'New English Bible' Contrasted With Other
Translations; Dr. Orlinsky's Notable Views
the sense of the original, in which
the Hebrew word is "lack." " 'I
shall want nothing'," he said,
"means, to me, "I will desire noth-
As for the NEB rendition of "a
valley dark as death," Dr. Orlin-
sky explained that the Hebrew
original means simply "dark" or
Throughout the Scriptures the
NEB replaces the Elizabethan
"thou" with "you" except when
God is addressed. Dr. Orlinsky pro-
tests that this distinction is out of
keeping with the Hebrew idea of
"In Hebrew," he explained,
"there is only one word for "you,"
whether it refers to a friend,
pharaoh, Balsam's ass or the
Lord. To separate God from man
is a violation of the Hebrew text,
for to the Israelites God had a
close, direct relationship with
them. He was like a member of
Too many of the source mate-
rials, particularly in Hebrew, are
obscure and subject to different
Prominent scholars can even dis-
agree about what may seem a
Dr. Orlinsky, for example, be-
DR. HARRY M. ORLINSKY
lieves that the NEB is correct in
saying "wind" in the second verse
lation of the Torah issued by the of Genesis instead of reading the
Jewish Publication Society of
Hebrew word to mean spirit as
America may remain in a debat- does the King James ("And the
able state in view of some objec- Spirit of God moved upon the face
tions in quarters where simplified
of the waters").
texts are not easily acceptable.
The Hebrew word ruah, in this
There are many differing opin- context, surely means "wind," con-
ions on many of the passages in tends the Jewish scholar. To inter-
the new text, the New English pret it as "spirit," he added, "is a
Bible (NEB). Prof. William F. Al- concept introduced by Christian-
bright challenges some of the ity."
views of Sir Godfrey Driver, the
Dr. Albright, by contrast, is con-
British scholar who was respon- vinced that ruah in that passage
sible for the Old Testament trans- means "the spirit of God," be-
lation of the NEB.
cause, he said, a sense of the spirit
Then there are the views of the of God dominates the Old Testa-
eminent American Jewish scholar, ment."
Dr. Harry M. Orlinsky, who head-
One reason any Bible version is
ed the committee that directed the sure to be met with reservations
JPS Torah revised translation.
is that every translator or group of
One of the most impressive re- translators must work according
views of the NEB was by Weldon to predetermined principles, and
Wallace, in the Baltimore Sunday those differ among experts.
Sun. Dr. Orlinsky is quoted there
It used to be, said Dr. Orlinsky,
and his views are presented by that translators felt bound to follow
Wallace as follows:
the original word for word, since
the revelation of God must not be
tampered with. Later scholars took
Dr. Orlinsky's basic criticism of the view that old ideas should be
the New English Bible is that, like put into terms intelligible to later
other Christian translations, it in- readers, since many words change
troduces hundreds of emendations meaning from age to age.
in the text, often without specify-
An illustration is to be found in
ing them. Thus the reader fre- the commandment which King
quently has no way of knowing James renders "Thoushalt not
that the original has been altered. kill." The NEB says "You shall
Besides, this practice opens up the not commit murder," a correct
pas:- bility for interpretations by meaning for modern readers.
one scholar which other scholars
The King James translators knew
may find dubious or unacceptable. perfectly well that the meaning
The experts questioned agreed in was murder'," explained Dr. Al-
the view that the New English bright, "but that is what 'kill'
Bible has been "overtranslated."
meant four centuries ago. What
Dr. Orlinsky cited the first verse we mean by 'kill' was expressed
of Genesis as an example.
in Elizabethan times by 'slay'."
The King James version reads:
A layman bewildered by conflict-
"In the beginning God created the ing opinions of scholars and trying
heaven and the earth."
to find a version of the Bible which
Scholars concur that this is an is clear, readable and truthful,
imprecise rendering of the Hebrew. may be reassured on one score.
The original, according to Dr. Or-
Disagreements among experts
linsky, is: "In the beginning of seldom involve questions about an
God's creating of heaven and earth essential of faith—for Protestant,
. ." This, he added. can be ren- Roman Catholic, Orthodox or Jew.
dered in graceful English as:
"When God began to create heaven
Comparisons of several texts pro-
and earth . . ."
The NEB version, however, vide understanding of the manner
reads: "In the beginning of crea- in which scholars of differing faiths
tion, when God made the heaven and Bible translators approach
and the earth . ." Dr. Orlinsky the method of study of Scriptures.
In King James version, Genesis
finds this wordy. Why, he asks,
use two phrases when one suf- 1:1-8 reads:
In the beginning God creat-
ed the heaven and the earth.
Dr. Orlinsky raised several ques-
And the earth was without
lions about the NEB version of
form, and void; and darkness
was upon the face of the deep.
