The Jubilee Bible: From the Scriptures of the Reformation

“The difference between studying a ‘living’ versus a ‘dead’ language could be compared to the difference between the study of fossils or museum exhibits of long extinct animals, versus the study of living examples of the same species.” – Russell Stendal. Editor of The Jubilee Bible

Why is the Jubilee Bible Unique?

The Jubilee Bible is based on the Spanish Bible that was translated in the heat and fervor of the Reformation, when faithful believers in Christ were being persecuted and many put to death during the Spanish Inquisition.  The English Jubilee Bible uses the following list of Reformation-era sources for the basis of its translation:

  • Translated from the Original Texts in Hebrew and Greek into Spanish by Casiodoro de Reina (1569) compared with the 1603 revision of Cipriano de Valera.
  • the New Testament of Francisco de Enzinas (1543).
  • the New Testament (1556) with the Psalms (1557) of Juan Pérez de Pineda.
  • the Old English Translation of William Tyndale (Pentateuch of 1530, Ploughboy Edition New Testament of 1534, Joshua to 2 Chronicles of 1537, and Jonah).
  • in finality, the Jubilee Bible was also compared, word for word, with the Authorized Version (by King James) of 1611.

In producing the Jubilee Bible, Editor Russell M. Stendal has given careful attention to translate each Hebrew and Greek word, precisely and consistently, into a corresponding, unique English word.  Thus, the reader can follow a given word through the Old Testament and into the New Testament, where a clearer picture than ever before captures the meaning and impact of each word within its purposeful context.

This kind of uniformity in translation is a must for serious Bible study and for personal application, alike.  The intent of the Jubilee Bible translation is to make the Bible its own commentary.  For this reason footnotes are used sparingly and inline, only.

A Peek Inside the Jubilee Bible

Facts About the Jubilee Bible
(From the Editor)

Origin of the Jubilee Bible

A number of years ago I was given a copy of an old Spanish Bible that was translated in the heat and fervor of the Reformation (which was brutally put down in Spain by the Inquisition).  It was a time when it was common practice to burn Bibles, along with their owners.

I immediately began to notice a depth and clarity to this translation that brought forth a clear witness of the Spirit of God as to the meanings of many seemingly unfathomable passages (mainly in the Psalms, Proverbs, and Prophets) that had intrigued me for years.  For this reason I began to investigate the unique circumstances of this Spanish translation by Casiodoro de Reina, published in 1569.

Did You Know that Biblical Hebrew is an Extinct Language?

Have you ever come across footnotes in the Old Testament that say, “Hebrew obscure” or “Hebrew uncertain”?  This is not due to any lack of content or clarity in the original text.  Rather, it’s due to the fact that most of modern Hebrew scholarship simply does not know the precise meaning of many of the original idioms with any degree of certainty.

For hundreds of years, biblical Hebrew has been studied as a “dead” language (that is, a language that was not spoken in everyday life).  The difference between studying a “living” versus a “dead” language could be compared to the difference between studying fossils or museum exhibits of long-extinct animals, versus studying living examples of the same species.

Who was Casiodoro de Reina?

Casiodoro de Reina was born in 1520.  He learned Hebrew in Spain as a young man, apparently from Jews who still spoke Hebrew as a “living” language.  The Jews had been officially expelled from Spain in 1492, but it is estimated that only one-fourth of them left the Country at that time (some of those who remained did their best to blend in with the Christians).

Eventually, the Spanish Inquisition made it impossible for any Jewish people who spoke their own language to survive in Spain.  Almost every Hebrew scholar since Casiodoro de Reina has learned Hebrew as a “dead” language, which was no longer spoken until the modern-day, ongoing resurrection of the Hebrew language, in Israel.

Fleeing from Persecution

Casiodoro began a translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew to Spanish and was forced to flee from Spain, in 1551.  Several Jewish translations of the Old Testament were published in Spanish about this time (such as the Biblia de Ferrara of 1553) to which Casiodoro had access.  He also built on a translation of the Psalms that was published by his friend Juan Pérez de Pineda, in 1557.

He went to Geneva and was there until the government of Geneva, under John Calvin, burned Miguel Servet at the stake over differences on points of doctrine.  Casiodoro had some strong words about this; he said that Geneva had become a “new Rome,” and so he left for England.

The Queen of England (Elizabeth I) allowed Casiodoro to preach to Spanish speakers in the Church of St. Mary Axe, and gave him a monthly income.  Casiodoro continued his Bible translation until the Inquisition found out about it, then sent agents from Spain who brought false charges against him and undermined his support from the Queen.

Casiodoro fled to Germany just in time to witness a war between Lutherans and Catholics.  As with the Calvinists in Geneva, he had some words with the German Lutherans regarding this, then moved on into the Low Countries.  There, he was given a place to preach in a Congregational Church where he spent quite a bit of time in conflict with the local Consistory (the minutes of those meetings still exist).

Translations Born of Conscience and Adversity

Casiodoro seemed to always maintain an open mind to truth and refused to go along with any given school of doctrine or thought, believing that everyone must be responsible before God for their own conscience.  After more than twenty years of working on his translation while fleeing with his wife and children – always staying just one jump ahead of the Inquisition, which was always sending agents to attempt to kill or hinder him – his Bible was finally printed.

