Thursday, December 27, 2018

Xtian New Testament in Yiddish

In the late 19th and early 20th century Protestant Christians made a concerted effort to convert American Jews. Key to this mission was translating the New Testament into Yiddish, the community’s lingua franca. But for Henry Einspruch, the author of the first complete Yiddish translation, the motivation was as much literary as religious. Einspruch, a Jewish-born Polish convert who eventually became a Protestant minister, was a writer and editor steeped in Yiddish literature.
Einspruch’s translation, not published until 1941, gives Der Bris Khodeshe a distinctive Jewish flavor. At the Last Supper, Jesus and his disciples munch on matzah and, in the Book of Revelation, seven shofars are blown instead of seven horns. Even the volume’s illustrations seem designed to appeal to Jews. In one, an old man with a long white beard, a tallit, and a yarmulke reads a book by candlelight. The image places the New Testament in the familiar context of scholars studying ancient texts late into the night.
Der Bris Khodeshe was appreciated in the Yiddish literary world despite its author’s mission. Meylekh Ravitsh, a Yiddish writer in Mexico City, praised the translation and encouraged Jews to read it. “The New Testament [is] one of the most important books in the world. How, then, can we Jews afford to ignore it?” And with details like matzah-munching disciples and shofars ringing in the air, why would they want to?


  1. Welcome back, Goldie!

    You should also know that (I believe it was) in the late 1970s - early 80s, the NT was translated into...modern Hebrew ("Brit Chadasha") by the "Messianic" Jews.

    Shabbat shalom umevorah!

  2. A gut vok CDG. Thanks for the welcome back. I have been busy researching my family tree. One name on my mother’s paternal side has me scratching my head. Why in the world would a goy (or a Jew) choose the name Zimri ???! We know what took place with him!!!!

    We get missionary CD’s left on our front door in our Yiddish speaking community. I have twice gone behind them to take them away and burn them.

  3. Shavua tov to you too!

    "Why in the world would a goy (or a Jew) choose the name Zimri ???! We know what took place with him!!!!"

    I hear you. I have heard several explanations: The parent likes the name; or the parent doesn't know what s/he's doing (Israeli parents have named their boys "Nimrod" - "we will rebel" - or their girls "Lilith" why???!!!); or there is a mini-prophecy at work and the kid has something connected to it in his neshama.

    In addition, I've noticed that some goyim love to take Jewish names for their children. Not only Xians, but Muslims also. Daoud, Suleiman, Musa, Yacoub - these are all Arabic versions of Jewish names, and there are many more where these came from.

    The Xians have been getting bolder lately, even here in Israel. They dress like hassidim or other religious Jews so that they pass for them...until they speak with a person and then, if the person is aware, he can see that they are NOT Jews. But too many are not aware! Their guards are let down because of how people are dressed.

    Hebrew-aware people know that "boged" (traitor) is related to b'gadim (clothing). Both cover over something they'd rather others not see; but the first is highly negative, while the second is about tsniuth.