Morgendämmerung, oder, Wie man mit dem Hammer theologirt.
Nescire autem quid ante quam natus sis acciderit id es semper esse puerum.
Orandum est ut sit mens sana in corpore sano.
Homo sum humani nihil a me alienum puto.
Semper idem sed non eodem modo.


Verbum domini manet in aeternum. The word of the Lord endures forever.
1 Peter 1:24-25, quoting Isaiah 40:6,8. Motto of the Lutheran Reformation.

Fayth onely justifieth before God. Robert Barnes, DD The Supplication, fourth essay. London: Daye, 1572.

Lord if Thou straightly mark our iniquity, who is able to abide Thy judgement? Wherefore I trust in no work that I ever did, but only in the death of Jesus Christ. I do not doubt, but through Him to inherit the kingdom of heaven. Robert Barnes, DD, before he was burnt alive for "heresy", 30 July 1540.

What is Luther? The doctrine is not mine, nor have I been crucified for anyone. Martin Luther, Dr. theol. (1522)

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28 November 2007

The Hertz Chumash

If you do any Bible study from Jewish sources, there are two terms you'll encounter that you probably won't among Christian sources. One of them is Chumash.

What's a Chumash? In general, it is any version of the Five Books of Moses -- the first five books of anyone's Bible, also commonly called the Pentateuch or Torah -- that is bound rather than written on a traditional scroll. It comes from the Hebrew word chomesh, meaning one-fifth. A chomesh is one of the five books of Moses individually bound, which as such is not considered as sacred as a full scroll containing all five, the Sefer Torah. Maimonides said that any version of the Torah which does not meet the requirements for a Sefer Torah -- such as being bound rather than on a scroll, or having the vowels inserted -- has only the same holiness as a chomesh. Over time the word morphed into chumash (sometimes spelled chumesh) as a general term of reference for any bound version of the Torah, or Pentateuch, thus not meeting the Sefer Torah standards.

One of these for decades was the standard among Orthodox Jews, and also at the time among many Conservative Jews before that denomination drifted further to the left. It is the work of Rabbi Dr Joseph Hertz (1872 - 1946) who was Chief Rabbi of the British Empire from 1913 until he died. It contains all five books of Moses in both Hebrew and English. The Torah is divided into the portions for each Sabbath. The entire Torah in synagogue services is read in order during a year; on the feast of Simkhat Torah, or Rejoicing in the Law, right after Sukkoth concludes, Deuteronomy is completed and Genesis immediately begun. Each Torah portion has an assigned related reading from the Prophets. These are called Haftorah, and are included too, as are the Torah and Haftorah for all the special Sabbaths and festivals. And there is Rabbi Hertz' commentary and notes for each, as well as several additional essays at the end. So the book is not just study oriented but connected to worship as well, the worship Jesus and the Apostles frequented throughout the Gospels and Acts, and is not a full Hebrew Bible but that of it used in synagogue services.

It was first published in five volumes in 1936, and the English text of Scripture was the Revised Version. In 1937, a one volume edition came out, which besides putting it all between two covers also replaced the Revised Version translation text with that from the Jewish Publication Society of America's 1917 English translation of the Hebrew Bible. That version was essentially a rabbinically revised King James Old Testament put back in the traditional order of books in the Hebrew Bible. It lasted until the JPS replaced it with a brand new translation in 1985 that breaks with the KJV English lineage and promotes itself as the broadest based Jewish translation of the Hebrew Bible since the Septuagint.

It would be impossible for me to overstate the importance and influence of the Hertz Chumash in my life, yet, I have never met another Christian who is even aware of it. I might not be either, except that during the twenty some years between my dropping Christianity altogether in 1973 in the wake of Vatican II's implosion of it and professing the faith of the evangelical Lutheran church in 1996, I thought that while Christianity turned out to be a Gentile misunderstanding of Jewish Messianism this did not invalidate the religion given by God in the "Old" Testament, and considered Orthodox Judaism the true religion, though I did not convert nor does Orthodox Judaism see a need such a need. During that time, as a Righteous of the Nations -- a Gentile who believes in the God of Israel -- I became aware of this book and read it for years following the pattern of Sabbaths and festivals. The Hertz Chumash was my "Bible", though I have copies of both the 1917 and 1985 JPS full Hebrew Bible translations as well.

When I was writing the "Christmas Gift Suggestions" post I described those books as the basic one at my house. And they are. They're also the books on the "Book List" part of the sidebar, plus the two books for kids. And they are the specifically religious ones listed in the Books in My Profile -- except for Hertz' Chumash. Since it remains an hugely important book to me, and is so little known in Christian circles, I though I should post about it specifically. While it isn't "my Bible" any more, I still use it regularly and here are the reasons that come to mind.

