The Bible Society in Israel, in partnership with “Maoz Israel,” recently published “Brit Olam,” the first ever Hebrew chronological Bible after three and a half years of work. This is a real game-changer in terms of resources available in Hebrew for the study of Scriptures, not only for believers but also for seekers or any Israeli who seeks to read and understand the Bible.
It’s written in chronological order, breaking down the canonical order of the books, and putting each event in its place. The book is also enriched with clear explanations of difficult words, references to where the verses are taken from, headlines and sub-headlines, and a yearly reading plan, making the Bible more engaging and clear than ever.
Every few years, we release a resource that serves as a milestone. Something that will be a blessing for many generations to come. The full audio Bible we published in 2015 after six years of work with professional Israeli radio readers was such a project, as is our current 6-year project to translate the entire Old Testament into Modern Hebrew. We feel that this chronological Bible is on par with these.
The Hebrew-speaking body of Christ in Israel is a relatively new thing the Lord is doing, along with the return of the Jews to Israel and the establishment of the State of Israel.
In the 50s and 60s, you could count the Hebrew-speaking congregations on one hand. Yet this is when the Bible Society printed the first ever full Bible in Hebrew, with the Old and New Testaments together. In the 70s, when the Bible Society published the first modern translation of the New Testament, we printed more New Testaments than there were believers in Israel.
Today, there are tens of thousands of indigenous believers in Israel. There are families and generations of believers, and it is growing. With it grows the need for resources in Hebrew for developing spiritual maturity and engaging the society with the Word of God and its message. And this is where the Bible Society comes in – or always has, really. We have always strived to make the Bible accessible for anyone, whether this means regular Bibles in Hebrew, bilingual Bibles for immigrants, large-print Bibles for elderly, children Bibles for kids, audio Bibles, or study tools for understanding the Word.
Our job, at the Bible Society, is to recognize these needs before they arise and supply it on time, and that’s why we were delighted when Shira and Ari Sorko-Ram, the founders of the ministry “Maoz Israel,” approached us over three years ago and asked about the possibility to create a Hebrew version of “the Narrated Bible,” by Frank Laggard Smith. They actually entered a wide-open door, as just at the same time, Victor Kalisher, General Secretary of the Bible Society in Israel, was himself looking to meet with Ari and Shira with regards to a meaningful resource for the local body in Israel. We immediately engaged our top scholars, translators, Hebrew experts and software developers for three and a half years to make this book a reality.
On Tuesday, November 23rd, Maoz Israel and the Bible Society held a launch event on Zoom where we invited leaders and pastors from all over the country to present them with this new Bible and its capabilities. After the opening prayer, Shira Sorko-Ram explained: “One of the biggest challenges with bringing the gospel to Israelis is that they don’t read the Bible. They learn some Old Testament in school, and then they never open it again. They definitely never read the New Testament. A few years ago, I came across this Narrated Bible, and after reading it, I was shocked. I learned things I hadn’t ever thought of. I saw it in the right order. I knew which prophet spoke at the time of which king. I just loved it. I read it through another time, and then another twice. My first thought was ‘how can we turn this into Hebrew?’ We turned to Victor Kalisher, and we were so thankful he caught on to this vision.” Her husband, Ari, added, “It’s a tool. An artist can dream, but without the right tools, what can he do? This tool will help people develop their gifts. It’s good for discipleship, for evangelism, also for personal use. I think it’s the first time in history when a regular Israeli can read and understand the Bible this clearly. We really pray this will be an arrow to reach people’s heart, and we are so thankful to Victor and his team and to everyone who worked on it.”
Victor Kalisher, General Secretary of the Bible Society in Israel, then spoke to the zoom attendees: “We really hope this tool will help to bring the Word of God closer and also help new believers to not be afraid to read the Bible. When we read it in chronological order, we see a complete picture, rather than puzzle pieces. We get explanations along the way. It’s divided into shorter parts with sub-headings, so you always know where you are. As we recently published an annotated Bible, we used those annotations in this Bible as well, in order to explain the difficult words. We have also added tables of important events, a table of kings and prophets, a list of subjects covered in Proverbs, a guide for a yearly reading plan, and an article on the inter-testamental time period. We used Frank Laggard’s Narrated Bible, but we have done a lot of work adapting it to the Jewish audience.” Victor also expressed the importance and blessing of the cooperation between the two ministries, and quoted Philippians 2:2-3 – “then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.”
Yair Frank, scholar and project manager of the Bible Society, explained in more detail how to use the Bible and how it works, showing some concrete examples. The book has no traditional chapters and verses and can be read as a continuous book. There are headings and sub-headings explaining what occurs in each specific text. For significant time gaps in the biblical narrative, there are articles that bridge the gap (most significantly between the testaments). Difficult words and sentences of the original Biblical Hebrew are explained through the system of footnotes. References are given for each part of the text that specify where in the canonical Bible the text appears. They also provide time and location of when and where the event occurs. Yair brought the example of David among the Philistines, and then the Psalm he wrote while there, and how Brit Olam puts these texts together, giving you a more complete view of David’s emotional state at the time.
Dr. Ray Pritz, content expert of the Bible Society in Israel, who worked tirelessly on this book for the past few years, added a few examples. Brit Olam puts all the seven things Jesus said on the cross together. It brings the prophets of Haggai and Zecharia into the picture when the book of Ezra mentions them, and you get a better, full picture of the dynamics of Jerusalem at the time.
Victor added that due to the complicated nature of this Bible, with its many different types of content (Biblical text, narrations, annotations, references, etc), the capabilities of regular book editing software were simply not enough. Oleg Golebiewski, the Bible Society’s IT and software developer, therefore created a new software from scratch to enable these needed capabilities, tailor-made for this book.
Two excellent translators, Miriam Givoni and Tzofit Ledergerber, translated the surrounding text and headlines. Orna Greenman, who did the proofreading and edited the Hebrew language of these texts, explained how she had worked to make it as streamlined and accessible as possible for the average Israeli. “I wanted a clean, not exaggerated language, which creates the impression of an ongoing plot, and I wanted to make sure every verse is in its proper context. It’s so easy nowadays to take verses out of context,” she said, adding that she focused on a unity of all headlines, making sure they’re all in present tense, to make the reader feel like a part of the plot. This adds to the evangelistic application of the book. “Putting it in present tense brings it to a climax – you really feel how the expectation is built up for the Messiah throughout the Old Testament, to reach its peak with Yeshua in the New Testament. And we didn’t add anything to the text itself – we just rearranged it in chronological order, and God’s timeline and plan of salvation became more visible.”
After this, the current leaders of Maoz Israel, Shani and Kobi Fergusson (Shani is Shira and Ari’s daughter), added some more details on how to acquire the book. Victor Kalisher closed the meeting with a prayer.
Brit Olam is now available in four different colors at the websites of Maoz Israel and the Bible Society. Pray that this new resource will be a blessing for many Israelis in the years to come, and a game-changer in making the Bible accessible to the average Israeli.
Click here for a video about Brit Olam
To purchase the book from the Bible Society in Israel – click here
To purchase the book from Maoz Israel – click here