Artscroll Stone Edition Tanach
This is a short written summary of our full-length video review featuring excerpts, visuals, and an in-depth discussion of key verses. Watch that here.
Do you recommend it?
Two thumbs up! We highly recommend this Bible. Read on to learn why.
Who's this translation best for?
You'll find this translation useful if you're looking for a Tanach that's richly and authentically Jewish, literal and at the same flowing and poetic, and beautiful to both eye and ear.
Would you suggest this as a primary or a secondary Bible?
The AST is ideal as a primary Bible to carry around and read from on a regular basis. At the same time, it lacks the New Testament, so if you want the complete set you'll need to tote two Bibles around...unless you have them both as apps on your phone, in which case your problem is solved.
How's this version's relationship with the Jewish people, and with Judaism?
Excellent. This translation will bring you closer to the Jewish people, and significantly enhance your appreciation for traditional Judaism.
A small example of how this Bible will deepen your acquaintance with traditional Judaism is how, at the end of each of the books of the Torah, it says chazak, chazak, v'neet'chazeyk! (be strong, be strong, and may we be strengthened!) This rousing cheer is traditionally said by Jewish people upon completion of each book of the Torah.
Another small example is how the books of Isaiah, Malachi, Lamentations, and Ecclesiastes conclude on a low note, so a positive verse from earlier in the chapter is appended to the end so the readings always end on a high note.
Who's the publisher, and when did it come out?
This Bible was first published in 1996 by Artscroll, an Orthodox Jewish publishing company that has been so successful in revitalizing American Jewish religious life that its impact has sometimes been called the "Artscroll revolution". Artscroll's books are especially popular with ba'alei teshuvah - Jews returning to the faith - and with Christians desirious of learning more about Judaism.
Along with Artscroll's prayerbook (which we highly recommend, get it here) and Talmud series, the Artscroll Tanach is one of their most popular works.
Who translated it, and what's their story?
The primary translator and editor was Rabbi Nosson Scherman, who was aided by Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz (with whom he founded Artscroll in 1976), and two other Rabbis. One need only read Rabbi Scherman's introduction to the AST to sense his spiritual depth and richness. His gift for expressing spiritual concepts with flowing poetic beauty and crisp lucidity is almost overwhelming. For an example, watch the video review here.
Is it more word for word, or thought for thought?
The AST is a very literal translation. Technically speaking, it's a "formal equivalent". Not only is it very word for word, it also carries over the grammatical patterns of the Hebrew original into the English sentence structure. What's surprising is how this translation still flows and is easy to read, in contrast with other literal translations that can be stiff and hard to follow. For an example, watch the video review here.
An exception to this otherwise literal translation is the Song of Songs, which is embellished as an allegorical description of God's relationship with Israel according to Rashi's interpretations, with the actual text discreetly tucked away in the footnotes. For an example, watch the video review here.
How are Hebrew names written?
Personal names are written in their traditional Anglicized form. For instance, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Rebekah, Moses, Joshua, Abigail, Solomon, and Isaiah.
Geographical names are also written in their traditional Anglicized form. For instance, Jerusalem, Hebron, Bethlehem, and Babylon.
How are Hebrew book names written?
In the Hebrew/English version, the names of the books of the Bible are written in their traditional Anglicized form - for instance, Genesis, Exodus, Joshua, and Psalms - and are also written in Hebrew in their, um, traditional Hebraicized form?
In the English-only version, both the traditional Anglicized forms and an Ashkenazi transliteration of the Hebrew forms are written side by each. In this construct, Hebrew words are written with a compromise between the Sephardi and Ashkenazi pronunciations. The more proper Sephardi vowels are used, but "t" on the end of words is written as "s", following the Ashkenazi pronunciation of consonants. For instance: Genesis/Bereishis, Exodus/Shemos, Joshua/Yehoshua, and Psalms/Tehillim, and Writings/Kesuvim.
How are the names and titles of God written?
In the Tanach, God's name is circumlocuted as "HASHEM", which literally means "THE NAME". Something to remember if you're coming from a non-Jewish background is that a book containing God's name has the status of a holy book in Judaism and is to be handled in a very reverent way. On a practical level that means you should never, ever, put it on the floor, or put anything on top of it. If an observant Jewish person saw you mistreating a holy book in such a manner, they would be horrified. In such situations the instructions of the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:32 certainly apply to "give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God."
Elohim is rendered as God, Adonai Yhwh as "My Lord, HASHEM/ELOHIM", Adonai as My Lord, El Shaddai is simply transliterated as El Shaddai, El Elyon as "God, the Most High", El Kana as 'Jealous One', and Yhwh Tzvaot as "HASHEM, Master of Legions".
How are key words rendered?
Acharit ha'yamim is translated end of days, chag as festival, chesed as kindness, chukah as decree, chukat olam as eternal decree, emet as truth, emunah as faith, hasatan as the Satan, matzot as matzos, mikra kodesh as holy convocation, mishpat as ordinance, mo'adim as appointed festivals, pesach as pesach-offering, shabbaton as rest day, sheol as the grave, sukkot as sukkos, tahor as clean or uncontaminated, tamei as contaminated, teruah as shofar blasts, torah as as Torah, totafot as ornament, tzedakah as charity, tzitzit as tzitzis, and kippod as hedgehog.
