A New Messianic Jewish Bible Translation: Tree of Life Version
In May 2016 an American Messianic organization published a brand new English version of the Bible called Tree of Life Version (TLV) – a unique version resulting from the collaborative efforts of Jewish scholars who are believers.
Based in the state of Georgia, the Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society (MJFBS) was formed in 2008 for the purpose of bringing together over 60 Messianic Jewish and Christian scholars to prepare the new translation.
This version is unique because, for the first time in 2,000 years, a group of Jewish believing scholars came together to work on a translation of the Bible. In particular, Messianic Jewish scholars who had lived and worked separately from each other in diverse communities and organizations, joined together on the translation team.
Among the translators are Project Manager and Chief Theologian Jeffrey Self, together with Helene Dallaire, Patricia Feinberg, Daniel Juster, Michael Brown and Ray Gannon. Click here for the full list with the scholars’ credentials.
The TLV website explains that this Bible version “speaks with a decidedly Jewish-friendly voice – a voice like the Bible authors themselves – to recover the authentic context of the Bible and the Christian faith.”
The language of the translation seeks to recover the conversational tones of the original texts, which help to draw the reader into the Scriptural accounts. The translation is faithful to Hebraic sentence structure, and to restoring the order of the Old Testament Books as they appear in the original Hebrew Bible.
Published by the MJFBS in partnership with the Baker Publishing Group, the TLV is published in hard copy and can be purchased at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. However, it is also freely available in its entirety on websites including the well-respected Bible Gateway.
The TLV project began in 2008 when a group of Messianic Jewish rabbis’ wives felt there was a need for a new Bible from which to teach their children the Scriptures.
“Judaism is a religion of the home and it is incumbment on the women to teach the Scriptures to the children,” Daniah Greenberg, CEO and president of the MJFBS told KNI. “However, we had no Messianic Jewish Childrens’ Bible for them.”
As the idea for a new Messianic Jewish Bible took hold, it became clear that it would be a version suitable not only for children, or only for Messianic Jews, but for everyone.
“The KJV Bible was written in the 6th grade language of its time, it was written for the common man,” Greenberg said. “We did not want to create a paraphrase kiddy Bible. Instead we wanted to create something that everyone could use for study and discipleship.”
The TLV website states what happened next.
“One translator multiplied into 32 scholars, a $5,000 check gave seed to $850,000 in donations, a single translation became a collaborative work, the Greek sentence structure was restored to Hebrew sentence structure, faith turned into a verb instead of a noun, salvation became Yeshua, and peace became shalom,” according to the website.
Greenberg recalled, “In order to complete this translation we had to submit one to another and work sacrificially. Preparing this Bible with our children in mind gave our wider Messianic community a fresh vision of what we could accomplish together. Scholars who only knew about each other up to that point came together for the sake of the children.”
“This brings to mind Biblical history when, having returned from exile the Jewish people began to resettle the Land after the reading of the Torah Scrolls by Ezra the priest,” she added.
As the TLV records: “Ezra the kohen brought the Torah before the assembly, which included men and women and all who could understand what they heard. This happened on the first day of the seventh month. So he read from it before the plaza in front of the Water Gate from first light until midday, in the presence of the men and women, and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the scroll of the Torah.” Nehemiah 8:1-3
Greenberg explains the excitement of understanding that, as Jews, the Messianic community has also been charged with guarding the Word for God for future generations.
“For the Millenial generation, there seems to be an understanding that this version is for them, their children and their children’s children,” she said. “We have not come together as a people to translate the Bible in 2,000 years. I think that the value of this version is that it comes from the people that were commissioned to guard it.”
Indeed the MJFBS was inspired by, among others, the Scripture: “Then what is the advantage of being Jewish? Or what is the benefit of circumcision? Much in every way. First of all, they were entrusted with the sayings of God.” (Romans 3:1-2 TLV)
Moreover, Greenberg noted an important result of such an undertaking.
“When Jews rediscover the Word of God across generations there is a supernatural knitting together of the people and revival breaks out,” she said.
The translation was made from over a dozen sources in Greek and Hebrew only, and has already proved popular with people from all over the world. The Baker Publishing group sold 20,000 copies in the first eight weeks and the MJFBS has distributed close to 40,000 through giving them away and from selling copies to ministries.
“We have discovered the TLV is popular with people for whom English is a second language. People have also told us that, for example, they love seeing the Word Torah written in the Bible as it helps them understand the difference between the Law itself and the other Scriptural writings. They also love to see our Lord’s Hebrew Name: Yeshua,” Greenberg told us.
“It is just a miraculous thing to see that Jewish people came together to create a brand new Biblical text and that God’s people all over the world are being restored to Israel through it.”
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Karen Faulkner is a British Israeli citizen. She has a Master's degree in Human Rights & Transitional Justice from Hebrew University, Jerusalem.