from this).
I have other questions for the HS Translation Committee: Were the translators aware of the textual crimes of the Masoretes when they made their Old Testament translation? Does their Tanakh reflect, therefore, the anti-messianic biases of these rabbinical scholars? That I have yet to ascertain. Most translators are either unaware of the Masoretic anomalies or just don't plain care or simply defer to the myth of infallibly accurate transmission of Old Testament MSS.
The HS team are also very keen on the Book of Enoch and Book of Jubilees like several other messianic groups. Though they don't come out and say it is canon they point out that Enoch was included in the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) and that the Copts use Jubilees as validation. For our view of Enoch please see the discussion, Book of Enoch: Inspired or Fraudulent?. Looking into the future, I wouldn't be surprised if at some point the HS Team adds these two Pseudepigrapha as indexed of their Bible Version just as some messianic groups have already added the Book of Jasher/Yahsher and one or two others to their private canons. But so far the HS are sticking to the Protestant Canon.
The HS makes much ado about Paleo-Hebrew as do some messianic groups and writers like Lew White, for example. It is perfectly true that the Torah was written in Paleo-Hebrew, or at least, one version of it. I stress "one version of it" to remind my readers that scripts, like languages themselves, are constantly evolving. Which, for instance, 'Paleo-Hebrew' version do the trannslators have in mind when they set the Sacred Name of YHWH in stone - is it the Siloam or Lachish variety?
I ask this only to make a point: external forms, which are constantly changing, are not half as important as the essential meaning of words. Thus you have all kinds of Protestant Churches who insist that the Elizabethan English of the King James Version is superior to anything more mdoern, another reason they believe the now non-existant 1611 version is infallibly world-perfect. Now I happen to love that 'olde English' and frequently read the KJV but frankly some of it is so archaic as to be meaningless to the modern reader, even to those dedicated KJV-Onlyers. Thus much priceless emet (truth) is lost to them.
Likewise, the scripts the Hebrews have used have evolved from pictographic-type Sinaitic (which is probably what the Torah was originally written in) and Paleo-Hebrew to the tailor-designed 'formal Hebrew' of the Rabbis in Babylonian Exile used universally today. And who knows what they used in the Patriarchal Era before Abraham - it was almost certainly not Paleo-Hebrew which evolved from Egyptian hieroglypics. Indeed, the writing of the ante-Diluvian people of the Middle East was almost certainly Cuneiform and looked nothing like Paleo-Hebrew. That said, I do believe Paleo-Hebrew glyphs are important in understanding the original sense of Hebrew words and are worth studying.
My point being a language does not become more 'holy' because of the shape of the characters used, though it would be wonderful to know what Yahweh Himself used when He wrote the Ten Commandments on stone, for we don't actually know.
If the HS translators want to render the Tetragrammaton (YHWH) in some form of Paleo-Hebrew, all well and good so long as they don't claim that makes their Bible 'superior' to those who use modern block Hebrew characters (as the HRV, ISRV and RSTNE do) or the Latin letters YHWH. It's all the same. Yahweh is still Yahweh.
To the great credit of the HS team, they are producing their version entirely free (if you can get hold of a copy) and this has led them into deep conflicts with the manufacturers of another version, the Institue for Creation Research Version (ISRV) of the Scriptures produced in South Africa . The HS team is making much ado about the fact that the ISRV sell their translation whereas they do not, and this has led to many ugly exchanges between the two feuding teams, the HS team maintaining that the ISRV people are sinning by charging for Yahweh's Word. The HS team use Leviticus 25:35-37 and 2 Corinthians 2:17 in their defence. Why they can't be content in just handing out scriptures free and leaving the ISRV people alone (and vice versa) beats me - let each answer to his own conscience. The issue is, in any case, not about selling the Word itself but in covering printing and distribution costs. I do believe the HS team has taken a more spiritual road in doing what they do but have cheapened their efforts by feuding with the ISRV. They should just get on with their own project and let others get on with theirs. I am more interested in accuracy of translation.
Finally, when someone boasts that theirs is the 'best' or the 'purest' of anything (be it a translation, church, assembly, set of gifts, etc.) red flags go up because that to me suggests a lack of humility, and a person who lacks humility operates in the spirit of pride, and someone who is prideful cannot always hear the Ruach (Spirit) trying to lead them which they say is the basis of this supremely 'accurate' translation. In other words, we are indirectly being asked to have unconditional faith in the translators, an attitude the King James translators viewed with horror (and no wonder, one of them was in any case drunk most of the time). Indeed, they say in their video, Haleluyah Scriptures: The Superior Restored Name Bible that there is effectively no human input in this translation and that it has all been done by the Ruach (Spirit). That I cannot believe. If they fail the three examples I quote above then their fallibility and lack if inspiration in at least these will be demonstrated. Not that that's bad because the noble standard they are setting for themselves is simply unrealistic. Let's let the translation stand on its own merits and not on the basis of any supernatural claims such as that made by the Mormon prophet. If they have prayed and fasted a lot, this is very tov (good) but such does not guarantee an infallible translation process which depends on many different things, not least tradition and prejudices.
I am going to try and order the Halleluyah Scriptures again and I would certainly invite anyone to do the same and test it and even distribute it if they think it is good. If I am unsuccessful in getting a copy, perhaps someone could mail me a copy? As a serious piece of work by sincere and committed believers, it certainly deserves to be considered as worthy to stand alongside other versions. And who knows, if it really is so pure and inspired , then it will prove its worth all on its own without any kind of advertising.