Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)
This is a short written summary of our full-length video review featuring in-depth discussion of key texts, excerpts, and visuals. 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 to be especially useful if you're looking for a Bible that's 100% Messianic Jewish, easy to read, and that will give you a crash course in Hebrew and Judaism.
Would you suggest this as a primary or a secondary Bible?
The CJB is ideal as a primary Bible to carry around and read from on a regular basis.
How's this version's relationship with the Jewish people, and with Judaism?
This Bible takes a very positive attitude towards the Jewish people, and towards Judaism. From its name as the "Complete Jewish Bible", to its overtly Jewish terminology and features, it "challenges both Jews and Christians to see that the whole Bible is Jewish", as is proclaimed in the introduction. (Watch the video review here for more from the intro.)
The recently released Study Bible edition will be especially useful to Christians seeking to understand the Jewish roots of their faith, and Jews seeking to better understand Messianic Judaism. More on that when we talk about the "extras" in this Bible.
The CJB was translated by a highly respected Messianic Jewish scholar. (More on him soon too!) Similarly, the contributors to the notes and articles of the Study Bible edition read like a who's who of Messianic Judaism, featuring leading minds from the UMJC, MJAA, IAMCS, and Tikkun. The CJB not only emerged from the Messianic Jewish world, but is also significantly shaping it, and is widely used in Messianic Jewish congregations. The simple act of reading from it is a celebration of the historic Messianic Jewish move of God in our time!
Who's the publisher, and when did it come out?
The pioneer Jewish New Testament first came out in 1989, followed by its companion Jewish New Testament Commentary in 1992. Both were published by Lederer Messianic Publications.
The groundbreaking Complete Jewish Bible was released, also by Lederer, to widespread acclaim in 1998.
And then in 2016 the Complete Jewish Study Bible was published, featuring an updated translation enhanced with rich notes and a colourful new look, this time by Hendrickson Publishing and edited by Rabbi Barry Rubin.
Who translated it, and what's their story?
Dr. David Stern is a highly respected scholar and pioneer in the Messianic Jewish movement. He was born in 1935, came to faith in Yeshua in 1972, and made aliyah (immigrated to Israel) with his wife Martha in 1979. In addition to the Complete Jewish Bible and Jewish New Testament commentary, Dr. Stern is also the author of the Messianic Jewish Manifesto, which was first published in 1998 and then republished as Messianic Judaism: A Modern Movement with an Ancient Past in 2007.
Dr. Stern holds degrees from Princeton University and Fuller Theological Seminary, taught at UCLA as a professor, and also taught Fuller's first 'Judaism and Christianity' class. Speaking of Fuller! For a "fuller" bio, and to hear more of the story behind this translation, watch the video review here.
Is the CJB more word for word, or thought for thought?
The New Testament (or Brit Hadashah as it's referred to throughout the Complete Jewish Bible) is Dr. Stern's translation direct from the Greek.
The Tanach is his modern English paraphrase of the Jewish Publication Society's 1917 version, with some alterations based on the original Masoretic texts and comparisons with other translations.
In both cases, the CJB makes for easy reading, and is more of a thought-for-thought "dynamic equivalent" than it is a word-for-word "formal equivalent" translation.
To hear Dr. Stern's own description of his methods of translation, and his explanation for why he simply calls this a "version" rather than a paraphrase or translation, watch the video review here.
How are Hebrew personal names written?
One of the distinctives of this version is how personal names in both the Tanach and the New Testament retain their original Hebrew pronunciation.
Examples from the Tanach would include Avraham, Yitz'chak, and Ya'akov, Rivkah, Moshe, Y'hoshua, Avigayil, Shlomo, and Yesha'yahu.
Examples from the Gospels would include Shimon Kefa, Ya'akov, Yochanan, Y'hudah, Miryam, Elisheva, and Shoshanah. Of special note is Paul, who is always referred to by his Hebrew name Sha'ul, with the exception of Acts 13:9 which reads "then Sha'ul, also known as Paul, filled with the Ruach HaKodesh..."
How are Hebrew place names written?
Similarly, geographical names in both the Tanach and the New Testament retain their original Hebrew pronunciation. What's nifty is that this is what these places continue to be called in modern Hebrew in Israel today!
Examples from the Tanach would include Yerushalayim, Hevron, Beit-Lechem, and Bavel.
Examples from the Gospels would include the Galil, Natzeret, K'far Nachum, Beit-Anyah, Ramatayim, and Shiloach.
