Category Archives: Volume 03.194

The New Testament in Yiddish

I see there has been some interest of late in Mendele in Yiddish
translations of the New Testament. I collect material on this
subject and am interested in updating my brief entry in my -Yiddish
Culture in Britain- (1991). Perhaps the following can serve as a
re-entry gesture after my long absence on -Mendele-. I would be
happy to have corrections and additions for the following:

-New Testament-.

The story of translations of the New Testament into Yiddish, while
but a miniscule part of Christendom's immense if largely fruitless
effort to convert the Jews, stretches over several centuries and
many lands, with first Germany and later Britain occupying the
central position.

The first effort at a Yiddish translation of the New Testament seems
to be that of Johann Harzuge, a convert. His version (Cracow,
1540), which does not include Revelations, follows Luther's German
version and is printed in Rashi script {see D & M 4482}. The next
attempt at a Yiddish NT (Strassburg, 1592) was that of Elias
Schadeus, who translated only five books, also following Luther {D &
M, Pt. II, p. 550}. Christian Moeller translated all of the NT into
Yiddish (Frankfurt, 1700, 151 ff.) {D & M 4486}. Offenbach is the
place of publication of yet another Yiddish version, the work of
Johann Heinreich Reitz, three years after the Frankfurt edition.

Churchmen were among the first to study Yiddish systematically and
may be regarded as the founders of Yiddish philology. They
entertained the hope that Yiddish would be a key both to the Jewish
Scriptures and to Jewish hearts. This hope proved fanciful but in
the course of nursing it, a few German Christians like J.H.
Callenberg made a real contribution to Yiddish studies. Callenberg
had established an institute for missionary activities at Halle in
1728 and published Yiddish translations of the New Testament in
parts from 1732 to 1744 {Rep: BL} (as well as of other Christian
writings).

Ber Borochov*, who in addition to being the ideologist of socialist
Zionism also wrote a pioneering bibliographical study of research in
the Yiddish language, fully acknowledged the role of non-Jews,
mainly Germans, in the infancy of Yiddish scholarship. At the end
of the eighteenth and through the nineteenth century, tens of thou-
sands of Jewish youths equipped themselves with a "kultur-Sprache"
by learning German from Moses Mendelsohn's translation of the
Pentateuch (Berlin, 1780-1783).

Written German was sufficiently close to written Yiddish (especially
in Galicia and Western areas of the Pale of Settlement) to make
mastery of the former relatively easy. The learning of German was
sometimes the first in a long succession of steps leading ultimately
to acculturation, assimilation or even apostasy. Prior to
Mendelsohn's German translation, the missionaries had produced a New
Testament in German with Hebrew characters. Thus the London Society
for Promoting Christianity Among the Jews in 1820 published Luther's
New Testament as transliterated by Judah D'Allemand. This apparently
was not really understandable to most Yiddish speakers and the
following year the same organization published its first Yiddish
version of the NT, the work of a Polish-Jewish convert to
Christianity, Benjamin Nehemiah Solomon*.

The missionaries knew that many German-speaking Jews in the
nineteenth and even the early twentieth century could not read
Latin-letter texts. From ancient times on, Jews had avoided
-galkhes-, the Latin and therefore Christian alphabet. In Germany,
from the beginnings of emancipation in the second half of the
eighteenth century well into the twentieth century, we have the
phenomenon of German in Jewish script. Even today (1989) there are
elderly German Jews who write letters in German using Jewish
letters. It is therefore not surprising that as late as 1901 the
Mandelkern-Haendler German NT in Jewish characters was being
published by the British and Foreign Bible Society in London. In the
same year, 1901, that the older tradition was being continued, the
same society, albeit in Berlin, was trying to produce a Yiddish
version of the NT which would provide a standard text for the three
main dialectal varieties of Eastern Yiddish. This attempt to create
a pandialectal literary language seems to have gone unnoticed among
Yiddish linguists.