The Inquisition set up a ring of “retenes,” or checkpoints, all along the borders and for many years carefully searched every person and/or cargo that entered Spain, making an all-out effort to not let even one single Bible into the country.  They searched for Bibles with the same intensity that our modern countries search passengers for weapons and drugs!  Casiodoro was last heard of at age 70, still one jump ahead of the Inquisition, and it is not known for sure whether they got him in the end, or not.

Casiodoro de Reina, although younger, was a contemporary with William Tyndale.  I have noticed many similarities between the translations of both men (William Tyndale in English and Casiodoro de Reina in Spanish).  Studying these two Bibles (they basically agree, yet each brings out unique facets of truth from a slightly different perspective) has been the equivalent of getting the truth of the Scriptures of the Reformation, in stereo.

The power and clarity of these two translations have a much sharper edge than the work that was done in either language, even a generation later, when the intense heat of the Reformation had died down and Bible translation had to be officially approved by ecclesiastic and/or secular governments.

What Sets the Jubilee Bible Apart?

  • The Jubilee Bible is based on 10 different sources of original language Scriptures from the Reformation era, and is primarily based on the Spanish Bible translation by Casiodoro de Reina, in 1569.
  • Care was taken to revise back to the original message of the Reformation-era Scriptures, as clearly as possible.
  • Careful attention in properly and consistently translating each key word, through the first usage and on through to the last occurrence, was made to avoid the use of synonyms. Then, as the word makes its way across the Old Testament and you make the correct match with the corresponding Greek word in the New Testament, an amazing pattern emerges.
  • The Jubilee Bible is the only translation we know of that has made a serious attempt to mate each unique Hebrew word (and subsequently its Greek equivalent) with a unique English word (using the common English of William Tyndale and the extraordinary Hebrew scholarship of Casiodoro de Reina of the early Reformation) so that the use (and number of occurrences of each key word) sets forth the idea of what God means by each word as defined by the actual context in Scripture.
  • The Jubilee Bible is a more literal and less paraphrased translation.
  • The Jubilee Bible stands apart from most other English versions in print since the beginning of the last century. The usage and context tend to define each key word so you do not have to blindly rely on theological dictionaries or reference materials that may wittingly or unwittingly include any type of prejudice or bias.
  • Because key terms are translated in a uniform manner, this version is excellent for study using computers and eReaders, alike. Two excellent resources for online study are BibleGateway and YouVersion, which also offer Bible apps for iPhone, Android and Kindle® (YouVersion, only) eReaders.
  • When you do word studies the Bible itself defines the words, avoiding human error that is slanted by the doctrine or school of thought of those who compiled the material. (The Bible itself is its own and best commentary!)
  • The Holy Spirit speaks clearly through this translation. As the Editor asserts, “…the language barrier between us and the truth that can only be bridged by the Spirit of God.”
  • The Jubilee Bible is forceful, anointed, sharp, and penetrating. In the power of the Holy Spirit.

Publishing the Jubilee Bible

It is recognized that the Authorized Version (by King James) is basically a revision of William Tyndale’s work (in many key passages the wording of the AV is ninety percent or more Tyndale’s), with the exception of the last half of the Old Testament (from Ezra to Malachi).  This portion of Tyndale’s work is believed to have been lost at sea in a shipwreck (only the book of Jonah survived).

Unfortunately, Tyndale was burned at the stake before he could redo the books that were lost.  This disaster has, in my opinion, placed these books of our English AV Bibles on a foundation less than equal in terms of clarity and consistency of translation, with the rest of the AV that draws so extensively from the work of Tyndale.

When we edited a more recent edition of the Spanish Bible (Las Sagradas Escrituras Version Antigua, or Biblia del Jubileo) based on the original text of Casiodoro de Reina, I checked much of it against the work of William Tyndale and the Authorized Version.  This strengthened the Spanish Bible in many areas and it also tended to confirm the opinion that I gave in the preceding paragraph.

Then I decided to diligently compare and align the work of Casiodoro de Reina with the books of the Authorized Version, which did not receive the heritage of William Tyndale.  The first fruit of that endeavor was a rendition of the Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon that we released during the 1990s.  In the year 2000 we published the complete work of the Old and New Testaments, as the Jubilee Bible 2000.

Trending Bible Translations

Over the years there have been many revisions of the Authorized Version.  Some of these, under the guise of modernizing the language, have watered down the message and introduced errors proceeding from deviant manuscripts, from doctrines of men, and from over simplification of the English language.  The same is true regarding the Spanish Bible.

Instead of revising “forward” towards modernism and employing modern scholarship, textual criticism and the like, it has been our intention to revise “back,” and return as close as possible to the roots of the pure message and pure language.  I believe we are at a place where brilliant scholarship and linguistics alone cannot discern between all the possible variations of meaning, or among what are all being presented as ancient and worthy manuscripts in the original languages.  We must have the witness of the Holy Spirit.

To counter these dilutions of the original language of the the Scriptures, I chose to go with the Hebrew scholarship of Reformers such as William Tyndale and Casiodoro de Reina, whose translations of the Received Text (Textus Receptus) shined the light of the truth into the spiritual darkness of their day and changed the church and the world for the better, rather than to rely on the modern scholarship, which has a penchant for removing the fear of the Lord from among the people of God in this Laodicean hour.

Allowing the Holy Spirit to Speak

Let us allow the Spirit of Truth to have the last word regarding this matter.  We must always bear in mind that even if we were to all learn Hebrew to perfection and could obtain a flawless manuscript of the original text, there would still be a humanly insurmountable language barrier between us and the truth that can only be bridged by the Spirit of God.