I’ve been reading the Bible a good portion of my life, but in some ways feel I’ve only recently begun to read it the way it was written and intended for us to read. There are reasons for this change of perspective. In recent years I’ve been focusing on my relationship with Yahweh with more intent and seriousness, and as a result I’ve had experiences that I never had before, the kinds of experiences that show me that God is watching and responding to my approach. Along the way I have been drawn closer to Hebrew thought, learning the basics of the Hebrew alphabet and studying God’s Word through it, again at a basic level. Even this small change makes a difference in how I understand and what I perceive in the Word.
A friend recommended that I read the Tanach. The Tanach is the Jewish, which is to say the original, version of what Christians call the Old Testament. There are differences of course, and a few of them will make one sit up and take notice. There are many good English versions, I read the Artscroll Stone Edition, which includes Rabbinic commentary on the scriptures.
One of the themes that weaves through the fabric of the Tanach is kingship. It speaks to ruling which is best done through serving, and the responsibilities that come with governing authority. It is a lesson for each of us. We are the kings and priests of our lives, and we serve God, ourselves, and those who depend upon us daily. Are we serving righteously, with a pure heart and motive, or are we doing only what we must because we must, or worse? It is something to think about, isn’t it? Am I serving others, including my employer, community, and family the way God intends? Am I fulfilling the purpose He established me for?
In the end, the purpose of God’s Word is to draw us closer to Him, regardless which version we happen to read. But, I will say that there is a difference when reading the Word written from a Hebrew perspective as opposed to non-Hebrew interpretations and translations, which sometimes bear the burdens of non-Hebrew thought and man’s not always pure motives. I am not saying I do not appreciate other versions. I am a fan of the ESV, The Passion Translation, Wuest Translation of the New Testament, J.B. Philips, and others. I like to read different versions to experience the nuance that God placed upon His servant’s hearts, to get a different view of the familiar. Reading different translations of God’s Word is like looking at a beautiful building from one position, then going around the corner to see it from a different angle and discovering a surprise the architect placed there just for those who would take that walk and turn that corner. The Tanach, however, is in a different class, at least for me. It is no ordinary building. Maybe I just haven’t been reading the Old Testament with the right heart all these years, but the original intent is touching me in ways I’ve not felt before.