In Berlin in 1901, the B.F.B.S. invited J. Rabinowitz, W.I. Nelom
and Joseph Lerner, native speakers, respectively, of Bessarabian,
Lithuanian and Galician Yiddish, to revise Hershon*'s NT
translation. The Mildmay Mission to the Jews* (whose main center
was in Whitechapel, London) distributed one hundred thousand copies
of this edition* {see D & M 4523, Pt. II, p. 558}. It should be
remembered, however, that Yiddish during the time that this
translation was being prepared was a rapidly changing language, one
that was fueling and being fueled by a great cultural resurgence.
Inevitably, within a very few years, this translation was dated.

It should also be remembered that for a substantial number of
educated Jews in Eastern Europe in the nineteenth century, the
literary language of choice was Hebrew and the missionaries did not
ignore Hebrew. The first Hebrew translation in Britain was
published in London in 1661.

(Mathew and Mark appeared in Hebrew translation in 1798 and the
translation of T. Fry and W. B. Collyer in 1813.)

In London in 1854 there was issued a Hebrew translation of the New
Testament (-Seyfer bris hechodosho al pi hamashiach-) {Rep: JNL} at
the very same Operative Institution*, Palestine Place, which would
be publishing thousands of copies of Yiddish New Testaments
following the mass immigration of the 1880s. In 1871 the four
Gospels in Hebrew were published in London under the title
-Habesurot hakedoshot learbaa hamevasrim- ('The Holy Gospels of the
Four Evangels').

-Der brif tsu di romim- ('Epistle to the Romans'), translated by
Paul Isaac Hershon, {London. 1874}, 61 pp. {14 cm.}. Rep: CtY.

-Der brif tsu di ivrim- ('Epistle to the Hebrews'), translated by
Paul Isaac Hershon, {London, 1874}, 46 pp. {14 cm.}. Rep: CtY.

-Der briv tsu di yidn- ('Epistle to the Hebrews'), {Translated from
the Greek by Aaron Krolenbaum*}. London: Scripture Gift Mission,
{1958}, 40 pp. Rep: SOAS.

-Dos naye testament, oyf's nay aroysgegeben in yudish-* {...ofsnay
aroysgegebn in yidish} ('The New Testament, Newly Issued in
Yiddish'). Translated by M.-Sh. Bergman*. London, 1887; another
ed., London: London Missionary Society, 1908, 512 pp. Rep: NN
{1887}, JNL {1908}.

-Dos naye testament fun dem meshiekh-* ('The New Testament of the
Messiah'). Translated (from Greek) by Binyomin-Nakhmiye Solomon {=
Benjamin N. Solomon}. London: London Society for Promoting
Christianity amongst the Jews {printed by A. Macintosh}, 1821, 150
leaves {299 pp.}; another ed., London, 1840; another ed. {Translator
not given; Rashi script}, London: {printed by Operative Institute},
1852, 150 leaves {298 pp.}; another ed., London, 1866; another ed.
{from Greek; translator not given} London: {printed by Operative
Institute}, 1869, 635 pp. Rep: BL {1821 and 1866 eds.}, DLC {1821},
JNL {1821, 1852 and 1869 eds.}, MA {1821}, MH {1821}, NN {1840 ed.},
NNYI {1852}.

-Dos naye testament fon dem messias-* {...fun dem meshiekh} ('The
New Testament of the Messiah'). Translator(s) (from Greek) not
given. Rashi script. London: {Printed by Macintosh}, 1820, 591 pp.;
another ed., London {printed by Operative Institute, Palestine
Place}, 1862 {a reprint of the 1820 ed., also in Rashi script}, 591
pp. This is not a Yiddish version of the NT, but is German in Hebrew
(i.e., Jewish) characters. Darlow and Moule explain that Judah
D'Allemand "transliterated" Luther's version of the NT, using von
Meyer's Frankfort edition of 1819 {cf. No. 4490 in Darlow and Moule,
p. 553}. D. & M. add that "Editions were also issued from the same
plates of (1) the Four Gospels (273 pp.), and (2) the separate
Gospels, e.g. Matthew (80 pp.). Rep: DLC {1820}, JNL {1820, 1862},
MH {1820}, NN {1820}.

