The Tree of Life Version is the Bible Messianic Believers Have Been Waiting For

Tree of Life VersionI recently attended a Shavuot celebration for those in the Tampa Bay area and was treated to a presentation on the Tree of Life Version of the Bible.  The president of the executive team behind the TLV, Daniah Greenberg, told an impassioned story behind the purpose for this new translation.  Greenberg and her Messianic Jewish husband were raising their children to follow the Lord in that tradition.  And yet, there was a disconnect for Greenberg in teaching that the name of Messiah was Yeshua, but having the name Jesus appear on the page of whatever Bible her family was using.  Put simply, there was no appropriate Messianic translation of the Scriptures available. And what a shame this was considering that the entirety of the Bible was written by Jews in the first place.

After years of prayer, fundraising, translation and hard work, the Tree of Life Version went from being a dream to a reality.  Even the King’s University became a sponsor.  I was particularly impressed with many of the translators who were involved.  A veritable dream team of Messianic scholars were miraculously assembled.  Though many names are impressive, it is notable that Dr. Michael L. Brown of askdrbrown.org is among them.  If only Arnold Fruchtenbaum was included (he was asked but was too busy), the translation team could not have been improved upon.  More details on just how much effort and scholarship went into the work can be found on the TLV’s website.

I sat down with Daniah Greenberg after the Shavuot service where she was happy to answer any questions I had.  In particular I was pleased to learn that the TLV translates words consistently.  The same word in a similar context will be translated in the same manner throughout.  This makes the TLV ideal for inductive word study.  Furthermore, Greenberg considers the translation to be roughly where the English Standard Version is on the spectrum of the highly literal to the paraphrase.  The TLV is almost as literal as the New American Standard Bible but just as readable as the far less accurate New International Version.  The TLV also has a certain dignity to its use of language and a flow that makes it suitable for public preaching.

Tree of Life Seed Bible

There is a glut of English translations already in print and that alone makes me wary of yet another.  However, the TLV fills a much needed void in that it caters to Jewish believers and is far more accessible to those Jews who do not know their Savior Yeshua. In addition, the TLV is unique as it both restores the Jewish order of the books of the Old Testament and uses Hebrew names and phrases in key places to convey the author’s intent.  Consider the following examples:

Jacob, a slave of God and of the Lord Yeshua the Messiah, To the twelve tribes in the Diaspora: Shalom!”  Jacob 1:1 (TLV)

Tree of Life Seed Bible OpenYes, you read that correctly, Jacob instead of James and Shalom! instead of greetings.  Jacob’s name is finally translated correctly and shalom imparts more depth in meaning than a mere greeting.  And while almost everyone knows what shalom means, there is a quick study glossary for lesser known words.  You might just accidentally learn a little Hebrew while reading the TLV.

Then Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought out bread and wine—he was a priest of El Elyon.”  Genesis 14:18

Instead of God on High we have El Elyon.  God’s epithets are special and in the TLV they are allowed to stand, expressing a greater fullness.

The Ruach ADONAI began to stir him in Mahaneh-dan, between Zorah and Eshtol.”  Judges 13:25

Ruach is used instead of Spirit and ADONAI (in all capital letters) is used in lieu of LORD.  When translations put LORD in all capital letters it is in place of the Tetragrammaton or God’s holy name, consisting of four letters.  However, many readers do not differentiate between LORD and Lord.  The use of ADONAI makes the presence of the Tetragrammaton far more apparent.

And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us.  We looked upon His glory, the glory of the one and only from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

I often refer to this verse when I preach and make it a point to explain that the Greek literally reads tabernacled.  This is because such a rendering would have a serious impact on anyone familiar with the Feasts of Israel.  With the TLV I no longer have to modify whatever translation I am using.

Now he did not say this by himself; but as the kohen gadol that year, he prophesied that Yeshua would die for the nation.” John 11:51

For someone with a Jewish background, kohen gadol is more impactful than the generic high priest.

About that restored Jewish order of the Old Testament; does it make a difference?  Well as Greenberg is quick to point out you only have to look at the last verse of the Old Testament and the first verse of the New Testament.

“Thus says king Cyrus of Persia ‘ADONAI, the God of Heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth.  He has appointed me to build Him a House in Jerusalem, which is in Judah.  Whoever among you of all His people may go up and may ADONAI  his God be with him.’”” 2 Chronicles 36:23

The book of the genealogy of Yeshua ha-Mashiach, Ben-David, Ben-Avraham:” Matthew 1:1

There is no dividing page between testaments or covenants as is common in most Bibles.  This allows for a seamless transition from people traveling to be with God, to discussing Yeshua, who is God.

That being said, the TLV is not perfect.  The verse numbering in some of the Old Testament books will not match other translations that are in common use.  This makes one’s memorized verses obsolete when moving over to the TLV.  You certainly could not preach or teach from the TLV in some books unless everyone else was using it.  I also disagree with a few of the renderings, with one of them absolutely vexing me:

“My desire is to bless those who bless you, but whoever curses you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”  Genesis 12:3

The TLV has, “My desire is” instead of the far more literal “I will.”  This helps the biased reader make a case for the Abrahamic Covenant being conditional, thereby assisting arguments from various forms of replacement theology.  Of all the places to paraphrase, this was a poor choice.

As a pastor and teacher of God’s Word I overall recommend the Tree of Life Version of the Bible.  The next time I evangelize to a Jewish person or preach to a Messianic congregation I will be using the TLV.  And I will likely quote from it to provide greater clarity in key passages even when preaching to largely Gentile congregations.  Personally, I have yearned for a solid Messianic translation of the Bible for years.  Finally, it has arrived!

Comments

  1. Jean Patterson says:

    Would love to have one.

  2. I would love to have a copy too, but wonder if there will be an edition that includes the Deuterocanonical texts? The Septuagint translation from Hebrew into Greek included those texts, meaning they were used by Jews throughout the Greek-speaking world, so there would be historical precedence to include them in this translation.

    • Matthew Ervin says:

      They may translate some of the other commonly used books. However, their priority was on those books that were breathed out by God.

  3. Yvonne Russell says:

    I have really enjoyed my new Messianic Bible. Sometimes I compare it with David Stern’s Messianic translation that I’ve been using for several years. It has always been very good and accurate when I look up the verse and the translation of a word in the Bible.

    • Matthew Ervin says:

      That’s excellent Yvonne. Thanks for letting me know. I’m praying that this translation will be a blessing to the Messianic community and the Body of Messiah at large.

  4. lindaclifton says:

    I would like to get one of these so let me know how and how much it will cost me fromlinda

    • Matthew Ervin says:

      Hello Linda,

      You can buy one here: http://treeoflifebible.3dcartstores.com/

      • Barbara says:

        I have looked on the link you shared and I cannot find this exact same bible how come? Thank you

        • Matthew Ervin says:

          The Bible I reviewed was a limited edition seed Bible. The seller has other versions available, with the thinline being the most comparable.

          • Barbara says:

            So that means I won’t be able to find one anywhere? I really wanted this one, if you could please let me know if you are aware of a place or site could find one please do so. Thank you so much again!! God bless you

          • Barbara Dumont says:

            Hi again Matthew. I have looked since then and cannot find this exact copy anywhere. Would you be kind enough to let me know he you are ever willing to let go of yours? I would be fine with giving you some money as well for it. Thank you so much!

  5. Dan Kolker says:

    .תודה על התקציר של התנ”ך מתיו זה שלך

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