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The Hundred-Sixteenth (Revision)

Have you ever written a book, a report, or even just an article about something? It could have been a story, either fictional or non-fictional, a summary of a historical event, a scientific paper with a conclusion you developed based on evidence, or instructions on how to complete a task. Whatever it is that you wrote, I'm sure the first thing you put down was not the 100% final product you ended up with. You likely wrote it, reviewed it, revised it, maybe even had other people provide comments, and at some point you decided it was good enough to be done with...at least for the time being!

Now imagine your writing was so important, so earth-shattering, that people wanted to spread that writing all over the world and in all different languages. And let's assume they didn't have Xerox machines, computers, email, websites, or printers. Your writing had to be copied, word for word, letter by letter, all by hand, with a pen and paper.

As you can imagine, there may be some errors as it was copied, and as it continues to get copied these errors would continue. Not to mention as you translate between languages there are times when words or phrases don't have a word or phrase that exactly matches the original language. As a simple example, what we call the trunk of a car here in the United States is called a boot in other parts of the world.

It gets even more tricky when you have idioms that you are trying to translate to a new language. Let's say you wrote a story and one of the characters wanted to talk about "the elephant in the room." If you translated this to another language for a certain people, and those people did not have that idiom, you would either have to translate it as written with the words of the new language, use a similar idiom from those people, or add to the translation some sort of explanation of what that phrase means.

There are examples of these in scripture as well. If you're looking at the King James Version and you come across a certain verse you may wonder what someone going in to "cover their feet," means (1 Samuel 24:3). The New King James Version changes it to "attend to his needs," but that still doesn't quite provide the exact meaning of this phrase. Other versions translate it to a phrase that gives a clearer picture of what this means: "to relieve himself." So, in this case, the translators converted the Hebrew idiom into an idiom in English.

When you have situations like this, or when there isn't a word in the new language that means the exact same as the original language, the translator then has to become an interpreter and therefore that portion of the text becomes an interpretation rather than a direct translation. Sometimes, if the translator is not fully familiar with all of the customs, traditions, idioms, etc., of the original language, their translation can put a slight twist on the original idea conveyed by the text or it might add confusion.

When it comes to scripture, a translator's religious beliefs or understanding of scripture sometimes influences their translation as well, and if that translation is copied again and again that belief or understanding is then multiplied by the number of manuscripts that used that version. In other words, just because we have 400 manuscripts that contain the same verses of scripture, and 399 of those manuscripts have the same thing written in them but he 400th is different, it doesn't necessarily mean that the 400th is wrong, or inaccurate.

Now, if we have 400 manuscripts, and we can identify that one of the 399 was copied from the 400th, and that version was changed, and the rest of the 399 were copied from that changed version, we can make a reasonable assumption that the 400th manuscript is more accurate to the original text. We can't definitively say that though! The reason being, we don't know how many other versions were written but ended up succumbing to being lost or maybe destroyed somehow. Perhaps in that 400th version was a change by the translator from the version he was translating.

If I haven't lost you yet, the reason this is all important to understand is because there has been a semi-recent discovery, and subsequent translation, of a Hebrew version of the four gospels, James, Jude and Revelation. This is not a translation from the Greek to Hebrew, like the Salkinson-Ginsburg Hebrew New Testament, or the Peshitta, which is an Aramaic translation of the Greek. In those cases, it is clear they are a translation from Greek because the words and phrases used. Whereas these Hebrew gospels discovered contain words and phrases that show the Greek must have been translated from them.

The reason this is exciting and important is because these manuscripts, in my opinion, provide clarity on a lot of confusing or unclear things present in the Greek version of these books. From what I have found so far, in some cases the translators to Greek added or changed things that I believe they were trying to provide clarity or understanding on based on their beliefs. Worst case, these changes were made with the intent of evil, but I can't say one way or the other, obviously.

Now you may wonder how much stock we should put in these manuscripts since there are only a few of them that have been discovered so far, and there are so many more Greek manuscripts. While at first there was only one from the Vatican library, they have since found others in the National Library of Israel and those were not copied versions of the Vatican library one. In other words, these are not copies of each other and to me that is an indication of two separate witnesses establishing that these are truth (2 Corinthians 13:1, Numbers 35:30, Deuteronomy 17:6, 19:15).

