Today I return to my stack of Bibles-to-review, and I am really excited about getting to share this edition with you. This time, I want to show off the Stone Edition Tanach (yes, Tanach is how Artscroll spells it). The Tanakh is the Jewish Bible (identical to the Christian Old Testament, except for the ordering of the books). The Stone Edition is a specially commissioned edition that contains the Hebrew text on the right hand pages, a new English translation (that you cannot find anywhere else) on the left, and Study-Bible type notes taken from Rabbinic commentaries on the Hebrew Scriptures at the bottom. I believe that every serious student of the Hebrew ought to have one of these in his/her collection. Furthermore, now that Artscroll has released an English only version, many people who don’t read Hebrew will love this copy of the Old Testament, as well. Why? Well, I’ll break it down here by content, construction, and layout.
Content. There’s alot of ground to cover here. I like the Stone Edition’s translation of the Hebrew. The translation is quite literal and elegant, a lot like the ESV. It is, however, idiosyncratic in that many of the Hebrew words are not so much translated as transliterated; so, for example, the Hebrew words usually translated as “High Priest” are translated in the Stone Edition as “Cohen Gadol.” Similarly, YHWH (usually translated “LORD”) is rendered as “Ha Shem” (Hebrew for “The Name”). Yet, these idiosyncratic renderings make the translation something unique; one of my favorite renderings is “Ha Shem, Master of Legions,” for “YHWH Sabaoth/LORD of Hosts.” You will certainly get a different perspective on the Old Testament or Tanakh if you read through it in the Stone Edition.
The Hebrew text is nice, with a crisp, clear font–although I have found a number of typographical errors that future editions ought to rectify. Finally, the notes are intriguing and educational for anyone, Christian or Jewish, who wants to get an Orthodox Jewish perspective on the text drawn from Rabbinic commentaries.
Construction. There is alot to like in this little Bible. First of all, the paper has the least
bleed through I’ve ever seen in a modern Bible, hands down. So, this little Bible is easier to read than many Bibles with larger fonts; it’s amazing how much the lack of bleed-through makes a difference. All editions are smythe-sewn, and they also all have a specially reinforced binding; where some Bibles have “overcast” stitching, this Tanach actually has a type of overcasting involving a piece of fabric reinforcing the first and last signatures! I’ve never seen anything like it.
The sturdy hardcover casings on all three volumes are all embossed with a beautiful design. As a Baylor alum I’m biased, but I just love the green and gold combo. Also, since the pocket edition had to be broken down into three volumes (the larger copies are single-volume Bibles), you get a nice, sturdy green slipcase with it. Overall, the artistry and craftsmanship is quite impressive.
Layout. I could go on and on with observations about the layout. Have a look:
As you can see, the margins are nice and wide, the English and Hebrew are both in single column, paragraph format, and the overall arrangment is aesthetically pleasing. The wide margin format also helps to reduce the width of the column of the text, cutting down on a problem faced by most single column format Bibles, where the lines are often distractingly long.
Also, I’ve put the margins to good use even in this very, very small version, and I’ve given thought to buying a larger edition to preach and teach from–plenty of room for sermon or lecture notes here. An additional observation: The English portion puts section headings in the spacious margins, and I love this. This way, the text isn’t constantly interrupted by pesky insertions, yet you still have the section headings available and off to the side–helpful if you’re trying to navigate the text rapidly, either to get a “bird’s-eye-view” of a book by skimming it or to find a familiar passage within a book.
One final note–I’ve noticed that many seminary and graduate students wanting to learn Hebrew have picked up the JPS (Jewish Publication Society) Hebrew-English Tanakh. I, myself, have two copies of the JPS Tanakh, one that I used until the pages fell out and one which lost its cover in fairly short order. I now tell everyone to skip the JPS and get the Stone Edition Tanach, for at least two reasons: 1) The JPS Tanach’s more “dynamic” English translation is frustrating for someone trying to learn Hebrew; the Stone Edition’s English translation is better suited to serve as a “translation cheat-sheet,” as it stays closer to the Hebrew. 2) The JPS is very poorly constructed–glued bindings, cheap casings, no sense of aesthetic flair–just all around aweful. The Stone Edition, by contrast, is beautifully costructed by any standard.
All in all, the Stone Edition is a beautiful little Bible. Whether you’re a collector, a scholar, a layman, a Christian, an Orthodox Jew, or just a lover of nice books, I’d encourage you to pick up a copy.