Translation Principle 7:
Restoring Select Hebrew Names

Dr. Jeffrey Seif TLV Scholars 1 Comment

Restoring Select Hebrew NamesGetting back to our study of the TLV Translation Key Principles, we come to principal number seven: Restoring a few key names in the biblical text to a more Hebraic expression to add clarity and reconnect Messiah to His Jewish family.

Millions of people have come to know these names: Mary and Joseph, James and Jude. These are the known members of Yeshua’s own family. However, the millions of people around the world have only come to know the Anglicized versions of Yeshua’s family, not necessarily the deeply Hebraic roots of our Messiah’s family tree. Thankfully, in today’s information age, everyone who is anyone knows, and in no uncertain terms, that the New Testament is a Jewish story. They know that Jesus was a Jew; the “Last Supper” was a Jewish Passover meal; Paul was a Jewish rabbi… More could and should be said. But this principal focuses on these specific names.

So! Why is it that their names were changed? Perhaps by minimizing Hebraisms, translators believe simple non-Jewish readers can more easily understand and then read themselves into the New Testament narratives. Perhaps it was for the sake of “westernizing” the rest of the world. There are so many possibilities. But, for whatever reason(s), Yeshua became Jesus, and therein many forget aspects of who He was and where He came from. We, here at the TLV Bible Society, haven’t forgotten–I can promise you that. Which is why, of course, we use Yeshua Messiah instead of Jesus Christ.

But how does that help put the Jewishness back into the Jesus story? By itself, using Yeshua instead of Jesus can be arresting for some readers. And often that can be enough for them to seek out information as to why Jesus is being referred to this way. However, on a limited basis, we deliberately change some of the names of Yeshua’s relatives back towards their Hebraic renderings. For instance, we use Miriam for Mary, Jacob for James, and Judah for Jude.

We do this not to merely be contrarian, but in order that their names can bear witness to their Jewish Heritage and lend gravity to the heritage of Yeshua, our Messiah, Himself.

Many have asked us why we did not do the same for all names in the Bible. Why not turn Peter into Kefa and Paul into Shaul? Why not restore Jeremiah into Yiremyahu? For the theologians of the Tree of Life Version, the answer is very simple: Just as our knowledge of ADONAI grows the more time spent with Him, so does our revelation about His Word. Instead of trying to fill in every gap in every reader’s knowledge about the Bible, our focus is merely to shift the kaleidoscopic lens through which each of us see His Word towards a more Hebraic understanding. As you learn more about the importance of the Jewish people’s role in bringing forth the Messiah, the more you’ll see God’s handiwork in every name, every place, and every item listed in His Word. We here at the TLV Bible Society want you to learn these things for yourself and let His Spirit reveal them to you in due time.

*Luke 1-2, Acts 1:13-14, Acts 15:13, the Book of Jacob (James), and the book of Judah (Jude)!

About the Author
Dr. Jeffrey Seif

Dr. Jeffrey Seif

Dr. Jeffrey Seif serves as the Project Manager and Chief Theologian of the Tree of Life Version Translation. A college teacher since 1989, he teaches adjunct at Christ for the Nations Institute and currently holds the title "University Distinguished Professor of Bible and Jewish Studies" at The King's University.​ Professor Seif has authored many books and has appeared on many television programs, teaching from and about the Middle East. Dr. Seif is a graduate of the North Texas Regional Police Academy (BCAPS), holds a Th.B. from Trinity and an M.T.S. and D.Min. from Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX.

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