1. One could say the scholarship is dated. Well, of course. It came out in 1937. However modern Biblical scholarship hasn't changed its mind set since its inception with Julius Wellhausen (1844 - 1918) in the later nineteenth century, and Hertz in his notes and essays thoroughly exposes the underlying assumptions and the holes in them of the historical-critical school, whose proponents as of the 1960s were the stock in trade of Scripture classes such as I had them in university, and a Roman Catholic one at that. It was amazing to me, and contines to amaze me, to see what had been taught to me as the latest and greatest in enlightened thinking about Scripture in particular and religion in general -- and so beautifully encapsuled in the near textus receptus of the day, the original (1966) Jerusalem Bible, which I still have and also consult from time to time -- so completely dispatched by this brilliant rabbi decades before!

2. At the same time, and unlike so many other religious, Rabbi Hertz neither feared nor despised scholarship, but used what was of legitimate value in it. A terrific example. He wrote in the Preface to the original edition, preserved in the second: "Accept the true from whatever source it come" is sound Rabbinic doctrine -- even if it be from the pages of a devout Christian expositor or of an iconoclastic Bible scholar, Jewish or non-Jewish. Which sound Rabbinic doctrine St Paul encourages for Christians in Philippians 4:8 -- Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things (ESV).

3. The greatest thing of all the Hertz Chumash gave me was, of course, Scripture, and, in a way that is connected to worship, both for the regular cycle through the year and the festivals given in Scripture itself. Liturgy and Scripture then became two aspects of the same thing, faith. And not as some afterthough by the church, that may or may not have any present value, but as a practice from ancient times, handed on to and used by Jesus and the Apostles, and I would come to see, adapted by the new Israel the church for the Messianic times. Scripture takes on a new light when it is studied along the pattern of Liturgy. Liturgy takes on a new light when it is seen as the present celebration of what it recorded in its Scripture. One reads and studies scripturally what one celebrates liturgically. Scripture is Liturgy in one place, Liturgy is Scripture over time. And, I would come to see, where the Law was read in a year now the Gospel was read in a year -- primarily Matthew, whose Aramaic original is the oldest, placed first with the other Gospel accounts in the NT as the Law is first in the OT -- and as related passages from the Prophets were associated with the Torah portions now related passages from the Epistles of the Apostles were associated with the Gospel portions. And the great Biblical festivals themselves were similarly transformed, Passover becoming Easter, as a day and as a "little Easter" each Sunday and every time the Sacrament of the Passover Lamb at the Altar was given, Pentecost the celebration of the giving of the Law at Sinai becoming Pentecost the celebration of the giving of the Spirit in Jerusalem, which empowered the Gospel to be preached as we live in our temporary booths on our way to the Promised Land of eternal life with God. Far from being some sort of legalistic stuff we can now safely ignore since the Messiah has come, Jewish liturgy became the pre-Messianic form of Christian liturgy just as the Law had to be given before the Gospel. Far from being some sort of legalistic stuff we can now safely reject as an unfortunate regression from the freedom in Christ, Christian liturgy became the post Messianic form of Jewish liturgy just as the Gospel had fulfilled the Law. And all of it part of one motion of God toward Man to save him and restore him to life with God both now and forever.

I find this beautiful unity of God's unfolding action in love toward Man in Scripture and Liturgy and the saving events they contain almost impossible to express. I hope I have been able to suggest at least something of what this is.

For me this unfolding unity of doctrine, Scripture and Liturgy -- things which taken separately often appear so different than when taken to-gether -- began to come to-gether for me in the years when I followed the Hertz Chumash. And while I no longer follow it as I did in those years, it remains among my most treasured possessions, and not a keepsake from my past but a continuing source of inspiration as I study the Bible and the Book of Concord and live out what it confesses in the worship and life of what is called among men the Evangelical Lutheran Church.

I am happy to say this magnificent volume is still in print. You can get one from the publisher at

Oh, I forgot. The other term if you study from Jewish sources that you won't encounter much among Christian sources is Tanakh. The word is an acronym and simply means the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament to Christians. But the Christian Old Testament, while it has the same books, mixes up the order and division of them in the Hebrew Bible. There are three distinct divisions, Law, Prophets and Writings -- a usage found with Jesus and the Apostles -- and Tanakh is formed from the first Hebrew letters in the words for each: Torah (Law), Nevi'im (Prophets), Ketuvim (Writings). A curious thing about this different order is that the Old Testament ends with Malachi where God promises to send Elijah to avert utter destruction in consequence of our faithlessness, whereas the Hebrew Bible ends with Second Chronicles, where God moves the Persian King Cyrus to build the Temple in Jerusalem and allow and encourage the Jews to leave and go do it!


L P Cruz said...


Even though I have a degree in Religious Studies (I did it while in ministry), I never encountered Hertz Chumash. I learned a new thing again. Somethings impressed upon my mind on your point 3, it is quite instructive what you said there.

You tied Liturgy & Scripture together and that is food for thought. This is where the Concordian approach to worship is so far different from RC and my evangelicalism, both approached worship as Law, rather than Gospel.

Also, I meant to say - your posts have a tender side and quite devotional as well making them readable to a wide audience.

Schütz said...

Believe it or not, PE, but a Jewish friend just today recommended me this book, and I went on line to find out more about it an dyour post was the third in the list on google.