Gen. 24:48 — ואברך את יהוה אלהי אברהם אשר הנחני בדרך אמת
Deut. 6:6-7 — והיו הדברים האלה אשר אנכי מצוך היום על לבבך ודברת בם בלכתך בדרך
Acts 24:14 — אני מודה כי אני בדרך ההיא אשר יקבוה מפלגה בה אני עובד את אלהי אבותינו וכי אני מאמין בכל הכתוב בתורה ובנביאים



To translate or not to translate? When is a language no longer itself?

"בתחילת הבריאה, כשברא אלוהים את העולם, והארץ היתה שוממה וריקה..."

"At the beginning of creation, when God created the world/universe, the earth was desolate and empty..."

— Bereshit/Genesis 1:1-2a in the modern Hebrew translation of Avraham Ahuvia, a 90-year-old Israeli kibbutznik

According to BAR:
  • “I didn’t say ‘heaven and earth’ but ‘the world,’” Ahuvia said, “because on the second day he created the firmament and called it heaven. In the Bible, the phrase ha-shamayim ve-ha’aretz means ‘the world.’”
  • Drora Halevy, national supervisor of Bible studies at the Ministry of Education, claims: “This translation cuts out the heart of the Bible. It reduces the Bible to just another book. In the Bible, form and content are bound together. The translation kills it."

 See also an older article in הארץ.


  1. The facts are clear: Israelis (Modern Hebrew speakers) today largely do not understand significant aspects of the Hebrew of the Tanakh. While I'm sure there will be some that disagree with this statement, there is a fairly large consensus on it.

    The main disagreement is regarding the solution to this problem. There are essentially two main possibilities.

    1) Translate the text into a Modern form of Hebrew.

    2) Teach people the Hebrew of the Tanakh.

    I like to view these two approaches as "top-to-bottom" and "bottom-to-top". Either you bring the text down to the people, or bring the people up to the text.

    I am a proponent of the second option "bottom-to-top".

    My main objection to this project is that there is always a significant, and unavoidable, aspect of interpretation involved in translating; even in translating Biblical Hebrew to Modern Hebrew! Modern Hebrew speakers have a natural head start in understanding the Hebrew of the Tanakh. We need to live up to our name as "People of the Book"! Let's study the Book that God has entrusted to us.

    I acknowledge that the approach I promote is more challenging. On the flip side, I think it is far more rewarding to understand the text as it is! I am in no way promoting an elitist approach, in which this precious text becomes the realm of a few specialists. On the contrary! In want everyone to have equal (as possible) access to it. Everyone deserves to read the text as handed down to us and understand for themselves. Some may argue that everyone interprets the text as the read anyway, so why shy away from an accessible translation, which you consider an interpretation. I would say that everyone has the right (and obligation!) to interpret the text for themselves and not rely solely on the interpretation of others.

    It is true that Israelis study Tanakh in school, but unfortunately it's not always done well. I would love to be involved with and/or support educational projects that promote the study of the Tanakh in the original language.

  2. I think Avraham Ahuvia's translation into modern Hebrew would be worth reading *for* the very interpretation that it obviously includes. I'd be interested to see how he understands various passages of the ancient Hebrew. His "translation" is at root very similar to commentaries that attempt to decipher and describe the meaning of the ancient language in terms we can understand today (e.g., Cassuto).

  3. I agree that it could be an interesting tool. I find much value in different commentaries. One problem is that when a text is defined as a "translation" as opposed to a "commentary" people relate to it differently. Of course most are aware that a commentary is one person (or team's) opinion. On the other hand, not everyone puts much thought in evaluating a translation, but rather assumes that this is simply the text in my language.