Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to header Skip to footer


Less can be more

This article is part of a series that looks at various English translations of the Bible.

From the May 2005 issue of The Christian Science Journal

If You Page Through one popular English Bible translation that's sure to reside on the shelves of any well-stocked bookstore, you may notice a couple of oddities, especially if you're Christian: There is no New Testament, and the books of this Bible appear in an atypical order. The translation in question, Tanakh: A New Translation of the Holy Scriptures According to the Traditional Hebrew Text, is the Jewish Publication Society's (JPS) rendering of the Hebrew Scriptures, known to Christians most commonly as the Old Testament.

The two unexpected characteristics make perfect sense. The noticeable absence of the New Testament is due to the fact that the Tanakh is a translation intended first and foremost for Jewish study. Same reason for the rearrangement of the books. Jewish tradition divides the Hebrew Scriptures into three main categories: the Law, the Prophets (Major followed by Minor), and the Writings. Tanakh is simply an acronym formed from the first Hebrew letter of each of these three sections, and is a word used to signify not just the JPS version, but any complete compilation of the Hebrew canon. In the Tanakh, the placement of each book falls according to its group classification.

But to determine this version's worth, especially to Christian students of the Bible, one needs to look at its genesis. The Tanakh most commonly available today is the New JPS Translation—new simply meaning most recent; this year already marks its 20th anniversary. But for there to be a new, there must have been an old.