The Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels: A Review

DHEIn 1873 the British and Foreign Bible Society commissioned Franz Delitzsch to prepare a translation of the New Testament into Hebrew. Delitzsch agreed and set to work utilizing his extensive knowledge of mishnaic Hebrew and first century Judaism to create a translation and reconstruction of the Greek text back into an original Hebrew voice. His reconstructing translation was completed in 1877. After the first edition, it went through extensive review and revision for the next 13 years. The final edition was published in 1890 under the care and supervision of Gustav Dalman. Sixty thousand copies were distributed for free throughout Europe resulting in tens of thousands of Jewish people coming to know Yeshua as the Messiah of Israel.

Those Jewish believers and their influences are the very embers that have ignited this modern-day hope and revival.

This is the introduction on the Vine of David website to the Levy Hirsch Memorial Edition of the Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels. Over a century has passed since the last edition of this critical and faithful publication has been produced and Vine of David, the ministry arm of First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) that specializes in early Messianic Judaism and the development of Messianic liturgical resources, has taken up the mission of publishing this Gospel and distributing it for free to any Jewish person, allowing Jews to explore the teachings of the Master, both in Hebrew and in English.

The Delitzsch Gospels is an elegant Bible and holding it, is like holding a bridge between Jewish believers in Yeshua (Jesus) from the 19th century to those carrying the Messianic banner today. While there are other New Testaments written in Hebrew and other Semitic languages, Delitzsch’s translation uses sources and interpretations that are the most well-known.

Although the Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels are specifically reaching out to the Jewish people, as a non-Jewish Christian, I find the resources this publication offers to be compelling. From the Translator’s Preface and Introduction to the abundance of reference materials, including maps and charts, this version of the Gospels provides history and context, not only of the Franz Delitzsch and the 19th century believing Jews, but a hint of the true Jewish origins of the Gospels and of the 1st century Gospel writers.

The heart of the Delitzsch Gospels are the Gospels themselves. Reading them reminds me  of the experience of reading the Chumash or the Tanach. Opening the Gospel to Mattei (Matthew) 1:1, the genealogy of Jesus is presented in English on the left page and in Hebrew on the right. Even with Hebrew skills far less than fluent, I can still imagine going through the opening words of the first Gospel alongside both Christian and Jewish believers, and perhaps get a small sense of what the author was thinking in his own language as he began recording his understanding of the life of the Master.

Beyond the value the Delitzsch Gospels present to Jewish believers, this modern edition also offers a unique gift to Gentile Christians who have little or no understanding of the “Jewish Jesus”. It presents those in the church with a taste of “original” Jesus, the Jewish Rabbi who walked the streets of 1st century Jerusalem and who taught his disciples in the hills of Galilee. In reading and studying from the Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels, we all can attain a clearer vision of who Jesus was and is among his people, the Jews, and his mission to save the lost sheep of Israel.

Who is Jesus of Nazareth, Son of the living God, called the Christ and the Moshiach? You may think you know. But the images invoked by reading his words and his life from the pages of Vine of David’s Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels may well introduce you to the Jewish Messiah and the Israelite Carpenter, Teacher, and King of Kings for the very first time.

To learn more, please visit the Vine of David. The blessings will be yours.

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