Price and Value
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Summary of Features
1st Edition: 1981
Reprints since then
9.5 inches tall
6.25 inches long
1.9 inches thick
Mashiyach's Words in Red
Number of Ribbon Markers
Gold Gilded w/ Rounded Corners
Extensive Cross References
4 page Pure Religious Vocabulary
Name of the Father
Name of the Son
Minimal to None
Greek LXX Order
Western Greek Order
American Standard Version 1901
Old Archaic English
Hebrew Masoretic Text
Greek Byzantine Text
First, let me say that I bought this for the Tanak / Old Testament, and in that regard it fulfills it's purpose quite nicely and would get a much higher rating if I was reviewing only that portion. However, in reviewing the entire book I must include a critical analysis of the New Testament, which unfortunately brings this down to about 2 stars.
The Sacred Scriptures: Bethel Edition (SSBE) is an early sacred name version of the Scriptures (first published in 1981 and reprinted since then without any change or revision) put out by the "Assemblies of Yahweh" (not to be confused with the "Assembly of Yahweh" which has produced it's own more recent version called "The Word of Yahweh"). The man behind the project is Jacob O. Meyer, the head of the Assemblies of Yahweh (update: Jacob O. Meyer recently passed away which you can read about here). Like anyone in the Sacred Name movement, there's going to be controversy regarding them and their organization. Since you can read about this elsewhere I will focus my efforts on the text itself. The primary purpose behind this version of the Scriptures is to restore the name of our heavenly Father into the text, but it goes beyond that by A) attempting to restore it into the New Testament; B) Getting rid of a few "pagan" terms which are outlined in the back, such as God and Church (translated as Elohim and Assembly respectively); and C) changing the name of Jesus to what he believes is the correct Hebrew name, Yahshua.
The task of restoring the name of the Father into the text where it has been often replaced with the title LORD is an honorable task, but somewhat tricky due to the disputes on the exact pronunciation. ASV and the JW Bible (NWT) have used the name "Jehovah" but most people realize how incorrect this is. The commonly accepted transliteration is "Yahweh" and Jacob Meyer follows suit with this, claiming that the pronunciation has never been lost (he is not the only one to make this claim about Yahweh and does site an additional reference). Other translations such as ISR's "The Scriptures" have opted for putting the original Hebrew characters into the text so that people may pronounce it however they wish. This I personally prefer, but having Yahweh in the text is great as well. The New Jerusalem Bible and Concordant Literal OT among others have done this, but these are not what we could call "Sacred Name Bibles". A Sacred Name Bible is quite different and much less scholarly...
The text basis is the 1901 American Standard Version, a great literal translation. Efforts have been made to update any "archaic words", which is quite nice for us modern readers. The text ends up being quite smooth, especially for a literal translation. Now, as mentioned, LORD in the Tanak is more accurately transliterated as Yahweh; God is Elohim; God Almighty is El Shaddai; Lord is Sovereign or Master; Christ is Messiah (both mean "anointed one"); Church is Assembly; and Cross is Torture Stake. All of these changes are acceptable translations (or transliterations) of the original words, and they are justifiable in their use (though it may seem strange to those not part of the Sacred Name movement or it's theology, and Meyer does a poor job at providing a justification for most of them; I will not be doing it for him here though. I will only say that they are acceptable). Words that were not changed are glory and holy. Now, Meyer claims Semitic primacy of the NT Scriptures, but the basis for his work comes from a translation which is based off the Greek, and he makes no changes based on available Semitic manuscripts. He only translates some words to their Hebrew equivalents, and some will criticize his translating Greek words into Hebrew, but so long as they mean the same thing (which, in the cases above, they do), it shouldn't be much of an issue. This version of the Scriptures is for people who regularly use those as opposed to the mainstream English equivalents anyway. In the Aramaic New Testament however, the word for "God" is actually singular, so the proper Hebrew translation should be "Eloah" as opposed to "Elohim", but the use of Elohim is nice for consistency sake and for ease of the reader.
Now for some of the issues, and these will all be on the New Testament. First, there are a few problems with the translation of a couple words. As opposed to crucify, Meyer chooses the word "impale". This is a highly incorrect translation, since impalement is not execution by nailing to a tree/stake/cross. A better translation would simply be "execute" if he wanted to avoid using the term "crucify". The second issue is that Meyer removes the three instances where "Christian" appears, instead choosing to put "refuse" in Acts 11:26, and "despised believer" in Acts 26:28 and 1 Peter 4:16. There is zero reasoning given for this, but Meyer in the glossary does seems to prefer "True Worshipers" to describe believers instead. Back to the issue at hand though, both Greek and Aramaic texts have Christian in those instances (though it is a Greek word, it's transliterated in the Aramaic manuscripts). Meyer makes the change because of his anti-Christian stance. The final change is Baptize into immerse. This one is more of a gray area, and I do personally prefer immerse, but when translating from the Greek the word really is baptize.
