Hendrickson Publishers…Once again, you didn’t see this coming, not from Hendrickson and yet, it is Hendrickson that loves to pull surprises out of their hats. The Complete Jewish Study Bible is, at the same time, one of the most provocative and quite possibly the most exciting Study Bible I have ever seen.
Hendrickson was generous enough to provide a free review copy in exchange for my honest opinion; for this edition I will focus almost entirely on content.
A Word from the publisher…
The Complete Jewish Study Bible pairs the newly updated text of the best-selling Complete Jewish Bible with detailed notes and comprehensive study material to help both Jewish and Christian readers understand and connect with the essence of their faith—God’s redemptive plan for his people. Readers will be enriched through this Jewish reading of Scripture and the revelation of the long-awaited Messiah, Yeshua, throughout both the Tanakh (Old Testament) and the B’rit Hadashah (New Testament).
- Over 100 articles—categorized into twelve themes—run throughout the Bible covering topics such as Jewish Customs, Messianic Prophecy, the Names of God, Shabbat, the Torah, and more. Over thirty additional topical articles—ranging from such subjects as the menorah and repentance, to Yeshua’s “Sermon on the Mount” and the Noachide Laws (the laws given by God to Noah and subsequent generations) and their applicability to Gentiles—offer fresh insight and spiritual application
- New Bible book introductions, written from a Jewish perspective
- Follows the Jewish order of the Takakh’s books (Old Testament), the order with which Yeshua was familiar. This Bible includes extensive bottom-of-the-page notes throughout to help readers understand the historical background and cultural context of the text
- Provides Scripture readings for Sabbaths, Festivals, Feasts, and Fasts
- Offers the original Hebrew names for all people, places, and concepts, as well as a pronunciation guide
- Articles written by over thirty contributors (both Jewish and Christian), including Drs. John and Patrice Fischer, Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Rabbi Barney Kasdan, and many more
- Featuring quotes and excerpts from well-known Rabbis and scholars, both ancient and modern, such as Dr. Walter Kaiser, Dr. Daniel Boyarin, Dr. Amy-Jill Levine, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Rabbi Gamaliel, Rabbi Hillel, Rabbi Shammai, Rabbi Akiva, Maimonides, Dr. Michael Brown, Dr. Michael Rydelnik, and many more
- In addition to these topical articles and detailed study notes, there are twelve tracks or themes running throughout the Bible with 117 articles, covering topics such as Jewish Customs, the Names of God, Shabbat, and the Torah
Eight pages of full-color maps
Two ribbon marker
10-point text size
9.75″ x 7.00″ x 1.75
If you look at the list of contributing authors, it is absolutely staggering! We are given contributions from some of the greatest teachers in history including Hillel the Elder, Rabban Gamaliel the Elder, the legendary Maimonides (often called RAMBAM because of his very lengthy title), Dr. Levine, who worked on Oxford University Press’ Jewish Study Bible and so many others. If you are looking for a resource that will nourish you spirit, challenge your mind, and enrich your understanding of God’s Holy Word, this is it.
I don’t want to spend a lot of time on physical form. My review copy is the hardcover with what appears to be an adhesive binding, however, Hendrickson has advised me this this Bible does, in fact, have a sewn binding.
The paper is very thin, which is often the case with Hendrickson Bibles, but I think that it is well done this time around; There are some “shadows” or “ghosting” in various places in this Bible, though I did not find any that were severe enough to warrant any real complaint. There has to be a trade off when your book is 1900 pages and you still want it to be portable.
Two royal blue ribbon markers are provided for you to keep place in the text, which is laid out in single column paragraph format with Hebrew poetry set in verse format and Old Testament quotes in bold. Overall I found it very easy on the eyes especially with the colorations that Hendrickson uses.
Why on earth do I want a Jewish Study Bible? Isn’t the two volume set from Oxford sufficient? I was actually asked these questions by another teacher and I want to treat them as a single unit. The Jewish Study Bible and the Jewish Annotated New Testament that are published by OUP are, in their own right, excellent resources but they are mostly from an Orthodox Jewish point of view and as such would reject the idea of Jesus (Y’shua) as the Messiah of Israel. The Complete Jewish Study Bible, on the other hand, is thoroughly Orthodox and thoroughly Messianic in its perspectives thereby accomplishing two goals, illuminating the culture of our Savior and showing how He fills, or completes, Torah. Don’t overlook that point; Jesus completes the Torah and the Complete Jewish Study Bible highlights this fact at every turn.
The Most Unique Feature
The most unique feature of this Bible is not what you would expect but at the same time it is what makes the Bible, as a whole, unique, the B’rit Chadesha (New Covenant). Most Jewish Bibles stop at TaNaKh, which we gentiles call the Old Testament. Many of my Christian friends didn’t even realize that there is a Jewish Bible; they thought Talmud filled that role. In pairing a Jewish translation of TaNaKh and the New Testament together, you get a much clearer picture of just exactly how Jesus was the long awaited Messiah.
