I'm wondering if Jews believe that God only speaks through the Hebrew scriptures?

To come at it from another angle; does God also speak through translations of the scriptures? What about modern day dreams and visions?

I ask because historically the Septuagint was considered a very popular and important translation (into Greek), and as I understand it, the majority of Jews at the time of Jesus were reading the Septuagint rather than the Hebrew scriptures, (with the exception of some liturgical readings in the synagogues). I'm wondering how Jews today would regard the Septuagint as it is a translation, not the original Hebrew?

And how do Jews regard the thousands of Christian translations into every major language today? Could a modern Jew pick up the NIV bible and say "God speaks through this book" (of course he would have to tear out the New Testament first)?

To clarify my preconceptions as a Christian: In the Christian world, it is believed that when you read the bible God is actually talking to you. Some Christians take this to mean that every word on the page is literally "breathed-out" from God's mouth, and therefore every word is important and only the scriptures in the original languages are truly "God's word". While others believe that it is the message which is "inspired" by God, but not so much the individual words, and therefore translations from the original Hebrew can be considered just as much "word of God" as the original texts, just so long as they convey the same message.

  • Is this a question asking if we think translations are a valid way to study the Scriptures? If so, then yes! Why else are there translations provided by valid Orthodox sources?
    – ezra
    Feb 13, 2017 at 4:03
  • @ezra that is a good related question worth asking! But I'm asking something slightly different: I'm wondering if God is actually considered to speak through translations of the scriptures Feb 13, 2017 at 4:11
  • 1
    Voting to leave open. The edits to this question make this question not "comparative religion," and also removes unclarity. This question should remain open.
    – MTL
    Feb 14, 2017 at 4:05
  • The conversation about whether God physically speaks, and prophetic visions, has been moved to chat. Feb 15, 2017 at 1:32

2 Answers 2


G-d does not "speak" through translations. The concept of G-d speaking the way you describe it as a sort of semi-prophecy is not a Jewish concept. Instead, one is learning part of the overall message of G-d, but to truly understand it one must study the message in its entirety. While there can be a divine providence in which verses one sees when, we also believe there is divine providence in every aspect of life as well.

In fact, relying on translations is a poor substitute for the original text. The only exceptions are the translations of Onkelos to the Pentateuch and Yonasan ben Uziel to the Prophets, which are based on the tradition of interpretation going back to Moses in the former case and the prophets in the latter. Christian translations are not reliable because they view the scriptures through a lens we don't accept.


"Some Christians take this to mean that every word on the page is literally "breathed-out" from God's mouth, and therefore every word is important and only the scriptures in the original languages are truly "God's word"."

This sounds very anthropomorphic and reminds me of the Akivian methodology which suggests that every letter is inherently speaking. I agree with Rabbi Ishmael that “the Torah (which is intended for humans) speaks in human language.”

Regarding translations, Rashi states that the Aramaic Translation called Onkelos was “from Heaven,” when he later explained that Onkelos wrote it. He meant that the translation was so significant that it was as if it was “from Heaven.” Similarly, some Jews may say that G-d "metaphorically" speaks to them through the pages of the Bible, but by no means suggest that G-d is actually talking to them through the Bible in the sense that you ask. Not to mention that Jews do not live by the Bible but by the talmudic interpretation of the Bible by the rabbis.

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