The biggest issue I have though is the placement of the name Yahweh into the New Testament. All Sacred Name Bibles, as well as the JW Bible (though they use "Jehovah") try to do this. All of them fall short to a certain degree. First, it must be noted that no Greek manuscript of the NT includes the tetragrammaton in any form. Whether we're talking about the Father or the Son, it is always "Kurios" or Lord. The Aramaic manuscripts, however, do in fact contain the Aramaic equivalent (MarYah) which adds a fascinating amount of clarity into the text. Sadly, very few translations follow the distinction found in Aramaic and instead use their own educated guesses as to where they think it should go. This leads to a number of problems, and SSBE is leans toward the bad side for this. The best example I can give is John 1:1 - "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with Yahweh, and the Word was Elohim". No manuscript has anything other then Elohim/God in that verse, and everyone knows it. There are no guidelines or footnotes explaining the insertion of the name into the NT, but as you go through it you begin to see that Yahweh is put in place of Lord and God when referring to the Father, and when referring to the Son, we have Sovereign and Elohim respectively. A much more honest Sacred Name Bible in this regard is "The Word of Yahweh" by Assembly of Yahweh, who is very open about their guidelines and methodology for inserting Yahweh into the NT (which can be read for free on their website) and footnotes many of the cases so you know what word is actually there in Aramaic. They also tend to be more accurate then SSBE. The Scriptures by the ISR is even more accurate, yet still leaves out the name where it should be (according to Aramaic) and inserts it into a couple wrong places. The best translation for the NT is the Aramaic English New Testament (AENT) by Andrew Gabriel Roth. If you want an accurate and scholarly translation (over 1700 extensive footnotes...) that uses the "sacred names" in their correct spots, that is your best bet.
The translation of Jesus as Yahshua is something some people will have an issue with as well. In the Sacred Name Movement, this tends to be the accepted pronunciation, but many in the Messianic and Nazarene movements recognize Yeshua. If you write it as Y'shua, then you give both readers a chance to pronounce it however they wish, or, like ISR has done, put it into Hebrew characters. We all have different preferences though for what we'd like, so I won't comment on what's right or wrong, but simply tell you that Jesus' name is written as Yahshua in SSBE.
Overall, the NT isn't and will have a few changes that push doctrine, BUT, it's no where near (and Imean no where near) A.B. Traina's classical "Holy Name Bible" (I have a separate review outlining the changes made in that version). But, to avoid any of the confusion, if you want a good translation I again recommend the AENT over anything else, but even Sacred Name Bibles like "The Scriptures" or "The Word of Yahweh" would be slightly better choices than SSBE (though they are not entirely accurate either, and while no translation is perfect, I'm primarily referencing the insertion of YHWH to the NT).
Now for the Tanak/OT. Love it! I bought it so that I could read the Tanak with Yahweh and Elohim inserted into the text in place of LORD and God, while not having the KJV style language (like "The Word of Yahweh" does) or extreme literalness with an over abundance of Hebrew transliterations (like "The Scriptures"). In this regard SSBE fills what I personally prefer quite nicely, and I do not regret my purchase (I also got to support the Nazarite Site with my purchase, and I really like Max and the work he's done).
The book order follows the classical mainstream Christian book order (the Tanak ordering is slightly different with Torah, Prophets and Writings, and the Eastern NT Canon always has Paul's epistles last). There is a glossary of terms that Meyer feels should be avoided, but it's quite out dated and missing important information IMO. SSBE was published in 1981 though, and the availability of information among Sacred Namers was much less in those pre-internet days. The leather edition is quite poor quality actually. It's tough and won't break down on you, but the leather is stiff (don't count on this to open flat on it's own very often), though it does soften up over time, which is nice. But the pages are thick, and there is no ribbon marker, so you I can't call this leather edition "nice" (though it is nicer then a hard back if you like leather). The up side to the thick pages though is no bleed through, and no worrying about pages tearing. Also, the margins aren't all that big, but you could also write quite easily and not worry about damage to the paper with that too. Finally, the font is very standard, and this is a text only version with zero footnotes and zero cross references or book introductions. A positive note though is that this is one of the extremely few (the only one I own) Sacred Name bibles that uses paragraph formatting as opposed to verse by verse. Unfortunately though, the paragraphing is sometimes random and not as professional as you would see in something like a Cambridge Bible. It's nice nonetheless though.
So overall, a very typical Sacred Name Bible. Not as good the others I've mentioned (unless you're going for the Tanak/OT only), but certainly better than the Holy Name Bible (in terms of translation; binding is better on the HNB) and absolutely, 100% better than The Book of Yahweh. The Book of Yahweh is the absolute worst attempted publication of YHWH's Word (so keep that in mind for those of you who are looking for a Sacred Name Bible).
Click on an image for a bigger picture
NOTE: The ribbon markers in the pictures I added in myself. They did NOT come with the Scriptures.
There is beautiful gold lettering on the front. The Hebrew names of our Father and Mashiyach are nice touches (though Yeshua is spelt as Yehoshua).
The gilded edges and rounded corners are nice. As you can see, the bonded leather is of a typical thinness.
Again, nice gold lettering on the spine. The two ribbon markers that I added were about two dollars and slipped into the spine.
The book is unable to open flat at Genesis 1, so I had to hold the cover open for this shot. You can see the paragraph formatting and simple text with no footnotes or cross references.
A few hundred pages in, the book is able to lay flat on it's own. Notice the thickness of the pages makes them unable to relax and be flush together.
Here it is flat. Notice again the paragraph formatting with zero footnotes or references.
Not much flex in these Scriptures. In order to get this much I had to fold the spine inwards against the pages.
Here is what it looks like held in the hand for reading. This only works when you're more towards the center. If you're reading the Torah or the Netzarim Writings, it won't sit as nicely and you may have to hold the cover open.
Here it is compared to Stern's Complete Jewish Bible and the Holy Name Bible. As you can see, it's by far the biggest of the three.
For comparison sake, here they are laying flat. Again, the SSBE is the largest out of the three, but it's not so big that it becomes awkward to carry or hold, like some wide margin editions of the Scriptures.