I want to spend the rest of our time talking about the major points in the content in hopes that you, too, will find the Bible exciting again, for the first time.
NEW BIBLE BOOK INTRODUCTIONS
Written from a Jewish perspective, these introductions provide not only a cultural backgroud to the Bible, but also a framework to understand the context of the Scripture. Remember that we are always looking for Authorial Intent and a cornerstone to finding that is to understand the context in which the message was given.
Each book includes an outline of varying length based on the length of the book. These are not your typical “Study Bible Outlines.” What I mean by that is that these are not intended to be expository in nature nor are they intended to guide an in depth study of each book. Instead they provide a basic guide for studying the Bible. Let’s be honest, It is a very good thing that these outlines are basic; we are approaching the most profound text ever written from an entirely new (for many of us) perspective and an intense guide to study such as might be found in the usual evangelical study Bible would most likely overwhelm the reader.
Unique to The Complete Jewish Study Bible are a number of helpful articles and notes to aid the reader in understanding the Jewish context for the Scriptures, both in the Tanakh (the Old Testament) and the B’rit Hadashah (the New Testament).
I think the best way to describe the function that these articles provide is to help the reader think like a Jew or to at least better help in understanding the Hebraic mindset. Most of Christianity is decidedly Western in its mindset and therefor its approach to Scripture. It is possible that because of this we miss some of the richness of the Scripture. The topical articles that are offered by Hendrickson will most assuredly help you to re-orient your thinking to the way the original readers of Scripture would think and thereby understand the Bible better.
Extensive bottom-of-page notes to help readers understand the deeper meanings behind the Jewish text. I would guess that there are around 8,000 of these notes. I know some do not prefer to have annotations from another in their Bible but since not everyone gets to sit at the feet of a Rabbi and learn, these notes are most helpful. You could ask the question of whether or not there is theological bias and, I suppose, to a point there might be some slant but, again, they are intended to expose us to a new perspective on Scripture and in the best of Jewish tradition, provoke discussion of the Holy Scripture.
I would call these notes a blend of expository and contextual footnotes. Understanding the text of the Bible in its original context is absolutely essential to a solid exegesis and this tool will go a long way in helping you understand the original context of the book better.
TRACK THEMES 117 articles are organized into twelve tracks or themes. These articles cover the following topics:
The Names of God
Anti-Jewish Scriptural Interpretations
Salvation and Atonement
The Holy Days of Isra’el
The Land of Isra’el
The Tabernacle (Mishkan)
If I were to take each of these by themselves, my review might not get finished before the Rapture. I find all of these to be useful but my favorites are Torah, The Salvation and Atonement, and Anti-Jewish Scriptural Interpretations. Salvation and Atonement from a Jewish perspective is so much more beautiful than we even realize, and our understanding of the Atonement is pretty awe inspiring. So many think that Torah is simply the first 5 books of the Old Testament but Torah, itself, means instruction and in a sense the whole Bible is Torah. These particular articles help you look into the unified teaching of the Scripture. The Anti-Jewish Interpretations articles cover ideas that I never would have considered were anti Jewish but when stopping to look at these articles, I can see how one might miss that fact. They are not presented in an attacking, polemical manner but rather in a manner like a wise old rabbi teaching his young disciple.
I need to comment on the translation a little bit, in this review, but I need to be abundantly clear on something: The Translation of the Complete Jewish Bible was not completed or commissioned by Hendrickson Publishers but instead comes from the Jewish New Testament Publications Society.
I appreciate Rabbi/Dr. Stern’s desire to make the Jewishness of the reader more accessible to the average Christian; it is most certainly to be applauded. That being said, I much prefer a translation done by committee such as the Tree of Life Version, which is also a Messianic Translation. I do not mean to imply that Dr. Stern’s translation is in any way deficient but people do err and it is much easier for one person to err in translating than it is for a committee.
Dr. Stern leaves all of the names in their Hebraic format. This takes some getting used to and, thankfully, there is a pronunciation guide so that you that you will know how to say each name. For reading comprehension level, I would put it on par with the NASB; it isn’t per se stiff or wooden but since this is also an essentially literal translation, it can pose a challenge at times.
Overall, I rate this Bible at a solid 8. I give the content a 10 because I think it encompasses everything you want in a single volume resource to help you understand the Bible. I have to give the translation itself no better than a 7 because it is difficult at times where it need not be.
Should you buy the Complete Jewish Study Bible?
This is an absolute yes. You may not use the translation (I confess that I do not) but you will most assuredly benefit from the study aids. I am actually hoping that the Complete Jewish Study Bible Notes will find themselves available for Bible Study Software very soon as it will make quoting much easier.
A final word
I am very glad that Hendrickson brought this Bible to market. There is a severe need for better understanding of the Bible and this edition will provoke deeper study and discussion of the Sacred Text. I genuinely believe that it will help readers grow closer to the Lord.