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The Twenty-four Books of the Holy Scripture
Carefully Translated according to the Massoretic text. on the basis of the English version after the best Jewish Authorities, and supplied with short explanatory notes by Isaac Leeser (1891)


In presenting this work to the public, the translator would merely remark, that it is not a new notion by which he was seized of late years which impelled him to the task, but a desire entertained for more than a quarter of a century, since the day he quitted school in his native land to come to this country, to present to his fellow-Israelites an English version, made by one of themselves, of the Holy Word of God. From early infancy he was made conscious how much persons differing from us in religious ideas make use of Scripture to assail Israel’s hope and faith, by what he deems, in accordance with the well-settled opinions of sound critics, both Israelites and others, a perverted and hence erroneous rendering of the words of the original Bible. Therefore he always entertained the hope to be one day permitted to do for his fellow Hebrews who use the English as their vernacular, what had been done for the Germans by some of the most eminent minds whom the Almighty has endowed with the power of reanimating in us the almost expiring desire for critical inquiry into the sacred text. So much had been done by these, that the translator’s labours were rendered comparatively easy; since he had before him the best results of the studies of modern German Israelites, carried on for the space of eighty years, commencing with Moses Mendelssohn, Herz Wesel, or, as he was called, Hartog Wessely, and Solomon of Dubno, down to Dr. L. Zunz, of Berlin, whose work appeared in 1839, Dr. Solomon Herxheinier, Rabbi of Anhalt-Bernburg, whose work was completed five years ago, and of Dr. Lewis Pbilippson, Rabbi of Magdeburg in Prussian Saxony, whose work is not yet quite completed} while writing this. In addition to these entire Bible translations, the translator has had access to partial versions of separate books, by Ottensosser, Heinemann, Obernik, Ilochstatter, Wolfson, Lowenthal, and some anonymous writers, referred to occasionally in the notes appended to this work ; besides which he has had the advantage of the copious notes of Dr. Philippson’s and Dr. Herxheimer’s Bibles, in which these learned men have collected the views of the investigators, both Israelites and others, in the path of biblical criticism. The ancient versions, alsc, of Onkelos, Jonathan, and the Jerusalem Targnmist have been carefully consulted; and, wherever accessible, the comments of the great expounders Rashi, (Rabbi Shelemoh Yizchaki,) Redak, (Rabbi David Kimchi,) Aben Ezra, (Rabbi Abraham ben Meir ben Ezra,) Rashbam, (Rabbi Shelemoh ben Meir, the grandson of Rashi,) Ralbag, (Rabbi Levi ben Gershom,) and Rabbenn Sa'adyah (Saadias) Gaon, as also the Michlol Yophi, and the modern Biurim, have been sedulously compared, so as to insure the utmost accuracy of which the translator is capable. His library is not very extensive; but he trusts that the foregoing catalogue of auxiliary works will prove that he has had at hand as good materials as can be obtained anywhere to do justice to his undertaking. It must be left to those acquainted with the subject, to decide whether he has taken due advantage of the materials in his hand ; but he trusts that the judgment will be in his favour, at least so far, that he has been honest and faithful.

The translator is an Israelite in faith, in the full sense of the word : he believes in the Scriptures as they have been handed down to us ; in the truth and authenticity of prophecies and their ultimate literal fulfilment. He has always studied the Scriptures to find a confirmation for his faith and hope ; nevertheless, he asserts fearlessly, that in his going through this work, he has thrown aside all bias, discarded every preconceived opinion, and translated the text before him without regard to the result thence arising for his creed. But no perversion or forced rendering of any text was needed to bear out his opinions or those of Israelites in general; and he for one would place but little confidence in them, if he were compelled to change the evident meaning of the Bible to find a support for them. lie trusts, therefore, that to those who agree with him in their religious persuasion, he has rendered an acceptable service; as they will now. have an opportunity to study a version of the Bible which has not been made by the authority of churches in which they can have no confidence ; and that to those also who are of a different persuasion, his labours will not be unacceptable, as exhibiting, so far as he could do it, the progress of biblical criticism among ancient and modern Israelites—a task utterly beyond the power of any but a Jew by birth and conviction.

As regards the style, it has been endeavoured to adhere closely to that of the ordinary English version, which for simplicity cannot be surpassed; though, upon a critical examination, it will readily be perceived that the various translators differed materially in their method, and frequently rendered the same word in different ways. In the present version, great care has been taken to avoid this fault; but the translator does not mean to assert that he has succeeded to as great an extent as he could have desired. He will not enumerate what he has done; but let any one who is desirous to investigate this point compare the two translations, and he will readily convince himself that this may be called a new version, especially of the Prophets, Psalms, and Job; and he confidently hopes that the meaning has been rendered more clear by the version itself, and, where this was not altogether practicable, by the notes appended at the foot of the page.

He found great difficulty about coming to a satisfactory resolution with regard to the spelling of the proper nouns. Any one the least acquainted with the manner they are presented in the common versions and the languages of Western Europe, must know that they are very mneh corrupted; but they have in this shape become so much interwoven with the language of history and of daily conversation, that it would have produced endless confusion to spell them after the original manner. Hence the ordinary method had to be retained for words in constant use ; but where this was not the case, a spelling more in accordance with the original has been resorted to. They should always be pronounced as y, to accord with the Hebrew; and ia as ya. A should be sounded as long ah ; e as long a ; i as long ee ; and u as oo. Ch stands for the Hebrew n ; where occurs in the Hebrew, an apostrophe ’ has been used for the most part; but there are no English letters to represent these sounds exactly. For instance, “ Zechariah,” pronounce Zecharyah ; “Jehu,” as Yay-hoo, &c.

The translator will not ask that his errors and misconceptions shall be excused; but he trusts that any fault which may be discovered will be kindly pointed out to him, so that he may be able to make use of all such remarks to correct his work in a future edition; and he for his own part will not be satisfied with what he has done, but endeavour to improve by future experience.

Whenever words have been supplied which are not in the text, but requisite to make the sense clear, they have been placed in parentheses; for instance, 1 Chron. iii. 9, “(These were) all the sons of David,” where there is no equivalent in Hebrew for “these were,” though no sense could be made of the phrase without supplying these two words. The parenthesis is also used occasionally, but very seldom, to denote a construction, where an actual parenthesis of a whole sentence, or of one or more verses, occurs.

The whole work has been undertaken at the sole responsibility, both mercantile and literary, of the translator. No individual has been questioned respecting the meaning of a single sentence; and not an English book has been consulted, except Bagster’s Bible, a few notes of which have been incorporated with this. The peculiarity of the style will readily indicate them. The author’s name would have been appended, had it been known to the translator.

Although about the sixth part of the contents of this volume are notes, still he did not mean to write a commentary on the Bible, nor must the notes be regarded as any thing else than a mere slight aid for the explanation of grammatical and other difficulties. For this they are probably ample enough; otherwise they must appear very defective in quantity and manner.

With these few remarks the translator surrenders a labour in which he has been engaged, occasionally, for more than fifteen years, to the kindness of the public, trusting that, by the blessing of the Father of all, it may be made instrumental in diffusing a taste for Scripture reading among the community of Israelites, and be the means of a better appreciation of the great treasures of revelation to many who never have had the opportunity of knowing what the Hebrews have done for mankind, not alone in preserving the sacred books, hut by labouring to make them intelligible to the world at large.

The Twenty-four Books of the Holy Scripture

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