-Dos naye testament fun dem meshiekh-* ('The New Testament of the
Messiah'). Translated (from Greek) by Binyomin-Nakhmiye Solomon {=
Benjamin Nehemiah Solomon}. London: London Society for Promoting
Christianity amongst the Jews {printed by A. Macintosh}, 1821, 150
l{eaves} (299 pp.) {Rashi script}; second ed., London: A. Macintosh
{= L.J.S.}, 1840, 150 l{eaves}; another ed. (also called "Third
Printing") {Translator not given; Rashi script}, London: {printed
by Operative Institute}, 1852, 298 pp.; another ed., London: London
Jews Society, 1866, 318 l{eaves}; another ed. {From Greek;
translator not given; without vowel-points}, London: {printed by
Operative Institute}, 1869, 635 pp. {see D & M 4903}. Rep: BL {1821,
1866}, ICN {1840}, JNL {1821, 1852, 1869}, MA {1821}, NN {1840},
NNYI {1852}. Ref: Darlow and Moule No. 4491 (p. 553).

-Dos naye testament, oyf's nay aroysgegeben in yudish-* {...ofsnay
aroysgegebn in yidish} ('The New Testament, Newly Issued in
Yiddish'). Translated by M.-Sh. Bergman*. London, 1887; another
ed., London: London Missionary Society, 1908, 512 pp. Rep: NN {1887
ed.}, JNL {1908 ed.}.

-Dos naye testament-* ('New Testament'). Translated by Yankev-A.
Adler {= Jacob A. Adler} London: Gezellshaft gegrindet tsu
ferbreytung unferfelshter iberzettsungen der heyligen shrift {!}
{printed by Carl Fromme in Vienna}, 1891, {2}, 862 pp. Reprinted in
1896. Highly germanized (almost standard New High German).
Vocalized text. Rep: JNL {1896}, NN.

-Dos naye testament fun dem meshiekh- (New Testament) Translated by
M.-Sh. Bergman. {= Bergman's Revision of 1912} London: British and
Foreign Bible Society, 1912, 668 pp.; another ed., London: {printed
by William Kloyez (sp?) and Sons, London}, 1913, 451 pp.; another
ed., London: British and Foreign Bible Society, 1917, 451 pp.;
another ed., London, 1928, 451 pp.; another ed., London: 1928, 688
pp. This B.F.B.S. Revision Committee New Testament is the first in
good Yiddish style. The 1913, 1915 and 1928 (451 pp.) editions
appear to be identical. Rep: BL {1912, 1913}, NN {1912}, JNL {all
but 1912}, NNYI {1917}. .*compare both 1928 eds. at jnl

-Di heylige psure toyve fun masye-* {!!!} ('The Gospel According to
St. Matthew'). 10 parts. {The version of T. Fry and W. B. Collyer
revised by P. I. Hershon}. London: British and Foreign Bible
Society, 1872-1878 {12mo}. Rep: BL, JNL {Part 1, 142 pp.}.

-Die brif fun dem apostol paul...-* {Di...} ('The Epistles of Paul
to the Galatians, Ephesians, Collossians, Thessalonians, Timothy,
Titus, and Philemon'). London, 1878, 62 pp. Rep: JNL.

-Dos naye testament, oyf's nay aroysgegeben in yudish-* {...ofsnay
aroysgegebn in yidish} (The New Testament, Newly Issued in Yiddish)
Translated by M.-Sh. Bergman*. London, 1887; another ed., London:
London Missionary Society, 1908, 512 pp. Rep: NN {1887 ed.}, JNL
{1908 ed.}. .sk 1 -Die frohe botshaft fon masyo-* {= German} 'The
Gospel According to St. Matthew'. Translated by Yankev-A. Adler {=
Jacob A. Adler}. London: Gezelshaft tsur ferbreytung unferfelshter
iberzettsungen der heyligen shrift {!} {printed by Carl Fromme in
Vienna}, 1891, 2, 114 pp. Identical with text in the 1896 Adler
edition of complete New Testament. Rep: JNL.

