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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Greenberg

Translation Principle 13: Restoring the Jewish Culture of Yeshua’s Life

Continuing with our principles of translation for the Tree of Life Version, we come to principle 13: Restoring the Jewish culture of Yeshua’s day through art and biblical holiday observances.

Yeshua (Jesus) was an artist. Did you know that? Well, now you do! Yet, unlike those who use pencils or brushes, He painted on the mind. Teachers tend to lecture. I know. I am one. Yeshua was the ultimate Teacher. He, however, didn’t lecture. He told stories. In effect, He painted on the mind, using concrete, visual depictions – called parables – to make spiritual points. Ideas flow through our ears and go in and out of our minds: pictures abide, however, as evidenced by the recalling of Yeshua’s stories in the Gospels written long after He told them.

If one takes Yeshua‘s actions – be they miracle healings, nature miracles, or driving out money changers in the Temple – along with His parables, they all belong to the world of envisioning, creating, as they do, a lasting impression on the mind through long-remembered mental depictions (or pictures).

Yeshua the Artist

So there you have it. Yeshua was an artist. There’s really no debate.

Ancient rabbis, like Yeshua, used parables, too. They painted pictures on their hearers’ minds, too. Story-telling was, and still is, the proverbial “Jewish way.” This method Jews employ because story is adjudged to be the best way to help people remember. Pictures not only “tell a thousand words,” as the saying goes, but pictures insure the words will be remembered, and possibly later applied.

I mention the above to note why we are releasing a portfolio of new artistic renditions along with the new Messianic Jewish Family Bible – the Tree of Life Version. In the translation, we endeavored to accentuate the long-lost Jewishness of the Bible’s story. Through the art, we do much the same – possibly even more powerfully, given how it will help people see what we are trying to say – better yet what God is trying to say.

I should, perhaps, take back the “we endeavored” part of the statement, however. While the Bible translation, itself, was a joint effort of nearly seventy people, there’s much less “we” in the artwork that accompanies it. In the art’s case, it’s principally a she (Daniah Greenberg) and a he (Michael Washer) endeavor. The kind of mind that guides people to and through academia, and results in someone becoming a professor, often isn’t the kind of mind that creates the kind of artistic genius at play here. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, and I’m comfortable with the fact I can’t draw. I’m comforted by the fact that Daniah and Michael shared hearts and minds, and that Michael knew how to pick up the pen and run with it.

Biblical Art

This is the first time in history I know of where a Messianic Jewish artist has labored alongside the academic arm of the Messianic Jewish community and produced a state-of-the-art visual depiction of the New and Old Testament – one that actually comports with Jewish sensibilities. One of our rendition’s highlights is its punctuation with a variety of state-of-the-art Jewish pieces of art. Along with Daniah Greenberg, our president, our messianic artist, Michael Washer, created new renderings in pencil, of some of the world’s most beloved biblical scenes. He makes most of his characters Jewish, and does so with refreshing passion and clarity.

In my mind, this is one of our greatest contributions to biblical manufacture today, based on art’s ability to enable people to “see what we are talking about”–to use an old phrase. Used in conjunction with the translations, the high quality images stimulate a fresh visual discovery of Messiah’s Jewish heritage. Be sure to look at our illustrations of the Last Supper, Yeshua at the Temple for the Feast of Booths, and Miriam at the Empty Tomb!

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