How are Hebrew book names written?
The names of the books of the Tanach are written with their original Hebrew pronunciation, with the Anglicized versions of the book names in parentheses. For instance, B'resheet (Genesis), Sh'mot (Exodus), Tehillim (Psalms), and Mishlei (Proverbs). If you're unsure how to pronounce these terms or don't understand their meanings but you'd like to learn, do Lesson 16 of Hebrew Quest here.
When the books of the New Testament are named after someone with a Hebrew name - for instance, Mattityahu, Ya'akov, or Y'hudah - they're written with the original Hebrew pronunciation of that name. Otherwise they're generally written with their traditional designations - for instance, Romans or Philemon. Exceptions to this generality include Hebrews, which is "Messianic Jews", and also to a lesser degree Acts and Revelation, which are "the Acts of the Emissaries" and "the Revelation of Yeshua the Messiah", respectively.
How are the names and titles of God written?
In the Tanach, God's name is circumlocuted as "ADONAI", which literally means "my Master" or "my Lord". For an in-depth discussion of the background to this tradition, and other related topics such as the history of the hybrid term Jehovah and the problem of how in the New Testament the Greek term Kurios can mean sir, Master, or ADONAI depending on context, watch the video review here.
Elohim is rendered as God, Adonai Yhwh as ADONAI God, Adonai as Adonai, El Shaddai as El Shaddai [God Almighty], El Elyon as El Elyon, El Kana as Jealous God, and Yhwh Tzvaot as Adonai Tzva'ot.
In the Gospels, Iesous is rendered as Yeshua, Kurios as the Lord, and Christos as Messiah.
The Holy Spirit is called the Ruach HaKodesh.
How are key terms in the Tanach rendered?
Because this is a Jewish Bible that assumes you're either familiar with popular Hebrew words or up for learning them, many of these key Hebrew words are transliterated rather than translated. Also, because this is more of a paraphrase, original words aren't consistently translated into the same English word.
With that disclaimer, acharit ha'yamim is phrased as acharit-hayamim, chag as festival, chesed as grace or love, chukah as regulation, chukat olam as permanent regulation, emet as truth or faithfulness, emunah as trustworthy in Deuteronomy 32:4 and trusting faithfulness in Habakkuk 2:4; goyim as Goyim, hasatan as the Adversary, kadosh kadosh kadosh as "more holy than the holiest holiness" in Isaiah 6:3, kodeshim as the holy people, kodesh ha'kodeshim as "the Especially Holy Place", matzot as matzah, mikra kodesh as holy convocation, mishpat as just or rulings, mitzvah as mitzvah, mo'ed as seasons in Genesis 1:14 and designated times in Leviticus 23:2; pesach as Pesach, shabbaton as complete rest, sheol as the grave, sukkot as Sukkot, teruah as blasts of the shofar, torah is translated as teaching, totafot as "at the front of a headband", tzedakah as right, tzitzit as tzitzit, yom kippur as Yom-Kippur, and kippod as hedgehog.
How are key terms in the New Testament rendered?
"Abide in me" is phrased as "stay united with me", Alpha and omega as 'A' and 'Z' in the original, and 'Alef' and 'Tav' in the updated text, antichrist as anti-Messiah, apostle as emissary, Baptist as Immerser, bind and loose as "prohibit and permit", baptizo as immerse, Christian as Messianic, cross as stake or execution-stake, crucify as "nail up" or "put to death as a criminal", disciple as talmid, ekklesia as Community in Matthew 16:18, congregation in Matthew 18:17, and "Messianic community" in most other instances; ethnos as Goyim in Matthew 5:47, pagans in Matthew 6:32, and Gentiles in Matthew 12:18; faith as "trusting faithfulness", feast of Dedication as Hanukkah, Jews as Judeans when referring to the Jews of that province, justify as "count righteous", kraspidon as tzitzit, sect of the Nazarenes as "Natzratim" and Jesus the Nazarene as "Yeshua from Natzeret", Pentecost as Shavu'ot, sanctify as "set apart for God", scribes as Torah scholars, phylacteries as t'fillin, paraclete as Counselor in John 14:16 and "who pleads our cause" in 1 John 2:1; peace as shalom, priests as kohanim, propitiation as kapparah, righteous as tzaddik, Sabbath as Shabbat, and saints as holy people, God's people, or believers.