The coolest part of the versions in the National Library of Israel is that they had a Hebrew version of the Latin Vulgate introductions to the books as well as the Catalan names of individuals (the version of the names we're most familiar with). The people at HebrewGospels.com believe this may have been the scribe's attempt to preserve the text based on the fact that at the time non-Latin Vulgate versions of scripture were confiscated and the possessors of such writings were persecuted. Using these introductions and names, those coming to confiscate and persecute would likely peruse the text and think it's just a Hebrew translation of the "approved" Latin Vulgate version. God's preservation of His word is amazing!

So what sort of differences do we see in these Hebrew manuscripts compared to what we all know from the Greek to English translations? There are somewhat minor changes, like Yeshua saying disciples (talmidim) in Hebrew and brethren (adelphous) in the Greek (John 20:17). In another example, Jesus sent His spirit to His Father in Hebrew, but in Greek, He gave up the ghost (John 19:30).

In other places, the differences are slightly more egregious. In the Hebrew, during Yeshua's prayer to God about His disciples, He said, "And now they know that all the words which you gave me are from you. So you gave them to me and they establish your word." However, in the Greek, the second sentence is omitted completely (John 17:7). And on the flip side, the Greek version adds "...and then after a little while you will see me," where this does not exist in the Hebrew, and the Greek omits "...for I am going to the Father," which is in the Hebrew (John 16:16).

For that last example, the Greek version adds some confusion. Since it omits, "...for I am going to the Father," when the disciples have confusion about that portion of what Jesus said (John 16:17) you either have to assume that John left that out of Jesus' statement or question the accuracy of his writing because he may have added something that wasn't actually spoken.

There are also examples where the Hebrew version differs greatly from the Greek. One such example is the well known first verse of John's gospel (or Yochanan in Hebrew). Obviously, we have looked at this verse previously, and it's the one where Jesus is called the Word, or logos in the Greek (John 1:1). In Hebrew, this verse very clearly says, "In the beginning the Son was Eloah, the Son of El was both with El, and the Son of El was Eloah."

If that doesn't quite make sense to you yet, that's ok. El and Eloah are the Hebrew words for God. They are a short version of the "generic" word used for God, Elohim, which is different from the use of His name, YHWH. So, this verse, in Hebrew, says, "In the beginning the Son was God, the Son of God was both with God, and the Son of God was God." Quite a different story, right?! Kinda puts to rest the question some have of if Yeshua was God With Us, as prophesied by Isaiah (Isaiah 7:14).

So what else is different in the Greek than was written in Hebrew? Let's look at a verse that has been used to bolster some doctrinal beliefs about faith and miracles. In the Greek version of Mark, it states that Yeshua could not do any miracles because of a lack of faith in a certain town (Mark 6:5). Limiting the power of Jesus because of the faith of a town does not make sense, when you think about it. In the Hebrew version, it states that Yeshua did not want to do any miracles in that town because of their small faith, not that He couldn't! So, Jesus is not incapable of healing or miracles in your life because of your faith as the Greek version states.

Other differences also affect some pretty major doctrinal and foundational beliefs in denominations today. For example, Jesus never said His blood is the "new covenant" (or "new testament" in some versions) in the Hebrew versions of Matthew and Mark (Matthew 26:28, Mark 14:24) (Luke is still being translated). Also, in the Hebrew, it does not say we are the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13). Instead, it says we are the instruction of the earth, and if that instruction is destroyed by the unsaved then nothing else is fit except to cast them to the street and trample them.

These next two examples of differences are even more foundational, and we've actually looked at this topic a couple times previously. The Hebrew gospels confirm what we've been talking about all along. Not only does Mark not say Jesus declared all foods clean, as that portion of Mark 7:19 does not exist in the Hebrew, Jesus also did not say He came to fulfill the Law (Matthew 5:17). Instead, He came to confirm it! And, not surprisingly, this lines up with Daniel's prophecy of the Messiah confirming the covenant (Daniel 9:27).

I encourage you to take a look at the translations of these Hebrew versions of New Testament books. You can find them at HebrewGospels.com, and they also have videos you can watch, in addition to the introductions to the books, that explain the proofs of authenticity of these manuscripts as well as some of the differences I mentioned. I have found that they are easy to read and understand, and they have great footnotes on references to Old Testament verses, explanations of Hebrew versions of words, and also explanations of Hebrew idioms used, which they simply directly translated into English rather than changing. While there are many other revisions of these books out there, from Greek and translated to many other languages, my firm belief is that these Hebrew versions are closer to what Yehovah originally wanted us to read.

Shabbat shalom and God bless you!

-Rob and Sara Gene

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