In place of "I shall not want,"
And the Spirit of God moved
as found in the King James, NEB
upon the face of the waters.
has it that "I shall want nothing."
And God said, Let there be
Dr. Orlinsky contends this changes
Bible translations always are
causes for disputes and differences
of opinion regarding style, ade-
quacy, interpretation, and many
other aspects of passing on mean-
ing from the original into another
The "New English Bible," the
24-year project that saw fruition
several months ago, will continue
to be a subject for debate for a
long time, just as the revised trans-
light: and there was light.
And God saw the light, that it
was good: and God divided the
light from the darkness.
And God called the light Day,
and the darkness be called
Night. And the evening and the
morning were the first day.
And God said, Let there be a
firmament in the midst of the
waters, and let it divide the
waters from the waters.
And God made the Firmament,
and divided the waters which
were under the firmament from
the waters which were above the
firmament; and it was so.
And God called the firmament
Heaven. And the evening and
the morning were the second
Did you bring me sacrifices
and gifts, you people of Israel,
those 40 years in the wilder-
The same section of the opening
verses of Genesis is presented as
follows in the New English Bible:
In the beginning of creation,
when God made heaven and
earth, the earth was without
form and void, with darkness
over the face of the abyss, and
a mighty wind that swept over
the surface of the waters. God
said, 'Let there be light,' and
there was light; and God saw
that the light was good, and he
separated the light from dark-
ness. He called the light day,
and the darkness night. So eve-
ning came, and morning came,
the first day.
God said, 'Let there be a vault
between the waters, to separate
water from water.' So God made
the vault, and separated the
water under the vault from the
water above it, and so it was;
and God called the vault heaven.
Evening came, and morning
came, a second day.
Now it is important that the new
translation of the Torah, as it ap-
pears in the new text, prepared
by the committee that was headed
by Prof. Orlinsky, published by
the Jewish Publication Society:
When God began to create the
heaven and the earth—the earth
being unformed and void, with
darkness over the surface of the
deep and a wind from God
sweeping over the water—God
said, "Let there be light"; and
there was light. God saw how
good the light was, and God
separated the light from the
darkness. God called the light
Day, and the darkness He called
Night. And there was evening
and there was morning, a first
God said, "let there be an
expanse in the midst of the
water, that it may separate water
from water." God made the ex-
panse, and it separated the
water which was below the ex-
panse from the water which was
above the expanse. And it was
so. God called the expanse Sky.
And there was evening and there
was morning, a second day."
The vast differences are evident
in these quotations which indicate
It is worth turning now to one of
the most frequently resorted to
Bible texts, the 23rd Psalm. In the
King James version the Psalm
The Lord is my shepherd; I
shall not want.
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He maketh me to lie down in
green pastures: He leadeth me
beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: be
leadeth me in the paths of right-
eousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through
the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou art
with me; thy rod and thy staff
they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before
me in the presence of mine
enemies: thou anointest my head
with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy
shall follow me all the days of
my life: and I will dwell in the
house of the Lord forever.
The same text, in the New Eng-
lish Bible, reads:
The Lord is my shepherd; I
shall want nothing. He makes
me lie down in green pastures,
and leads me beside the waters
of peace; he renews life within
me, and for his name's sake
guides me in the right path.
Even though I walk through
a valley dark as death I fear no
evil, for thou art with me, thy
staff and thy crook are my com-
Thou spreadest a table for me
in the sight of my enemies; thou
bast richly bathed my head
with oil, and my cup runs over.
Goodness and love unfailing,
these will follow me all the days
of my life, and I shall dwell in
the house of the Lord my whole
Translated in the Jewish Publica-
tion Society's "The Holy Scrip-
tures," in the 1920 edition, this
A Psalm of David.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall
He maketh me to lie down in
He leadeth me beside the still
He restoreth my soul;
He guideth me in straight paths
for His name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the
valley of the shadow of death,.
I will fear no evil,
For Thou art with me;
Thy rod and Thy staff, they com-
Thou preparest a table before me
in the presence of mine
Thou hast anointed my head with
oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall
follow me all the days of my
And I shall dwell in the house
of the Lord forever.
For Bible students, the varying
texts provide courses of study
which relate not To Scriptures
alone but equally as much to the
form that translations from the
Hebrew take in the English lan-
guage and the approaches that are
made by Christians as contrasted
in the texts provided by Jewish
Interest in the Bible increases
with these efforts and the English-
speaking Jewish communities have
cause to be especially grateful to
the efforts of the Jewish Publica-
tion Society and its translators in
the revised texts. Dr. Harry M.
Orlinsky and his associates in the
Torah translation and the new
committees now working on Haf-
torahs, the Prophets and other
works have earned Jewry gratitude
for their labors.
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