Other Hebraisms germaine to this translation include common people as am ha'aretz, Barabbas as Bar-Abba, voice from heaven as bat kol, Boanerges as Bnei Regesh, blessing as brachah, circumcision as brit milah, teaching as drash, paradise as Gen-Eden, hymn in Matthew 26:30 as the Hallel, great day of the feast in John 7:37 as Hoshana Rabbah, Sea of Galilee as Kinneret, bastard as mamzer, middle wall of partition as m'chitzah, lamp as menorah, washing as mikveh, hour of prayer as minchah, insane as meshugga, first day of the week in Acts 20:7 and 1 Corinthians 16:2 as motza'ei Shabbat, ritual handwashing as n'tilat yadayim, world to come as olam haba, Pharisees as P'rushim, New Moon as Rosh Hodesh, Passover meal as Seder, peace to you as shalom aleikhem, question as sh'eilah, God's presence or glory as Sh'khinah, authority as s'mikhah, Scriptures as Tanakh, Saducees as Tz'dukim, and jubilee as yovel.
Scared to read the CJB out loud because you don't know how to say these Hebrew words right? Learn how in part two of the video review here.
How are key verses in the New Testament interpreted?
Watch part two of the video review here for an in-depth discussion on how the writings of Paul regarding the Torah are interpreted, and to hear how some of the most popular verses in the New Testament are phrased.
What does it have for notes, appendices, and extras?
The extras in this Bible are such a rich educational experience we'd urge you to get a copy, just to read them!
In the introduction to the Complete Jewish Bible you'll find the story of how it came to be, Dr. Stern's thoughts on translations, an explanation of the differences between Jewish and Christian Bibles, a brilliant portrayal of how the CJB expresses the Jewishness of the New Testament, a list of the prophecies that Yeshua fulfills, a guide to using the CJB in synagogue services, and discussions on the name of God, interpretations of controversial texts, and an overview of the history, source texts, major themes, and divine validity of the Bible.
At the back of the book you'll find a glossary explaining how to pronounce every Hebrew name used in this Bible (no, unfortunately Hazelelponi isn't pronounced "has a little pony"), along with short explanations of every Hebrew term used. You'll also find a handy list of the traditional Scripture readings for Shabbats, festivals, and fasts. And then finally there are some maps, so that instead of saying "from Genesis to Revelation" you can say "from Genesis to Maps".
And that's just the Complete Jewish Bible. The Complete Jewish Study Bible has this, and soooo much more. Like seriously, just buy it. There are one-page introductions to each book of Scripture, and tons of study notes at the bottom of almost every page. It's studded with 34 topical articles on subjects ranging from Jewish views on Satan and hell, to the Jewish Siddur, to a look at Millenialism and the Future of Israel. It's also bespangled with 117 - yes, 117! - thematic articles on the subjects of Anti-Jewish interpretations of Scripture, covenants, Jewish customs, Jewish-Gentile relations, Messianic prophecy, the names of God, Sabbath, salvation and atonement, the holy days of Israel, the land of Israel, Torah, and the tabernacle. And finally, there's a list of 43 of the greatest Rabbis and Sages in Jewish history, with short biographies on each one. And colour maps.
Is this the Tanach, the New Testament, or both?
The Complete Jewish Bible and the Complete Jewish Study Bible feature both the Tanach and the New Testament. Notably, there are no "Old Testament" and "New Testament" pages. Watch the video review here to learn why.
As for the Jewish New Testament, it features only the New Testament - surprise!
Does it also have the Hebrew text?
This is a translation only, and doesn't include the original Hebrew text - although with the number of transliterated Hebrew words you might forget if you're reading Hebrew or English.
Does it open from right to left, or from left to right?
The CJB opens and reads from left to right, like a regular English book.
Are the books, and chapters and verses, in the Jewish or Christian order?
The books are in the traditional Jewish order, as are the chapters and verses. Watch the video review here for a detailed explanation of the differences between Jewish and Christian Bibles.
How's the general layout and navigability?
In the Complete Jewish Bible and Complete Jewish New Testament the layout is relatively basic. One column of text, with the book titles written at the top of the page in both transliterated Hebrew and traditional English forms, and page numbers on the bottom of the page.
The text is amply spaced and the font is eye-friendly, contributing to the easy readability of this translation.
Transliterated Hebrew words are italicized so you can see them coming and psychologically prepare to try to pronounce them right, thus helping you stay in shalom.
One notable distinction of this Bible is how poetry is treated. Dr. Stern points out in his introduction that approximately 30% of the Bible is written as poetry. Accordingly, these sections are laid out line by line rather than as a block of text on the page.