-Di fraye botshaft fun markos-* {!} 'The Gospel According to St.
Mark'. London: Gezelshaft tsur ferbreytung unferfelshter
iberzettsungen der heyligen shrift {!} {printed by Carl Fromme in
Vienna?}, 1891, {2}, 68 pp. Rep: JNL. .sk 1

-Dos naye testament-* (New Testament) Translated by Yankev-A. Adler
{= Jacob A. Adler} London: Gezelshaft tsur ferbreytung
unferfelshter iberzettsungen der heyligen shrift {!} {printed by
Carl Fromme in Vienna}, 1891, {2}, 862 pp.; another ed., London:
(same publ.), 1901. Highly germanized (almost standard German).
Vocalized text. Cf. Darlow and Moule No. 4513 (= London: T.B.S.,
1895). D & M give a 1900 Vienna printing as well {4522: London:
T.B.S., 1900 (printed in Vienna)}. Rep: JNL, NN; NNYI {1901 ed.}.

-Dos evangelyum fon mati oyf idish nay iberzetst-* {!} ('The
Gospel According to St. Matthew'). London: British and Foreign Bible
Society, 1904, 41 pp. Rep: BL.

-Die heylige psure toyve nokh markus-* {!} ('The Gospel
According to St. Mark'). Translated by the British and Foreign Bible
Society Revision Committee. London: British and Foreign Bible Society,
1911, 98 pp. Rep: BL.

-Dos naye testament fun dem meshiekh-* ('New Testament') Translated
by M.-Sh. Bergman {= Bergman's Revision of 1912}. London: British
and Foreign Bible Society, 1912; another ed., London: B.F.B.S.
{printed by William Clowes and Sons, London}, 1913, 451 pp.; another
ed., London, 1917, 451 pp.; another ed., London: B.F.B.S.,, 1928,
451 pp.; another ed., London, 1928, 688 pp. .*BL has nt and psalms,
London, BFBS, 1912, 668, 162 pp. This B.F.B.S. Revision Committee
New Testament is the first in good Yiddish style. The 1913, 1915
and 1928 (451 pp.) editions appear to be identical. The 1913
edition, which is pointed, is called -Habris hachodosho/Dos naye
testament-. Rep: BL {1912 and 1913}, DLC {1928}, JNL {all eds.}, NN
{ 1912}, NNYI {1917}, NNYSI {1928}. .* compare both 1928 eds. at jnl

-Di apostol-geshikhte-* ('The Acts of the Apostles'). Translated by
M.-Sh. Bergman {from Bergman's Revision of 1912}. London, 1913.
Rep: BL.

-Di heylige psure toyve nokh mati, nay iberzetst un revidiert- {!!!}
('The Gospel According to St. Matthew') {"as prepared by the
British and Foreign Bible Society Revision Committee"}. London:
British and Foreign Bible Society, 1916, {1}, 62 pp. Good Yiddish
for most part. Vocalized. Rep: BL, JNL. .* check BL date.

-Di frehlikhe psure loyt masi, in dar nayer un ferbeserter yudisher
iberzetsung-* {!} ('The Gospel According to Matthew'). London:
Barbican Mission to the Jews, 1944, 100 pp. Rep: JNL. .* cf.
Einspruch, Baltimore, MD. 1941; 2nd ed., 1959.

More about the NT: Maks Erik writes that Pawel {Paul} Halicz (or
Helic), a converted Jew, issued Luther's New Testament in Jewish
letters in 1540 (-Di geshikhte fun der yidisher literatur-, Warsaw:
Kultur-lige, 1929, p. 209). Khone Shmeruk includes this work in his
list of Yiddish imprints in Poland before 1648/9 (-Sifrut yidish
befolin-, Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1981, "for the sake of
completeness" (p. 78), but his description makes clear that it is a
Jewish-letter version of Luther's German translation. Moshe N.
Rosenfeld includes this item in his bibliography of Yiddish printing
to 1558 ("The Origins of Yiddish Printing," -Origins of the Yiddish
Language-*, pp. 111-125), and refers to it as "the New Testament in
Yiddish" (p. 111). Brad Sabin Hill mentions this work in the
Introduction to his -Hebraica- (1988) catalogue, referring to it as
a Yiddish translation by Paul Helic (Halicz), Cracow, 1540 and
informing us that it formerly was in the Valmadonna Trust Library
and is now in the British and Foreign Bible Society library in
Cambridge. Yiddish Books on Microfiche includes: "Ha-Berit
haHadasha" {sic}, Frankfurt a. O., 1700, Cowley, p. 121. Ref: EJ
12:1059.

Leonard (Yude-Leyb)
Leonard.Prager@Haifauvm