How are the Messianic prophecies interpreted?
Watch the video review here for an in-depth discussion of how the verses predicting the Mashiach's coming are interpreted in the AST, why traditional Judaism is actually very "Messianic", and why Orthodox Jews have a better idea than most Christians of what the world will look like after Messiah comes!
What does it have for notes, appendices, and extras?
Each book opens with a soaring one-page summary anthologizing its storyline and salient points in viscerally poetic, Scherman-esque fashion. Seriously, this Bible is worth it just for the book introductions.
Succinct notes at the bottom of the page explain traditional interpretations of verses from an anthology of sources. For extra commentary, you can order the Chumash - containing only the five books of Moses. Artscroll also offers individual books with extensive commentary on each book of Scripture that come with our recommendations for anyone desirous of understanding Scripture from a Jewish perspective.
A table listing the special readings for the fast and feast days is included at the front, along with the sweeping overview already mentioned.
Appendices include visual timelines of world history from Adam until the Second Temple era, family tree charts from Genesis and Exodus, graphics explaining how various offerings were processed, illustrations of the Kohen Gadol's vestments, the Tabernable, and the Third Temple, and nifty maps of Israel.
The English-only edition also includes a 40-page 'Tanach at a glance' section at the end, summarizing the happenings and main messages of every chapter.
For visuals, watch the video review here.
Is this the Tanach, the New Testament, or both?
This was produced by an Orthodox Jewish publishing company. so you guess. ;)
Does it also have the Hebrew text?
The original Hebrew text is included along with the English translation. There is also an English-only version that, if you can believe this, doesn't have as many pages in it.
Are the books, and chapters and verses, in the Jewish or Christian order?
The books are in the traditional Jewish order of Law, Prophets, and Writings. The chapters and verses are also numbered according to Jewish tradition.
For a detailed explanation of the differences between Jewish and Christian Bibles, watch our review of the Complete Jewish Bible here.
Does it open from right to left, or from left to right?
The Hebrew/English version opens from right to left, like an exciting Jewish sefer. The English-only version opens from left to right, in boring English fashion.
How's the general layout and navigability?
True to their name, Artscroll is famous for creating sforim that are true works of art - both for their aesthetic beauty, and their intuitive user-friendliness. This Tanach is no exception. The pages are well laid-out, the fonts are attractive and easy on the eyeballs, and the sidebar guides zip you right to the spot you're trying to find.
Notably, in the Hebrew-English version, the English translation is in italics, whereas in the English-only version it's not...just in case italics are a deal-breaker for you.
How would you summarize the positives and negatives of this Bible?
On the positive side, this Bible is deeply true to the Jewish soul, absolutely gorgeous, and is loaded with valuable extras you're not going to find anywhere else. Not to mention it's available in a wide variety of shapes, colours, and sizes, as you'll see momentarily.
We don't have any strong negatives, but there are a few things we'd suggest you keep in mind if you're a newbie to Hebrew and Judaism.
Firstly, remember that there are two different ways of pronouncing Hebrew words, and that the Ashkenazi pronunciation used in this Bible is the less 'proper' of the two. So when you read words like matzos or shabbas, remember to read them as matzot and shabbat. Unless you spend most of your time hanging out with Ashkenazi Jews. Then you should probably just talk like them.
Secondly, while the notes and introductions in this Bible are invaluble if you want to understand Jewish thought better, you may not want to take them all as gospel truth. Orthodox Judaism tends to err on the side of taking aggadah* as historical fact, even when it's historically anachronistic and highly improbable. The difference is a fine line, and one to be walked with sensitivity and sensibility. On the one hand, there are aggadic stories recognized in the New Testament. Jannes and Jambres, for instance. Or the rock that followed the Israelites through the wilderness. On the other hand, some of the more outlandish aggadah is probably what Paul had in mind when he warned against "paying attention to Jewish myths" in Titus 1:14. Here's our suggestion: if you encounter stuff in the notes you're unsure of, just respectfully smile and nod. And maybe don't go quoting it as historical fact in your next Sunday school class. *Aggadah is the stories and spiritual teachings of Judaism. The word is related to hagadah, which you may know from the Passover seder as the telling of the Exodus story. The opposite of aggadah is halachah, which are the legal and practical teachings of Judaism.
Thirdly, remember that, while in general this is a word-for-word translation, there are places where the translation follows the traditional Rabbinic interpretation of the text, rather than what it literally says.
Which formats can I get it in, and where?
The bad news is that Artscroll doesn't appear to have plans to release an ancient scroll version, you know hand-written on cowhide. The good news is that pretty much any other format you could want is available!
Get the student size Hebrew-English version here.
Get the pocket size Hebrew-English version here.
Get the English-only version here.
Get the Apple/Android versions here.
Watch the full-length video review here
Watch the other reviews in this series here