Suggestions for Studying Jewish Scriptures


Embracing the Mystery
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Under the Stars
Hello to all-

I have become very interested in studying what is the "OT" to me from Jewish sources/translations.

It has come to my attention over time that the translations I am reading (NIV, KJV and NKJV, NAS, Amplified, etc.) may be inaccurate, and the interpretations not grounded in Jewish culture and religion.

I cannot read Hebrew and though I hope to study it in the future (along with Greek), that may be several years to several decades down the road when I have the opportunity. Do any of you have suggestions for good translations of the scriptures into English, and commentaries/interpretations that give a balanced perspective? I know there is quite a bit of diversity of beliefs on many topics in Judaism and I want to find commentaries that give a well-rounded, contemporary discussion rather than being particularly in line with one sect.

I apologize if some of this is worded incorrectly for the Jewish religion (in terms of the commentaries, sects, etc.). I have not had a chance yet to take a course in Judaism and am operating off of rather limited knowledge and from a Christian background. Some Christian commentaries on the Bible are rather particular to one denomination or another, and I'm not sure if Judaism has the same issue.

I began reading on the jewfaq website and found it quite interesting and enlightening, and I want to learn more, especially being able to read the scriptures and Jewish perspectives on them myself, rather than summaries of beliefs. Thank you all!
The translation that I prefer is the Fox translation, but that's only of the Torah:

Still, because it's unconventional, with that I would suggest the new JPS translation, which is of the entire Tanach. There is a JPS available online, but that is the older one which is mostly based off of the KJV. The JPS is a modern translation and includes footnotes with other possibilities for translation at the bottom of the page, such as from alternative sources like LXX and Septuagint.

If you're looking for commentary, there are really two types of commentary to look for. One is the more critical Western commentary which is accepted as valid by all forms of Judaism except for Orthodoxy and one is traditional commentary and those modern commentaries that follow in its footsteps. But if you're looking at traditional commentary, you're in a sea of so many years of people applying their own understandings to the text. One place to start might be with Rashi, who is available online:

He's not the final word, but he is a place to start. If you're looking for a balanced commentary that covers all the bases, both the modern commentary and the traditional commentary, the best selection might be the Etz Haim chumash:

It not only includes classical commentary and modern critical commentary, but also modern spiritual voices, e.g. feminism. Another place to look is online at the vast number of d'var Torahs based on the weekly Torah portion available from different sources. They represent all of the different colors of Judaism. I can post some of them later on, but I've seen everything from Jewish humanist to Orthodox making divrei Torah.

Thanks so much for the speedy reply! I'll be getting at least the Fox translation pronto, and will save my pennies for the commentary mentioned. Do you happen to know if this:

is the lastest version of the JPS translation? I would like one that goes directly from Hebrew to English and is not based off the KJV.

:) And hopefully I will be a bit more enlightened about the basics soon as well, as I am a teaching assistant for an Intro to Western Religions course next quarter. I'm looking forward to it and to finding out more from an academic perspective on the early Christian church, heresies, etc.
That's the new one. But the Etz Haim that I recommended, I believe it uses the JPS translation, so if you're getting that you don't really need to get another copy unless you want the entire Tanach (acronym for the three sections Torah, Neviim (prophets), and Ketuvim (writings).) As far as those other sites I mentioned that have divrei torah, some of them are mentioned in this thread along with a few other sites that might be helpful:

Everything is in the first entry. There is also a site that has the new JPS, but it is by weekly parsha. A google search for parsha yields a number of websites I didn't include in that list for the sake of brevity:

The one thing you should be aware of with Etz Haim is that it is published by the Conservative movement. The plus is that since they're the movement in the middle, they're trying to include all sorts of material. But there will also be things in the commentary specific to that movement, although those things should be obvious. They have a very ambiguous position anyway, as they're trying to maintain their members on the right and the left, so they won't be supplying too many concrete answers that are specifically Conservative.

Adherents has a chart that may be helpful to you in sorting out the most basic points of each denomination's beliefs and practices.


Hi. I noticed this thread and was just wondering what you thought of the Fox translation and anything else you might have picked up.

the best online site for comparing translations that i know of is - it's a fundie university, but it's an excellent resource. for hearing how it sounds and understanding the structure of the Torah text i'd recommend - but my vote for a good literal translation is the "jerusalem bible", published by koren, while the best readable translation for my money is aryeh kaplan's "living Torah" and the companion "living nach".