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David Christian Ginsburg (1821-1914)

In 1886 a unique edition of the New Testament came into being: a Hebrew New Testament.

The uniqueness of this edition was not only that it came about by Jewish believers, but also that it was quite identical to the Hebrew language of the Old Testament.

If someone, who understands the Hebrew Tanakh, reads this translation of the New Testament, he is so to say on familiar ground. Since 1942 this translation became available for Jewish people by means of the issue of a bilingual New Testament by the S.D.H.S in England1. It contains on the one page the English King James translation2 and on the opposite page the Hebrew text. This Hebrew translation has been the wonderful work of Isaac Edward Salkinson and David Christian Ginsburg. Therefore it is called the Salkinson-Ginsburg edition.

Who was David Christian Ginsburg, the man who is described in the famous Dictionary of National Biography as someone, whose knowledge of the Hebrew language was unsurpassed in his time?

A new name

David Ginsburg was born in Warsaw, Poland, on 25 December 1821. At the age of 25 years, as a Jewish boy, he believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. Contrary to many Jewish believers, who don’t want to be identified with the name ‘Christian’, David Ginsburg just added the name ‘Christian’ to the name his parents gave him. In this way he wanted to make known his position as a believer in Christ to his own people.

His ardent desire to testify of the love of Christ brought him in contact with a London missionary society3, which dedicated itself to the distribution of the Gospel among the Jewish people. For several years he was working for this missionary society among the Jewish community in Liverpool. Besides this intensive work he published a commentary on the books The Song of Solomon (1857) and Ecclesiastes (1861), and a book about the Karaites and the Essenes and a dissertation about the teaching, development and literature of the Kabbalah.

In course of time it was clear that his study and writing were making great demands on him, so at the age of 42 years, he decided to give himself fulltime to this work. Among other things this decision has resulted in his great life-work: The Masoretic Studies.

Masoretic researcher.

The Massorah (tradition) refers to the tradition, which the Jewish Scholars (Masoretes) had, in order to keep the text of the Old Testament in its origin. It consists of a collection of critical notes about the text of the Old Testament, which was written for the greater part in Tiberias, from the sixth- until the ninth century A.D. The great importance of this work is that it was a very accurate transmission of the Holy Scriptures in a period when printing still had to be invented. Because the Old Testament books were handwritten, little mistakes developed sometimes, in spite of the great carefulness of the writers. If expert readers discovered these mistakes, a notice of it was made in the marginal line.

These annotations were compiled, and then once