The Complete Jewish Study Bible has a similar layout, but is considerably more colourful and of course includes the extra goodies listed above.
How would you summarize the positives and negatives of this Bible?
The positives of this version are too many to enumerate here! As mentioned at the beginning of this review, this Bible is both 100% Jewish, and 100% Messianic. Every effort has been made to highlight the Jewishness of the whole Bible, especially the New Testament. In contrast with centuries of Christian ambivalence towards the Jewish context of the Scriptures, this is a giant step for churchkind.
Like gas to the flames, the CJB is also widely available, and in a variety of formats. For many Christians, their contact with Messianic Judaism started when they noticed this version on the shelf at their local Christian bookstore, or on their favourite Bible app. In this regard the Complete Jewish Bible is changing the faces of both Christianity and Messianic Judaism, and is truly historic.
We don't have any strong negatives to report, although several of its pros could be taken as cons, depending on what you're looking for. For instance, the fact that this version is easy to read also means it's not as literal, which may not be as conducive to in-depth study.
Speaking of easy reading, if Hebrew is all Greek to you, you may find the Hebrew spattered across every page very not easy to read. Like really, Habaziniah and Meshelemiah were hard enough to read, never mind Havatzinyah and Meshelemyahu. Having to slog through hundreds of words that you have no idea how to pronounce may not help get you excited about your Jewish roots, or feel so edifying to your spirit. This could be an especially negative experience if you're asked to read this version in public. It is true that there are useful pronunciatory guides at the front and back of this Bible, and you could do Hebrew Quest with us here which would help. But the over-the-top Hebrew in this version still makes it less than "seeker-sensitive" unless you're coming from a fluent Jewish background, or are an avid Hebrew learner.
On a related note, while generally the CJB's system for transliterating Hebrew words into English is a nice balance between precise accuracy and intuitive user-friendliness, there are two instances in which a compromise was made on one side or the other that you may appreciate being aware of.
On the side of extreme precision, the apostrophe (') is used to denote the sh'va and aleph sounds - for instance Israel is Isra'el and Judah is Y'hudah - while the reverse apostrophe (`) is used to denote the ayin sound in names such as Ya`akov aka Jacob. This contrast can be seen rather sharply in verses such as Genesis 46:2, which reads "In a vision at night God called to Isra'el, "Ya`akov! Ya`akov!" While there is precedent for this distinction in older transliteratory systems such as Koren's, it's somewhat misleading. While aleph and ayin were pronounced differently thousands of years ago, today these two letters are pronounced the same way. Not to mention the reverse apostrophe is really annoying if you`re copy and pasting verses from an electronic version of the CJB because it looks crazy, like it`s going to fly off the page. Nobody uses reverse apos`trophes in normal En`glish, you know?
On the other side of extreme user-friendliness, when the letter chet - you know that scratchy horky sound - occurs in the middle of a word it's transliterated as "ch", whereas on the front of a word it's just written as "h". Dr. Stern does acknowledge this exception in the pronunciation guide, that "the reader can't determine whether a Hebrew name starts with hei or chet", but then explains with a note of humour "this seems a small price to pay for assuring that no one will say that the Jewish wedding canopy (hupah) is a "tchoopah" or call the city of Hevron (Hebron) by the name of a gas station ("Chevron")."
Finally, of anecdotal note, Dr. Stern included a handful of Yiddish words in his original translation, which apparently aroused sufficient grunts of disgruntlement from his "fans" that they were excised from the updated text.
Which formats can I get it in, and where?
This version is so widely available that we have christened a new word - jewbiquitous - in its honour.
u·biq·ui·tous adjective present, appearing, or found everywhere
JEW·biq·ui·tous complete jewish bible it's everywhere
Get the Complete Jewish Bible here.
Get the Complete Jewish Study Bible here.
Get the Jewish New Testament here.
Get the Jewish New Testament Commentary here.
For e-Sword get it here.
For Logos get it here.
For theWord get it here.
For Olive Tree get it here.
For Kindle get it here.
On Google Play get it here or here.
On Apple get it here.
Read it online here or here.
Get the Jewish New Testament on mp3 here.
You can also get Dr. Stern's book Messianic Judaism: A Modern Movement with an Ancient Past here, or the condensed version Restoring the Jewishness of the Gospel: A Message for Christians here.
Watch the full-length video review here
Watch the other reviews in this series here